What Publishers’ Websites Can Do: Part 1
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(SEE ALSO: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
INTRODUCTION: Do IBPA members build Websites that accomplish everything a useful Website would accomplish? Quite possibly. And even if they don’t, they certainly come close in the aggregate, as you’ll see from the reports below and in issues to come.
As you’ll also see, a leitmotif in members’ reports is especially appropriate for an organization dedicated to “helping each other achieve and succeed.” Explicitly in some cases, implicitly in others, many publishers observe that it’s especially important for Websites to let one human being be directly in touch with another.
Many thanks to everybody who responded to my questions by sharing experiences and the wisdom gleaned from them. More reports will run in next month’s Independent.
— Judith Appelbaum, Editor
My multifunctional Website has worked extremely well for me. I’ve tried to make it easy to navigate, enticing enough so that people will want to explore it, and representative of me, my company, and its products. Also, it displays all my social media icons with links that are easy to follow.
I use the site to indirectly promote my trim&TERRIFIC™ cookbooks by linking recipes on it to all social media resources, which gives consumers free information and leads them to the site.
The site also serves as an important PR tool for spokesperson and media opportunities through its area focusing on my resume and media and spokesperson accomplishments.
My Monthly Menu Newsletter on the site helps me build my mailing list and inform my followers about new books and other news of interest.
The site’s Contact tab lets people contact me directly with questions and inquiries; and you would be surprised how many opportunities come to me from this channel.
Most recently, I tried offering a downloadable focused recipe booklet for $1.99 on the site. At this point, I’m not sure about the results.
I feel that it is important to know what is attracting visitors. Google Analytics is a fantastic tool for measuring activity on a Website.
Holly B. Clegg, Inc.
Present by Proxy
I’m a tiny publisher (three titles), but I think that tiny (or merely small) publishers have much to teach the larger publishers because we don’t have the “overhead” of corporate responsibility. We do what comes naturally, never worried that we might be called out for some imagined online infraction.
I think a publisher’s Website is a tool, and as a tool, it exists in a tool chest, beside the PR department, author tours, advertising, sales reps, and so on.
From my perspective, you are your Website—your site is more like a right arm than a hammer. Your Web presence should be a natural extension of you as a company—a company made up of individuals, whether just a couple or a couple of thousand.
A Website can provide many functional features, but its most important role is to be your online proxy. After someone spends time on your site, they should feel that they know your company, your people, and your publications. You can never meet all your customers, but all your customers can get to know you via your online presence.
The Future of Publishing
For an Array of Activities
Our Website is designed to offer any number of e-books and related products and services, from keepsakes like posters, to custom services for other publishers, such as database integration and custom mobile applications. The Web application enables standards-based, HTML5 digital book presentation, sales, billing, and distribution for our e-books and e-books from other authors and publishers, while letting us collect feedback on genre selections, price points, and other sales data from our billing system; plus subject matter comments from our integrated blog and our online customer support pages.
Users who purchase digital books on our site register their names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses, and they can utilize our free online support desk or email us if they have any concerns.
Each customer receives a personalized account of their titles, authenticated by user name and password. Customer information is used for billing and enabling secure online and offline reading of our HTML5 e-books. The site maintains a secure customer database on our own servers. No customer data is shared, there are no ads or tracking mechanisms allowed on the site, and credit card information is deleted (not stored) upon the completed sales transaction.
We measure the value of the active elements on our site using inquiries, sales, and general feedback about usability and satisfaction within the site’s structure and content. We also utilize several online analytical tools to measure a variety of usage statistics.
Richard F. Preti, President
The Tri-Screen Connection LLC | USA
Ripe for Renewal
At the moment, my Website is—as I recently described it to my business mentor—an aging elephant. It has a ton of information, but it’s heavy on content to the point of being ponderous. I keep it current for SEO purposes by linking my blog posts to the home page, but I can’t point to specific consequences in terms of book sales or marketing efforts. It’s not cell phone–friendly, and it’s more of a reader resource—which it needed to be when I built it—than a marketing marvel, which is what I need now.
This will all change soon, but at this point I am the poster child for how not to do it.
Mining Silver LLC/Hankfritz Press
For Fiction for Kids
Schools are my niche market. I use my Website to attract educators to my four juvenile fiction books, to increase their sales, and to help schedule author visits to schools, all of which contribute tremendously to my bottom line each year.
As a former teacher, I have developed numerous teacher resources for each of my books, and I offer them on my site. These resources include vocabulary words and discussion questions listed by chapter. I also include correlations to Common Core Standards, which makes it easy for teachers to include my books in their lesson plans.
The site offers learning activities for students too, including word puzzles and electronic scavenger hunts, that send them to other sites where they learn more history and get more ecological information about the settings of my books.
All of these resources are free and easily accessed by teachers and parents who homeschool. And they provide added value to my books in an environment where budgets are very tight—both in homes and in schools.
My site also allows visitors to sign up for my e-newsletter with one click, which helps me connect with them and expand my mailing list. The Event Schedule on the site frequently leads to families showing up for my book signings or presentations; and because it lists my upcoming school visits, it often encourages more schools to contact me for more author visits.
Marketing to schools, teachers, and parents is easier with a Website offering tools that make an entertaining book for kids an educational one, as well.
Jane R. Wood
Florida Kids Press, Inc.
Aimed at Writers, Among Others
Most of our books are interracial romance novels. Our Website provides specific information about what we require in a manuscript submission as well as informing our readers about the titles that are available. We also provide links to our authors’ personal Websites.
The site has a cart for purchasing books and links for the purchase of e-books. In addition, it helps us capture email addresses and establish direct communication.
Because writers may need to hone their craft, the site offers articles on how to improve writing skills, and we are considering adding a page where readers can evaluate each book. The more information we can provide our authors and readers, the better.
Red Emerald Publishing
Enabling Orders Here and Overseas
Our site powers our wholesale sales. We are primarily a wholesaler nationwide and to European outlets. Our customers check the site to order books and see announcements of new titles, which we also make in flyers and catalogs.
For retail orders, we link all titles—the ones we publish and the ones we distribute from other publishers—to Amazon. This saves on staffing to ship books for individual retail orders. However, we do handle the few retail orders received in our offices.
Joan Liffring-zug Bourret
A Storytelling Center
Reach And Teach has a mission, to transform the world through teachable moments. As treasure hunters we search the globe for products that promote peacemaking, gender equality, and sustainable living, and put all those products under our one virtual roof and in our brick-and-mortar shop in San Mateo, CA.
Those treasures are often buried and wouldn’t get the exposure they deserve without a Website or store like ours. Our site is a place where people can learn about great things being done to make the world a better place and discover tools for taking action in their own lives, in their communities, or across the planet.
Our site is also used to promote events we’re holding in our shop, projects with which we are involved, and organizations that we feel are having an important impact in the world.
Every product that we create or distribute has a story behind it, and the most important thing that our Website does is help tell those stories. One of our favorite mentors, who has been a peacemaker for decades, always reminds us, “The difference between an enemy and a friend is a story” and “The shortest distance between two people is a story.” ReachAndTeach.com is loaded with stories, old and new, factual and fictional, told with words, images, videos, and sound.
Through our site, our shop, and events we’ve signed up nearly 2,000 people on our email newsletter lists, and we have nearly 500 Facebook fans. Knowing that we’ve reached only a small portion of the people who we believe need to know about us, we’ve embarked on an ambitious campaign to leapfrog to reaching 30,000 people by August 2013. We’d love it if other IBPA members took a look at our site, helping us reach that goal and transform the world through teachable moments.
Blogging Leads the List
We could not do without our Website. It serves as a sales channel for our books, helps us get information out about new titles, and (thanks to Design Angler of Bemidji, MN) includes content from our backlist so we can highlight the illustrations in our children’s books as well as material and covers from other books.
The site also lets our customers, authors, and illustrators subscribe to a newsletter,
make comments, or contact us. Quite frankly, it does even more than we have time to handle.
Most important, though, it means we can create blogs for all our authors, and
that gives us a way to compete with the big houses and to have a professional presence in this ever-changing social media world.
Trellis Publishing, Inc.
We’re developing a new and improved Website that we hope to go live with this fall. It will have a built-in store that will allow us to offer discounted prices for certain sized orders and for special promotions. Some of our spring 2013 children’s books will have ancillary products that we will sell in this online store as well as at events, in gift guides, and on Websites specifically associated with the books and authors.
At this point, we have an email newsletter sign-up form right on our home page, which gets a small amount of traffic, and a detailed contact information page, but we interact with our readers and consumers primarily by using our social media sites and face-to-face events at trade shows, bookstores, and so on, which we find more fun, more interesting, and much more beneficial for both parties.
I think it’s important to note that even if you have the best site with the easiest layout, the most information, and the smoothest navigation, everything you do online must interact. We have more sites and social media profiles than we can count on two hands (or four, or six!), but all these things work together to create SEO and linking that enhance our chance of being found.
We constantly keep content rolling in order to interact with our consumers, and we are always willing to try new marketing schemes. One motto we like to use with our authors is “Content is king!”
We track a lot of our numbers using Google Analytics, and so far that has been helpful, but we still have a big pile of “How does this correlate with sales?” questions. We’d love to have a more exact way of measuring, and we’d love to hear if other publishers have something that is more exact.
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