These days, every author needs a website.
It’s the best way to connect with fans and potential readers. A website can make your readers feel a personal connection to you, invite them to delve deeper into your books, and sell them on your future work.
Some authors are still operating off an outdated paradigm when it comes to their website.
They’re opting for websites that look flashy rather than win them traffic. These websites may look cool, but they don’t do the heavy lifting of selling the writer’s material.
Here are a few tips to help your website work for you.
These days, first-time authors need to do the heavy work of pre-selling their book, so that their publisher doesn’t have to worry about taking a financial risk on an unknown. The best way to do that is to develop a fan base even before the publisher has picked up the book.
You can do this by creating a website that (1) attracts traffic and (2) collects names and email addresses of fans.
The point of an author website is NOT to give you an outlet for your creative genius or to show people how great you are. Sadly, no one cares how great you are. All they care about is whether you have something to offer them.
The purpose of your author website is MARKETING.
You may have a lot of great ideas for your website, but unless those ideas are selling potential readers on your work, they’re inappropriate.
As you begin to draw up the design for your website, ask yourself the question:
“If someone was looking for a book like mine, what would they be typing into Google?”
Brainstorm some search phrases, type them into Google, and see if they come up with books like yours. If they do, then you know you’ve hit on some great terms. Use those liberally in the construction of your website and make sure to include them your website name, e.g., “Fantasy Fiction by Jane Doe.”
Yes, I know that it doesn’t sound terribly clever, but Google doesn’t understand clever names. All Google understands are search terms.
Now, you may want to name your website after yourself. That’s great if you’ve got an established fan base. But if you’re an unknown, potential readers are probably NOT searching for your name. Buy the domain for your name—you’re want it when you hit the big time. But for now focus on dominating your niche.
Remember: your website isn’t about YOU. It’s about marketing your work.
You can easily do a great author website on a shoestring budget.
Try to steer clear of gimmicky software with lots of bells and whistles. Although Flash websites can look amazing, Google doesn’t pay as much attention to them as it does to websites created with plain old text and pictures.
A simple blogging platform like WordPress will do just fine, and you won’t even have to pay a graphic designer or programmer. Words are what you do best, so trust in your talents.
If you have an artist friend, enlist their help in creating a memorable graphic for the logo and header.
And ALWAYS check how the finished product looks on a mobile phone.
Most people browsing the internet are only going to see the first page of your website, so make sure it’s the most exciting place on your website. You’ve got one chance at hooking their attention, and that’s IT. Only the most dedicated fans will make the effort to click on other links on your page.
Long ago, web designers believed that a page should be no bigger than what can be displayed on a computer screen. No more. These days, a front page can be as long as you want it to. The only limiting factor is loading time. The longer your page takes to load, the more likely a potential visitor will get impatient and leave, so go easy on the images.
Research copywriting techniques. Find out how to write a good sales pitch. Use those marketing techniques to write your front page. Ask yourself: “How can I get my potential readers excited about reading my book?”
You don’t just want people to visit your website and go away again. You want them to take action, either by buying your book or by signing up to your fan club.
Yes, you can have a fan club even if you aren’t a famous author yet. A fan club is simply a list of names and emails of people who are interested in what you do.
Don’t be tempted to outsource this to social media. Followers are NOT newsletter subscribers. Newsletter subscribers care about you. You show up in their inbox. They trust you enough to give you private details like their email address.
Offer folks some benefit to entice them into signing up for your newsletter, like a free chapter or the backstory to one of your most popular works. Then you can enlist their participation in your world by sending out interesting, engaging newsletters.
Tell them stories about the creation of the book or the development of the characters. Tell them about events you’ll be appearing at. Send out polls asking them to vote for their favorite character is or whether they prefer physical books to e-books. Encourage them to write to you. Answer as much fan mail as you can.
Being able to tell a publisher you have a newsletter list of X number of people is a great selling point for your book. It will tell a publisher that you’ve already got a large number of people ready and willing to buy your book when it comes out.
Don’t you still need social media followers? Go ahead and collect them. Most publishers want to see that you have a social media presence and a certain number of followers. But followers don’t “convert” as well as newsletter subscribers. They’re less likely to buy.
There are thousands of authors around the world who have the same goal as you: to create a compelling author website.
Check out the websites of other authors in your genre. Ask yourself if you could duplicate anything they’re doing. It’s impossible to copyright an internet marketing idea, so (as long as you don’t steal their code, text, or graphics) free to model your page after theirs.
Want to share your author website? Post it in the comments.