Monday, March 7, 2016

Do I Have to Have an Author Website?

by Iola Goulton

Last month, Jeanette O’Hagen introduced our 2016 joint posts between Australasian Christian Writers and Christian Writers Downunder with a post on platform, that elusive necessity for modern authors. As Christians, we have an advantage in that we know our platform needs to be built on the Rock, not the shifting sands of popularity and changing trends.

As Jeanette said, while God has a plan for each of us and our writing, we need to use our God-given talents in obedience to God’s plan and the gifts He has given us. This is the one essential of online book marketing that every “expert” agrees on.

You must have a website.

Your website is your online home. It’s where readers will go to find out about you and your books. I asked in a reader group and they confirmed this: they most commonly visit author websites to find out:

  • More about the author
  • When the author's next book releases
  • What other books the author has published 
  • The correct order of a series

And a website is where agents, publishers and editors will look to see if you have that magical platform. And it’s where publicists and bloggers will look to find information about you.

You also need a way for readers to subscribe to your email list—your list provider will probably have a plug-in you can use. I'll talk more about email lists and why they're important in a later post in this series.

 Your website one of the foundational elements of your platform and of your passive marketing. While it's a lot of work to build a website, the ongoing maintenance isn't as difficult, as long as you set it up properly (and remember to keep all your themes and plugins updated, especially security plugins. Learned that the hard way).

What about a blog?

You’ll also want your website to have an integrated blog (so your blog is a page on your website, not a completely separate site). Your blog is where you'll start connecting with readers, through regular blog posts.

This is the part which causes a lot of anxiety among authors, so I'm going to tell you something not many people know: you can be a successful author without blogging. For example, thriller author Nick Stephenson earned a six-figure income last year off his novels, and his website doesn't have a blog (what it does have is a prominent email sign-up list, and Nick uses his email newsletter to build relationships with his readers in the same way that other authors use a blog).

 Personally, I enjoy reading (and contributing to) group blogs, such as Australasian Christian Writers or Christian Writers Downunder. As a reader, I like the variety. As a writer, I like the community. I'm less likely to visit an author website unless it's to find out about their next release or similar.

Don't I have to blog to sell books?

Even a strong blog might not help you sell books. Think of Mike Duran. I often link to his posts in the Australiasian Christian Writers Facebook group, because they are thought-provoking and relevant and he's not afraid to ask the hard questions about Christianity and literature. But he writes Christian horror, and while I think his blog is great, I'm not interested in his fiction (sorry, Mike).

 And no one is going to be interested in your blog if it's a constant infomercial (let your Home and Books pages do the selling). Your website (with integrated blog, if you have one) isn't about selling. It's about connecting with readers. I'll go into this in more detail in a future post.

What does my website have to have?

Actually, not a lot. As long as it's well-designed and consistent with your brand and genre (which I've discussed on Australasian Christian writers here, here, and here). You need the following pages:
  • Home (to bring people into the site and introduce your brand)
  • About (to introduce you as the author, in order to begin to develop a relationship)
  • Books (only once you actually have one, of course!)
  • Contact (to allow people to communicate with you)
Other pages—blog, media kit, reviews, writing advice—are all optional. Which makes it a lot easier to set up a professional author website, and a lot harder to find excuses as to why you can't! The one other essential for an author website is a way of capturing the email addresses. I'll be discussing this next week. Meanwhile, what questions do you have about author websites? What author websites have you visited you particularly liked? What did you like?

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website (www.christianediting.co.nz), or follow me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/christianediting), Twitter (@IolaGoulton) or Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/iolasreads).

9 comments:

  1. Lots of good advice as always, Iola!

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  2. Good summary on the importance of a website home base. Thanks, Iola.

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  3. Great post Iola. Thank you. That was interesting to hear that some writers get by without a blog, although I wonder how many of us humble aspiring authors would be able to get away with that! :) I don't think building a website is too difficult actually, since many websites have custom built pages which are very easy to fill up. Lots of free website building services these days which make it quite easy for us writers. Thanks again Iola for a very comprehensive post!

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    1. Hi Anusha, I agree that building a website isn't difficult - well, not nearly as difficult as it used to be!

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  4. A great practical post, Iola. I've bookmarked many author sites, though I mainly check them when I get an alert that there's a new post or announcement. Sometimes I do check also for the reasons you mentioned above.

    Some authors also have an FAQs link, which can be helpful if it's well-maintained. I also like it if I can find out a bit more about the author than just facts that are available anywhere. I want to feel that I know the author better after going to their website, and I guess that's where that idea of community or connection comes in. It's pretty easy to tell if an author has a big input and active interest in their own site or if someone has just set it up for them and stepped back.

    Occasionally, I've come across video clips on author sites (e.g. interviews) and they can be a great way of getting 'a feel' for a particular author. Thanks for sharing. I'll look forward to the rest in the series.

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    1. Thanks, Nola.

      I'm a little wary of author videos. I like them in principle, but I'm not so sure of the practice of actually doing one myself!

      I do agree you can get a feel for an author through their site, as much through the colours and styles as through the words (hey, showing, not telling!).

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  5. There are just so many blogs you can follow, Iola, so like you say, something has to be there to catch your interest.

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