For those of you who visit this blog frequently, you will have seen in my recent post Things you Should be doing now, I mentioned “Start Marketing”.
One of the ways to do that is with an Author website. Almost all published authors have an official website and just because you may not have been published, that doesn’t mean you should wait before you create one.
WHY AN AUTHOR WEBSITE?
It’s not just about the worlds you create. Readers want to know more about the person behind the words. It’s another connection to people who will be reading your work. So give them a place to discover things about you.
As a minor *cough* control freak, I like the control a website gives me. Social media changes all the time. Not to mention people grow bored of them and move on when something new comes around. That is where having a personal website comes in handy. You have the control, you can design and create your website the way you want it rather than being at the whims of those who create social media.
USING YOUR AUTHOR WEBSITE
Think of your website as a hub, a base of operations where people can find you and your books/resources. However if a website is not done well it can become more of a hindrance than a help to your writing.
There has been a lot of discussion around whether it’s worth having an author website. Even some publishers state they aren’t needed. This usually comes down to the fact that many are poorly made, not updated and eat more of your time than they should.
This means if you decide to have an author website (which I do actually recommend) you need to commit to a) making it look decent, b) keeping it updated, c) making sure it doesn’t take up all your time.
So don’t just create one because everyone else has one. Think about what you want out of it, how you want it to help your writing career.
As soon as you decide what name you are writing under (either your own, an amendment to your own or a complete pseudonym) you should buy your domain. Domains are pretty cheap, often sold as a 2 year plan. Even if you aren’t thinking of sorting your website immediately, get your domain.
Your domain should be your chosen author name. If it’s already taken, you can either decide if you still want that name or add author to the end. So for example http://www.johndoeauthor.com
You may want to buy both the com and the country specific version such as “co.uk” if you’re in the UK etc and then you can link the two together later on. That way if someone tries to find you and types in .com it can link to your .co.uk or your .co.ie etc
Make it your NAME, this all comes back to branding yourself. It is you that needs the website so don’t register your novel’s name or your series’ name. If you want that as well, fine, though you could end up dropping a lot of cash if you did that for every book you wrote. But your main author website should have your author name as the domain.
As well as a domain you will need a webhosting/platform in order to connect the two. This can cost money but it can be worth it to get your own personal author domain name.
PLATFORM / CREATION
If you have web designing knowledge you could take the time to create your own. Make it the way you want it. Or you could pay a professional webdesigner or another option is use a platform that makes it easy enough to create a decent website.
Personally I think the third option is best, especially if you are not yet an established writer. Paying someone is all well and good, but most professionals charge a lot and many of them seem to use platforms you could use yourself.
When you become a more established author, then consider investing in a website built by and maintained by professionals. This way they can do a lot more regarding analysis and SEO (search engine optimisation) that can bring you more traffic but when just getting yourself set up initially, simple is fine.
I have HTML knowledge and have created websites in the past, however it takes time and I decided that I would prefer not to lose so much time building it all myself. Instead I used a simple platform, WordPress, to create my website. There are others you could use such as Wix, weebly, tumblr, squarespace. Have a look and decide what works for you.
Whether you create it yourself, hire a professional or use a platform, the key to layout should be to keep it clear and concise. A website needs to be uncluttered. Colour scheme should be simple, dark text on pale backgrounds to make it easy to read. Or if you want a darker background then use light bright text.
Avoid weird coloured text or too much texture/patterning on the background. White space is good, so let there be white spaces, our brains like white spaces. You don’t have to fill every inch of the page. Remember you are selling yourself here, you are looking to run the business of “You” so make it (somewhat) professional.
Your website should be easy to read and navigate, look credible and legible. Avoid lots of moving imagery and heavily detailed graphics. Don’t put so much on the homepage that it becomes a mass of clutter.
This is especially important in your headerbar or sidebar, whichever you have. Don’t fill it with dozens of options.
Consistency is the key, keep the overall look such as colour scheme, font, text size and colour the same for each page.
Be aware of making your website genre-specific especially if you plan on writing more than one genre. Same goes for book-specific. So you’ve written a cracking romance, does that mean all your banners, layout and background should be specific to that book? No – because that means when you write the next book (that may be something totally different) you will have to do an overhaul. Remember what I said about time? Don’t make work for yourself.
Simplicity is key. You don’t want your website to take lots of time to update and if you make it book/genre-specific that is going to happen.
Your website should be easy to navigate. Don’t hide vital pages in obscure locations. Keep the most prominent pages easy to locate and group things together.
Now more than ever people are using different devices and browsers to view websites, so when your website is up and running take some time to check it out on different browsers such as Chrome and Firefox as well as on tablets and phones. See whether it works on all these and fix accordingly.
Make sure your text is spell-checked and grammar-checked. Get someone else to read through it and be prepared to update/make changes if you find an error. Your website is a portal to you and you don’t want readers looking through seeing it littered with spelling errors because maybe they will assume your books will be the same.
The website content should be useful, interesting and engaging. If you are a new or unpublished writer it might take a while to get your website full of interesting things and all the details of your books etc but it’s a start.
You can build up the content slowly but get something up. The first thing I did when I wanted to create my author website was go onto all the author websites of my favourite writers. I looked at what they had on their websites and how they looked.
Common pages to include are:
About Me page
This is a must. Readers want to know about you, not just your books. It is one of the main reasons they seek out an author’s website. If nothing else, get this up. It can be a short bio or a longer profile but you need something. Readers like to know how you started writing, what you write, fun facts about yourself. All this can go in your About Page.
Some people feel comfortable having a headshot of themselves. If you do this, consider getting a professional one done. If (like me) you are particularly shy about having a picture taken, consider a drawing or a cropped photo (hence the “just the eyes” shot I have on my blog About page!)
Remember to keep your about page up to date and make it a little personal, show your readers some of the person behind the pen. However this is going online remember so don’t overshare personal details.
Many writers make it hard for their readers to get in touch, make sure you make it clear how people can contact you. Whether it’s giving them your author email address, having a submit page or just pointing them in the direction of your social media pages. Do make sure you let them know.
If you have a submit form only ask for relevant information, name, email address, website optional. Do not having loads of mandatory fields asking for lots of personal information, unless the form is for posting them out a free copy of your book you don’t need their address and certainly not their birth date etc.
When you’re published, if you get reviews, testimonials, quotes or feedback from your readers whether it’s people who bought your book or your beta readers / critique partners, put them up!
If the feedback came to you personally, say in an email, rather than being left as a review on a website, then ask the person if you can use their testimonial on your website. If so, check if they are happy for you to use their name. Do NOT change or amend their words in any way.
If you’re published have a page for your books. Include an image of the front cover with the back cover blurb and locations of where readers can buy it.
If you are unpublished, consider having a page where you discuss your current works. In this you just need to supply the title (or working title), genre, maybe target audience, and some blurb about the book. Remember no spoilers, don’t give too much away. It should read like the back cover blurb so take some time to write that out and then list it on your website.
You might want to feature your current book or WIP on your homepage then link to your book page for further info. However a word of caution, I have been on author websites only to find their current book (a sequel to one I haven’t finished) on the home page that technically gave spoilers to the first book. I wasn’t impressed with that and it kept me off those websites.
Press kit – Might not be as important until you have completed and polished your first manuscript. If you are still writing it, might not be worth your time to create a press kit but do keep it in mind for when you’re finished.
A press kit is information about you. Most include basics such as a little about you (mini bio), recent books or projects, any services you offer such as if you do editing or proof reading and contact details. It is used as promotional material for things like book signings and workshops/conferences and can be useful for preparation for interviews.
It can be a good idea to have a newsletter when you’re an author. Don’t overstretch yourself though, one a week is a bit much, once a month is better, although some authors have them every three months. That way they can include a lot more in each one.
If you are considering a newsletter, think about what you want to have in it and be prepared to keep it going. It shouldn’t be something you start and then struggle to maintain so if you do create one, think about content before you start. Remember you can’t just peddle your books all the time. It comes across as spammy and people hate that.
again this is what a lot of authors have but it’s mainly for published authors who have book tours. Even if you aren’t at that level, it’s something to think about in the future, as a way of keeping your readers/fans updated with where they can find you.
Frequently Asked Questions, if you get a lot of questions about your books, your writing ideas, your writing schedule etc, consider creating an FAQ page. Again, consider what you are putting in it and try not to add spoilers about your writing.
These pages can include things you have to offer. Do you sell merchandise connected to your books? Do you have some deleted scenes of your current manuscript? How about a sneak peak of the new book you’re working on? These are all things readers might enjoy.
Is this a good time to pimp my newly created website? Hey, at least I waited to the end of the article before I did that. Brownie points for me right?
Now I have the bare bones of my website up and running but have already got some ideas for other pages and need to sort my resources/books pages. But I have my overall theme, layout and some information on there. (If you see a spelling mistake do tell me!!)
It is still a work in progress but it’s a start 🙂
Sorry for the length of this post, I know it was quite long but I do hope you found it useful.
Do pop back on Tuesday for my next guest post. If you enjoy this blog, do consider following this blog 🙂