The Sunday Musings book marketing series continues. After discussing author platform in fiction last time, and going over what makes a great author tagline, we’re starting to look at building your visibility in this session. And these days, your main window to the world is online – your author website. There’s so much to cover here that I’ll this is a two-parter: part 1 looks at defining the goals for your website, and the different ways to set it up, while part 2 takes a step at finding a great design, and some more advanced topics – including the top 7 things you should do for your website right now! So make sure you’re checking back in for part 2.
An author website to make your work shine
Your website is your home online, the place where you can present your work, your books, your thoughts or really anything the way you like it. You’re not tied to formats, character limits or color schemes of other online platforms. This is where you can make your work shine!
But with that freedom comes the burden of making some decisions – what should the site look like? How much work do I want to invest? It can be quite overwhelming to start with a blank canvas, so before getting into the nitty-gritty of design we first need to identify our goals.
Define the goals for your author website
A website can do many things for you: present your portfolio, attract clients, sell products, show vacation pictures, or all of the above. But being an author, there are some nuts and bolts that your website should do:
- Present your work. Your books are what your selling. Get them front and center when readers visit your website.
- Get across what you are all about. This goes back to the last Musings and finding a tagline that represents your work. This tagline should be visible to the reader right away, and can be repeated in multiple places (like the author biography).
- Allow your readers to get to know you. Some words about you should be on your website.
- Get to know your readers. Allow them to comment on your posts, and invite them to subscribe to your newsletter. Your newsletter is super important, so much that another whole Musings will focus on that.
- Share your knowledge. While you’re becoming an expert in your genre, you’ll be learning heaps: about writing, about publishing, but also about the specialities of your genre or settings you’ve researched. Why not share this with your readers or fellow authors?
- Use your website for news about upcoming releases or giveaways. Of course you can plug your own work here, or give out exclusive content to your visitors.
My goals for my websites are these:
- Get readers on my mailing list. That way, I can talk to them directly when anything cool is happening.
- Show my books. First thing, my readers can see all the book covers and learn more by clicking on them.
- Inform readers about my latest release. In my blog, I keep my readers updated about anything new in my writing life.
- Share my thoughts on writing in the form my “Sunday Musings”. This is a separate part of my blog that is dedicated not to my stories, but rather to the process of writing, editing, publishing and marketing romance books in today’s market place.
I’d also rank them in this sequence – if my website had nothing else, I’d have a sign up form for my newsletter.
So here’s your first task right now: define what you want to achieve with your author website!
How to get the author website you want
Once you’ve defined your goals you might wonder how and where you can set up your author website. Now, there’s a million ways you can do this, and it depends heavily on your technical savvy, your available time and of course your budget. First of all, you should make sure that the solution you choose delivers the following:
- You must be able to make changes yourself. This is an absolute MUST HAVE. You need to be able to edit your content without having to consult a programmer, otherwise the process will become unbearably slow and expensive.
- The solution must be mobile responsive. These days the majority of people will access your author website from mobile devices. Make sure it looks good and is usable on a smartphone!
That’s basically it – everything else is very much up to your ideas.
I won’t be able to give you an exhaustive list of possible ways to set up your website, but I will give you some pointers of commonly used products (if you know any that should definitely be on this list, drop me a comment and I’ll update it).
- WordPress – THE most used blogging and website platform. Customizable, with tons of free and commercial themes and plugins, lots and lots of resources online and easy ways to maintain your content, even for non-technically inclined authors. (Disclaimer: my websites are all built using WordPress, and thankfully my techie husband helped me with the installation process). There are multiple ways to get a WordPress site running:
- Host your site at WordPress.com, the commercial branch of WordPress. There are free plans available, however, if you want to use your own domain, a small monthly fee is charged. This is the best solution if you don’t want to deal with running your own server, but want all the customizable power of WordPress.
- Many web hosting providers also offer easy installation and management tools that allow you to set up and manage WordPress via their web front end. This is especially handy if you’re already using a provider to run a website and want to switch the domain to WordPress.
- For full configurability and major changes to your WordPress site’s look and feel and functionality, you can also download the latest version from WordPress.org and install it on your own server. Of course, much more IT knowledge is required, but if you can do that yourself or have someone to help you, this is the most flexible option.
The beauty of WordPress is that with the right theme or your own customization, you can achieve any look and functionality you dream of while keeping the easy content manageability. There can be some problems with third party plugins so at some point you may need a developer’s help.
- Website builders – online services that allow you to create a website from pre-defined building blocks. Additionally, these services take also care of your hosting so you don’t need your own server. Examples are Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly. These services are a bit less flexible than WordPress, but offer a reliable experience, tested plugins and extensions and commercial support.
- Hire a web design company – get a specialist to do the work for you! There are even companies that focus specifically on author websites, such as AuthorClicks, that focus on the parts that are important to authors such as presenting your books and optimizing your newsletter signups. A bit more pricey, but offering you a one-stop solution. But as I said before: make sure you can change all the content yourself!
I absolutely recommend doing some research and comparing prices as they can differ wildly. Also check on your favorite author websites what they are using (you can often find a “powered by” link at the bottom).
And that wraps part 1 of the Musings about author websites. Next time, we’ll look at website design and also talk about the top 7 things you should do for your website right away!
Writing tip of the week
So these Musings of mine are about advice, right? Writing, editing, publishing, marketing advice. But while getting advice is a great thing and helps you advance in the right direction, none should be taken verbatim. So this week’s writing tip from K.M. Weiland of Helping Writers Become Authors takes six bits of common writing advice and shines a light on them: how authors tend to misuse them, and what these bits of writing advice really means. She tackles likable characters, unpredictable endings and scenes full of conflict, to name just three. A fun read, with a great discussion in the comments to boot!
Fiction read of the week
“Junkie” (GearShark 1), by Cambria Herbert. This MM romance has great energy, and I love the way car racing is a central part of the storyline. I really felt immersed in an unknown world. The romance is slow building and beautifully paced.
It does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, though. Luckily GearShark book 2 is already out and available!
Bits & pieces
It’s been a busy week in terms of new releases for me:
- First, I re-released “True Luck” (available as ebook and paperback). This novella is book 1 in the “True Love” series, and should nicely tide you over to the release of book 2, “True Colors” – coming next Tuesday, March 14th!
- Second, “Leo Loves Aries” is now also available as a paperback.
- Third, great news for my Italian readers: the second book in the “Enemies to Lovers” series, “St-st-stuffed”, is now also available in Italian under the title “Quello che non dici“, translated by the great Barbara Cinelli of Triskell Translation Service. Grazie, Barbara!
See you again next time for part 2 on author websites!
Books and resources mentioned in this bulletin:
- WordPress.org, home of the WordPress content management system.
- WordPress.com, the commercial branch of WordPress.
- Squarespace, a website builder.
- Wix, a website builder.
- Weebly, a website builder.
- AuthorClicks, web design company specialized in author websites.
- 6 Bits of Common Writing Advice You’re Misusing
- “Junkie” (GearShark 1), by Cambria Herbert
- “True Luck“
- “True Colors“
- “Leo Loves Aries” paperback
- “Quello che non dici“
- My new gay romance True Colors will be released on March 14th.
- You can get a free e-book by signing up for my newsletter
- Disclaimer: All links to books in this article are affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price if you make a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost for you if you purchase the books via these links!
Session #15 – Author platform: what do you stand for? (book marketing series)
Session #17 – how to build a great author website (2) (book marketing series)