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“Call me Ishmael.”
“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”
“It was a dark and stormy night.”
These are the opening lines that have turned writers into authors and kept many a reader glued to the books and statements made by their favorite wordsmiths (Well, maybe not that last one.).
In one of my previous posts in this series, “Content – Fresh, Exciting and Inviting,” I pointed out that authors are one of the greatest assets and resources for a publisher’s website. In this installment of my evaluation of independent book publishers, I hope to dive a little deeper into promoting your authors regularly (and letting them promote themselves) in order to boost Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and sales and customer retention. This is an incredibly important factor in how we evaluate what a modern publishing site should be.
The current status of author amplification among our participants is an average of 2.2 (a “D” grade). Many websites do not have separate pages for author bios, and if they do, they are static pages without any continuous content updates from or about the authors. I hope to elaborate further on how to turn a single author page into a key resource for your publishing business.
Authors, Their Books and Your Business
A few publishing experts believe that in order to “make a living as an author,” you need 1,000 true fans of your work(s). I happen to agree with this, and have presented this thesis at industry conferences and to our clients’ authors at their Authors’ Conferences. And one way for authors to build up a fanbase is to create a presence on the Internet.
For an author, the first step is to create a bio about their experience, their life, and most importantly, the books they have written. This allows fans to learn more about the writers of their favorite books and explore their catalog.
As a book publisher, you and your authors should have a symbiotic relationship. They write books, which you sell, and you both share in the transaction. That being said, promoting your authors on your website with a bio can potentially boost your customers/readership. Have a look at the author page for Sharon Lynn Fisher at SilkWords:
• There is a bio for the author. Depending on the experience and history of the author, and the space available on the page, the bio can be short or have a bit more depth. The bio gives some background on the author’s history, awards and lifestyle—facts that ingratiate the author to current and future readers.
• There is a photo of the author (in this case, a tasteful illustration). This gives the fanbase a chance to connect with the author on a visual level. A properly optimized and tagged image can also boost SEO.
• There are numerous links for the author as well, giving the reader a chance to follow the author on social media and visit their blog to learn more about them (we will talk more about optimizing this part later).
• There are also links to Ms. Fisher’s books available at Amazon and at SilkWords, giving the reader the option to purchase a title or join SilkWords to read them online.
Here is a different bio for Karyn Langhorne Folan at Doomsday Kids. You can see the full bio in the link.
What Does an Author Do All Day? (Part One)
Aside from writing or finding inspiration to write, the average author can get up to a lot of activities. And if that author is a celebrity, such as filmmaker Alex Cox, those activities can show up on the Web. As you may have remembered from my post on fresh content, Cox’s author page at Oldcastle Books is more than just a bio and a list of books:
Cox has been interviewed by the Little Atoms website…
…and Cox has discussed his art and cinema in three videos:
Fresh content such as this accomplishes quite a few things for publishers and their authors:
• Fresh content boosts SEO – Search engines love new, fresh content. Every time a webpage adds new content, it is reviewed by a search engine spider and updated in the index. The new content gives the page a higher potential ranking than other pages with static content that never change which will decrease in rankings over time.
• Fresh content keeps users on the page – The longer a user stays on a webpage, the more search engines will perceive that the content on that page is informative and worth ranking. Bounce rates—the number of users who exit your site just after visiting and, further, how long those users stay on your site (known as “time-to-bounce”)—can be lowered significantly with fresh and engaging content (and links).
• Fresh content gets you better acquainted – As I mentioned above about the symbiotic relationship between author and publisher, there is a similar bond between author and reader/fanbase. After getting to know the author’s books and characters, a reader may build a connection with the author and want to learn as much about them as possible. Work with your authors to place links for their online content (interviews, essays, photos, etc.) onto their author bio page on a regular basis. It can be a great place for current readers and new fans to learn more and purchase books.
What Does an Author Do All Day? (Part Two)
If you really want to know what an author (or a person in general) is up to, you might want to check their Twitter or Facebook feeds. Twitter features more than 9,000 tweets per second, and the average Twitter user has more than 200 followers. Plus, tweets are now being shown in desktop search results. For Facebook, the average user has about 130+ friends and updates their status 90 times per month.
One of the best ways that you can increase your content freshness and frequency is to add your authors’ social media updates to their bio pages through an feed or the social platforms’ APIs. These feeds push content to your site automatically, rather than having to visit many individual websites to find information and repost it manually back to your site.
If we head back to the author page for Doomsday Kids, we can see that Ms. Folan is using a feed for her recent Facebook and Twitter posts:
By aggregating her social media posts on her author page, Ms. Folan’s website pages gain the following advantages:
• One location for information – Visitors to the author page can find multiple items of information in one place, across multiple mediums (static author content, social media).
• Fresh content for visitors and crawlers – Normally, an author bio page would not have much dynamic content aside from an occasional update of newly published books. The feed transforms this static page into a feast of fresh content for visitors and search engine spiders:
o Site visitors know that they can return to the page regularly for frequent updates about this author.
o Search engine spiders will visit the author page more often due to frequently updated content in the feed. This means frequent indexing, higher page ranking and more link juice for this page.
If even a small percentage of your authors are active, the increase in the size of your site’s footprint in the search engines will grow dramatically over time, simply by implementing content updates to your site from your authors’ online platforms. This will only help with your rankings across the site, as the “authority” of your site increases around your books and your authors, and potentially genres and categories.
Authors Mean Business
As your book catalog and roster of authors continues to grow, it may become more difficult to update your bio pages without a little help. I encourage you to build upon your relationship with your authors so that you can eventually give them administrative control of their bio page. This will give your authors a bit more control over their promotion and inspire them to update their content more often.
Additionally, if you notice that your authors are not building their online presence successfully, you (as an independent publisher) can help. Consider interviewing your writers for your website—a great tool for expanding content and giving readers a more robust profile of their favorite authors.
The next post in this series moves back into the coding aspect of SEO. XML Sitemaps is our next topic.
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