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Websites, Mistakes, and Origin Stories with Laura Pepper Wu [Interview]

Do you know the two most common mistakes made by indie authors?

Have you struggled to create an author website?

Do you know how you can benefit from an optimized Amazon page?

We recently had a chat with our good friend Laura Pepper Wu at 30 Day Books to address all of the above and a few more items important to indie authors!

Duolit: Hey Laura!

So, we’re really curious about your origin story — how did you start working with indie authors?

Laura Pepper Wu: Hi ladies! Thanks for having me on your fab site today.

Well… it was all an accident, truly.

I had just moved to the US (from Japan) and while job-searching, I started working on my husband’s self-published book (a test preparation guide), helping him navigate the self-publishing system and figuring out the marketing stuff.

This was back in January 2010, and everything was all very new – to both me and in the industry – and there wasn’t much information or advice on the web about how to go about it.

So, I dived in head-first and tried a bit of everything! There was a lot of trial and a lot of error.

I self-taught myself much of the stuff I still use today – social media, blogging, WordPress, email marketing, PR, media outreach, branding, Google AdWords. I took a few courses, watched several webinars and read A LOT of how-to guides.

That year, 2010, I also wrote three books of my own, and through experimenting with different things we had quite a bit of success with them. In the end I gave up my job search because it became apparent that we could make a living off writing and publishing our own books. 30 Day Books LLC was born, and I started blogging about our experiences on the site.

That’s when people started coming to me for advice on self-publishing and promotions.

At first it was friends and family, then friends of friends, then lots of strangers emailing me with questions. A few people offered to hire me to help with their marketing, and voila! The rest is history. Coaching became a part of the 30 Day Books business model, along with continuing to write and publish our own books.

I’m by no means an expert at this [Ed.’s Note: We beg to differ!]; I don’t really think anyone can be in such an infantile industry. What I do have is almost three years of experience working on 30+ titles across different genres. I’ve learned a thing or two, and I share that experience on the 30 Day Books blog, in my weekly newsletter, and in my how-to guides.

It’s a pretty wonderful day job, I have to confess.

DL: Wow! Sounds like we have similar stories on stumbling into this great community and industry.

With all the experiences you’ve had as a coach, you’ve probably seen a lot of missteps in the path to indie success.

What’s the number one mistake you see authors make when it comes to marketing their books?

LPW: I’m a big believer in ensuring that the groundwork is nice and solid before embarking on any promotions.

I know a lot of authors don’t think about the basic message of their book, their branding, or who their books would appeal to (and “everyone” is not a good enough answer, sweetie!) [Ed.’s note: SO true! We agree 100%].

No-one is going to be attracted to your message if it isn’t clear to you, the person promoting it.

Book descriptions, positioning, optimizing Amazon and marketing to the right people all go a really long way in ensuring that subsequent promotions are effective.

The second big mistake I see, is not collecting email addresses!

You gals know how much I harp on about this. Providing an entertaining, valuable, inspiring newsletter or regular email can be one of the most effective ways of growing and connecting with your readership, and trumps growing your social media fan base any day.

DL: We couldn’t agree with you more on both of those issues!

Thankfully, it seems more and more authors understand the benefits of a target market and a great mailing list.

But what about websites? Why is a great website so valuable to indie authors?

LPW: Well, first I would say that there’s not much worse than a bad one!

Much like a book cover, a great looking website can show your professionalism and be a reflection on your work; a bad one screams that you’re amateur and not taking this seriously.

Additionally, there’s all the benefits that having a great website can bring, and I talked about those recently on Jane Friedman’s website.

In a nutshell; it’s a place where you can fully control your author message and portray that image to others clearly and succinctly.

Oh, and did I mention you can collect email addresses from your site?

DL: So, we know websites are important to authors, but what made you decide to create Authorlicious?

We had the idea for a while before acting on it.

The final push was when I spoke to a friend who had spent thousands of dollars on a site, waited a year to get it fully developed, and at the end of it she couldn’t even use it and had to pay someone on an hourly basis to update it for her.

This was an extreme case, but it wasn’t the first time I heard about this sort of thing.

The barrier to entry to create a website is something that I see a lot of writers face, and to tell the truth I was in the same position a few years ago before I discovered the wonderful world of WordPress. There is so much confusion and overwhelm when it comes to creating websites. So much choice, and such a big variation in cost, time and scale.

I think it’s really important that people aren’t scared of their site and feel in control of it.

This is an example of an Authorlicious website!

I started using WordPress in early 2011 and I’ve never looked back.

I used to be afraid of technology, and now I realize that I was just intimidated by it because I didn’t have much exposure to that world.

Once I grasped how easy WordPress was to use, I felt really empowered. I no longer had to rely on my web developer (my husband!) to change things for me all the time.

That was a GREAT feeling!

I want other writers to feel the same way, and also to feel that they can get a really nice, functional, sturdy website quickly and inexpensively (without compromising on quality or effectiveness).

Authorlicious is exactly that – a WordPress template built with book marketing in mind, comprehensive video tutorials to show people how to use WordPress, and one year of customer support to show people that they’re “not alone” when it comes to building a new website.

It’s the website package I wish I had when I started with Brandon’s book!

[Ed.’s note: We’re HUGE fans of the Authorlicious template and support system — it’s a a great design and platform that can be completely customized to showcase an author’s personality while also providing social media savvy, ease of use, better search engine traffic, and so much more.

Best of all it comes with great support, so you don’t have to feel like you’re taking on technology all alone. You can check it out by visiting this link — Full disclosure, that is an affiliate link, if you’d prefer you can use this non-affiliate link instead.]

DL: Okay, Laura, we can’t let you go without asking a question about your best area of expertise — getting the most out of Amazon!

How does the optimization of an author’s Amazon page impact sales?

LPW: I think it’s going back to setting the groundwork as I mentioned earlier.

Small tweaks can mean a lot to sales. Amazon wants to sell your book! Since it takes a commission, it’s whole system is set up to market your book through different tools.

It needs to know more about it though, so it relies on you to present your book in the most attractive way – through meta data on the back-end (keywords, categories etc) as well as looking attractive to the potential reader on the front-end (book cover, description, tags etc).

My guide – Fire Up Amazon! – is divided into two sections: Irresistibility and Visibility. I cover over 20 different things to do so you can improve your Amazon listing and see more results 24/7.

Optimizing Amazon isn’t the be all and end all, obviously, but if you are going to spend time and energy promoting your book and sending readers to Amazon, I think they need to be wowed at the last hurdle. And many of the principles you can tweak on Amazon can do double duty and be tweaked else where too.

DL: Thanks so much to Laura for joining us today and sharing some of her awesome information and details on Authorlicious with us!

About Laura

Laura Pepper Wu is co-founder of 30 Day Books where she shares book marketing advice through coaching, blogging, and emailing weekly action tips.

She’s also the author of 77 Ways to Find New Readers for your Self-Published Book and Fire Up Amazon!

If you’re in need of a new author website, definitely check out all that the Authorlicious website platform has to offer. (Non-affiliate link)

  • As a user of Authorlicious I have to say it was the easiest thing in the world to set up, plus it made me look much more professional. That’s an absolute MUST. It wasn’t cheap, but I considered it a good investment in my long-term career. Plus, I’ve gotten great support from Laura any time I’ve had a question.

    • laurapepwu

      So glad to hear it, Will! :)

  • laurapepwu

    Thanks so much for having me ladies!