When you’ve decided to publish a book, the first thing you should do (besides write it) is to create an author website.
A website is the best place to tell the world about you and your books, and it will likely be the first place that a potential customer goes to find out about you. And the earlier you get your website up and running (even long before your publication date), the more you’ll be able to use it to build an audience for your book when it comes out!
The good news is that making a simple, compelling, and affordable website for your author platform has never been easier. There is sooo much knowledge available out there and many many easy-to-use templates that even a tech-novice can learn to use.
But before you venture down the road of building an author website, here are a few tips that will help you along the way:
- Make it about you, not your book
One of the most common mistakes that authors make when building a website is making it too much about their book. That’s right, I’m suggesting that you should make your site as much or more about you, the author, than about your book. That means the URL should be your name, not the book title. It means that the overarching brand of the site should be you, the author, not your book. Why? It’s pretty simple. There is only one you and many potential books. If you make your website more about you, you’ll be able to use this same platform for all the books you write in the future. And even if you only plan to write one book, a personal site is usually more compelling to readers and potential media than a book site. People respond to people. And you can still have an entire page dedicated to your book and promote the heck out of it all over your site.
- Keep it simple, but not too simpleAnother common mistake that happens as you start to develop a website (with or without professional help), is that they tend to get too complex very quickly. All the various visions for what you might house on your site start to appear and before long, you have a massive and confusing array of pages that don’t congeal and revolve around a common theme. My advice is to start out simple and build from there as you need it. My author sites tend to have only 4-5 pages in the beginning (homepage, about the author, book page(s), and a blog). As your platform grows, you can add more bells and whistles, like a media page and an event calendar. But start small and grow from there.
- Offer a free excerptOne of my favorite things to add to an author page is an option to download a free excerpt of the book. I generally suggest the first 2-3 introductory chapters (including foreword/intro). This gives potential readers a chance to check out a sample of the book before they buy it. Plus you can capture their email in return for the excerpt and build your list. It’s much easier for someone to give you their email than purchase your book, and once they have a chance to check it out, they’re much more likely to buy it! In fact, I like to embed “buy buttons” right into the PDF download so they can click through to Amazon as they read the excerpt! You can offer the free excerpt in a variety of ways, but make sure you always ask for an email address in return. See #5 below for more on that.
I know, I know. Everyone seems to be saying “blog” these days, but there’s a reason for it. Creating a consistent stream of published content on your site benefits you in several ways: First, every time you publish a new blog, it’s an excuse to send more traffic to your site. You can share the link on Facebook, Linked In, etc, and encourage more people to visit your site to read the article. And when they do, they can learn more about you and your book! Second, the best way to improve your Search Engine rankings is to create consistent content on your site. The days of planting keywords in your code and inflating your SEO are over! Lastly, it gives you a chance to diversify your audience. If you have a book about “meditation,” for example, you can write a blog post about the connection between meditation and work performance and reach a new audience.
- Capture emails
One of the best ways to build an audience for your book is to build an email list. When you sell a customer a book (usually through Amazon), you’ve got a sale, but if get them to sign up for your email list, you’ve got a customer that you can promote many things to, including your book, future books, and other services you offer. Plus, subscribing to an email list is a much smaller step than buying a book, and allows you to more efficiently capture the interest of someone who is first finding out about you.
The best way to start getting emails to your list is to get an Email Service Provider (ESP) that will allow you to capture emails and send updates to your list. I recommend MailChimp for their simplicity and affordability (first 2,000 email subscribers are FREE). Then you’ll need an email capture form on your site. There are many available, but if you’re using WordPress (which I recommend!) I suggest Bloom. You can build forms embedded into the page, and also have them “Pop-Up” as people scroll through your site (these pop-ups are BY FAR the most effective).
- Make sure it’s easy-to-use
This is a big one. When you’re creating an author site, you generally have two choices: the DIY approach, or hiring a designer. Both are great, but there are a few things to know about each. I recommend the DIY approach only if you’re confident in your web abilities to a decent degree. And avoid the “super simple” templates like Wix or SquareSpace, as the end result will usually look unprofessional and out-of-the-box. I recommend using a wordpress-based “theme” that is easy to customize. A theme gives you a more professional look, but doesn’t lock you into a one-size-fits all approach. If you’re going to use a designer, I HIGHLY recommend asking them to build your site using one of these themes. Web designers tend to hate themes because, a) they can’t customize them like they want to, and b) they kind of put them out of work. But the more customized the design, the more you will become “addicted” to your designer in the future. I recommend using a theme that you will be able to use to make small changes to the site down the road. It’s more flexible. It’s cheaper. And it’s more rewarding.
Of course there are many other details that go into creating a website, too many for one article, but I hope you’ve found these tips helpful in your journey toward an author website!
And if you want to see some concrete examples of the tips above, check out my website, www.authoryourwebsite.com, where I list a series of author sites I’ve designed that include the elements I’ve been discussing. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me!