Many new to the writing arena wonder if it’s absolutely necessary to create a website. So, to give you an idea of the magnitude and power of the internet, here are several statistics:
As of December 2011, there were 555 million websites (1)
There were also 220 million registered domain names during the same time period (1)
There are 1,500 blog posts added each minute (2)
There are 100 billion plus global searches conducted each month (3)
Of all internet users, 82.6% use search (3)
Studies found that online searchers are more likely to buy (4)
The internet is teeming with websites, information, and searches. And, if you’re promoting or offering anything, including a book, you must have an online presence. There is no way around this fundamental fact.
At this point, you may be asking yourself: When is the time to start my online presence?
The answer is simple: NOW.
If you intend to write a book, are in the process of writing a book, have a book contract, or have a book published, you should have a website. The website provides the foundation for creating and building visibility and your platform.
For those who aren’t sure what ‘your platform is, it’s what you’re about, what you have to offer, your niche and expertise. It’s about creating visibility and establishing an ongoing connection with your audience/readers (your target market) through valuable information.
PART ONE – THE FOUNDATION
Websites come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and which you choose will depend on what your intention is. You can choose a website or a blog and you can get either type for free from sites such as Weebly.com, Wordpress.com, or Blogger.com.
If you lack basic tech skills, haven’t any experience with websites, you may opt to begin with Blogger.com. It’s very user friendly and has many features similar to a website, such as Wordpress. But, there are a couple of significant drawbacks to Blogger:
1. You do not have a media file feature. This feature allows you to upload PDFs (ebooks) to your site, in order to link to, possibly for freebies you’re offering.
2. Images cannot be search engine optimized. This means the management system doesn’t allow you to make references to the image to allow search engines to find and categorize it for online searches.
So, before you begin, decide what your long-term goals are. Decide if you want the extra perks of a website like Wordpress. If you do, then go with Wordpress. It may take a bit of time, but you should be able to figure it out. If you just can’t get it, hire a freelancer to help you. Just don’t go for high-end website design services.
Note: Be sure that whichever you choose, the site has blogging capabilities. This means it allows you to post new information whenever you like. And, be sure you have control over making changes to the site, such as adding blog posts or updating information. If you do go with a web designer, some of them keep this control – don’t let this happen.
Note 2: If you have it in your budget, it pays to get a website that has hosting, such as through BlueHost or GoDaddy. You pay a monthly fee, but you are afforded customer service and forum help. Prices range from around $4 to $12 a month and up.
The Domain Name
After you decide which blogging platform you want, you will need to choose a domain name. This is a major decision. Here are some of the elements the domain name should possess:
Easily searchable. This means you should include keywords (words that the search engines will be able to find and categorize for online searches). An example of a keyword would be “allergy,” if you were writing about allergies. Another would be “romance,” if that’s the genre you write in.
Relevant to the site’s content. If you’re going to write about cooking, then you might have the word “cooking” in the domain name.
YOU should be your central author site. If at all possible, you should have your name in the domain name for your central site.
It’s often recommended to begin with a central author site. This site will be the hub to your ‘book’ sites. With an author site you can use your name as the domain name or possibly add the word “author” after it, or in the subtitle.
For a good look at how this works and looks, check out:
Okay, you decided on which site to get and you purchased your domain name. Now it’s time for the nitty-gritty. It’s time to build the site. But, before you jump in keep in mind websites are more effective if they’re simple.
To reinforce this ‘simple is better strategy,’ Google says that milliseconds count in regard to your page load time. Slow to load pages score poorer with Google.
To cement this strategy further, marketing expert Mike Volpe notes that it’s more important to spend time, and money if necessary, on content rather than a flashy website design. He emphasizes that simple works
For the rest of this article, we’ll go over what you’ll need to include in your author website.
PART TWO – 9 BASIC AUTHOR WEBSITE ELEMENTS
Your central author site needs to provide a lot of information for a number of people, including potential buyers, media sources, possible collaborators, agents, publishers, and editors. You never know who may be directed to your site or who may happen upon it.
For this reason, you need certain information readily available, and here are 9 of the basic must-have elements:
The About You Page
This page will have all your important information, including a full bio. You should include any relevant schooling, awards, achievements, memberships, all your site links, and so on.
You should also include a head shot on this page. People like to know (see) who they’re dealing with. You will also want to include your contact information.
The Media Page
The Media Page will have a list of all your events: school visits, bookstore visits, lectures, tours (virtual and other) and other relevant events. You will also include the book trailer; relevant videos; a podcast of you reading a section of the book; press releases; major broadcast and media clips; and so on.
In addition, it will include all awards you receive, for your books or as an author. And, it must have your contact information.
Note: If you have multiple books, the book trailers, videos, and podcasts should go on the individual book sites and you should include links to them.
The Reviews/Endorsements Page
List all your reviews on this page, including the reviewers’ name and link. Reviews help sell books. Also include any praise or testimonials you receive as an author.
The ‘Your Books’ Page
The ‘books’ page will list all your books, including a summary of each, and the cover images. And, be sure to include links to their individual sites and purchase links.
Note: The sites for your individual books can be simple. You may include an Illustration Page, a Reviews Page, a Buy Now Page, an About the Author Page, and possibly a Back Story Page on the process of writing the book. The Landing Page for each site should have a full description of the book, possibly an excerpt, along with the cover image and links to purchase.
You don’t need to update these sites regularly. You would update a particular site if there is important news to share about that book, say an award, upcoming book tour, or school visit.
The Contact Page
Yes, you already have this information on your About You Page and Media Page, but you also need a separate page for a visitor who doesn’t want to search through the pages to find out how to contact you.
Provide Valuable Content on a Regular Basis
This is an online marketing basic and one of the most important elements to your website. To draw and keep readers, you must provide information they want, information that will help them on their own journeys. Along with this, to comply with the new social search engine optimization strategy, the information MUST BE SHAREABLE (it must be information that readers will want to pass along to their own social networks).
You should post valuable information about three times a week. And, be sure to SHARE it with your social networks. That means post it to Twitter, Facebook, GooglePlus, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, Linkedin, and so on.
Note: Search engine optimization (SEO) is important, but for the basics you don’t have to go crazy over it. The main ingredient for an effective website is easy navigation, basic keywords, simplicity, and valuable content.
Almost all websites have either a SHARE gadget or plugin you can add to your site. It gives visitors the capability to share your content or pages to their social networks. This is an essential feature to add to your site.
Keep Your Site Focused
Keep the content you post relevant to the site’s niche. Think of your site as a target; you want to keep as close to the center of that target as possible. So, if you’re writing mysteries, keep your posts geared toward writing and/or writing mysteries. If your site is about sci-fi, do the same; keep it focused on writing and science fiction. If you write about history, you guessed it, keep it focused on writing and writing history.
If you begin to dilute your main focus, you’ll credibility as an expert in a particular area will decline. You don’t want to be known as ‘jack of all trades, master of none.’
The Opt-in Box
In the marketing world, it’s known that ‘first time visitors’ don’t buy. This means you need a vehicle to establish a relationship with visitors to your site. The way to do this is through a mailing list or subscriber list.
The opt-box is the tool that garners your visitors’ email addresses so you can keep in regular touch with them. This is a permission based system, which means the subscriber is aware he/she will be added to your mailing list and agrees.
Usually, in order to get a visitor to subscribe to your mailing list you need to offer them something of value. Think of it as a fair exchange. It might be a free ebook on writing or on the genre you write, or bits of excerpts of your book (if you’re traditionally published, you’ll need your publisher’s permission for this), or other site related content. The ‘ethical bribe’ needs to be something a visitor to your site will find of value.
Email marketing service providers include: chimpmail.com; icontact.com;, constantcontact.com; aweber.com; and campaigner.com.
That’s about it. Take the time to create an effective author website and it will be one of your most valuable marketing tools.
About the Author
Karen Cioffi is a multi-award-winning author, freelance/ghostwriter, editor, and marketer. Ignite your writing and marketing efforts with Karen and The Writing World newsletter. Get weekly tips and guidance, plus updates on free webinars, and TWO FREE ebooks! Go to http://thewritingworld.com and sign-up today.