Author websites 101
Everything you need to know about building an author website that works for you.
You need an author website, wherever you are in the writing process.
Here’s why you need one and what should go into your author website.
I’ve been working on tweaking my website, www.spalmorum.com, as I try to do every month or so, and it struck me that good websites and good writing have a lot in common:
-They’re clear and tell people what they need to know without saying TOO much.
-They reach the correct audience.
-They have good flow, they’re easy to navigate and there is no doubt as to what they’re about.
-They demonstrate some artistry, but never at the cost of message.
Do you still need a website in 2021? Why do I need an author website?
All writers need a website. Even the unpublished ones. The earlier you start building your author platform, the better.
Your website is a crucial part of your author platform. It helps to get your work in front of potential readers. It may even help to get you hired for writing jobs.
Yet many writers I know resist creating a website, because they’re either intimidated by the tech aspect or they truly believe that a social media presence can replace a website in 2021.
Let me say this loud and clear:
If you’re a writer or if you’re even any kind of creative living in the modern era, people are going to expect to be able to find some examples of your work online. This doesn’t mean you don’t have a ton of different options as to how you choose to do this. However, a website is always part of any option you have.
Why is an author website better than social media alone?
-You have freedom and control with your website. You’re not bound to a page with a certain layout or to a 3×3 grid. You own your website and can’t get shadowbanned or kicked off. You’re not beholden to an ever-changing algorithm.
-A good website gives you authority and makes you look more professional and dependable.
-A website is a format where you can truly present your written work and let it shine rather than be subjected to people scrolling through on a platform that is primarily designed for images, video, or socializing.
-A website allows you to give value and information, which is instrumental in building a relationship with readers or potential readers.
-A website enables you to gather email addresses for that all-important e-mail list.
What are the minimum things your author website should have?
-An About page containing a brief bio. Keep it interesting and topical.
-Contact info for you.
-A link to purchase your book(s) or any other products.
-A signup for your email list (you’ll ideally have a lead magnet to encourage this).
Optional features your author website can have:
-Links to social media profiles.
-Links to your podcast or YouTube channel.
-Interactive element like tweets or quizzes.
-A little movement to bring it to life (simple video, animation, parallax effect).
-Social proof (reviews).
-A shop with merchandise (POD or drop ship using WooCommerce on WordPress) or online courses, workbooks, etc.
-A press/media kit.
-A separate book page or even a page for each book.
Things to keep in mind- your author website should:
-Be professional while appealing to your target market.
– Load quickly and be easy to use and navigate on all devices (laptop, PC, phone, tablet…)
-Reflect your personality and style but look clean and uncluttered, with selective, consistent use of color and fonts.
-Be kept up to date and allow you to make quick and easy changes and allow you to create unlimited pages and posts in the future, including possibly selling products.
-Offer things of value: info, lists, videos, podcasts, articles…
-Follow SEO guidelines.
Who should build your author website?
You may not like this response, but YOU should.
One of my writers had a friend build her website for her, on a platform that eventually would go out of business. When the friend got busy, the project got farmed out to a college student the friend knew. The college student got busy and changed their contact info. When the writer decided she needed a new website on a new platform, she could no longer gain access to her name domain (the friend had generously paid for five years of hosting but couldn’t remember how to get on or who was even hosting), and she had to face the fact that it would take a miracle to have web traffic point to the new page rather than to the old page. Fixable? Probably eventually. But it’s a headache. Better to just do it right and do it yourself.
Building your own website gives you ultimate creative control. No chasing your web designer whenever you want to update something, or even worse, finding that your web designer disappeared along with all your passwords and login info, leaving you high and dry, with a website that pops up whenever someone looks for you online, all the while growing obsolete day by day.
Not a tech genius? Neither am I. But you know what I did? Whenever something popped up that I didn’t know how to do, and by the way this happened constantly, I Googled it. Google and YouTube are miracles when it comes to figuring out how to do stuff. If I can do it, you can.
Basic steps for creating your author website:
-Go online and see which author websites you admire. You can absolutely borrow elements from these.
-Decide which website building platform you will use. WordPress, Wix, and SquareSpace are 3 good options. I chose WordPress for many reasons and I think you probably should too, but go ahead and Google a comparison and you can make your own decision.
-Choose a hosting platform. BlueHost, GoDaddy, or DreamHost are all good options.
-Chose your domain name. May I suggest your own name? If that’s taken, how about “YourNameAuthor”?
-Make a general sketch of what you want your website to look like, including sections, pages, menus…
-Gather or create all of the content you plan to have on your site. Put them all il one folder. Text, images, video… Also make sure you compress large images using TinyPNG, a free service.
-Choose a theme if that’s an option or start building from scratch.
-Create your lead magnet and your opt-in box for gathering emails. You can use a free service for now such as MailChimp for your email list.
-Build your MVP (minimum viable product). You can always go back later and tweak it whenever you have time (in fact it’s a good idea to do this).
-Have a few friends check it out and let you know what works/doesn’t work, what is confusing or cool.
-Add the rest of your content and make any corrections, check that all the links work, and hit publish.
-Post about your new website on social media, including on Linkedin. Include your website info on your business cards, social media profiles, taglines, book jackets, email signature, and anywhere else you can think of!
-Keep updating your website with new content that will keep people coming back. Whenever you add new content, advertise that on social media, to your email list, etc. If it’s blog content, Pinterest is a great place to promote it. You want to give readers (and search engines) a reason to bookmark your site.
That’s it! Now go forth and create a kick-ass website- you’ll be glad you did!
And remember, if you have any questions, Google that s*t… or you can always give me a shout… your friendly PhD writing coach can definitely help you with your author platform in addition to just answering questions about your writing. It’s part of my job.