Here we are halfway through another week and I always look forward to Wednesdays because it means I get to spend some time with all of you amazing people! Thanks for stopping by! This week I will be continuing my discussion from last Wednesday. In my last post I introduced you to “author platforms” and why they’re important. Today, I want to talk specifically about your author website. If you’re wondering ‘what should I put on my author website?’ I will be giving you some tips and ideas to really make your site the best it can be. As well as list some of the things that should go on every author’s website.
Before you even begin, you will need to decide whether you will self-host your site (pay to have your own domain name) or whether you will use another site to host your pages (something like Blogspot or WordPress). If you’re unsure of which way to go, check out my Author Resources page, I will be posting some articles there to help with this area. I decided to self-host (for reasons I gave last week) and I went with Bluehost. After doing some research, I decided they would be the best choice for my needs and budget.
Once you’ve decided whether you will self-host or have Blogspot or WordPress (etc.) host your site, you will then need to choose a website builder. This will be necessary unless you are some super code writing genius and plan on building your site by writing your own code, in which case you should be writing your own blog post about this right now. haha
I have personally chosen to self-host and I’ve gone with WordPress as my website builder based again on the research I did. I wanted something easy for a novice like me to use, with great themes and quality options. I found that WordPress has met those needs and then some. But if you’d like to look into other options, HERE is a list created by Steve, who has tested over 50 website builders and offers you his evaluation on them.
Ok, so you’ve decided on those two things and you’re wondering what your next step should be. Your next step should be to pick a domain name. This isn’t something you should pick lightly. You want a name that describes who you are and what you’re about. Many authors simply choose to do something like www.firstnamelastname.com or maybe throw and author in there somewhere. That’s a good way to go. It makes it easy for people to find your website and it gets your name out there.
I chose to go a slightly different route with my website. Though I want to build name recognition for the books I write, I also hope to one day be able to include other writers under my umbrella. Thus I chose the domain name “The Writing Piazza.” It was a play on my last name Piazza and the fact that the word (in Italian) also refers to a place where groups of people like to congregate (i.e. a porch, plaza or town square). That’s how The Writing Piazza was born. I didn’t just think about the here and now. I looked down the road at what I hoped to accomplish one day. I chose a name that was broad enough to fit those future goals but specific enough to meet my present goals. So bust out those thinking caps and figure out what domain name you won’t mind having for a long time.
You could be thinking that you’ll just pick a name now and then change it down the road if the need arises. I have to warn you, you will just be making things harder for yourself. All the blood, sweat and tears you pour into your website now, you’ll just have to do again with your new site. The proverb about not changing horses mid-stream comes to mind. You are building equity into your domain name with every new follower you acquire. They are following your blog or signing up for your newsletter because of the trust and rapport you created under the old domain name. If you change your website name, that trust and rapport gets reset back to zero and you have to start all over again. It’s not fair, but it happens. Sure some of your followers will make the transition but many of them won’t. So do yourself a huge favor now and choose a name that you can stick with for a long, long time.
Once you have your domain name in place, it’s time to start building up your content. There’s a saying that ‘content is king.’ And what you put on your website/blog is extremely important. If you are at a complete loss as to what to do, I recommend doing some reconnaissance. Look at other author websites to see what they’ve done. You can take a look at my author website The Writing Piazza. I also recommend checking out the website of Sydney Strand. She has a stellar website that I absolutely adore and she has so much great content, I could wander around her site for days. You can also look up your favorite authors, or authors who write in the genre you do. Just cruise through some of their sites to see what they do so you can get a basic idea of what they look like.
Some things that all author websites need:
A professional look
This doesn’t mean it has to be super fancy, in fact, super fancy often means slower loading time which is a no-no for today’s “I want it now” crowds.
A kick-booty “about the author” page
This is often the most visited page on an author’s website so it needs to be polished to a high, glossy shine.
Social media buttons
Put them everywhere and make them easy to click. I have them as a static bar on my home page, underneath each blog post and a couple other places throughout my website.
I know this might sound scary right now, but trust me, you’re going to be glad you added this once you really get going. For more on this keep an eye on my Author Resources page. I will be adding info on this in the near future. WordPress offers an easy to install plugin that I added to my site with minimal fuss.
Call to action with a great incentive
People like it when you make your request clear and you tell them what’s in it for them. If you want them to sign-up for your email list (and trust me, you really, really want them to sign up for your email list) then give them a reason to. A free ebook, an informative newsletter only available for those who sign up, a fun video of you doing something relevant to writing. Get creative and if one thing doesn’t seem to be working, don’t be afraid to change it up.
If all you have on your website is a bunch of words, your bounce rate is going to be sky-high. You need to make it visually stimulating with pictures to coincide with your words to keep people from clicking away from your website. A little tip: If you are going to use your own photos, you should put a watermark with your website on it. This way, if someone copies your picture or finds it through a random photo search, they will be able to track it back to your website. Or if you’re just looking for some copyright free pictures, check out Morgue File.
Other Tips to Improve your Website
You can also think about adding a video or two. An easy way to do this is to make a video on YouTube and then put the link on your site. Many website builders allow you to put YouTube videos right onto your site without much difficulty. Just remember that videos take longer to load so you don’t want to do too many on one page.
A quick note about your email list. This is the Holy Grail for writers. Research has shown that email marketing leads to more conversions than marketing on social media. So if you don’t have at least one spot on your website (and I suggest having it in more than one place) where people can sign-up for your email list, then you aren’t doing it right. That email list is like a built in audience for the next book you sell. They’ve already shown enough interest in you to visit your website and sign up for your email list, they are much more likely to purchase your book. Usually one social media, the best you’re getting is a “like” or a “favorite” but it’s the email you send out with the “purchase now” link that’s getting the sales.
This isn’t to say that social media isn’t important in selling your books, but we will discuss that more at length next week. Thanks for sticking with me through this post, I know it was a bit long. Also, if you’re interested in getting legal tips for writers, you can sign up for my email list. 🙂 (Even if it’s just to see what kind of incentive I give out to those who sign up on my site.) Come back next week and learn about the importance of social media and learn some practical tips for how to build up your social media following the right way.
Until we meet again.