The Real Deal

Now that you’ve established your brand and social media presence, the last piece of your Author Platform is your website. You need to create a personal space where people can go to satisfy their craving to know everything there is to know about their favorite author (that’s you). Social media is limited in its showcasing abilities, but a website is built entirely to your specifications, and is the perfect place to connect with your audience.

Building a website can help ensure you will be the center of your readers’ attention

There are several free website-hosting sites out there (Wix, WordPress, to name two), and these are perfectly fine to use, but the free versions don’t allow you to have an independent domain name—your domain will end with something that identifies it as a free site. This can be off-putting for some fans, because it indicates that you aren’t a dedicated enough author to take your career to the next level. You won’t seem like the real deal, and they’ll wonder if investing in you will be a waste of time because you’ll fizzle out.

You can minimize this risk by forking out the money to get a website hosted by someone like Bluehost or HostGator, where for one fee you get the customized domain you want, the hosting, and the website builder to ensure you have a professional and effective web presence. You can expect to pay between $3–$18 per month for these services, with discounts for new customers or multi-year packages available.

Then you can build your site. This can be a little daunting, especially if you have little or no design experience, but most website builders are made for dummies—pardon me, I mean writers who have better things to do than learn coding and design. There are plenty of themes and templates (again, some free, some paid) that are super easy to customize, and tons of plugins to help with things like traffic and user insights, security, and functionality. And if you paint yourself into a corner, never fear, YouTube and Google are always here. You can find tutorials on how to do anything, reviews on everything from web hosting to plugins, and tips on optimizing your website for connecting with your audience.

Don’t forget your brand that you worked so hard to create when you choose your website theme. You can’t choose a swirly, flowery theme if you write thrillers (I mean, I guess you could, but pulling it off without alienating your readers is something I’d love to see). Make sure your website showcases your brand, and thus YOU. That, after all, is the whole point.

Then you have to decide how much time you want to dedicate to populating your site with content that your readers will not only appreciate but crave. The goal is to engage your readers but not take too much time away from writing. (You’re already spending valuable time on social media, for heaven’s sake) You do want your fans to have a reason to come to your site and to stay, and poke around, and want to return again, however. Luckily, there are many ways to accomplish this without spending too much more time.

First and foremost, you must have, front and center, information about your books and where to buy them. The primary reason for your website is to market to your readers. You should have a main page with links to all your books, and enough information, reviews, synopses, previews, etc. to draw potential readers in and convince them to buy your stuff. It should be very easy for them to find where to buy your books, and to see just how many books they are missing from their collection and MUST HAVE!

Also, you should have a very prominent place where readers can sign up to your mailing list. The mailing list is the number one most effective way to reach your fans, because email is the only direct route to your readers (and it has stood the test of time, so it will not be going away any time soon). If you have a reader’s email address, you can let them know immediately when you have a new release, when you are running a sale, or when you are doing a giveaway, and they will almost always see it—unlike social media, where algorithms and ads dictate who sees what. The best way to get people to actually sign up to your mailing list is to have something to offer them, of course, like a free book, or a short story, or at the very least a monthly newsletter with interesting things related to your work in progress. (We will tackle the challenge of mailing list magnets in another post.)

The other content of your website is up to you. If you do lots of research for your books, a blog could be a natural and easy way to organize and share what you’ve already spent time gathering. Photo carousels or galleries are great to showcase your covers, character lookalikes, setting studies, or fan art (yours or other people’s–just make sure you get permission to post it). Or you could do something as simple as posting links to other sites related to your genre or writing or your interests. Be creative and don’t be afraid to be unique, but remember, your readers are interested in YOU and YOUR BOOKS, so don’t forget to make those two critical subjects intrinsic to your content.

Now, after you’ve figured out the whole website thing, you have to maintain it regularly. Remember, your readers have lives with tons of distractions, and they need lots of reminders that you exist and are central to their happiness. Make sure your site is up to date on all your new releases, upcoming titles, events, etc., so your fans never feel out of the loop. If you are blogging, create a schedule with future post topics or content ideas so you’re never without something to create when your schedule says it’s that time you set aside to do just this (right?). You can also tweak pictures or information on any of your pages to refresh your site once in a while—anything to let your fans know that you are alive and kicking, and still hard at work writing their favorite books.