Tweet chat 23rd April 2021 Author website and newsletter with guest Charlotte Ducksworth best-selling author of The Perfect Father and author website designer.

Gerd Altman – Pixabay

Participants: Kathleen Marple Kalb, Gerald Hornsby, Maria Johnson, Sandy Stuckless, Rik Lonsdale, Anita Belli, A.J. Calvin, Cheryl Whiting, Karen Heenan, Deborah Klée

Please introduce yourself. Do you have a website and/or newsletter?

Charlotte: I’m an author and website designer specialising in author websites. I have two websites! One for my web design business, and one for my author career. I also have newsletters for both!

My web design studio is: charlotteduckworthstudio.com And my author website is: charlotteduckworth.com

Deborah: I love how your landing page is all about your books. So clear and clean. It has impact!

Charlotte: Thank you! yes, people only skim websites, so you really don’t need to go overboard with content/words. I think the key is to keep things simple. Less is more. You don’t need something all-singing, all-dancing, you just need something that works well and has all the essential info on it for readers

Deborah: I have both and I am looking forward to learning from @charduck

Sandy: Hello everyone! I’m Sandy. I have a website, but no newsletter. It’s something that’s on my list of things to do this year.

Rik: Hi Deb and everyone. I have a website, but no newsletter. The thought of the commitment…

Gerald: I found most of the delay I had in getting mine up and running was answering the question: what do I put in it? Once I’d sorted that, it was pretty plain sailing.

Sandy: Same. I’m not that interesting so deciding on content was a big challenge.

Karen: I’m Karen, I live in the US near Philadelphia, write historical fiction and have both a website and a newsletter.

Kathleen: Hi! I’m Kathleen. US-based mystery author. I have a website, and I think I’ve done a newsletter once. But I do two blogs a week, and a lot of social media.

Charlotte: That’s great! Blogging is very powerful!

Kathleen: I was surprised at how much I enjoy it, even though it is a commitment!

Cheryl: Hello everyone. I’m a part time academic and aspiring author. I have a website from a previous business which I am branding and converting so I can promote my work. Don’t feel I have enough content to share just yet but I regularly post snippets on LinkedIn and Twitter

Anita: Hello, All. I am Anita. I have a website here: anitabelli.com. I also have a WordPress Blog: anitabellibooks2020.wordpress.com and I am working towards a newsletter linked to the blog using mailchimp.

Deborah: I love the look of your website Anita. It is clear and simple. You could use that beautiful portrait of you to fill the page. See the example @charduck shared from Kate Harrison’s site.

A.J. Hi I’m A.J., and I’m from Colorado. I write primarily adult fantasy (and occasionally science fiction). I have both a website and newsletter at ajcalvin.net

Deborah: Your website home page has impact. Beautifully presented.

Charlotte: The colours and fonts are great too! Subtle and distinctive.

If you have any questions for @charduck on your website and/or would like feedback from the group now is your golden opportunity. Let’s learn from each other.

Deborah: I know from looking at @charduck that my home page is too busy. Any other feedback welcome.

Charlotte: I think it’s lovely – the tagline works well and explains what you do. My only question would be when people visit the site, what do you most want them to do? There’s a lot of info, it might be good to hone in on one thing in particular as your main call to action.

Deborah: I am trying to use my website as a funnel to attract people to buy my books but it is Castaway Books programme, and my blog that gets attention not so much my books.

Charlotte: It’s tricky when you have to do more than one thing on the same site. A simple landing page can sometimes help direct people to the right place. Kate Harrison uses this tactic: kate-harrison.com

Deborah: Thank you. I love the home page to Kate’s website

Charlotte: She juggles a lot of different things really well I think!

Cheryl: My blogs were the things that brought people to my website. My regret is that life gets in the way and very intention of doing one a month but it never happened, I was a bit hit and miss and always dropped down the to do list.

Charlotte: It’s REALLY hard to keep up the momentum. I blogged every week last year for the whole year and I was so proud of myself!

Sandy: I have to be honest. One thing that discourages me from visiting websites is too much scrolling. If I have to give my mouse wheel a workout, I’m probably not going to do much exploring. I’m a rabid clicker.

Charlotte: That’s interesting. These days more than 50% of traffic comes from mobile, so people are used to scrolling, but I do take your point!

Kathleen: I know newslettters are a big deal, but I’ve got so much else going on in my career and life! What’s the simplest way to start?

Charlotte: Start by building up your subscriber base! You don’t have to actually send anything until you feel comfortable/have time, but the sooner you start building your database the better, as it can take a long time.

Kathleen: (Sheepish Shrug) I got two huge lists of potential subscribers from promotional events I’ve done in recent months…and haven’t entered them into my system. I need to get on that!

Maria: I would do everything through a website like mailerlite or mailchimp (I use mailerlite). I recommend a book by Erika Everest, the Strategic Guide to mailerlite

Deborah: Is it okay to get people to subscribe and then not send a newsletter for months?

Charlotte: I think so, if you make it clear on your sign-up box – ‘sign up for future news etc’

Anita: This is what I have done. By the time I send a newsletter, my subscribers may have forgotten who I am!

Cheryl: That’s how I feel. It’s my first attempt at book writing I don’t feel I have anything tangible to offer. I have always written non-fiction on professionalism and before lockdown delivered workshops on the subject, waiting for the world to open – more of a reason then.

Sandy: Okay, so I’m dropping my website here. I use the free version of Wix at the moment. Thoughts, anyone? sandystuckless.wixsite.com/sandyrstuckless

Deborah: It is an attractive website. I think that the review at the top could be the focus and the detailed info about you on an about me page. That might give the home page more impact.

Gerald: TBH, I like fairly clean home pages. I think that makes it modern and attractive. Think: what is the one thing you want your website visitor to learn immediately from a visit? They can find everything else in linked pages.

Charlotte: Yes, this absolutely!

Anita: I agree with @AuthorGerald. Website for information about my books and creative writing programmes and Blog for discussion and behind the scenes stuff.

Gerald: One of the big things last year (thanks to you, @DeborahKlee!) was clarifying the difference between my website and my blog. My website is purely about my books. My blog is for discussion and thought.

Rik: That makes sense, never thought of it that way. But then, no books to sell yet!

Gerald: Well, get on with it, man! Seriously, that will come. I love the clean look of your website. And if all you’ve got is blog content, then go with that for the moment!

Cheryl: I’d like to know what sort of content I need to be putting and how I build interest and anticipation while I continue writing the rest. Thanks

Deborah: If I were to ask a professional website designer to help design and host my website would I be able to keep the same WordPress address? I am afraid of losing followers?

Charlotte: That shouldn’t be a problem. You would need a WordPress specialist though.

Gerald: One of the advantages of having a custom website is being able to use your own domain name. In which case, you could simply add a link on your WordPress blog – something like “See Here for Deborah’s Website —> <link>”

Maria: Yes, that’s one of the main reasons I set up a new website last year. I could just have my name as the domain rather than the long wix name I had with my old website.

Gerald: You can do like @anitabellibooks has done, and have a ‘business’ website at anitabelli.com and a blog at anitabellibooks2020.wordpress.com

Maria: Thanks, I started the ‘new’ website last year and just have everything on there now including my blog.

Gerald: That’s what I’ve done, although I bought the domain separately and am running WordPress software on it. gerald-hornsby.com The blog is another installation of WordPress running on the same domain.

Rik: That’s why I decided to pay!

Gerald: Did you buy your domain through WordPress, @LonsdaleRik ?

Rik: I did it all through Wix.

Gerald: Yes, that’s what anitabelli.com is. It’s the Wix website builder behind the scenes.

Maria: I’m similar, I got my domain with name cheap and then have wordpress hosting.

Deborah: Wordpress hosts my website. I have read on social media that others recommend having a different host but I have not been persuaded.

Charlotte: It used to be for security but it’s not so much of an issue these days.

Deborah: Do you think your blogs attract new readers to discover your books @charduck?

Charlotte: At the moment I only blog on web design but I have a blog archive on my author website with several popular posts that get a lot of traffic (over 300 hits a day) and these have definitely converted to sales (I can track this).

Maria: Ooh I have a question actually. How do you get word press followers? I haven’t been able to add a feature for my site. I’ve heard it might be only for wordpress.com or wwordpress.org?

Deborah: I have got 90 followers now after one year. Mine increased after I started using WordPress reader to read and follow other blogs.

Charlotte: Just seen this! I’m afraid I’m not a WordPress expert as I only build on Squarespace but what Deborah’s said makes sense.

Gerald: I do wonder if blogging has changed over the past few years. It used to be that people would be waiting for your blog posts – the more the merrier. Now there are so many calls on people’s time, I think it’s better to make them less frequent but more impactful.

Charlotte: Yes definitely, and Google prefers long-form content, so short and sweet won’t cut it anymore.

Dawny dawny – Pixabay

What have you learned in building your website that might help others? @charduck what are the most common issues that can be improved?

Charlotte: The most common issues are things like clunky/unresponsive design, missing info, not having any calls to action (links to buy books etc), and not thinking enough about the visitor journey through the site.

Making sure each page serves a purpose and is geared towards the visitor taking one decisive action (whether that’s buying your book or following you on social media). And always remember less is more!

I’ve written a blog that expands on this: https://www.charlotteduckworthstudio.com/blog/top-5-mistakes-author-websites-make

There’s lots of advice on all things author websites on my blog, that people might find helpful: 

https://www.charlotteduckworthstudio.com/author-websites-blog

Anita: Great advice @charduck. I think I have made all of these mistakes. I used to think it was enough to have a website. Now I realise what a powerful selling tool it can be.

Maria: I’d start a lot earlier. I didn’t realise how much online promotion/networking was involved so only started blogging and being social media in the weeks before my first novel was published. Had no idea about doing a build up to the launch or any of these things!

Charlotte: Definitely – the sooner you can get this stuff up and running, the better!

My agent first contacted me through my website – have shared the story here: charlotteduckworthstudio.com/blog/website-b…

Cheryl: I do network, and ran my own for a while and have only met one other author. I do less now, even though it’s on line, but I use it as a way to stimulate thoughts and share ideas as my book and find people to interview and ‘guest lecturer’ which is all promotion!

Kathleen: You’re so right about just getting out there! The connections are important — not just for promotion, but for support.

Cheryl: That’s why I love this group. feel so lucky to have come across it. So, motivating, supportive and friendly

Do you send an author’s newsletter to readers who sign up to a mailing list? How frequently? Do you offer an inventive to sign up? We have started to answer this question but perhaps share a bit more?

Charlotte: I do, and I do this monthly. I also offer a short story to people who sign up as an incentive but there are lots of different things you can offer – giveaways and competitions, or additional material about characters from one of your novels, can work well.

Anita: I offer a prequel chapter of one of my books as an incentive to sign up.

Maria: Yes, I send a newsletter out each month. I give a free preview of my fantasy novel to my subscribers when they sign up and then a free preview of my 1st historical fiction novel is included with every newsletter edition.

Sandy: I have no insight on this as I don’t have a newsletter at the moment. Maybe that’s a big reason for the low traffic on my site. 

Gerald: I don’t offer an incentive as yet, although I do need to sort that out. And I have a ton of short fiction kicking around my hard disk that I can send out each month. Next week will be my first ‘proper’ newsletter distribution.

Ninita 7 Pixabay

What do you include in your newsletter?

Charlotte: I think authenticity is key. There are a few different ‘types’ of author newsletter and it depends on your genre, but things you can include are: recommendations (of other books especially), behind the scenes info eg any research trips you might have undertaken, character inspiration, anecdotes about your creative life. Original content such as essays, poems or short stories. Interviews with other authors or people your readers might find interesting. It’s important to think of your readers and not be salesy!

Treating them like they are ‘special’ because they are – they gave you their email address!! So exclusive insights/previews can work well too.

I have a free 30 minute video all about this that you might find helpful:

https://www.charlotteduckworthstudio.com/newsletter-training-for-authors

Basically, longer form content that has value that you can’t fit on social media – and if you have a blog, always remember to link to your blog posts in case people have missed them.

Kathleen: Is this part of that whole “Content/Promo” balance that we work on in our social posts — so people get something for their clicks?

Charlotte: absolutely!

Kathleen: I’ve only done a newsletter once, but I did offer some bonus content — a fun chapter on an 1890sn baseball game cut from my first book. I’m not sure I could generate monthly goodies with everything else I’m doing… I’d always felt pretty good about my website…but my social media game was seriously weak until I debuted in a pandemic — and had nothing else to rely on. The newsletter fell through the cracks…and I want to do better!

Deborah: I write behind the scenes information about my books, including photos from research trips. and Other news.

Maria: I include a brief summary of what I’ve been up to the past month/any author announcements, a featured book I recommend each month, a link to my books and previous blog posts and then finish with a little section with a photo of my dog.

Cheryl: Something topical is always good, people like to see the person behind the cover, so something about you, charity run or scuba-diving adventure etc, what’s new in terms of writing, who you have been connecting with or reading and a top tip or two!

Gerald: So far (and it may change), I’m doing: * what I’m working on * what’s coming up, release-wise * a piece of my writing * a featured post from my blog * news from the world of publishing

What is the one thing that you will do as a result of today’s chat?

Cheryl: For me it has to be plan more around the promotion of self and my book. Be positive, a remind myself that I DO have something by way of perspective to offer the world.

Deborah: I am going to read @charduck blogs on author websites. Review mine with a critical eye and improve it. By end of July latest as I think it will take time.

Gerald: Definitely offer an incentive for people to sign up to my newsletter. Also, I need to look at free examples of my writing and ‘bonus content’ giveaways each month.

Deborah: Is a monthly giveaway necessary?

Gerald: It’s not a standalone ‘thing’ – just a piece of short fiction within the newsletter. I might try to look into creating a serial, like @EllieHWriter does for the magazines. Or a set of linked flash fiction pieces.

A.J. Make a list of all the great newsletter ideas that were presented. I’m always looking for ways to engage readers.

Anita: I will get back to my blog and newsletter from the start of May when the decks are clear of my current project

Sandy: Probably start thinking more seriously about my subscriber list. I do have a small following that have enjoyed my short stories and the goal is to have the novel finished this year. Gotta start somewhere.

Last word from Charlotte Ducksworth:

Thanks so much for having me! Always happy to chat author websites on here, so feel free to tweet me anytime if anyone has any questions. Have a lovely weekend everyone!

My author web design studio is at: https://www.charlotteduckworthstudio.com/

And my own author website is: https://www.charlotteduckworth.com/

Other valuable resources shared by Charlotte in this chat:

A simple landing page can sometimes help direct people to the right place. Kate Harrison uses this tactic: kate-harrison.com

https://www.charlotteduckworthstudio.com/blog/top-5-mistakes-author-websites-make

There’s lots of advice on all things author websites on my blog, that people might find helpful: 

https://www.charlotteduckworthstudio.com/author-websites-blog

My agent first contacted me through my website – have shared the story here: charlotteduckworthstudio.com/blog/website-b…

I have a free 30-minute video all about this that you might find helpful:

https://www.charlotteduckworthstudio.com/newsletter-training-for-authors

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