A blog post about author websites has been on the cards for absolute ages. It seems only obvious. WriteHit’s roots lie in web design, so why not help people out by sharing some wisdom.

Truth be told, what has been holding me back on writing about it is that it’s such a huge topic. How much detail should one go into to make it an effective introduction? How to create a good author website isn’t really a good topic for a blog post, it’s something that books should be (are?) written about it and perhaps that’s an approach we’ll look at in future. When brainstorming things to cover, I thought of: what features are needed on an author website? How should it link up with other marketing efforts? How to build the bloody thing (something best left to the wealth of web creation tutorials already out there online).

Well long story short, after thinking about this for a while, someone else did a way better job at explaining how to create an author website than I ever could. Check out this free online course created by Simon from the Rocking Self Publishing Podcast. I’m serious, you absolutely must if you are an enterprising author wanting to take a about 2 hours to learn how to create your own WordPress based author website. And while you’re at it, you should listen to the podcast as well!

Anyway, what I will do on this post is outline some basic questions (and answers) to keep in mind when you’re planning your website.

1. What purpose does your site serve?

As an author, your main goal is to sell books. You want to connect with readers, give them a way to get in touch, but the end game is definitely that you want them to buy your work.

2. Who will visit your site: a complete stranger or someone familiar with your work?

In an ideal world, someone will type your genre into Google and end up at your site. In reality, this is unlikely to happen at least for a while, or ever. It is more likely that someone who has already bought one of your books looks you up online to find out more about you. Make sure that those visitors are well served by your website. (Of course don’t forget the basics and fail to offer some short introduction on who you are and what you’re about for the occasional “stranger” who does come by.)

3. What are people looking for?

What would you be looking for seeking out the website of an author whose work you enjoy? Would you appreciate a clear and easy to find listing of all their books so you can easily pick out the ones you haven’t read yet? Would you like links to all the places you can purchase their books? Would you appreciate a blog where the author gives you an insight into their life and world views? Chances are you would like to see all or at least some of these. If it seems overwhelming, focus on listing your books (and yes, links to buy them at all major retailers you distribute to, not just Amazon!) and a page with a short bio perhaps.

4. Who are you? / What are you like?

Branding is another one of those huge topics that creeps into almost every part of the (self) publishing process. Make sure your site fits your style and personality as a writer. The most obvious example would be: if you write children’s books, don’t blog about inappropriate topics. Making your site look fitting is covered in the video course I’ve already linked to as well. You can use your book covers as design elements for the website. Try to use similar fonts etc. so you don’t end up with a confusing hotchpotch of styles. When in doubt, keep things simple. The key to a professional looking website is not to have all the bells and whistles you can find, just because you can. You don’t need dozens of widgets and plug ins. You need to focus on the basic purpose of your site and whether it’s easy to understand and use.

5. Your site is your home on the web.

Not technically a question but important enough to mention anyway. You may have a Facebook page, a Twitter handle and a Pinterest board.  All these may serve you pretty well and allow lots of readers to get in touch and interact with you. But: you need to tie all these together somewhere and create a back up in case those other services become outdated. If Facebook decides from now on you will need to pay for every post you make, you will need a new way of communicating with readers. You cannot build a business (and writing for profit, long term is most definitely a business!) on someone else’s property because they may swoop in and take it from you at any moment. Your most vocal fans need a place to sign up for blog updates or a mailing list which isn’t going to vanish just because another company has made an inconvenient policy change.

In short, visit the online course and follow the examples to create a site that is easy on the eyes, well organised and contains at least the following: a list of all your books, a bio page, a contact page, ideally a mailing list sign up and links to all your social media profiles. If you don’t plan on blogging properly, you might want to have a blog just for announcing new releases or showing off book covers anyway.

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