Once you release a book into the world, you are essentially running a business. Yes, you’re an artist, but, assuming some amount of commercial success is one of your goals, you’re also an entrepreneur. Today, no entrepreneurial venture can survive without an online presence, of which a professional, polished website is the centerpiece. Depending on your style, the necessity of online marketing might feel like a blessing or a curse. Many people have knee-jerk reactions to the idea of being online. So much so that the term Visiolibriphobia was created to describe the fear of Facebook. It’s a real thing, and we see it every day when we talk to authors and publishing folks.
Building an author website can feel daunting—especially for those who are just starting out and/or who have a bit of a social media phobia. Before cringing at the thought of another blog post espousing the importance of the Internet, know that I understand this fear. It wasn’t until recently that authors were required to not only write, but also self-promote in an enormous, bustling, and complicated online world. The best way to survive in this world? A solid author website.
A website is the most critical tool to promote your book and build your identity as an author. It functions as an online hub to keep your readers informed in a way social media can’t cover. Your author website can open doors to a wider audience, help you build your personal brand, and give you the opportunity to connect with readers and fellow writers. If you’re still wondering whether you really need an author website, the short answer is yes. Here’s why:
Publishers, agents, readers, other authors, and the media often check for a website. According to a study conducted by the Codex Group, author websites are the top ways people find out about books. Surprisingly, Facebook and Twitter had less influence. This is because the majority of people still find content via the good old-fashioned Google, meaning an author with a secure spot on the top of major search engines has a leg up. When people Google you or your book, you want to control what they see first, so a good website with solid SEO is a must.
Your Little Corner of the Internet
Having everything in the one centralized place will make life easier for you and your readers. Think of your author website as your personal dashboard with everything on it, including (but not limited to) your bio, events, news, books, mailing list, contact information, and, most importantly, where to buy your book. This dashboard belongs to you. You control the look, feel, and content. You also want to be sure to give people a call to action when you’re tweeting/Instagraming/Facebooking about your book, and you can’t direct them back to a website if you don’t have one.
Social Media Can’t Replace a Website
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, etc. do not eliminate the need for an author website. Unlike social media, your website and its contents won’t disappear or change unless you want it to. Remember Myspace? Friendster? An author website complements your social media account, proudly displaying them like trophies on a shelf for all to see. Your website will encourage people to visit you on social media and vice versa. Instead of spreading yourself too thin by trying out every shiny new social platform, start with your author website and add from there.
A polished website shows that you are invested in your career as an author and are taking the experience of your readers seriously. Imagine you are going on a first date. You could go to McDonald’s . . . or you could take your date somewhere that better reflects you as a person. This is your first impression. Don’t take your readers to McDonald’s.
Your Readers Want to Know More About You
An author website is an excellent way to engage with your readers by giving them insight that goes beyond what they read on the page. Authors are often wary about putting too much personal information on the Internet, but there are plenty of ways to avoid oversharing about your personal life while still engaging with readers (we covered it in a previous blog post). Your audience is curious about who is behind the name on your book cover, and your author website is a great way to show that you’re a real, relatable person.
Building the actual website can be the most difficult process. Fortunately there are several wonderful programs that make it much easier—none requiring you to lock yourself in a dorm room, “disrupt” anything, or use the phrase “crush some code.”
Have we convinced you yet? If so, then you’ve already completed the first step: deciding you need an author website. The next step is to explore some of these links that can help get you started.