SPS-387: Optimise Your Author Website – with Stuart Grant
As an author, how important is having a website- really? According to Stuart Grant- It is an integral way to keep your readers informed. On today’s episode, we have a conversation with Stuart about all things website design, the options, the value, and some helpful tips and tricks..
- Having your own domain landing page.
- How website traffic translates to email subscriptions.
- Designing a website to match the themes of your book.
- Best practices for getting a website designed.
- AI in web design.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
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THIS WEEK’S BLOG POST: Tips for Networking as an Author
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Optimise Your Author Website - with Stuart Grant
Speaker 1: Want to sell more books? Make sure you are at the Self-Publishing Show Live this summer. Meet the biggest names in self-publishing at Europe's largest conference for independent authors. Enjoy two days packed with special guests, an exclusive networking event, and a digital ticket for watching the professionally filmed replay, including bonus sessions not included at the live show. Head over to self-publishing show.com/tickets and secure your spot. Now, the Self-Publishing Show Live is sponsored by Amazon, k d p
Speaker 2: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show.
Stuart Grant: And I think for an author or any person actually creating a business to have a website kind of means it's real. You know, it exists somewhere and it's something. So it is a very important step psychologically for an author. You know, getting the book in your hand and having a website
Speaker 2: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing? Join Indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello and welcome. It's The Self-Publishing Show with me James Blatch
Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: We have an exciting, practical episode today about author website's. Really good interview with somebody who's at the coalface designing them day in, day out, and doing a very, very good job with it. Just my author website, actually that is coming up in a few moments. Couple of things to talk about, mark. So we are into June, the time this podcast is released, and we are, I think 18 days away, something like that to the third, I was going to say the third annual self-publishing show live, but it's not really annual because of the disease. But anyway, well,
Mark Dawson: His annual in spirit, it would've been annual, would've be the fifth annual, wouldn't he? If we hadn't lost a couple of years,
James Blatch: If we weren't as lazy as we were, we could have done a digital version, couldn't we? We could. The summer. I was in the garden playing cricket, so I quite enjoyed.
yeah, so I don't really know whether to give the URL out for tickets or not. I'm hoping that there will be some tickets left over if you're making a late decision to come. But we do have an absolute limit in the hall, and we are creeping close to it at the time of recording. But anyway, you can go and check it out and maybe there's some party tickets left. If not that is self-publishing formula.com/sps live. You get an opportunity to come and get a selfie with Mark Dawson, famous author. You can come say hello from with me. Get a selfie with John Dyer, Catherine and Tom Young. Tom, did anyone get a selfie with Young Tom last time?
Mark Dawson: Oh I'm sure they must have done. We we probably did.
James Blatch: Yeah, we should, we should do Famous. He'll probably, he'll probably be the biggest author out of all of us at some point, so he'll just blow up. He'll get a film deal. Yeah, exactly. But being Tom, he'll continue to work and he won't mention it to us.
Mark Dawson: Yeah.
James Blatch: Can imagine Tom doing that. Yeah, I was going, Tom, that film by 20th Century Fox, is that your boo? Yeah, yeah. I didn't want to mention it.
James Blatch: He's a modest guy. Okay, look, let's get straight on with this interview. As I say, it's a really good interview about author websites. Lots of good learnings, as they say in America to come your way. It is Stuart Grant of this parish. So Stuart, somebody's working behind the scenes on this show. He works for SPF F, but he has a, what was a side hustle is probably now his main hustle which is a company called Digital Authors Toolkit. And that is the place to go to get your website. It's one of the suppliers on Readzy and other places. And a bit like Stuart BA talks, very knowledgeable about knowledgeably, about what should be on your cover and how covers work. Stewart is the website guy. He's become a guru about what works on all the websites and seeing some of the latest trends on that. So buckle up for the ride here, Stuart and Mark and I will be back for a quick chat at the end of the interview.
Speaker 2: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Stuart Grant a friend of spf, part of the team here at SPF F but here has guested on the Self-Publishing Show because we're going to be talking about author websites and the kind of founda foundational stuff that authors need to have. But first of all, how are you, Stuart Grant?
Stuart Grant: Brilliant. Yes, thank you. I'm still, still enjoying the the, the, the event of beating the s SPS live last year, 2022. We're still talking to people that I met there. And then looking forward to 2023, well, sort of this time next month actually. roughly, yeah. For us. So yeah, I'm doing really well. Very busy with all my author websites and and work and still dealing with a barking dog, a four year old girl and a crazy life, but no, but absolutely wonderful. Yeah, and great to be here. Thanks again, Yeah.
James Blatch: So should, should say that you had a stall in the foyer at self-Publishing Show Live 2022. And we, we, you know, we look, we had quite a little sort of author Indie fair, I suppose you'd call it there, a bit like London Book Fair, but just for indie authors and lots of providers and people could meet the people who they deal with if it's drafted digital and book funnel and stuff. And you were there with your digital authors toolkit, which is basically the website side of things for authors. And I could see you were busy, you had people talking to you all the time.
I mean, a website is something that we need, isn't it? It's not something we can really do without.
Stuart Grant: No I mean, I was on the podcast sort of this time last year talking about similar things, so the risk of repeating myself too much, but you know, it's your ownership. That's the thing that the website provides you, gives you something that you totally own and can design. And it also is obviously the hub for where you can collect emails, you know, and have a home that is yours. And yeah, I mean, talking to people last year, you know, some people came up to me at the, at the, at the show and said, why do I need a website? You know, and there are certain must-haves, I guess, on a website that readers want to know. They want to find your books, they want to buy them, they want to read about you, you know, they they want to see your bio and even maybe photos of your dogs or whatever.
So I mean, there's 101 reasons why you should have a website. We'll probably have any two why you shouldn't. There are people that survive without a website. But I would think the in terms of readers looking for you, you know, people are likely to Google your name. You know, I've read every Harlan Kobin book ever and every Lee Charles book ever. Could I tell you any of the titles? Probably not. You know, so it's all about having a place that people can find you as an author and, and, you know, being able to update it, being able to put your new content on it. And what I've seen actually, by doing it and, and working with authors is that people do use them. You know, actually there is a actually quite a lot of activity on those websites if they're the right kind of content.
So yeah, I mean, it's every reason to have one and no reasons not to really, and, you know, it's fairly cost effective. And at the risk of not picking up those email subscribers or not picking up those, you know, book sales, why wouldn't you, you know? Cause it's relatively low cost. So it's an easy win for an author to have. And I think for an author or any person actually creating a business to have a website kind of means it's real. You know, it exists somewhere and it's something. So it is a very important step psychologically for an author, you know, getting the book in your hand and having a website, two kind of things, I think that mean a lot to an author.
James Blatch: So, and I guess I can do different things that my previous interviewee to them, I'm interviewing a few people today, is at Ryan Cahill, who's New Zealand based Irish epic fantasy author. And he was telling me he's driven 50 or 60,000 people to his website this year, and he uses it for reader engagement. So once they've read the books, and this is not necessarily the sort of landing, we'll talk about landing pages and stuff in a minute back, getting people onto your mail list. This is, this is giving away maps and, and, and bits and pieces that go with the books. And he's finding that building up an invested audience, people invested in him and the university's created is a huge part of him selling more books in the future. And that's done through his website.
Stuart Grant: Totally. And that's what I've also learned a lot over the last year, is that there's so much scope for, you know, the, the must haves of the fairly obvious things, but there is so much scope for more than that. And I've just finished reading JD Kirk ho Books, which I have to say are absolutely brilliant. And as, as a reader, I went on and I served for JD Kirk and found his website and he's got all sorts of bits and pieces on there for his character. You know, he is got a insult generator, he's got all kinds of brilliant stuff. And yeah, it blows your mind really what you can use to engage your audience on your website. You know, even from quizzes to facts to downloadable PDFs. You know, it's, it's there for you to do. And you can't do that on any other platform really. You know, in terms of extras, I'm just working on a site currently actually, where the guys, he's written a lot about Roman Empire and has produced a load of maps of historical docu, you know, what the Roman Empire looked like then and now, and all the rest of it. So yeah, there's so many things to think outside of the box. I mean, some authors haven't got time to, you know, sharpen a pencil, let alone create other content. But if you do and you can, I think we just do appreciate that.
James Blatch: Yeah. now we, I mentioned landing pages in passing there, but an important part of of being an author is building up a mailing list. And this is something we do very often by giving something away as a, a lead magnet or so. So I, I wrote my third book as a novella, and funnily enough, coincidentally, I'm, I'm today finally having sort of let it run as a book selling itself. And it's done really well. So I, this is why it's taken me this long. Cause I keep looking at the figures thinking I'm not going to start giving this book away yet because
Stuart Grant: It's, no,
James Blatch: It's still selling, but I am today at least going to set up through BookFunnel giving it away, which means I will need a landing page. Now, there are different ways of doing landing pages. I use Convert Kit, other people use Mailer Light and MailChimp and so on. And most of these platforms do allow you to create a landing page with a web address, but it's usually a bit substandard looking. And the web address, unless you have linked your domain with that particular e email service provider is going to be a sort of clunky convert kit email address. So this is another important thing, even if you just have a, a single page website, but in the background you can create these unlinked landing pages that you send people to.
They're put in an email address, you grab their email address, and you give them a book and you, hence you build your main list. And that's, for me, is a really fundamental reason for having your own domain website.
Stuart Grant: Exactly. I mean, there are so many ways to make that process simple as well. You know, book funnel is obviously the gold standard for delivery and you know, I recommend it to every author I work with. And there some of them are blown away who haven't come across it, you know, oh, this is amazing. You know, they sign up, they get a link, they download the book. I mean, it really is that simple. And I think, yeah, it's obviously a fundamental part of a website to gather those Aura Landing page. And one thing I would say is that I find authors are afraid of putting that address in as many places as possible. They want to gather the people, but they think I'll only put it in the back of my book. Well, no, that address, wherever you are signing those people up should be at the front of your book, the back of your book, you know, at the top of your Facebook page on the actual cover photo, as many, you know, bottom of your signature.
If you're going to drive traffic, make noise about it. Don't just hope that people get to the end of your book and read that last sentence that says, yeah, sign up here because someone, you know, and particularly in audible versions and things like that, they may not even be in the book, you know, those kind of instructions. So it's really, you know, I really try and encourage authors to put that address, whatever it might be, whether it's the landing page or the Fuller website. But Yeah, you're right. It's it's an obvious and fundamental way to gather email addresses. And Mark wrote a really interesting post in the community a couple of months ago, and I did ask actually whether it could go on as a blog. I don't know if it will, but, you know, it's all about why we would choose Lead Magnets and the kind of things you can use, you know, I remember Mark starting out with a, a police report for Milton, you know, it wasn't even a book. And I think you started with a crash report or, or, or some such.
James Blatch: Still still use them and they go really well.
Stuart Grant: Yeah, exactly. It doesn't even have to be like a six week project of writing another book, you know? But I do think it's important to offer something. I do think that, you know, that get this free thing is still fundamental to that process. People are a bit nervous about just signing up. I think it's a bit, yeah. You know, why bother? I don't know what I'm going to get. I don't know why to sign up. So yeah, I think having something, and it doesn't have to be excruciatingly painful to create it, you know? No no. Often you can think of something,
James Blatch: Lucy score does boha scenes, which are quite common in in romance. So you can do you can do something like that little, little extra if they, if they, if it's a happy ever after this, you can normally write a scene that's, that's a month on from then and, and they're, well, a year on their first baby or something. See, you could tell 'em a romance writer, but if you write thrillers like I do, and Mark does, it's actually quite fun to come up with stuff. So I came up with the crash reports as two Vulcan crashes, and what my favourite thing now is, is I have an E so people sign up for that. It's the back of the book follows on, if you want to read the crash reports from the two accidents that featured in this book, sign up here, you've created the page.
So they put in the email address and they get the crash reports delivered, which I spent, you know, a decent afternoon cr recreating these, you helped me a little bit with some of the imagery, and they look good. They look like 1960s crash reports. And I got a lockdown. I got the language right. So my favourite thing now is to get an email from someone saying, God, I had no idea this was a true story. I honestly thought this was all fiction. And I don't reply to it because I know that the next day they're going to get the, the third email in the sequence. It says, now some of you may have been mistaken in thinking that this was a true actually I know I put them together. Maybe I should be a, a fraudster. And usually You, you get, you then get an email from him saying, oh my God, you completely got me such, such a fun thing to do.
Although I did know it's one guy never responded again. So I think he was a bit upset that he'd been, he'd been fooled by them. But if you, and if you write, if it's outside of romance, I mean, even if it is romance, if your main character is nice hockey player or something, you could, could do their a a press report on one of their games or something like that. And that's it. That doesn't have to be a whole novella. And this is particularly good for back matter,
I think back of the book stuff, people who've invested enough to read your book and then want a little bit more, and once you've got email address, they're never going to forget you again, are they? Because you're going to email them regularly and remind them.
Stuart Grant: Exactly. Yeah. It's actually a very easy and and profitable process for both of you as an author and Rita, you know, the Rita gets something and you get something. So, you know, it's worth putting the effort in to make sure that process works. You know, that, again, another little tip really is to just make sure a friend or family goes through that process and you watch them do it, sit behind them, you know, while they do it on the computer and see what they actually get in their email box. Make sure everything's working as you think, because you could lose them if there's one little tiny bit, not quite right, you know, or if it's not working in the way you think it is. And it's incredible how many people let their websites kind of tire and they don't fix the broken links and they don't check the, the email system.
And, you know, then that's, that could be a reader gone, that would've gone on to buy lots more books. So yeah, I mean, that is really, you know, the, the main part of a website is to, is to sign people up. It's not the only way to do it, obviously, but and also to sell the books and, and have something beautiful. And I think a point I didn't really talk about last year time when we were talking about this was the fact that the websites should be a truck should show the tropes of the book, which I think has been of, kind of not thought about in so many ways previously. So, you know, when you look at a book cover, we've heard a lot from Stuart and, and Martin Shelf about how when you see a book, it needs to tell me what that book's about.
And I think actually now, I, I started to think that the website is exactly the same. You know, you need to land on that website and instantly know the feel, the atmosphere, the, the whatever it might be. And I, you know, I worked really hard now on creating that environment. It needs to be immersive, it needs to draw you in. There's no point in just having a static page because really that no more than a leaflet, you know, you, you want to have that kind of a environment. And so all of my sites really have a through line in terms of, you know, and I think Mark kind of sti this in some ways. You know, when you land on Mark's page, there's a backdrop of Milton standing in front of London. You know, it's a, it's a, it's a clear brand and it's gives a a straightaway. You get the atmosphere. It's not just a white background, same with yours. You know, you've got the aircraft all over the site tells you immediately. So yeah, something to consider. Certainly if, you know, if you've got a very kind of standard white background site, tell people what it's about by using the right imagery or content, which
James Blatch: I guess why some of the off the shelf templates you get with, with some of the services aren't always going to be the best fit for you.
Stuart Grant: Well, yes and no. I mean, I suppose if you're going to stick with whatever they provide, yes, but I mean, they're easily changed. So, you know, the, the templates can be updated to have the, the, I mean, I think your page has got flying. You go fly through the clouds as you read about you, you know, so there's a kind of sense of drawing you in and that, you know, isn't a template. But yes, you can update the template to whatever you want. But at least the templates show you where to put the right stuff, you know, you couldn't, you know, pictures or, or whatever in the background. And I think there's been a real shift this year, particularly as we kind of entered 2023 or had entered you know, that web designers taken a step in a direction it hadn't been before, that it is about an experience.
It's not just a flat, you know, thing. It's got to be more interesting paralex scrolling, you know, where the, the book cover runs in front of the, you know, the background and there's a depth to it you can almost see into the side. Yeah. You know, those kind of things. You know, HubSpot did a, a big report on this at the beginning of the year in terms of how that's going to be so important for web design. And again, you know, I try to use video and immersive kind of behaviours and architecture in terms of drawing the eye, because if you scroll down a site and the book moves in your eye is drawn to the book. Yeah. You know, and then using something like book brush, you know, you, you create a book that's on the angle, which then actually draws your eye into the rest of the site. You know, you can really kind of be clever very quickly and easily, but you can draw people's eye to what you want 'em to see, be it the book cover or the signup for them or whatever. So there's kind of quite a lot of science Here comes a science bit. But you know, there is, there is some thought to be had when looking at the way your site moves.
James Blatch: So your offerings, Stuart, digital authors talk it. Just tell us a little bit about this and is this geared up at first time authors mainly?
Stuart Grant: Oh, God, no. I mean, I've worked with people that have only got a book cover. That's it. You know, and we've created something from that. I, I have to say that the book cover has to be the first point of call that is the inspiration for everything. And it has to be good. We've talked about this a hundred times, but, you know, you must make sure the book is brilliant. But now, I mean, I've worked with authors like Stephanie Queen who've got tonnes and tonnes of books. She came up to me at the, at the book fair. And, you know Colin Falconer, I've just finished his, his, I think he's got 20 odd books. So no, I'm working with, you know, authors who've got, you know, from one to 50 books, I think fifties about the most I've ever dealt with, which is a big job when you're talking about book covers, links, you know, all the rest of it. So but no, I, you know, I, I'm happy to work with people who've got all kinds of, obviously there is an impact on the price
James Blatch: So one, but, so give us Colin Falcon. I I was hoping he would be Colin falcon.com. I see. That's a musician has a terrible website. Author, it's do org is it? Yes, it's org. I was going to have, people can go to james blatch.com, which is a website you've created from me, if they want to see what that looks like. But I'm just going to have a look at a couple of the others as you talk through. That looks really nice. Historical thrillers. Yeah. Moving clouds across that. I love all this. So, so yeah,
Stuart Grant: Authors kind of bring in the, or the, the, the audience in, sorry. Yeah.
James Blatch: So the author comes to you and I guess some authors have a very clear idea about what they want. Some at the beginning might not know what they need or want, I guess you can help both of them.
Stuart Grant: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think I've, I've done 177 sites now for authors. So I've done kind of every kind you can imagine. And in terms of the way it works, he's, I was listening to Stuarts interview the other day, and he, he indicates similar things. You know, sometimes you've gotta let the, the expert do their thing. You know, you can get an author who's very prescriptive, but you've got to remember these, these websites are not for you the author, they're for the reader. You know, that's the thing that you've got to kind of detach yourself from a bit like a book cover. You know, you may like it like this, but actually for it to work in its genre, right, it's got to look like this. And it's the same with the website. So, you know, yes. I get people who are very prescriptive and people who just say, Stu, here's my book covers.
Off you go. And that's my favourite way to work. And then I can work backwards from there. And often I will, as I think I said last time, you know, put the book cover in the middle of the screen and just, that's it. It goes from there, what are the colours, what are the branding kind of fonts and type faces? And sometimes you'd get people that are very prescriptive and I just say, just, just let me do it and then I'll give it to 'em. And they go, wow, that's, that's not what I imagined, but it's brilliant and I'm happy. So you gotta trust each other a little bit. Yeah. and, and yes, people come at different stages, completely different. Some are completely technically inept. They have absolutely no clue. It's barely twitch on a computer, you know? And I think one of my USPS actually is helping people to navigate a lot of the tech that comes along with, you know, doing something like building a website.
And I use w exclusively as I mentioned. But the reason for that is because it's so intuitive. You know, if you, I, I gotta gather a lot of business through Readzy, which is fantastic, and thanks to Ricardo and the team for all the work they do with, with me. You know, and one of the things on my reviews if you read them, is that people say, Stu helped me so much with the process and with the tech. So, you know, I think some, some desired, or even some people just in whatever industry, kind of get your product and you go, what do I do with this? I will not let authors go into the wild until they know how to do it.
James Blatch: Yeah. So so which does bring me onto, I think this is a, the sort of tricky part of websites is you get somebody either build it yourself, in which case, okay, it's all up to you and you've gotta go in there and, and, and make changes and et cetera, and keep it up to date.
You go to someone like you who does it for you. But then what happens after that? Is this, do you create a website that people can self maintain or is it part of your sort of contract? They come back to you and you maintain it,
Stuart Grant: It's whatever they choose. Some authors want to do it, they want to learn, and you know, I'll teach them and then they can get off and do it. Others say, I haven't got time. You know, I'll pay you to do a job, whatever it might be, or I'll pay you a monthly retainer. And then they can just call up and say, you know, I want a cupboard changed, or whatever. So there's different ways it can work. And it depends on the designer, I suppose. But I'm happy to do whatever works really. You know, some, well, some authors I only hear from for two years, they'll come back and say, you know, can you do this for me? And I'll say, yeah, that's fine. But obviously there's a cost to that or whatever. And others have signed up to, to, to a retainer kind of thing.
So yeah, there's lots of different ways that authors work. You know, there's, there's all different kinds of things that people ask me, you know, should I have a blog? Those kind of, you know, and it's about time, isn't it? You know, we've talked about that loads of times. But, you know, have you got time to write a blog or would you rather be writing a book that makes you money? Some, some people like Mark, who are ma machines, you know, find time to do both and others, you know, are just insanely productive. So but yeah, let, I think in essence to your kind of initial question, I think partly you've gotta let your designer do the work for you, you know, present what you want and let them build it for the reader, not for you. Because that is the fundamental point, you know?
James Blatch: Yeah. I mean, I, it's something I've really learned. There's a, there's a trick to working with experts and, and giving them the freedom. And not being over prescriptive is such a key part of it. Because if you are over prescriptive someone like Stewart, if you are saying to him about composition on the front cover, I want the castle and I want a hot air balloon, and I want a girl, she must have blonde hair, and I want a man who's slightly taller than her. If you've said all of that, why are you employing Stuart? You know, you may as well get somebody off fiverr who can just do what you want. And you are, you are not getting your money's worth from an expert who has an eye for what's going to work in that particular circumstance, which might not be what you thought of, but that's okay, because that's not your We're not expecting you to think of that stuff.
Stuart Grant: And I think the point that you and Mark made years ago now, which is so true, and Stuart as well, is, you know, authors often think or thought that they should have something that's in their book on the front cover. Yeah. But of course, when you look at the book cover, you had read it mean it's meaningless. Yeah. So, you know, the cover must tell you what the book's about in terms of genre rather than specifically the Eiffel Tower or whatever.
James Blatch: Yeah. The, the big scene at the end. Well, you know, yeah.
Stuart Grant: It's ignore that, that's, that, that's snip point. And, and saying,
James Blatch: And it's interesting you talking about, cause you know, I, I rabbit on forever about how book covers should work and, and the website being that as well, reinforcing that genre. So this is real, I always call it dovetailing beautiful bit of wood when it's perfectly dovetailed together. That's, that needs to go, I always talk about cover and blurb title, cover blurb, ad copy book itself must all be, you know, urban fantasy. Urban fantasy, urban fantasy, urban fantasy. If you had, or for one point, it's not one of those, if the cover's not the right trope, then the, then the whole chamber extend your percentage of conversions of, of people you're advertising to, to buying is going to drop away significantly.
What I didn't think about, but it makes complete sense, is your author website absolutely needs to be in that same tone.
Stuart Grant: Yeah, it does. And it's, it, yeah, it was kind of a light moment for me. I switch on, you know, kind of like, of course this thing has to tell the reader what it is, you know, and once I kind of tweaked that and started to build sight in that way, it felt so much more effective. You know? And I think there is, you know, and I use book brush, you know, I use book brush every day, you know, to create brush every day 3d. I mean they're, I've just written a blog for them actually, which is really nice to be able to do that. But there, there's details on there about how to do your website and stuff. But yeah, I mean using those 3D images and that even amplifies for me how all in the book cover is. Because when you see it in the real world, you know, you can see how beautiful it is. And a lot of these book covers are works of art. You know, there's no question about how they are artistic and do you want to make the most of them? That's why using them as backgrounds and stuff is really quite a nice idea.
James Blatch: I should probably put my book covers up on the wall somewhere in here, rather having Vulcans and bikes hanging around and yeah. I forgot my union.
Stuart Grant: They are beautiful. They are absolutely
James Blatch: Gorgeous. I'm going to get them printed out and put 'em, frame them, put 'em somewhere. Maybe I could put them in the actual house. Maybe my wife would allow that. Well, why
Stuart Grant: Not in the toilet?
James Blatch: Well, there'll be lots of reasons why not. There is a picture of me flying in a harrier in the toilet but's that was there. I could move, I could move
Stuart Grant: That. How appropriate? No. I mean, it's yeah, they are beautiful. And you know, that's, that is the point I think that we've, we've pushed so hard and I've pushed to authors, you know, make sure you've got decent covers and use them on your website as art.
James Blatch: Yes.
So in terms of coming to you, what do people need to have? Do they need to have anything? Let's talk about domains for start. Do authors need to have their own domain?
Stuart Grant: No. And do you know what, you know, authors are, are a very proactive lot. And some will think, I need a website, right? I'm going to go and buy a domain over here and then I'm going to go and buy this over here and then I'm going to do this over here. And then they come to me and say, right, I need the website. And I'm like, right, I'm going to need logins for that. I'm going to need you know. And it's just a mess. Sort of all these different third parties and, you know, using a service like Wigs or Squarespace or something like that is one reason to consolidate all of that. You don't have, you know, you can buy domains through it. You can sign, you know, have your email service inside it and Yes. So I mean, in terms of domains, it's better to wait, but I always recommend getting the author name.
That's the, that's the fundamental line. Yeah. You know, I mean, if I, you know, I've got Jan Sayer and Louise Graham, Eva McClean, cg, you know, ring Jones. They're all names of authors ne like we talked about earlier. So yes, buy one, but wait to see what your design says. Don't go out and think you've got to have anything prepared. I think the main thing you need is that is your book covers that is it. After that you can do the rest. You know, you can write out a bio. There's loads of reads. He's got a blog on how to write a decent author bio, you know, and there's loads out there. So you don't need to do everything in preparation for designing your website.
James Blatch: And we should talk about costs cause you mentioned different options and retainer options and so on. So what, how much can we expect to pay for an North website
James Blatch: A big pause.
Stuart Grant: Yeah. I hate this question. I mean, everything's gone up
James Blatch: You shouldn't be afraid to charge what you are worth.
Stuart Grant: No. And you know, I think one of everyone says to me, I should charge more. And even really see, wrote to me and said, you know, you're charging 25% in the bottom rank of, of everyone else, right? Everyone else are charging a lot more than you. So I, I have pushed my prices up a bit. By the time you've paid, you know, commissions to people, stripe commissions, taxes, you've got to make it worth, I mean, if you charge 500 quid for a website after tax, after commissions, after everything else, you know, you could end up with 200 quid. Which, you know, maybe if it's a, if it's a long project, is not going to be worth it. So, yeah, I suppose starting point for Minnie is anywhere sort of between, you know, I'm looking at seven to 800 pounds now. To start with a a, a fairly basic website that's got everything you need.
But, you know, and then it can be a kind, a kind of hundred pound per book. If you've got 21 books, then maybe looking at two, two and a half thousand pounds because that is a huge project. You know, managing 21 book covers and links and images is insane. Especially if there's three series, you know, and they've all gotta be in different places on the website. So I think, yeah, I mean, I know people that have paid 10 grand for the websites. You know, and I'm not anywhere in that kind of price bracket, but you have to expect to pay a decent amount.
James Blatch: I think you, you sounded too defensive then. You can absolutely say that. You know, I think a starting website, eight to 900 pounds is, is what you'd expect and what you should be paying. and I know, you know, everything's expensive and of course there are, yeah, there are these self options and we, you know, we teach them in, in the SPF launch plan. In fact, you've done one of the courses using Wix to teach people how to do it themselves. So there is that option of, of doing it for, I was going to say next to nothing. Obviously you're paying still for quite a few of the services, but having it done professionally, that's an important thing. Then the retainer side of things, you, you talked about having because I think we should, we should think about a, let's think about this. When you were talking earlier, think about a website as like a car.
You wouldn't just ignore your car for years at a time. It needs servicing. Things, links get broken here and there. And so regular maintenance is part and parcel of having a website. So what, what options do you offer there?
Stuart Grant: Personally I offer, I think it's about 30 pounds a month, which enables you to have, you know, updates done to your website should you wish. But it doesn't involve like adding a whole e-commerce section or, or redesigning the whole site. That would be a separate conversation. But yeah, in terms of, Stu, can you update my book covers or I've launched my new book, can you re you know, duplicate that page? That's the kind of thing that would u I would use that for. But honestly, most authors are quite happy to get on and do it themselves. You know, once they've been showering, they're, they're a pro productive block, you know, they're quite clever and go off and do it themselves and I'll help out if needed. Yeah. I
James Blatch: Quite enjoy doing stuff myself, so I do, I do go on, so I, I don't know if it annoys you or not, but I go onto the website, I'll make changes and then sometimes email you after saying, can you check what I've done? But I quite enjoy going into Wix and I'm personally, I'm somebody who doesn't like having a service that I'm using that I don't understand that I wouldn't be able to go in and do the basics myself with, but I know that's not for everyone.
Stuart Grant: No, exactly. And, and it's courses for courses, you know, some people love doing it and I want them to do it, you know, that's the whole point. Here's the thing, I don't necessarily want, you know, a hundred authors knocking on my door every Tuesday and saying, can you do this, this, and this? It's like, no, I'm on to the next one now. You know, kind of get on with it over there. But yeah, people break them, you know, and that's, that's one of the things people go on and do something and then stu, how do I undo that? And wix Actually it's got this fantastic feature, which is called site history, and it really winds like six weeks into a backwards. So if you make a complete, you make a complete message of it today, you can rewind in last week's version and it, we should
James Blatch: Back, you should sell a version of that for people's lives.
Stuart Grant: Yes. That would be a rewind button.
James Blatch: Yeah. Six months. That'd be the premium option. Probably six months, wouldn't it? But you could do one minute if you've just, oh, if you've just made a gaff.
Stuart Grant: Wow. We've just written a book there. That's that, the science fiction story right there. Let's get chat G B T to write it. No, that's exactly right. And yeah, it's, it's it's, I've lost enough thread of thought actually. They, I've gone off on, I
James Blatch: We're, we're so excited about our new project together. Yes,
Stuart Grant: We'll call it. No, I know what I was going to say.
James Blatch: Can you Get wind back.com? The domain? Sorry. No, you go on
Stuart Grant: Rewind.Com Probably not. It's probably long gone. yeah, ai, I know it's, you know, it's a very hot topic in the community and I, you know, circling back to the start of the conversation, obviously about s SPS live 2023, I'm doing one of the sessions for the digital thing later in the year. And that's going to be called the one Hour website. And I will be using a bit of AI to help with that. So I'll be showing you how to do that in an hour. You know, if you've got a book cover and you've got your wire and the ready to go, you know, in fact, we can probably do it in less than an hour. So, you know, keep your eye out for that if you're interested in kind of knocking out a fairly fast. But that'll be, I think it's part of the digital offering for the s sps
James Blatch: Yes. So if you're coming to the conference, you'll get that as part and parcel of your, your ticket. It'll be sent out beginning of August. All those sessions. And if you're not coming to the conference, it's I think it's self-publishing formula.com/digital. You can sign up and make sure you get that and many other sessions. Yeah, really useful.
Our author website's getting better. You must have a sort of overview or
Stuart Grant: Oh, absolutely. And you know, I hope that in the community I'm actually starting to set some precedents. I really do. You know, I, I, without blushing, I suppose, you know, I'm quite far ahead in terms of being the number one rated designer on Readzy here, and I think people choose me because of the product and I've tried to make websites that are trend setting. So yeah, I think they are changing, you know, as, as I've said previously, it's not just about having a static page. I think it's about having a dynamic experience for your readers that brings them in. Not just using the motion, but also using the activities and stuff that they might be able to do on that site. You know, AI is going to potentially change things for us as web designers. I think there is going to be programmes where you just say, I want this and it will go bing. Yeah. You know, and, and out it pops. So, you know, Skynet is going to get us all, but and actually that is already here. I mean, in terms of
James Blatch: Are you worried about authors being able to type into an ai, create me a website in the style of this one and give them a domain to another one? And
Stuart Grant: Yeah. in, in truth, I suppose. Yes. It's, it's got to be the answer. But you know, as with all of these things, I suppose we're all hoping that there is that human touch that is not bound in that process,
James Blatch: Also thinking it through. I mean, I, I, we will do the wine back because once we've invented time travel, that would definitely be a, we can monetize that. But before then there's going to be, I, I think the next big thing is interface within between humans and ai. So, so for websites, for instance, so you can't simply do what I just described because you've got all your domains, all your email addresses, all your images and stuff. But if you had an interface where you basically loaded all that stuff up, you answered all the questions, which any author can do, upload your book covers, and then the AI takes that and use it, that's, you could create that interface. I think that's what you absolutely. You should be doing.
Stuart Grant: Oh, in tech time, we are minutes away from that. You know, the doomsday clock is ticking very fast towards that process. You know, in fact, as I said, it's already here with Wix. You can, you can opt for the ADI as they used to call it, or I can't remember what they call it now, but you literally put in, I want an author website and you upload your logo, you tell it the colours you want and out pops and it's got all the text as well, you know, it even writes your blurbs and all that for you So yeah, it's insane. And we are very close to that process. Yeah. But some people want somebody else to do it for them. Yeah.
James Blatch: And that is, that is you.
Stuart Grant: Well, exactly. And I'm not too worried for the time being at least!
James Blatch: Yeah. The robots aren't going to take over yet. Good. Well business I think has been going well for you, Stuart. I know you work co you work for us, you do a bit for Fuse books. You do a bit for me personally.
You've got fingers in lots of lots of pies, but I think this digital author's toolkit's probably your, your bread and butter now.
Stuart Grant: Yes, it is. Yeah. And I'm really loving it and you know, it's been a good journey for me to go on and obviously things like appearing on the podcast and being at SPF F Live have transformed that as a business for me. So yeah, still getting inquiries from those events and things, and it's great to be coming back again in, in June. I can't wait to see it actually and be there again. I'll, I'll have another job. Lot of pens. I think I gave out 800 pens last. Yeah And booklets and all sorts. So and I might even have a mug or two to give away. So yeah, no, I, you know, all going well, loving the community, you know, these people are lovely people and we're, as you've said many times fortunate to be working in this industry, so Yeah.
James Blatch: And if you're watching on YouTube, you can see the U R L because Stuart's skillfully planted it behind him,
but you better tell people where they can find you if they're just listening.
Stuart Grant: Yeah, you can either find me on readzy so just search for website designers and I should be one of the ones that pop up. Or you can visit me via my website, which is digital authors toolkit.com. Which I wish I'd never got. Cause it's so long as such a mouthful. but nevermind.
James Blatch: Sorry. You try. It's like self-publishing formula com. Honestly, we're so regretful that we went for such a long url. Yeah,
Stuart Grant: Nevermind.
James Blatch: Okay, well people can come and say hello to you at our conference in June. Please do if if they are coming to that. But otherwise tune into the digital sessions afterwards and, and learn how to do your own website in one hour. You promise? Yes.
Stuart Grant: Well, yes, It's a good consuming,
James Blatch: That's a good title. Brilliant. Stuart. Not
Stuart Grant: Legally binding. Not,
James Blatch: No, no, no. Always a pleasure to have you on the on the podcast. Thank you so much indeed. Being part of our team and air. Look forward to seeing June.
Stuart Grant: Thanks James. Appreciate that. Thank you.
Speaker 2: This is the self-publishing show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: There you go. I don't think Stuart does your website, does he? I think you got your website done by someone else.
Mark Dawson: No, I, I have a, a company that did websites for things like Nine-Inch Nails. They do my own website. Which is quite fun getting to get one of my favourite bands to get their websites do mine. Yes, but no Stewart is, is is a very, very good option for people who are looking for their, to get their website done. He's, as you say, he is done, lots of them. And I think he did my brothers as well. So you, you and and Craig have both had Stuart do do your websites and I think Craig's happy with it and you are obviously happy with it, so many happy customers and you know, I think he's generally pretty busy and usually gets very busy after the, after the conference when he has, he
James Blatch: Said he's still getting referrals From last year's conference. That's great. We're now in May. Yeah. yeah, so he's done really well through that and and he says some of the authors come to him and they've got 20 books out, you know, they're not Some are newbie with, with the manuscript and some have Yeah. Years of publishing behind them. So yeah. No, I thought it was really interesting talking about some of the trends with Stuarts as well. And if like I think I said in the interview, you can check out my website, james blatch .com and see the quality of his work. And the fact I like is I can go in and change my website. I like doing that. I like make, you know, being hands on with it. It's not for everyone. You can, there's an option where Stewart does everything for you, but he teaches you, we were talking about this after the interview actually off air, but he, he, he is last, last part of handing the interview over the website over does an hour long tutorial on how to maintain it.
Which is actually very labour intensive. And I have said to 'em, you need to do like a workshop
Mark Dawson: Yeah.
James Blatch: That they watch and then have a 15 minute call with 'em after for anything they didn't understand. Yeah. Which
Mark Dawson: Makes sense
James Blatch: But anyway, nonetheless, that's a really good service for, for your money, so yeah. Good. Right. I need to go and choose my costume for walking out on stage. Actually, I'm not going to dress up this year.
Mark Dawson: I know you've said that People will think what whatever you're wearing will be your costume. See, you know. Yeah. It'll be no, this is what he normally looks like. This is yeah. Standard attire. Yes. No, it'll be it'll be fun. I looking forward to it.
James Blatch: I could, I could dress up like the volleyball scene from Top Gun.
Mark Dawson: Definitely don't do that.
James Blatch: Very tight
Mark Dawson: Definitely, definitely Well, no, it'll come back the next year, so we, we can't possibly do that. It's
James Blatch: True. The hall will probably empty you for the first session.
Mark Dawson: It will,
James Blatch: It'll be, yeah. Okay. Alright. Thank you very much indeed. Thank you to the team who produced this podcast. Thank you to Stewart, who is both part of the podcast production team and our interviewee today. It's so big. Thank you to him. Do say hello to Stuart by any way at the South Bank Centre in a couple weeks time. Thank you very much. All that remains for me to say is it's a goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye. Goodbye.
Speaker 2: Get show notes, the podcast archive and free resources to boost your writing career at self-publishing show.com. Join our thriving Facebook group at self-publishing show.com/facebook. Support the [email protected] slash self-publishing show. And join us next week for more help and inspiration so that you can make your mark as a successful indie author. Publishing is changing. So get your words into the world and join the revolution with the Self-Publishing Show.
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