Let’s face it–the only time you need an author’s website is when someone already knows about you and wants to learn more. No one gets up in the morning and says, “Hmm, I think I’ll search for authors I never heard of.” That said, an author’s website can be one of your most important promotional tools.
Creating a website doesn’t have to be the daunting experience you imagine. Don’t know HTML? No problem. There are many free websites that will handle that for you. I’ve used www.about.me, www.yola.com and www.weebly.com. All three are terrific, but Weebly is a little easier to use. It has a great toolbar. Want to have a photo surrounded by text? Just drag the icon onto your page, click inside the text box, and start typing.
Before you create your first author’s website, you have decisions to make. Of course, it’s all about making the sale, but are you selling the author or the books? If you’re selling the author, be prepared to get personal and give away a little about yourself. If you’re selling books, be aware of tone. You don’t want to try to sell vampire books on a site decorated with butterflies.
Here are some themes to consider:
- All About You – Introducing yourself as a real person is a fine choice for beginning writers. Your homepage should feature your photo and bio. While writing your bio, don’t just give a list of facts, i.e. I was born here, I went to school there. Tell people who you are and what you believe. How did you get where you are today? Give an amusing anecdote. As an example, here is the website I created with Weebly: www.roxannesmolen.weebly.com
- Your Books – Established novelists might want the focus of their website to be on their work. This theme has pictures of book covers with links to where the books can be purchased prominent on the homepage. If you’re a poet or a short story author, you can link to journals where your work has been published. But keep in mind that web surfers are drawn to images, so if your poem is about a tree, post an image of a tree beside it. As an example of this theme, here is the website I created with Yola: www.moonroxinc.yolasite.com
- Your Blog – Using a blog as a homepage has its advantages. For one thing, every time you post a new entry your website is refreshed, which is good for search engines. Also, if you gain a following, you can use those numbers in your next query letter. There are many free blog sites to choose from, such as www.tumblr.com, www.blogger.com, and www.wordpress.com. Out of those three, I found WordPress to be the easiest to use. You’re on my WordPress blog right now: www.moonrox.wordpress.com. If you decide to use your blog as your website, here are five points to check off: Know your audience, Post consistently (blogging twenty times a month generates sales), Don’t pitch, Use pictures and funny headlines, Add social share buttons to every post.
One of the worst things an author can do is to let their website fall stagnant. As I mentioned before, search engines love fresh content, and so do readers. Keep your website up-to-date with your book signings and appearances. Import your Twitter feed. I’m sure you can think of dozens of creative ways to keep the conversation about you.
Also, be aware that it’s not only potential readers who want to see your website. You know how you check out a publisher’s site before submitting? Well, after they receive your submission, they check you out, too. As you maintain your website, you should consider what a publisher or agent wants to see.
So what are you waiting for? Create an author’s website you can be proud of. Nowadays, having a website is as expected as having a business card. And you do carry business cards, don’t you? With QR codes?