Byte Experts: Make Content King, by Simon Appleby

Posted by Justine Solomons on 28 March 2019, in Byte Experts, News

Simon Appleby runs Bookswarm, a digital agency dedicated to the world of books. Bookswarm specialises in creating wonderful websites for book publishers, authors, agents, bookshops and others in the world of publishing.

Since founding Bookswarm in 2008, Simon has worked on websites for numerous authors, from household names like Stephen King and P.D. James to debut authors, poets and self-published authors across a wide range of genres. Bookswarm are currently working on new websites for Jonathan Coe, Dorothy Koomson and Holly Bourne.

All this experience has given Simon a lot of ideas about what makes effective content for author websites. We asked him to share some of them with Byte The Book readers.

Be honest with yourself

When designing a website, it’s vitally important to consider your ability and inclination as an author to create relevant, interesting content.

We know that the thought of having to constantly feed a website with new material can be off-putting for some authors. If blogging is not a realistic proposition, then look for alternative ways to update content that suit your writing style and schedule. Possibilities include news, bulletins or quarterly letters from you to your readers.

Tailor the site content to your interests. There might be a particular angle on your writing that you find particularly exciting. Perhaps you want to talk about your research, your inspiration, your writing process or your wider reading within your genre of choice. Those are all valid approaches. Remember: it’s important that you’re comfortable with the content that you share, and it doesn’t have to be deeply personal to be effective and interesting.<

Don’t allow sections of a website to sit empty, out-of-date or rarely updated, whether they contain a blog, an events section or a news feed. It’s better to start without these sections than have a website which doesn’t meet the user’s needs. Most website builders and Content Management Systems are flexible, so these sections can usually be added later if needed.

Be social but smart

Social media can be both a blessing and a curse to modern authors. It’s a way for you to connect with readers and raise awareness, but it’s also another thing you have to remember to do and a distraction from the day job. However, social media feeds can be a great way to keep a website fresh and engaging, especially if you’re not in a position to blog or create other content. There are plugins that offer easy and attractive displays or feeds from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and more. And, for the truly sociable, plugins like Tagregator and Twine Social consolidate updates from across a selection of platforms.

However, don’t embed social media channels in a website if all they do is promote new content on that website. It’s circular and potentially a waste of valuable screen real estate.

Make sure that you are clear about the unique strengths of each social media platform, and that the social media platforms you choose to embed complement your style and your personality.

Feed the thirst for insider info

One of the main attractions for visitors to authors’ websites, especially those of established authors, is information about their books. So it’s vital to offer content to visitors that they can’t get on any book retailer site or publishers’ sites. This content can include extra information about the background to a book or how it came to be written, photos of locations, research notes or other insights. You can also add contextual metadata, such as series reading order or character profiles.

You may also want to include information about out-of-print books and overseas editions and translations, depending on your market. Under no circumstances should your website offer less information than readers can find on mainstream retailers’ sites. And try to make sure book information is never incomplete or missing. The user will have little incentive to come back.

For help with your websites Simon can be contacted via:

Mobile: 07847 912989
Skype: simonappleby77



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