Welcome back to another Details of Self-Publishing post, where today we’re looking at author websites. It’s early on in your writing career – you’ve decided you want to go for it, and publish something. You know you’ve probably, along the way, got to acquire a website for yourself. But…what should it have on it? What should it look like? How much time and money should you invest into it?
I spent a lot of time researching these options, and what people say you should and shouldn’t do when creating an author website. There are lots of ways to set things up out there, so it can be pretty overwhelming. Today I want to share with you some of the questions I had to ask myself, and the answers I ultimately came up with.
What’s the point of an author website?
You’ve got a dozen other pages to post who you are, right? Why should you have to manage Twitter, Facebook, your Amazon Author pages AND your own website?
Think of your website as the hub for all these things. No matter what else you decide to do with your website, its primary purpose is to be a nexus point. A place where all your publications are listed, where you report news on your work, where people can find links to all of those social media outlets you’re so relentlessly managing.
It doesn’t need, necessarily, to be all singing all dancing as long as it’s got that information in it. So focus on that first – the rest of it can come later.
Help, I know nothing about website building!
Don’t panic. Then go sign up for one of the many website-building pages. WordPress is the one I use, but there are others out there like Squarespace and Wix and more. Some of these cost money, but not all of them do.
In fact, I strongly advise using a free one until you’re making the income from writing to offset it. That’s what I did with this website, using the free version of WordPress and just paying for my domain names (which don’t cost much at all). I now have a professional plan with WordPress, because I’ve reached the point where I can both afford it and I need the features from it, but it took me almost a year to reach that point.
WordPress is easy to set up even if you have no idea what you’re doing, and having played with some of the other builders I’ve found them all to be similar. Sure, knowing things about building websites helps, but your author page doesn’t require you to know the details. Let these apps help you!
Should you make a website for each book?
In a word: no.
Go to anywhere that gives advice about building an author brand and they will almost universally tell you this. If people want to find out just about your book, they’ll look it up on Amazon. People are coming to your website because they want to know more about you, the author, or to find your other works.
Having a separate website for every book you publish is just going to annoy them. And more importantly, it’s also going to be incredibly expensive. All those costs I mentioned in the previous point? Multiply them by every book you ever publish. Yeah, it’s getting a bit mad, right?
But! I hear you cry, there are plenty of big name authors who do differently! I’m sure I’ve seen websites specifically about books.
There are of course exceptions to every rule. I’m sure there are times where you might genuinely need a separate website for your book. But for the majority of people who are publishing ‘standard’ fiction books, it’s not something you should invest time or money in.
To blog or not to blog?
If I were to give you one single piece of advice about whether you should put a blog in your author website or not, it would be this: do not start a blog unless you want to run a blog.
There is nothing less inspiring than going to someone’s website, seeing it has a blog, and finding that said blog has had four posts in 6 months. If you don’t want to run a blog, don’t put one in. Just leave it. It’s far better to not include that than make it look like you aren’t bothering with maintaining your website. People will notice it.
If you do decide to include a blog, awesome! This can give people a reason to come to your website, which increases the chances that they’ll look at your publications page and your social media links and so forth. And, of course, that they’ll go buy your books.
Don’t shy away from having a blog because you’re worried it will obscure that other information. If you have something you really want people to see, you can either make those pages your static landing pages, or you can use pop-ups for things like calls to action. Want people to know about your mailing list? Put a pop-up on the main page showing them how to sign up, or make it big and featured at the top of the page.
Whatever you decide to do, remember that all of this advice is just that – advice. Ultimately, it’s your website. Take advantage of the vast wealth of knowledge out there (check out, especially, this tag on the ALLi blog), but remember that it’s still okay to do you.