Three years ago, almost to the day, I made the smartest decision I’ve ever made. Before you ask, no I did not decide to forgo a unicorn wrestling match (I know that was your first thought); no, I began my first website, E-book Revolution (http://ebookrevolution.com.au).
A very ugly Blogger blog that had all the finesse of a monster truck and kind of looked like a five year old had drawn a very boring picture with crayon on a brown paper bag.
When I first started I didn’t really know what I was about. I was in my ‘teenage’ blogging phase, the years where you kind of know the stuff you like, and the things you want to talk about, but you hadn’t quite found the path that fit the personality. When I first started I knew I didn’t have the skill to blog about my fiction writing, but I was great at investigating, at pulling apart the things people did (often via instinct) and figuring out how they worked. Like a mechanic for ideas.
Back when I first dived into creating my author platform Amazon hadn’t opened its doors to Australian authors, Smashwords was just getting started and Kobo was a name I thought I heard once whispered in a dark alley by a leprechaun. Not really an expert at anything I did my best imitation of a triple somersault dive and descended into the depths of learning.
So the blog grew, with its cobbled together Logo in Microsoft Paint and font colours that didn’t quite match the theme. It grew from a site that explored how to throw off the oppressive cloak of publisher rejections, to a site that looked forward to digital experiments, taking control of your publishing, and (eventually) how to write a magnificent book.
In three years the blog had grown out of its teenage years, and the message it conveyed with its pixelated pimples of mismatched colour no longer fitted where I was. I now had a job in the publishing industry, I hold workshops teaching writers to be indie authors, I was being asked to talk around Australia, and I had a site that didn’t exactly scream professional. It kind of screamed ‘boring’.
So as it approached the blog’s third anniversary I decided it was time for the outside wrappings to look like the inside, and starting on the 4th of April I am running a week long website relaunch to celebrate, complete with a shiny new digital home, logo, and seven days worth of prizes! In fact it’s going right now! (http://ebookrevolution.com.au)
In the wake of these months of hard work I’ve done what I do best, broken down the process so that people can see how it works.
So here are my five tips on author branding and revamping your website and blog:
1: Why You Should Rebrand
It doesn’t matter how careful you were at picking your original template and banner art, how much time you spent agonising over the whether you wanted your headings fuchsia or fluoro green, chances are that if you’ve put together your author platform more than two years ago, times have changed. Not only have design trends changed, but what interests you, what entertains you, what you talk about while blogging, and what you share, has morphed into an entirely new polka-dotted beast.
You may write in more than one genre now, or you may have found the topic you first started with didn’t strike a chord with your audience, but as soon as you started posting pictures of My Little Ponies in compromising positions your website statistics skyrocketed.
Writers do not stay static; we trade in ideas and imaginings.
So the question you’ve got to ask yourself is, does my site still match my message and who I am? Because if it doesn’t, then you may find you’re not attracting the size of audience you should.
2: What Does That Involve?
Basically asking yourself a stupid amount of questions. Get a piece of paper and go back to your original posts: What did you talk about, what were the themes, what got the most interest from visitors? Then compare it to your posts and social media sharings over the last six months: What themes and topics do I cover now, what do people care about in 2014? How does that change in tone and topic match the images and colours on your website? Does your current status, celebrity, or career level, reflect in the layout?
The ultimate are-you-ashamed test is to ask yourself if you would be happy paying $10,000 to stick you logo or website banner three stories high on the side of a building. Does the thought make you twitch? Then that tells you how you feel about your logo today. Hand your logo or website banner around to family, friends, and people you meet in the park walking your dog. Ask them what they think when they look at it, what is it saying to them, does anything turn them off?
Old logo New Logo
Finally, articulate in a paragraph what you are about now, and what your message is. Start going through Google images and websites of authors similar to you and start collecting all the images that appeal to you in a document. This is what you’ll use for your base line rebranding.
3: Recreating Yourself
Sorry guys, but this is where you have to come out of the world in your head and take part in some good old fashioned collaboration.
You are not the best judge of you!
Unfortunately writers are not the most subjective bunch of creatives (helloooo editors!) and we need professional help and a fresh perspective. Rebranding involves revamping your website, logos, and tag lines. You saw my old blog above, and below is an image of my new website.
I had already pulled together images of sites I admired and my new tag line (E-books, marketing and digital experiments – helping you bring your stories to the world ) from the previous step before I began approaching designers. There was a web designer friends had worked with in the past who made amazing WordPress sites that you could add to and run without any need for all those silly ‘maintenance fees’ that IT companies charge these days. She was the one who linked my pre-existing book cover to my new logo, and once the logo and highlight colours were decided she then moved on to make sure that the website matched the lot.
She was so amazing I actually invited her to write a post on Author Branding for my website relaunch. You can read it here (http://ebookrevolution.com.au/?p=759) and it will be live from Saturday the 5th of April.
You may find that you can get an all in one package like me, or that you need to hire a graphic designer first before bringing the logo to the web designer. Either way make sure you get a list of fonts and colour hues used so that when you are doing a sneaky alteration in Microsoft Paint, that you get it right.
4: Reconnecting With Your Audience:
Take your new stomping ground as an opportunity to have fun! What have you always wanted to add but never done?What information do you have already that you can now repurpose and help you connect with a new audience. Make it easier for them to do their crash course and then join you at the level you are now?
When I first started E-book Revolution I talked about really basic concepts and step-by-step processes to help authors get up and running in the digital space, but three years on I am way passed those beginner topics and rarely cover them. What a missed opportunity to connect with a new person! I am missing out on a whole audience who, if I pointed them to those original articles, would be up to speed and get so much more out of what I post now. Just because they didn’t happen to dive in the deep end at the same time as me.
So in the new version of my website I have resource sheets (http://ebookrevolution.com.au/start-here/) that list all of the most popular questions and blog posts on Marketing, Publishing and writing, so that writers who are starting out can find what they need, and those who have followed me from the beginning don’t have to read what they already know.
5: How to Gain Traction
Make it a party! When I originally started the blog I posted every day for 31 days straight. I wanted to build up momentum (and obviously had some unfulfilled need to punish myself) and that was the best way I could think of to do that. And it worked surprisingly well, I got over half the subscriptions to my newsletter because of that first, month long sprint. But as the three years went on that momentum slowed, in part I think because of the DIY feel of my site, which three years ago was fine, but these days was neglectful.
The website revamp was the perfect opportunity to reconnect, recharge and take advantage of the connections I’ve built over the past three years. So my recommendations for gaining traction include:
- Like launching an ebook, extend the launch of your site over the course of a week. It is only through multiple connections that you can make an impression.
- Have some great content, not only from yourself but people within your network. Use the launch as a way to build connections with your colleagues as well as your audience. Building a community, and presenting quality information helps you build trust for the years ahead.
- Give people who don’t know you a reason to drop by! Information is all well and good but giving away prizes that are relevant to your audience is even better. At my launch I am giving away multi-media courses, a set of 6 writers guides from Chuck Wendig, a Kobo ereader, and a swag bag of books on indie publishing by some of the best indies around, just to name a few. All appropriate for my audience; writers and independent publishers.
- Don’t just let them all go once the launch has ended! Don’t do all of this work and hope that people will continue to visit your site. Get people to sign up for a newsletter, that way you have a way of contacting them directly. I give away a free 1hr crash course on the E-book Revolution and a workbook on Writing a Killer Blurb to anyone who signs up for my newsletter. Not only do they get some great free information, but I am able to contact them in the future about any new book releases or events.
Emily Craven is an author, speaker and innovator and runs the website E-book Revolution where she discovers writing, publishing and new ideas. Her website relaunch is running from the 4th– 10th of April with some great prizes for indie authors, check it out (www.ebookrevolution.com.au). Emily is the author of the non-fiction book ‘E-book Revolution: The Ultimate Guide To E-book Success’ (http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/e-book-revolution-the-ultimate-guide-to-e-book-success) , and the comedy ‘The Grand Adventures Of Madeline Cain’ (http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-grand-adventures-of-madeline-cain-photographer-extraordinaire) written as though you are reading the main character’s Facebook Page.