As much as writers sometimes hate to admit it, being a creative professional takes a lot more than being a silent bard busy behind a keyboard, driven by a world of words, inspiration, and imagination. Having an author’s website is a necessary piece of the professional writer equation—no matter your genre or your publication path.
Why Does a Writer Need a Website?
- Professional Credibility – If you were learning more about a business and they didn’t have a website, wouldn’t that company seem less legit to you? The same is true of authors. If you’re in the pitching stage, literary agents and publishers want to see a writer with an established presence, and if your work is already out in the world, your readers will take you more seriously and be excited to learn more when they see your polished digital presence.
- A Place to Be Discovered – When you meet someone at a bookstore or writing conference, you can always give them a business card, promotional postcard or bookmark, or even a copy of your book, but when you include a website on these materials, they have access to the depth of your offerings at a glance.
- A Place to Show off Your Brand – You are more than just a writer. As an author, you are also a brand, and you need to think this way in your marketing. Your website is a place to establish your identity from mood and style to fonts and color-schemes that you can carry through all of your marketing materials and social media profiles. Think of your website as the home-base for this branding effort.
- Social Media Is Not Enough – Connecting with your readers on social media is another important factor in book marketing, but social media alone cannot replace a website. Having one constant piece of digital property to showcase you and your entire library of work is more powerful than social media accounts that may rise or fall over time. Plus, with your own website, you have full control of design and visibility. No external algorithms will decide who does and doesn’t see everything you are sharing.
What Should You Include on Your Author Website?
Knowing your audience is essential when you write, and this idea is also true when developing your author website. Who are your target visitors? What are they looking for? What do you want to tell them? Ease-of-navigation and modern design are important, as are showing off the following:
- Your Books – Your books should be the focus of your homepage and have fleshed out details, including summaries, endorsements, and links to the retailers where visitors can buy them. Don’t forget that critical call-to-action, encouraging your website visitors to buy theirs today.
- Your Bio (Both Short and Long Versions) – Depending on what you write, your books may take the spotlight on your homepage or perhaps this spotlight belongs directly on you the author. Whichever one is the initial focus, readers like to get to know an author, to see their face in a professional picture (no selfies please!), to learn their background, and see them in action in photos and on video when possible. And don’t forget to include your location. Planners of writing conferences and other events want to know where you are before they know if they can send you an invitation to speak.
- Media Highlights & Press Kits – One easy way to further prove your professionalism is to display a list of your media highlights, where you’ve been interviewed or profiled, clips from radio or television appearances, and other publicity of note. To take this media page to the next level, include a full Press Kit, a professionally packaged bundle about you and your books: Q & A lists for interviews, ISBN numbers, contact information for you, your agent, your publicist, or your publisher (whoever handles media inquiries), and similar information. Make it easy for future media opportunities.
- Book Club Kits – If your work would be perfect for a book club, include a section just for this audience with discussion questions and any extras that enhance the experience of your book(s).
- Links to your (public) Social Accounts – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and so many other networks can be invaluable places to connect with your target audience. Be sure to mention your website on your profile in each of your social accounts, and be sure your presence on these networks is easy to discover on every page of your website.
- Newsletter Sign-up – You never quite know who will see your social media posts, but you know exactly who will receive your email newsletter in their inbox. Author newsletters can be invaluable marketing pieces, so be sure to include your newsletter sign up on your author website. Contact Information – Maybe this seems obvious, but don’t forget to include an easy way for visitors to contact you.
- A Reason for Viewers to Come Back – Websites can be dynamic experiences, and for the sake of your audience and your search ranking, they should be. A regularly updated blog or podcast, new videos, events calendars, promotions, and so many more ideas can make your website a place people want to return to.
What other Website Essentials should Authors Consider?
What was deemed “essential” five years ago does not necessarily apply today. To keep your website on top of the latest digital trends, tools, and technologies, we recommend the following:
- Responsiveness – Ensuring your website renders well on devices of all sizes is not only user-friendly but is also now a search engine optimization (SEO) necessity.
- Google Analytics – Discovering how many visitors your website receives, which pages they spend time on, how long they stay on a page, and where you lose them can give you valuable insights into your larger marketing strategy.
- Google AMP – Mobile search has surpassed desktop search in recent years, and websites with a Google AMP version have been shown to place higher on mobile search engine results pages (SERPs).
- Social Sharing – Enabling the sharing of your blogs or other pages with simple share buttons for different social networks at the bottom of each post is almost effortless. This helps spread your visibility and has the added bonus of extending your SEO power.
- SSL Certificate for Security – Trustworthiness is more important than ever, and online, security is a concern beyond shopping and banking websites. All websites are now encouraged to have SSL certificates to prove their credibility, and again, you gain SEO strength by adding this layer of security.
- Website speed – Forcing a visitor to wait for images to load is a fast way to lose them. Be sure to optimize image sizes and to embed videos via YouTube or similar networks to avoid bringing your website to a crawl. People don’t often have the attention span to wait, so don’t lose them before you even have a chance to show off your best.
- Collaboration of text, images, and development – Websites are not simply about being well-written or stunning, and they’re not simply about being easy to use. All three of these pieces need to be combined to create a cutting-edge, user-friendly, professional result.
Yes, sometimes a writer just wants to craft their book or their poem or their screenplay or their manifesto, but there’s more to the writing life than putting pen to paper or fingers to the keys. An author’s website is a twenty-first century essential.
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