The Ten Commandments of What Makes a Good (or Bad) Website

This article was adapted from MAI’s recent webinar, “Build a Better Publishing House Website,” with Sam Richardson, CEO of SPCK Sam Richardson 2Publishers.

A good publisher website is one that meets the needs of different users. But a great publisher website increases the reach of the publisher beyond these audiences. To go from good to great, you first need to do the basics right in order to attract consumers and stop annoying them.

1. Your website must come up when you search for your company name on Google. This is easier if you have a unique name. If you have a common name like “Bible publisher” it will be hard for people to find you. If you have a common name with a lot of competition, consider paying for Google key words to ensure people can find you on Google.

2. Your website must not automatically play sound and video. It can be very embarrassing if you’re sitting in the middle of an office. It’s considered outdated.

3. Your website must be responsive (compatible with multiple devices—like tablets, smartphones, etc.). Google relegates websites lower in searches if they aren’t responsive, so it’s increasingly important to be compatible.

4. You must not have an ugly homepage. The  homepage (landing page) of your website is the first thing that people see about you. It’s a great chance to show people your beautiful ads and book covers, as well as your great words. Make the most of your assets.

5. You must not have an unclear menu structure. Whether your menu is down the left side or along the top, which is more popular now, it’s really important people can find your contact information, your store (shop), etc.

6. You must update your homepage regularly. Your super fans, those you really want to connect with, may visit your website every week. If you show them updated contact, it will encourage them to come back. Rotate your titles on the front page, show your social media links, post news items. There are many things you can do without much work.

7. You must not have broken links. If you can get rid of them on your website, this will improve your search engine ranking on Google and Yahoo a lot.

8. You must not hide your contact details. Customers often go to your website because they’re looking for your contact information. It’s tempting to try and hide them, but that will frustrate people. Consider setting up an email address just for website inquiries. People are happier sending an email than filling in a web form.

9. You shall have one website only. We used to have one web site for SPCK as a mission agency and one for our publishing. It confused Google, Yahoo, our customers and retailers. Have only one website if at all possible.

10. The user must be able to find what she wants. Different users have different needs.

Watch the full video of “Build a Better Publishing House Website.”

Check out our upcoming free webinars on publishing-related topics and videos of recent webinars.

Can authors and publishers market books together effectively?

portraits of Dan Balow taken April 9, 2010By Dan Balow

Everyone knows that more can be accomplished when people work together. Whether it is a family or a community, church, ministry, business or country, the principles of cooperation and collaboration are always key to solving problems or accomplishing great things that benefit everyone.

Keys to collaboration are mutual benefit and humility. In fact, it has been said that there is no limit to what can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.

Does this apply to publishing? Of course.

Effective marketing of books requires that both authors and publishers cooperate in everything. But this is often the weakest link in the publishing “chain.”

The process of marketing and promoting a book begins well before the book actually is published. The digital world of social media and online selling has made cooperation even more important. Starting a conversation after the book is printed will not work well.

Pusonnam Yiri of Nigeria breaks down the process into three parts, his “Triple P Pusonnam YiriConcept:”

Pre-Production
Production
Post-Production

From here we can create an effective list of actions that will sell more books. In each phase, authors and publishers have tasks to accomplish that eventually lead to effective cooperative marketing. If they are not working together, Pusonnam compares them to a mismatched relationship: “When a fish marries a bird, where will they live after the wedding?”

The most important first step to effective marketing of a book is for the author and publisher to meet together and discuss specifics how to work collaborate. While this seems obvious, most publisher/author problems relate to a lack of communication. Each side assumed the other would take care of marketing.

Step #1 – Meet early in the process (Pre-Production Phase) to specifically discuss marketing collaboration.

Step #2 – Develop a specific plan of action with dates to accomplish and assignments for specific people.

Step #3 – Make ongoing communication (Production Phase) a priority. Schedule regular times to communicate (in-person, phone or email).

Step #4 – Decide to enjoy the process of collaboration and leave the results to God. (Post-production Phase) Disagreements will happen, but when each side views everything as a journey rather than needing to win or lose, good things happen.

Marketing plans are not chiseled on stone tablets like Moses on Mount Sinai! They are written on paper for good reason and can be changed when needed. If something is not working, change it and move on. Often problems occur between authors and publishers when one or both refuse to admit something isn’t working well.

Finally, we all know that when we serve each other and work together to accomplish something, God is honored and others are blessed by the humble testimony.

When publishers pray for their authors and authors pray for publishers, the barriers between them are broken down and great things can be accomplished.

When that happens, everyone wins.

This article is based on a webinar that Dan Balow and Pusonnam Yiri led for MAI in August. Watch the webinar video archive. Dan and Pusonnam will also be leading a workshop on this topic at LittWorld 2015 in Singapore.

Dan is director of publishing development and a literary agent with The Steve Laube Agency in the US. He began in Christian publishing in 1983, and over the last 30 years he has been involved in the business side of the industry in marketing, sales, rights management, foreign sales, audio books, digital publishing, web management and acquisitions.

Romania: Crowds Savor Coffee and Books

Customers sip java, chat with friends and browse bookshelves at Koffer, a koffer-barista-with-a-ba-in-theologycharming new coffee and bookshop in downtown Cluj, Romania. Sandor, a barista with a theology degree, brews gourmet coffee drinks and chats about the Christian books. How’s that for serving up creativity to reach new readers?

When Koffer opened its doors last November, a dream came true for publisher Balázs Zágoni of Koinoinia Books—an MAI-Europe Trustee—and his barista friend, Sandor (pictured above). They had witnessed many bookstores go bankrupt, and the high rent downtown was prohibitive. But when Balázs’ friend offered Koinonia the storefront for half the normal rent, it became a possibility.

koffer-children-area A refrigerator and furniture were donated. Sandor’s wife Krisztina offered her interior design skills gratis. Volunteers painted walls cheerful colors and patterns, and created original children’s artwork.

Sandor, a youth pastor, had also dreamed of a cozy place to reach people and enjoy one-on-one discussions about life and faith. For years he’d run a mobile coffeeshop at Christian camps and conferences, and had even been trained in barista ministry.

The opening was rescheduled four times due to a delay on official licenses, but prayer paved the way. “If I were to summarize in two words, it would be: ‘God provides,’” Balázs says.

Crowds filled Koffer, which means “suitcase” in some European languages, during opening week—the five tables and one children’s table always full. The cash register hummed with booksales for Christmas. Today seats are still scarce during busy hours. Balázs and Sandor hope the shop’s multi-faceted allure will make it sustainable long term.

Since its opening, customers have flocked here for two book launches. Balázs koffer-piano-in-the-suitcaseenvisions many more outreach events, including roundtables with authors, and promoting MAI and homegrown Christian literature.
“It is such a good feeling to see non-Christians searching through the shelves of Christian books, picking them up and reading the jackets,” he says.

Read our interview with
Balázs about writing his first sci-fi novel

Photos by Bea Angyalosi

Reaching Youth: Interview with bestselling author Ronald Molmisa

When Pastor Ronald Molmisa began ministering to university students a decadeRonald Molmisa ago, he was struck by the dearth of locally-written materials dealing with relationship issues of Filipino youth. A political scientist, he applied research and surveyed students to discern their needs. Today he is the author of the bestselling Lovestruck series (OMF Literature) on love, courtship and marriage. More than 100,000 youth have participated in his Lovestruck seminars.

What are key principles in effectively writing for and communicating with youth?
Adolescence is a period of transition—physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and socially. Writing for this readership should be guided by clear understanding of these transitions.

To be relevant, you must first comprehend their identity, predilections, needs, language and culture—what they watch and listen to. You need to spend more time with them to witness first-hand what they experience. Casual talks with students are a rich source of information. Recent academic studies are also key for understanding teen realities.

Youth ask serious questions and they need wise counselors to guide them. With the breakdown of Filipino families due to the phenomenon of parents working abroad, young people are searching for answers and care. They are not satisfied with ambivalent answers that can engender more moral confusion. They need straightforward responses that are practical and attainable.

How have you incorporated biblical principles in your books without alienating a youth culture that’s inundated by extra-marital sex in the media?
LovestruckIn a marketplace of ideas, I present biblical principles in my books as “tried and tested” responses worthy of utmost consideration. The majority of Filipino youth still cling to traditional values and are receptive to Christian teachings. They can find solace in the idea that despite their weaknesses and misgivings, there is a God who can understand them and heal their emotional wounds.

As a matter of writing principle, I cannot dilute the Gospel message in my work. As Paul said, we should never be ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe (Rom. 1:16). Young people deserve to know the best answer to their predicament, in addition to other social and economic interventions.

How do you keep in touch with youth culture and trends?
Cognizant of the need to be always in the loop vis-à-vis latest youth trends, I maintain a strong online presence by having a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a FB group where I interact with thousands of young “netizens.” On average, I receive at least 20 online counseling requests daily—from mundane to sombre concerns.

I also regularly interact with young people in my offline ministries—discipling local church leaders, organizing events and seminars, producing an online radio program, among others. With God’s grace, I aim to publish one to two books per year.

You need to be immersed in the culture of the younger generation. As I teach them, I also learn from them. Simply put, you cannot give what you do not have.

Register online now for our webinar with Ronald Molmisa, “Writing for the Younger Generation,” on Tuesday, March 17.

Authors: Promote Your Book on a Low Budget

Author Jennifer Karina of Kenya shares tips on how she’s learned to spread the Jennie karina headshotmessages in her books. Learn more from Jennifer in our upcoming webinar with Pusonnam Yiri of Nigeria, “Author Promotion on a Low Budget,” August 19. Register online now. 

Think of book promotion as storytelling. The story you are telling is why you wrote your book, how it can help the readers, and how the world will benefit from your book. Ensure that it is well priced, written and edited.

If you can develop a positive attitude about book promotion, people will pick up on it and tune in immediately. I have taken advantage of every opportunity to tell my story and promote my own book. When I introduce myself, I always let people know I am the author of Marriage Built to Last. Churches and bookshops have been willing to let me sit for a day, meet and greet their customers, and talk about my book. This has been powerful. Customers were happy to have an autographed copy as we engaged with them.

Effective promotion stems from the author’s passion. What is your message? Do you own it, believe it and most importantly live it? Whatever your topic you have to model the principles that you share. My message is clear–it’s about building a marriage that lasts. I personally have been married for 36 years and have adult children who are now married. I’m enjoying my 5 grandchildren. When I speak on the topic, I am an authority because I have lived it and exceptionally well.

Learn more from Jennifer in our upcoming webinar with Pusonnam Yiri of Nigeria, “Author Promotion on a Low Budget,” August 19. Register online now.
Check out the schedule of other upcoming webinars.