There are two kinds of widgets in my world. The first kind is the type of WordPress plugin that appears in the sidebar or footer of a blog. The second kind is snippet of code generated by a site that you can paste into your own web design to display remote content. I’m writing about the second kind.
Though there are widgets for everything from displaying the weather to cycling hot photos of Megan Fox, I’m going to tell you about five Widgets that you can use to promote and sell your book-based content with fewer clicks from your website.
Here are five widgets that you should be using!
It is important for writers to be constantly reading. Goodreads is a great site to help you keep track of exactly what you are reading and how you feel about it. You can go to Goodreads and register to track your reading. Authors can claim their works and have a Goodreads Author account. Goodreads is a book social network, which means that you can add other readers as friends and follow their reviews. You can see who is reading and reviewing your book, allowing you to add your readers as friends. People are very open and willing to friend you back on Goodreads, which makes it a great place to connect with readers.
As a Goodreads Author you can find codes for buttons to link to your books. As a Goodreads reader, you can place a widget on your website that shows your latest reads and their star rating. I use this widget to show visitors what kinds of books I read and to encourage Goodreads users to find me on the site. Further, when I read a book by a fellow Indie Author, I’m giving them a little bump by displaying their cover on my “Read” shelf. In the world of Indie Publishing, it’s never a bad idea to help promote a fellow writer that you enjoy!
Social media is one of the most powerful tools for writers trying to promote their work on a shoe-string budget. Blake Northcott, one of my favorite Indie authors, launched her book last fall to huge success and ended up with a big movie deal and a paid writing project within a year. How did she do it? Being a cute blonde in superhero t-shirts helped, but her real success comes from her constant dedication to her blog, Facebook, and Twitter streams. Northcott has a smart, sometimes scathing, sense of humor and isn’t afraid of her nerd. That, combined with genuine interaction, has given her 21,700 followers on Twitter. That’s a great audience and you can tell that she genuinely enjoys interacting with them. Her Twitter feed is mostly composed of hilarious comments and conversation; the minority of her tweets are self-promotion.
That is why the Twitter Profile Widget is so useful. Twitter has widgets for following specific topics, lists, and favorite tweets. The Twitter Profile Widget shows a stream of your latest tweets and allows you to customize it to suit the color scheme of your site. How many Tweets do you want to display? How big is your box? This customizable widget will help you turn occasional readers and search engine stumblers into Twitter followers and repeat readers.
Facebook’s widget is not nearly as customizable as Twitter, but it is still a very valuable widget. Facebook has a lot of great code snippets that you can grab, such as Like Buttons and Commenting plugins. I don’t have the Facebook Likebox on this site, because I don’t use a Facebook page for myself as an author, but I do use it with my publisher, Matter Deep Publishing. Likebox displays updates from whatever Facebook Page you choose. It can be customized to display faces of likers and recent updates, and you can choose the dimensions and a light or dark color scheme.
If you don’t have many likes, yet, you can turn off faces so that your page doesn’t look weak. When you get more followers, you can always go back to change it. Though the color settings aren’t as customizable, you can set a border color, which does a lot to tie-in the widget with the site design.
This widget does require a minimum width of 292px, so if you’re using a super-skinny sidebar, you may have to forego this widget. It’s a great way to get likes on your Facebook page, and once someone has liked your page, its updates are in their news feed until they unsubscribe. Likes aren’t necessarily sales, but they are a great way to cultivate a list of people who are interested in your content and send them periodic updates on the one site they probably check seven times a day.
Amazon Affiliates are people who link content on Amazon in order to receive a royalty on any sales that result from that link. Amazon Affiliates can generate links to product pages that contain their ID number. Imagine if every time you talked-up a fellow author’s book, you got paid for the resulting sales! Really, Affiliate royalties are just a deal sweetener for me. I use Amazon Affiliates because of the widgets I gain access to for my own books. Amazon Affiliates can generate single product codes, slideshows, and sidebar widgets that display Amazon products with Buy links.
They say that every click on a website is a doorway and that every doorway decreases your chances of making a sale. It is easy to see, then, why we need to have direct links to our products right on the page. I use an Amazon tower widget in my sidebar, and embed individual links in pages where I talk about products for sale. Book Blogger Bonus: if you take a lot of guest bloggers, you can also put a link to their books in the bottom of their guest posts to profit off of their appearance.
There are two major sites for Print-On-Demand merchandising. Cafepress is the original and Zazzle is the second. I used to love Zazzle for their great customer service for purchasers and for their variety of products, but now I am loyal to Cafepress. You see, Zazzle’s store setup isn’t always user friendly and sometimes you can’t tell where a product went after you create it.
<RANT> The part that really turned me off to Zazzle, however, was that Zazzle will take down your art based on any corporate copyright claim and will NOT give you a chance to have it put back up if the claim turns out to be bogus. A certain movie company I will not name– one that has an entire techdirt tag dedicated to its frivolous copyright claims (such as suing a perfume company for naming its perfume after a time of night (hint) and removing a song from iTunes that predates its property because its cover art is vaguely similar)– had my sister-in-law’s art removed from Zazzle. The art was a clear case of fair use parody and did not use any trademarked names, but Zazzle would not hear the argument and shut us down when we tried to email customer support. Apparently this company owns the copyright to hands holding fruit?</RANT>
So I use Cafepress. If you paid a lot of money for a really nice book cover and your contract with the artist allows it, OR if you did your cover in-house and therefore have the rights to put it on anything, this is a great way to make products available to fans. You’ll need high resolution images and you won’t get rich, but it’s a great option to have for the occasional fan who wants it. I know that I’m always annoyed when I can’t find any good products from a property I love. Most of the official Doctor Who shirts, for example, are boring. The fan-made ones are much better. Use Cafepress to put your logo, quotation, or book cover on a number of products from shirts to keychains to Kindle cases. Then, embed a widget in a page of your site so that people can browse your products without having to leave your page.