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October 2012

Reporter: Jeannie Campbell

Jeannie CampbellCampbell is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of California. She is Head of Clinical Services for a large nonprofit, but has worked in a variety of venues, from a psychiatric hospital to private practice. She is the owner and operator of The Character Therapist, an online therapy service for fictional characters where writers can receive her professional insight to improve characterization with psychology.

Presenter: Thomas Umstattd, Jr.

Thomas Umstattd, Jr.Umstattd built his first website at the age of 13 and taught his first web design class at only 16 years old. He currently is CEO of Castle Media Group LLC, a company that builds websites for world changers and runs, a resource for authors timid about technology.

Workshop 28: Seven Secrets of Amazing Author Websites

Website image
The purpose of an author’s website, according to Thomas Umstattd, Jr., CEO of Author Media, is to sell books. Everything on the author’s site should feed into this ultimate goal.

For nonfiction authors, the goal is to sell the first book. For fiction authors, the goal is to sell subsequent books. Both can be accomplished by adhering to the following seven secrets Umstattd shared in his ACFW conference workshop 7 Secrets of Amazing Author Websites.

Secret #1

You need a website when you are pitching your first book.

A website should have a call to action. Images of books should always include a link for a potential buyer. Use eye-catching buttons to prompt clicks to buy, but allow people the option of several places to purchase, not just Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Umstattd extolled the virtues of Google Analytics as far superior to other free tracking programs. If you know html code, you can add GA to your website yourself. If not, have your web developer do it for you. This will provide you with the information publishers want to know.

Secret #2

No one cares about you.

Having more personal pronouns than second person pronouns is a red flag that you might be focusing too much on yourself instead of the reader. Authors should provide a service to readers.

Secret #3

Use a content management system.

Content management systems are easy to update, optimize, and grow. Umstattd recommends using WordPress, though there are three different varieties. He likened (free service) to an apartment, which is easy to move into, but renters have very little control. (paid service) is like a house, where authors have full control. Then there is a WordPress multisite (cheaper paid service) that is somewhere between, like a condominium.

Secret #4

Be remarkable.

Find your own niche, don’t try to copy what’s already being done. Seth Godin calls this the purple cow. People will stop to take a picture of a purple cow.  Make them stop to peruse your site because it’s different—not because it’s just the same as hundreds of others.

Secret #5

Don’t think of yourself as a web design expert.

Umstattd recommends authors not build a website themselves—or hire their brother-in-law to do it. Authors should have a team of people they trust, and not micromanage them.

“When you’re halfway through a haircut, your hair looks worse,” Umstattd said. “But you are in the hands of an expert. You wouldn’t want to take the shears from your hairdresser to cut your hair yourself.”

Secret #6

Facebook is bigger than Google.

It would be foolish to ignore Facebook, as it’s here to stay. But Facebook “Friends” aren’t going to buy books. Authors need to have a fan page for readers and fully integrate it with their other social media outlets.

Secret #7

Integrate a blog.

Having your own blog ( or is better than having a free blog ( because this drives traffic to your site, not Google. Businesses with a built-in blog get 55 percent more traffic.

Internet image courtesy of digitalart/


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