On the one hand, it’s good to remember that we can start big, new projects at any time we want to. On the other, there’s something satisfying and motivating about a new year that helps us find the focus and drive to really crush things in the twelve months to come.
The thing is, a lot of us start January with plans in place, but no infrastructure to make those plans move swiftly while we still have the focus to make it happen. That’s why so many New Year resolutions or plans fail. We jump into it at the last minute and don’t consider the prep work, equipment, and other supporting accomplishments necessary to get moving.
There’s two weeks left until 2021: enough time to get eight quick things done, one a day, and still have time to celebrate Christmas and New Year in style. Here they are. Let’s get to work.
#1: Clean Up Your Landing Page
Somewhere on the internet there should be a place where people who want to know about your books can go to find out more about them, become part of your reader funnel (see below), and buy your books. This could be a full-feature website, a simple blog, or even just your Amazon or Facebook author page. Whatever it is, it must shine if you want to stand out from the crowd of other authors on the web.
Take a day and make at least half of the following improvements:
- Replace weak graphics with higher-resolution, better quality pics
- Make sure there is a call to action “above the fold” (visible before the viewer has to scroll down), and at the bottom of the page
- Double-check all your copy for grammar, spelling, and excellent writing.
- Uninstall any plug-ins you’re not using to improve loading speed
- Make sure it’s mobile-friendly
Your landing page is like the entry of a physical store. If it’s beautiful, clean, and pleasant to experience that won’t guarantee more sales…but if it’s not those things, that will absolutely guarantee you sell fewer books.
Don't have a landing page yet? Check out the Book List Rocket and create one today.
#2: Start Your Newsletter
An author newsletter is arguably the most powerful active tool you can have to increase your reach and sales as an author. Done right, it provides you with a loyal, responsive army to buy your books and help sell them to other people. If you don’t have one, this year is the time to start.
We’ve written about newsletter basics here, here, and here. Most of those details will come into play during the first weeks of the new year. Your task for right now is to set up your account on a mail server, build your newsletter sign-up page, and then invite as many readers as you can to join the list.
Set a date for the first week of January to send your first newsletter, and make it about what readers can expect each week (or every other week, or each month), and when you will deliver it. You’ll have until then to answer all those questions for yourself.
#3: Create a Photo Suite
High-quality photos perform better on the web than almost any kind of text you can write. Trouble is, images can be a huge pain in the tuchus to produce in real time. The solution to this is to have a suite of a dozen or so images you can use regularly in emails, social media posts, web design, promotions, and similar places where a good image will truly be worth 1,000 words.
Your image suite should include the following:
- A good headshot
- A photo of you full-body, or from the waist up, either posing dramatically or engaged in something you enjoy
- Cover photos of each of your books
- 2-4 images of your books on shelves, on a table, or being read by somebody who isn’t you
- An image of your work station that reflects your quirks and personality
- A picture of your pet
- A picture of you engaged in a hobby that isn’t writing
Armed with these, you’ll find you can produce the kid of content you need for most situations without having to search for the perfect thing every time.
#4: Learn to Use Canva.com
Canva.com is a free, easy to use, graphics creator you can use to turn those photos in your suite into anything you might need. Social media posts, video intros, postcards, web graphics, social media banners, print invitations, or whatever you can imagine are easy to make, easy to download, and also stored on their server so you never lose them no matter what happens to your computers at home.
Give yourself an afternoon to play around on the site. It’s similar to using Microsoft Publisher, but much simpler. After that, you’ll be able to enter 2021 ready to make whatever graphics you need.
#5: Optimize Your Book Page(s)
Wherever people can buy your books, you need to make certain the copy, experience, images, and calls to action on that page are fine-tuned to the max. Getting people to view that page is half the battle, but the other half is getting them to click that BUY button.
As with your landing page, take a day and spruce up at least half of the items below:
- Identify (or update) a search keyword, and insert it naturally 3-5 times
- Update and upgrade all images on the page
- Make certain your book description is compelling and excellent
- Make certain your first line demands readers continue down the page
- Put a clear call to action at the bottom of the page
Check out this special report for more information on how to do one or more of these things.
#6: Set Up a Content Calendar
A content calendar is when you plan in advance what you will post on social media, your blog, your newsletters, and any other feeds you have going out to the public. Even your new releases on Amazon could be planned out in advance.
Although many (too many) authors tend to “pants” their content strategy, this is a bad idea. A content calendar helps you create a cohesive, intelligent, effective content plan that gets you the most viewers with the most follow-through from each of them.
It also makes it easier to write your content. When you sit down to post without a plan, the task of (a) thinking of what to do, then (b) doing it can be daunting. A lot of writers end up not posting on days they should because of this. By setting down a content calendar, you get (a) done way ahead time. Posting daily becomes easier, and preloading posts becomes possible.
Between now and January 1st, you need to do two things. First, set up your content calendar for January. Second, set a date in January where you’ll do the same for February.
#7: Find Six Co-Conspirators
A co-conspirator is a fellow writer who’s operating at approximately your level. Ideally, they will be writing in your approximate genre (for fiction), or a topic related to your area of expertise (for nonfiction). A team of co-conspirators will make it much easier for you to grow your readership through guest posts, book bundles, and similar team efforts.
If you’re already active in groups of writers, you’re probably already thinking of at least three people to go on this list. If you’re not, start by haunting hashtags, Facebook groups, and discussion forums adjacent to what you write.
Once you identify good candidates, reach out to them. Spend the weeks between now and January 1st establishing a professional relationship. Beginning in January, come up with one cool promotional thing you can do with each of them, each month.
#8: Connect With a Mentor
A mentor is somebody who’s further down the road toward a successful writing career than you are. They’ve made mistakes, which you can learn from and avoid, so you can go on to make unique and exciting mistakes of your own.
Finding a mentor can be a long-term process. You have to find somebody who would be a good match, and who is willing, and who has the time to take you on as a project. Somebody local is preferable, because face-to-face coaching is more effective than anything on the phone or via Zoom. But if you can’t find somebody local, mentoring via the internet is better than not mentoring at all.
Like I said, this can be a long-term process. You will not get it set up before the new year. For now, find 2-4 people who might make good mentors, and find a way to make first contact with each of them.
But What If You Were Already Good This Year?
Some of us already have one or more items on that list seen to. If that’s the case, you can skip a day and drink some extra eggnog next to a warm fire. Or, and hear me out, you could take another step toward greatness on that day with the suggestions below:
#1: If you’ve already cleaned up your landing page, give the same treatment to secondary pages on your website like the About, Contact, and Store pages. If you don’t yet have a website, set up a one-page website before the new year.
#2: If you already set up your newsletter, create a 3-5 email welcoming sequence that automatically delivers greetings and thanks to new subscribers, along with some content that will get them truly excited about being members.
#3: If you already have a good photo suite, record a welcome video for your landing page and add it to the content.
#4: If you’re already familiar with Canva, learn how to use Lightworks, a free video editing suite. Video outperforms images the way images outperform text, and can turn you into a superhero of the self-publishing world.
#5: If your book pages are already awesome, create a second, different page for one or more of your books. Send half your leads to one, and half to the other, to see which performs best. This kind of A/B testing is key to fine-tuning your sales engine.
#6: If you already use a content calendar, make a list of 10-20 people who are active on your feeds, but who you don’t spend much time interacting with. Build a plan to give them more attention and love, which will make them more passionate readers and advocates of your brand.
#7: If you already have a group of co-conspirators, organize an Amazon book bundle sale with them to launch this January. If you’ve already done that, do it again.
#8: If you have already found a mentor, find somebody you can mentor yourself. No matter where you are on the journey, there’s somebody else you’re ahead of. Find that person and discover how much you can learn from teaching what you know.
It’s your call: take those days off this year and enjoy the holidays, or double-down this time and make all your future holidays that much better.
Image by Gerd Altmann.