In July 2019 I got married! My wedding was beautiful, perfect and stress free. It wasn’t entirely effortless but there were many things that contributed to such a lovely day. As with any event, it’s the people you invite that make it worth it.
When I first started sending out electronic invitations, I used Facebook Events. But there’s just something cold and unpersonalized about sending evites via Facebook. Plus, people tend to use the “maybe” button which means “I’m-not-coming-but-I-don’t-want-to say-no-so-I’m going-to click-maybe.”
And all the maybes make it difficult to get an accurate headcount, which you need for catering, food, drinks, tables, etc. Especially if you’re an event planner, an inaccurate headcount makes your job much harder.
Which is why I turned to Paperless Post. It’s an effortless way to send beautiful evites to your next event whether it’s a wedding, baby shower, book launch party, house warming or something else!
During my nine month engagement I had three events. The engagement party. The wedding shower. And the actual wedding. Evites were a must have make everything flow smoothly!
Wedding planning is busy and there are many moving parts. My goal was to eliminate as much stress as possible, which is why I love using templates for evites. I’m not a designer so I like to see something beautiful that I can customize to fit my needs.
Paperless Post has a wide variety of templates with both static and animated images. It gives an extra burst of creative and personalization to your event.
How easy is it?
- Select a template
- Enter details
- Select extra blocks. (For example you can add a registry or other details.)
- Send it to your guests!
- Wait for RSVPs to roll in.
Use Text Messaging instead of Email
Let’s be honest. I don’t always check my email. And sometimes I miss messages. But I’m always checking my text messages.
The good news is, Paperless Post allows you to send evites via text, so your guests still get something personalized that they will be more likely to take action on.
For my wedding shower, all invites went out via text message. RVSPs were collected much faster than using email, and it was easier to follow up with people for a straight answer. Yes or no. No maybes!
One place to go to track RSVPs.
Using evites makes it much easier to track RSVPs. Gone are the days of collecting RSVP cards and counting up attendees in an Excel spreadsheet. With a swipe of your fingers, you can pull up the app and view your RSVPs and even see adults versus children. For my wedding it was great to know how many people were bringing children since the pricing per plate was different for children versus adults.
Follow up for the final headcount and/or with additional details.
Hearing crickets? Send a follow up.
The follow up changes everything and Paperless Post has just the right templates. A week before the event send a follow up to see if anything has changed. Are more people coming? Has anyone cancelled? This is especially helpful to know for a wedding or if you are getting your event catered.
For my wedding knowing the final headcount made a $500 different in the budget. That’s pretty massive and money we were able to save for our honeymoon.
It’s also important to ensure people have their questions answered. What’s the dress code? Where should they park? What’s the schedule like? All these things can be sent in a follow up email for everyone who said YES, plus it’s easy to update the evite and resend to these people.
There you have it, a way to make your event flow effortlessly.
How do you send out invitations? Let me know in the comments below.
What do you know about Amazon categories and keywords? Do you know how to add them to your book? Where they should go on your product page and how to find the best ones for your genre? If not, read on. This is advice I wish I’d known when I released my very fest book!
[bctt tweet=”Amazon Categories & Keywords – What You Should Know #writingcommunity #amazonkeywords #bookmarketing” username=”@aford21″]
Last week I was doing some keyword research for my next release. Prison in the Sky. It’s a fantasy with romantic elements, and I was browsing similar books to see what they put in the Amazon Product page. As I was looking, I wrote down keywords I wanted to use, and I realized that keywords have been huge in helping my organic book sales.
In addition to being the giant marketplace that it is, Amazon is also a search engine. People look for items based on keywords, and when they are looking for a new book to read, they use keywords for that search! To help your book show up organically, you should use keyword terms not only when you create the book on KDP, but also in your subtitle and product page.
My most popular series has the keyword epic fantasy not only in the title, but several places in the actual book description. I believe this has been a game changer for helping my organic reach. (That, and every loves a box set deal).
When you set up your book in KDP you really can’t choose any categories. While you can select a general category (like fantasy) – Amazon will choose what categories your book appears in based on the keywords you type in! You can have up to 10 categories, but often, you’ll need to email Amazon and ask them to add your book to additional relevant categories. Relevance is everything. If you’ve been studying the charts, you’ll probably see category manipulation is popular to try to get the bestseller tag. It certainly works, but I also believe if you aren’t getting conversions in your category, your book won’t fly as high as it could be.
Want more about Amazon Keywords & Categories? Read this:
How to Choose the Right Kindle Keywords
Kindle Keyword Strategy for Fiction Authors
Organic keywords are a must have when releasing a book on Amazon. But, what if you don’t know what keywords you should use? Or the most searched for keywords in your genre?
If you don’t know, this is where keyword tools like Publisher Rocket come in. In the past I’ve used Publisher Rocket a couple of ways.
#1 – To find relevant keywords for my Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) Ads.
#2 – To find keywords to put on my product page which allows my books to show up higher in organic searches.
As a result I have a book which easily brings in at least $500 a month without advertising!
If you’re struggling with keywords and your book sales, I highly recommend checking out Publisher Rocket (yes I am an affiliate). Click here for details on Publisher Rocket!
Want more? Book a one on one coaching call with me and we’ll talk through and add specific keywords to your book(s).
In 2018 I released a box set at 99 cents. I wrote my heart out with over 300,000 words of stories I’d held onto for the past 15 years. It was a labor of love and something I’d never imagined coming to fruition. After all, I created the world when I was a teenager and spent years hammering away at world building. Aside from maps I even outlined 3,000 years of history and brought the world to its epic conclusion. Publishing the book felt like giving my heart away and I glowed when people LOVED it, wrote me notes and left reviews expressing how much the story meant to them.
But. As always. There are those who hate everything. A multitude of reviews came pouring in. Some people expressed their issues with the story line which was fair enough–to each their own–but that’s not what got my goat. When people started out and out bashing the story I felt like I was getting a personal slew of hate mail. It crushed my soul and I even toyed with pulling the book off the Amazon store.
I think readers often forget that writers have feelings too. We hurt and bleed and have imperfections along with everyone else, and words can hurt!
[bctt tweet=”Readers often forget that writers have feelings too. We hurt and bleed and have imperfections along with everyone else, and words can hurt! #badreviews #writingcommunity” username=”aford21″]
However, even as I thought about pulling the book I realized I couldn’t because it was making 4-5 figures a month. A month. And I’d never seen jaw-dropping income like that. It felt like I had won the lottery!
I recall crying to my boyfriend (currently my fiancé at the time of this blog post. Woohoo!). Then I decided to get my act together. I read through my reviews and decide what actions I would take. Months later it was a fantastic idea and I certainly see an improvement in my ratings.
1. Editing – reviewers complained about editing. Although it was expensive I had a re-edit. It’s not perfect but it fixed several errors. Editors are imperfect humans too and I’m sure some things were still missed, many issues were fixed.
2. Change the price – selling my box set at 99 cents was awesome for visibility, but I ended up having tons of people who one-clicked to buy just because the price was low. And guess what? Those who did read ended up leaving nasty reviews and even returned the book. So I changed the price to $2.99 and then $4.99. It made all the difference. People who actually want to read the book now buy it and the glowing reviews returned. Of course all the reviews aren’t good but I have a much better pool of readers who aren’t making snap decisions because of price.
[bctt tweet=”Raise the price on your book and gain a much better pool of readers who aren’t making snap decisions because of price. #bookmarketing #writetip” username=”aford21″]
3. Read the good reviews – sometimes I sort my reviews and just read the good ones. It reminds me why I write. And overall I have a higher percentage of positive reviews – however Amazon shows the critical reviews first which is a bit of a bummer. I’d love for them to mix in more positive reviews so readers can get the full picture. And there is a way to do this. I could ask everyone I know to go vote the positive reviews but I also don’t want Amazon to think I’m gaming the system!
4. Focus on improving your writing. I wrote an entire blog post about this. Read it here. But it is important to focus on improvement. My goal is to be better every single time I write. And while I know my older books have issues I’m not going to waste time rewriting them. It was a learning experience and I love my books – so much that I personally read them over and over again. The fact that others enjoy them and I can make a full time income off my books just makes my day.
5. Recognize life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes snarky reviews are such a downer – but I am in control of my attitude and I don’t have to let it ruin my career. Instead I save and savor all of the positive things that are said and dwell on them instead of the negative. But if you can’t handle it, come up with a mindset and process. I try to read all my reviews because it signals to me where I can improve.
[bctt tweet=”Save and savor all of the positive things that are said about your #writing and dwell on them instead of the negative. #badreviews #writingcommunity ” username=”aford21″]
6. Get with a network that can encourage you. I fully realize I am the kind of person who tends to clam up and hide when things go wrong – but having a strong network of support makes all the difference. I’ve found mine on social media (yes, on Facebook) but it’s important to have that! You’ll need the accountability and support especially when things are going wrong and you want to freak out!
There you have it. A few things to do when you get bad reviews. Relax. Take a deep breath. Every single author gets them – even the ones who are always always always on the top of the bestseller list.
Do yourself a favor and let it go. Don’t reach out to the reviewer, but do what you need to do to make changes and let life go on. It will not ruin your career – please keep writing!
Share in the comments below. How do you deal with bad reviews?
I can still remember my first blog. I set it up on WordPress.com which is hosted and managed by WordPress. You can tell because all addresses end with .wordpress.com and they usually try to up-sell you to their premium services.
I recall browsing beautiful websites that were created on WordPress and I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing something big. Turns out. I was! What I wanted was a self-hosted WordPress website. After I figured that out, my journey into building a brand on my website began.
[bctt tweet=”Quick tips for creating an author website on #wordpress ” username=”aford21″]
So if you’re a first time starter to building your own website, here are some quick tips to help you get on your way.
First, I’d like to clear up some misconceptions regarding WordPress. There’s often some confusion between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, with good reason!
WordPress .com versus .org
WordPress.com is hosted by WordPress and managed on their server. There are limitations to these kinds of websites.
WordPress.org is self hosted. You will need to purchase your own hosting and install WordPress. Don’t worry, this isn’t too hard because most hosting providers offer Managed WordPress Hosting that allows you to do this with a click of a button.
Benefits of Using WordPress
WordPress tends to have a much better setup for search engine optimization (SEO) and allows you install different analytics software so you can keep track of your website visitors and make improvements based on what visitors are clicking on and looking at.
WordPress also allows you to install different themes to drastically change the layout of your website. And if you absolutely hate coding, there are drag-and-drop themes that make it easy to get up and running in a few clicks.
There are a few technical details required with WordPress and we’ll drive into them right now.
Where to buy your domain
Before you buy hosting you need a domain.
Your domain is the name of your website. For example: angelajford.com
You can buy your domain from a site like NameCheap or GoDaddy. I recommend purchasing your domain from the same place your purchase your hosting to avoid dealing with redirecting your DNS and nameservers.
Where to get your hosting
You’ve probably heard a handful of names, GoDaddy, Dreamhost, Bluehost, Hostgator. My experience with these hosting provides is that websites built on them are a little slow and have memory limitations. You’ll have to do some extra work improving your site speed, so I recommend beginning with Siteground.
Click here to set up hosting with Siteground (I recommend the Startup package – you can always upgrade later).
Once you have domain and hosting, your next task is to install WordPress. Many domains make this easy. If you’re using Siteground navigate to Cpanel. Scroll down for WordPress tools and select the WordPress Installer. Follow the steps to set up WordPress.
Upgrade your site security
Once your website is up, I recommend that you go ahead and make your site secure. You’ll want to purchase an SSL certificate and make sure your website points to https versus http. This ensures that your website is secure and Google will rank your website higher in search engines. Plus any communication on your website will be encrypted. This is a requirement if you plan to have a shop on your website or accept payments.
Setting up a shop? Read this!
Finding a Theme
WordPress offers out-of-the-box themes you can install for free. If you like those layouts, go ahead and install them and add your content. I recommend writing you the contact and determining what you’d like for each page before choosing a theme. I also recommend taking a look at websites you love to see if the theme you choose will allow you to replicate the layout.
Personally, I recommend the theme Divi by Elegant Themes. This allows you to do virtually almost anything you can think of. It has a drag-and-drop visual builder which makes it simple to setup your website. I also comes with hundreds of pre-made layouts, so you can simply replace the page with your image and text.
Divi is fantastic if you’d like to:
- Run a shop and sell autographed books, book swag or other products
- Focus on video including background videos and trailers
- Highlight your podcast
- Feature your blog
- Include visual elements with animations
- Conduct A/B testing
- Have support for anything that might go wrong while you’re building out your website.
- Build landing pages for selling books, adding offers, welcoming your email subscribers or upsetting them.
Check out Divi here.
All of my websites are build on Divi, and as you can see you have complete control over branding, fonts and layout.
Check out my website portfolio here
What pages do you need?
Let’s focus for a moment and say you have one book out. What kind of website do you need? Honestly, I think a landing page is enough. Your landing page should include a call to action to join your email list and links to purchase (or pre-order) your book.
Find out more about landing pages here.
If you are building out a full website here are the pages I recommend having:
- Sign Up (email list)
Must-have Plugins for your WordPress Website
[bctt tweet=”Learn more about these must-have plugins for your #WordPress #website” username=”aford21″]
Before we dig into the contact you need for your website, I want to bring up plugins. WordPress has thousands of plugins but there are a few I recommend installing and activating immediately.
CleanTalk – spam is everywhere and CleanTalk keeps my website spam-free. If you’re getting comments on your website or have the automated robots who hit your contact form, you need CleanTalk. It starts at $8 per year. Get it here.
Monarch – this allows you display social media buttons everywhere including follow and share buttons. I usually have a vertical line of social media share buttons on the left-hand side of every single page, and on my blog posts I have buttons at the beginning and end of each post. I also include social media follow buttons on the sidebar of my blog and footer of my website.
YoastSEO – if you want to improve your search engine optimization, use this plugin to ensure you maximize on-page SEO. YoastSEO offers quick and easy tutorials to help you start ranking on search engines. They also help you authenticate your site with search engines and ensure your sitemap is set up correctly.
GDPR Cookie Consent: If you are using analytics and pixels on your website, you need to let people know you are tracking them. GDPR Cookie Consent provides an easy popup that allows visitors to opt-in to tracking.
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP – Analytics are a must have for your websites. You need to know who is visiting and what pages they are looking at the most so you can further optimize for traffic. You can setup a free Google Analytics account at analytics.google.com and use the plugin to display your analytics details on your WordPress dashboard. I love using this so I don’t have to log in to Google Analytics to view my traffic every day.
Bloom – create beautiful email popups. I use bloom for the popups on my website inviting visitors to join my email list. It’s easy to add an image that increases conversions. I love that Bloom has analytics so I can track the conversions and determine how effective the popups are. And they work!
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.”
Where to get images?
Now that you have your website up and running, it’s time to fill it with content and images. Visuals are important for websites, and if you don’t have your own branded images, I recommend these sites for free photos.
How to set up integrations
Once you have everything setup, the final step is ensuring that all of your integrations are working. I usually integrate my website with my email marketing service (Mailchimp, Mailerlite, ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit). Thankfully Divi makes it easy to setup up integration, often, you just need to find your API key and past it in. Most email marketing tools have a knowledge base that gives you a step by step guide.
How to setup your email
By the way, if you’re not already, make sure you’re using an email address at your own domain. For example, I use [email protected] instead of gmail for my emails. This does two things. It gives you an official business appearance and allows you to get approved for your email marketing service. Sometimes gmail goes straight to spam so I recommend upgrading to your own domain and telling your email subscribers how to whitelist your email address.
Use Google Suite Mail as an easy way to send and receive emails. You can set it up for a monthly fee here.
From there you need to log back in to your hosting and go to Cpanel. Find your MX records and there should be an easy checkbox to ensure everything is configured for Google mail.
There you have, the beginner’s guide to creating a website on WordPress.
Now, I do know that I’m super techie so if you need help from a pro? Stuck in any area? Book a tech call to help get you out of the weeds.
Share your thoughts:
1. What tips to you have for building a website?
Leave a comment below and then share this post with a fellow author.
Premade landing pages for indie authors are now available!
You know you need a landing page, but the cost and technical headache can make it tough. Especially when you have other things to focus on, like writing, coordinating with your editor, book cover design and book marketing. I firmly believe a landing page is essential, especially for list building, and there are hundreds of resources and articles out there that will concur. I also know the tech challenges can seem insurmountable which is why I decided to offer premade landing pages.
Ever since I saw premade covers come out for others, I wanted to do something simple but beautiful that would encourage authors to focus on having a gorgeous website and landing page, without spending thousands of dollars. (Unless you have thousands of dollars to dump into web design – go for it!)
What do you need for these landing pages?
- A domain (you can get one from NameCheap)
- Hosting (I highly recommend Siteground – you can buy both your domain and hosting from Siteground )
- WordPress (It’s a free download and most hosting providers offer a free install)
- Divi by Elegant Themes (it’s a premium theme but I’ll install it for free with purchase of a landing page)
Each landing page includes installation on your website and content updates. When you preview a landing page, you’ll notice it has demo images, text and links. If you provide your own, I’ll update your content with it.
Landing pages are built out with marketing psychology in mind. In fact, there are the 5 essential elements included in each of my landing pages.
#1 – Sales
One of my goal is to sell more books, so I usually include a link to purchase the ebook from Amazon. Since I have an international audience, it’s important to include a universal link that automatically sends the visitor to their store based on their location. Click here or on the image below for an example of a landing page focused on generating sales.
#2 – List building
Usually when I send out an email, my book sales double, and that makes a massive difference in royalties! Hence, building up my email list is #2 on my priority list. I usually include an invitation to my email list high up on my landing pages and again at the very bottom of the page. The idea is, if someone isn’t ready to make a purchase, I can sell to them via email. Click here or on the image below for an example of a landing page focused on list building.
#3 – Gorgeous book covers
Book covers can make all the difference when selling books, which is why I pride myself on having absolutely drop-dead beautiful covers. I always make it a point to highlight the artwork on my website just because I’m so proud of it! In addition to book covers, high resolutions stock images will work well to capture the theme of your book.
#4 – Social proof
Reviews from readers are a great way to encourage others to pick up your book and read it. Reviews can be a mixed bag, I’ve recently found it really don’t matter how many reviews I do or don’t have on books, they seem to sell just about the same. Regardless, it’s important to have the social proof for your book.
#5 – About the author
One reason I like the internet is because it’s so easy to connect with authors and readers. So make sure you’re using that personal connection and sharing a little bit about yourself. Share the good stuff but also share the odd stuff that no one would think to ask! On my series landing page I share some little known facts about me, just to provide something personable for readers. See a preview of it here.
Share your thoughts:
1. What is important to you when it comes to building a landing page?
2. Do you have any tips to share?
Leave a comment below and then share this post with a fellow author.