by Iola GoultonLast 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?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)