Every book or series of books has something to convey, some coherent theme or idea to communicate, something that is the center of the disparate parts. Even if a writing series has a different theme for each book, there is something that is consistent throughout, e.g., characters, location, milieu, time, subject, and so forth.
The overriding consistency in a series should be the underlying anchor for promoting the series.This seems obvious, but sometimes emotional appeal overrides logic. And the design theme should emphasize the books, not overwhelm them. Check out the Step-by-Step article this week on the four keys to a professional web design or see Examples 1 & 2.
But what about the author who has a number of totally different books? If the writer has written a number of independent books, that is books not in an obvious series (such as Alan Lightman or Mark Salzman), then each book may have a unique page for promotion — but with an over-arcing navigation and dominant visual layout that ties the pages together and reinforces the author’s branding identity. Or the layout and style of pages used to promote the author may be used consistently for all titles. See Examples 3 & 4.
The basic content for a page promoting a book is: Title of the book, author’s name as it appears on the book, book publisher, isbn number, list price and sales outlets. This information should be placed clearly and prominently. On loading the page, the visitor should not have to scroll or click anything to see this information. This may sound obvious, but I’ve actually come across book promotional sites that either didn’t include all of the information or buried and scattered the information throughout the site. If promoting multiple titles, particularly a series, this information should be placed in the same location in the same format for all of the books.See Examples 5 & 6.
Beyond the Basics
How much additional content and how complex it is depends upon your available time, available resources and subject. Any additional material, to be successful in building traffic and identity, must provide a meaningful benefit to your visitors. In other words, it must provide them with a solution to their problem or desire, it must meet the visitor’s needs before it can meet your needs.
Expand Your Site With Specialized or In Depth Information
Use all of that extra specialized or in depth information you posses on a topic related to your book to add depth to your web site and reinforce your book’s own identity. Here are ideas to start your own brainstorming:
- Historical writers — use “left over” research to post regular in depth articles such as 14th Century gardening techniques and designs; siege weapons of the Medici’s; a glossary of idiom’s and terms from the period and their meaning. Just take some of that left over material that would be of interest to your readers and expand the information.
- Romance writers — collect uplifting stories of true romances that overcame the odds; provide periodic articles of romantic tips or products (or myths and legends); take a tip from Showtime and provide character profiles of your regulars (foods, drinks, books, music, etc.); the rest of the story — periodic romantic postcards from the characters like the popular series of illustrated books in the 90’s. Try imagining how you’d like to interact or continue your involvement with one of your favorite books, characters or authors.
- SF writers — add a regular “Science News” column with links and commentary to new findings in your subject area; go out on a limb and do a periodic extrapolation of some recent scientific or technological breakthrough — just be prepared to laugh at yourself; or take a look at past extrapolations by other writers in your subject area; start a movement (Hey, it worked for Sterling and Hubbard!)
- Non-fiction — everybody loves to be on the inside so if you have the contacts, consider a news, gossip or rumor site with regular updates in the area your book or series
- and much more — this looks like it’s turning into a series of articles unto itself so if you’ve got genre or category that you want covered, send us a message.
Contests, Incentives or Competitions
Develope a contest, incentive or competition that hits the right tone and interests of your audience. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive if you read your audience correctly. Think of all of those bad writing or humorous headline contests where the prize is nothing more than the fame and glory of it. Non-fiction authors, for example, might produce a small bookmark or information reference card. If humor’s your brand identity, generate a small humor list and invite your visitors to add to it. David Letterman does this to generate material for his “Top 10 List” and thousands of people visit daily to enter. Contests, incentives and competitions are often promotional “stunts”, but can turn into traffic builders if consistent and entertaining.
E-zines and Newsletters
E-zines are electronic magazines. Elements of Web Style is an e-zine. They can be delivered via the web or e-mail. The zine should include actual information and not be just a sales pitch. An e-zine can be very effective in establishing an author’s identity if targeted correctly and the information contained is highly useful to the recipient and presented well. In a future issue ofElements, we’ll cover e-zines in more depth and provide resources that can help you get started.
Electronic newsletters can be in either plain text or HTML (which most of the email programs support). If you are going to offer an HTML newsletter, you should also plan on offering the option of a plain text version. Many people either can’t receive files in the HTML format or prefer not to receive these files because of their larger size and slower loading.
Have you seen or developed interesting promotional content for your site? Send it to us and you might win a free consultation, a web design book, some software or whatever else we find under all the overflowing paper! Has anyone seen that Ming cup lately?
This was longer than I expected and we’ve only scratched the surface. Look for more features on each of these points downroad. Next week, we’ll continue with a look at “Community Building enhancements.”