I received an e-newsletter yesterday from a gentleman named Robert Hurst. I don’t know Robert. Nor have we ever crossed paths. But, apparently, he’s a damn fine artist, as is evidenced by his URL:
See, I told you he was good.
Just below this address was a picture of Robert painting, along with the following message:
Introduction: Who and what is a Damn Fine Artist?
Robert Hurst, one of the top sports artists in the country, is a Damn Fine Artist. For more information about Robert, go to the Artist Info category of www.adamnfineartist.com.
So far, all I’d learned is that Robert (or at the very least, the person writing his web copy) believes he’s a damn fine artist. What I wasn’t so sure about was how that related to me.
Now, in all fairness, I applaud Mr. Hurst’s promotional activities. One, he actually has a website, and two, he constructs and sends out e-newsletters linking back to his homepage. Both are excellent ways of pulling potential prospects into an artist’s (or author’s) gravity well. Furthermore, his paintings display incredible skill and talent. I’m sure he’s very successful. Yet I can’t help but wonder how much more art Robert might be selling if he developed a message that was centered around his prospects rather than himself?
Publishers, warn the authors you work with not to fall into a similar trap on their own websites. Yes, the message above is taken from a newsletter, but I could have just as easily used some of the language found on Robert’s homepage. Which opens with the phrase,
Welcome to A Damn Fine Artist.com
and closes with the following paragraph:
Robert Hurst is known for his vibrant images capturing people and scenes from the world of sports and music. Hurst, one of the top sports artists in the country, is the Official Artist to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and the College Baseball Hall of Fame. For more information about Robert, go to the Artist Info category.
My corollary insight for your authors is this – a homepage is not the place to talk about accomplishments, books, and seminars. The goal should be, instead, to create a message that is wholly focused on what your authors can do for their visitors, while at the same time quickly leading them to the information they came looking for. I always encourage authors to clearly state their Unique Value Propositions up front, along with a conversational yet informational guide (complete with hyperlinks) to additional pages where more details can be found. This type of format allows an author to present the information and services visitors consider valuable in a head-on and straightforward manner.
Another no-no is beginning a visitor’s experience with a traditional “Welcome” greeting. They’re not walking into a fine dining establishment, they’re looking to solve a problem or satisfy a need. So solve the problem! Speak to the need! There’s no time for small-talk, here. Time is money.
As I alluded to earlier, a homepage is often a visitor’s first step into your author’s gravity well. It should address their needs promptly and make it easy for people to take the next step, and then the next one, until eventually they find themselves standing in front of the bookstore cash register with your author’s book in hand.
Once your author has earned some credibility and developed some rapport with a visitor, a good way to pull that person deeper into his world is to provide a free newsletter sign-up button in the right column of the homepage. (Mr. Hurst’s appears down the left-hand column, but at least it’s there.) But don’t expect visitors to sign up immediately. That comes after they have a rewarding experience on the site. And make sure your author includes a message near the newsletter sign-up button that explicitly states that e-mail addresses will be kept confidential.
Hopefully, these tips will help you help them in constructing (or reconstructing) their homepages. Remember, it’s not about your author. It’s about how clearly and quickly your author can provide what his visitors come looking for.
Questions about homepage messages may be directed to Michael R. Drew at the Austin, Texas, headquarters of Promote A Book: 512-858-0040. You can also contact Michael via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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