It’s time to take a deeper look into the author website.
Because whether you are just starting your writing journey, or have been in the business for a while, having a professional and effective online central ‘hub’ for your creative work has become essential.
Planning a successful career as an author today requires more than just a talent for writing, but a bit of business savvy as well.
And while many may cringe at the thought of the marketing, promotional, and commercial aspects of building their career as an author, those shrewd enough to leverage an author website to help build their online presence and platform, will inevitably come out on top.
With this in mind, I’ve developed a 3-Part Author Website series to help clarify why you should make this a priority if you want to see progress in your author business.
In this post, we’ll look at the purpose or core role of your author website and the essential elements you need to ensure it works for you, not against you.
In Part 2, we’ll look at various platform options, development and maintenance costs, and I’ll walk you through the setup, step-by-step.
And in Part 3, we’ll pull everything together and show you how to use your author website to brand, market, and grow your writing career.
The Purpose of Your Author Website
To understand the purpose of your author website, you first have to clarify your goals and objectives – for your author business in general, but specifically for your website.
Typically there are several functions authors expect their website to perform, so by clarifying exactly what you hope to achieve with your site, you are in a better position to accomplish those objectives.
- Is your goal to grow your writing business which incorporates not only book sales, but also services, coaching, or affiliate sales?
- Is your sole purpose to earn a liveable income from your writing, or are you hoping to create a movement?
- Is your goal to create an outlet to express your creativity and originality, or to provide educational information or entertainment?
- Are you trying to turn website visitors into prospects and customers, or simply to build a community of like-minded people?
When referring to author websites in this post, I’m making the assumption that you will be using your site as a means to an end, rather than simply for your own entertainment or as a social network.
If you wish to use your author website to grow your business, reach your target readers, convert them to book-buyers, or establish yourself in the online space – this post is for you.
Now let’s take a look at a few key reasons why your author website is (or can be) one of your best online assets:
1 // It Reveals Your Author Brand
Building a brand is a requirement if you hope to grow your author business and increase the value of your creative work over the long-term.
An author brand gives you control over the content and message you wish to share, helps you craft a unique experience for your visitors, and allows you to present yourself and the portfolio of your work in the best light.
By offering a cohesive online presence and experience via your author website, you establish trust and engagement with your potential readership.
Author website of bestselling author Hugh Howey
2 // It Creates Awareness and Increases Your Exposure
Whether you’re self-published, traditionally published (or something in-between), you are expected to do the lion’s share of the marketing and promotional work to create interest and gain exposure for your current and future books.
Think of your website as the central hub that houses all your professional assets.
It will allow you to showcase your authority in the form of social proof, awards, and recognition, as well as help promote your work at all stages of creation.
Awareness and exposure for your writing and personal brand will increase as you focus on specific strategies to entice visitors to your author website (and keep them coming back for more with valuable, relevant, and entertaining content).
Here are a few ways to draw attention to your work via your website:
- Content marketing: your strategy on what you’ll create, how you’ll distribute it to your target market, and how you’ll influence them to take a specific action – like buying your book.
- SEO, keywords, and search rankings: your strategy on your blog organization, how you’ll categorize your ideas, and determine topics that fit both your brand and readers’ interests.
- Networking: use your website and content to develop networking opportunities or collaborations.
- Paid or organic advertising and other promos: set up paid advertising or other promotions (including podcasts and interviews, guest posts for other websites, etc.), and direct everything back to one central hub.
3 // It Assists in Capturing Emails and Building Community Around Your Work
Having one central location to direct new or potential readers will allow you to simply and effectively build your community and fanbase.
Encourage visitors to join your email list, newsletter or “fan club” so that you can interact directly with your fans.
As your community evolves, you’ll get a deeper understanding of what your readers want or expect:
- get feedback (publicly or privately)
- test book covers
- launch discussions
- highlight current projects and events
Your author website can be an excellent way to open the door for people seeking a connection with you and your work, as well as for you to build a deeper relationship with your audience.
4 // It Increases Book and Auxiliary Sales
As you can see, once you’ve clarified your goals, your author website can be used to facilitate a variety of outcomes that will inevitably increase your book sales.
Thanks to technology, it’s cheaper and easier to create and maintain your website than most other forms of lead generation or advertising.
And by adding email sign up forms and simple sales funnels that bring readers further into the fold, you can nurture customers and fans over the long term.
Some authors will even go a step further and use their websites to create additional forms of income, like providing editing services, consulting or coaching packages, speaking or course options, or even merchandise sales.
Your Author Website vs. Social Media Platforms
It’s important to note that while social media can be an excellent way to engage with readers and fans, it’s best as a supplement to – but not a replacement for – your author website.
Social media platforms are invariably susceptible to change, and you have no control over the impact that even a small change to their terms of service may have on your business or your ability to reach your audience.
The purpose of your author website is to grow your author business and increase awareness of your brand so that you can connect and engage directly and meaningfully with your community.
All paths or activities lead back to your ‘author hub’, including social media.
The Essential Elements of a Remarkable Author Website
Now that we have a better idea as to the purpose of an author website, let’s look at the elements required to not only make it stand out but to facilitate the outcomes you’re hoping to achieve.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means I may garner a small commission at no cost to you if you choose to make a purchase.
A ‘Must-Have’ Checklist:
1 // Website Software, Hosting, and Theme
Website Software – WordPress.org is the world’s most popular content management system and is open-source software, backed by a community of designers and developers.
Site Hosting – Self-hosted WordPress hosting relies on using the software from WordPress.org, configured via a streamlined one-click installation script provided by your chosen hosting service.
When selecting the WordPress host that is right for your needs, you should evaluate providers for speed, reliability, security, and price. I use SiteGround as my hosting service for YourWriterPlatform.com (this is an affiliate link and a resource I highly recommend).
Domain Name – In most cases for authors this will be your name (or some variation), but there are a few things to consider before you decide on a domain name, which we’ll look at further in Part 2 of this series.
Website Theme – If you want full control (and have the skillset), a custom-coded design might best fit your needs. However, in most cases, authors choose either a free or premium, pre-made theme that requires minimal technical maintenance on their end. I like and recommend Elegant Themes (affiliate link), but there are thousands of themes available to choose from.
Email Service Provider – An email service provider, like Aweber (affiliate link), is a key component to your author website set up, even if you currently have “no audience”. It is never too early to start cultivating and building a community around your work, and email is the most direct way to communicate with your growing fanbase. Another, great email service provider (and the one I use currently) is Convertkit.
We’ll dive deeper into exactly how to set all this up in the second post in this series, but for now, this the basic framework of what’s required.
2 // Clear Site Navigation and ‘Architecture’
Having a well-organized website helps your visitors easily find what they are looking for. Plus simple and clear navigation also helps search engines in indexing your website pages easily.
Site organization and key pages:
Homepage – See section 3 below for a detailed explanation of your homepage setup.
About Page – One of the most viewed pages of any website, your About Page, may be as important as your homepage for clarifying to visitors exactly who you are, and what you have to offer. You can also use it to eliminate objections, give away valuable resources, or have visitors join your community.
Book Page(s) – Each book should have its own page on your author website with a detailed book description. Include the title, subtitle, publisher, book cover, and series and series number, if applicable. Also offer an excerpt, book reviews, and links to retailers. Depending on how you’ve organized your website, you may have all books on one page, with a link to a dedicated page for that book, or you may have a drop-down menu in your site navigation.
Contact Page – Some authors balk at this, but you should encourage your readers to reach out and connect with you. Provide a simple contact form and respond to messages promptly and dependably.
Email/Community Sign Up Page – Make it enticing for readers to sign up and be a part of your community. Provide an incentive (decide on something that your target audience would find valuable or intriguing). It’s never too soon to start growing your email list and developing relationships with your readers.
Additional or optional pages to customize your site:
Blog – If done right, blogging is an excellent way to increase traffic to your website and grow your authority in your topic area or niche. However, if poorly done, you’ll spend a lot of time and effort, but gain little traction. Determine for your particular goals if blogging is the right path, and then take the time to learn the most effective ways to incorporate blogging into your author website.
Events Page – A simple page to keep readers and fans up-to-date on your speaking engagements or appearances (online or off), giveaways, upcoming launches and promotions, or any other relevant news you wish to share.
VIP or Launch Team Page – Use this page to cultivate a smaller group of readers who are happy and willing to have a greater role in supporting your writing career. Clarify who you believe will be a good fit, and any requirements that you require. Also note the perks and benefits of being a part of this special group.
Resources Page – This can be a helpful (and profitable) page on your author website that lists your favorite or most recommended tools. Some of the links to the tools may be affiliate links (to earn passive income), but they should be products or resources that relate to your book topic/genre and the needs and desires of your audience. Another option is to create a resource page for guides and activities, like JudyMoody.com:
Press/Media Page – Make it easy for the media, reviewers, or interviewers to give you press. Provide everything that they might need to do their job well on one page. This increases your chances that you’ll not only get coverage, but the coverage you want. Your press/media page is a collection of author photos, book covers, other media coverage, testimonials, and review quotes.
3 // A Compelling Homepage with Clear and Visible CTAs
The job of your homepage is to quickly and clearly communicate what your site is about, and why you, rather than competing sites that offer similar books or topics.
What exactly do you promise, and what is the value you hope to deliver to your readers?
Optimize your CTAs. Your call-to-actions (CTAs) are gateways to other pages, promotional items, product galleries, and so much more. So make it tempting for readers to click!
Focus on your author brand. Include a headline or logo (usually your name or author business name), a tagline, and some short introductory text to clarify and expand on your headline. Ensure your color scheme, images, and graphics work well together, and further your brand expression. Even your website copy should be adding to the experience for the visitor.
Make it easy for readers to find what they are looking for. Keep your layout clean and easy to navigate. Provide easy-to-locate links to second or third level pages, and use your site navigation links to provide access to all areas of your site.
Reassure first-time visitors that they are in the right place. Show readers you can give them what they are looking for. Add snippets of reviews, “as seen in”, and other forms of authority to help build trust. Don’t use your homepage to sell (the selling will take place on the second or third levels). Use it instead to entice people to find out more.
Provide a compelling incentive. Again, create one or more opt-in incentives to encourage visitors to become part of your community by joining your email list. There should be multiple opportunities on your author website for people to opt-in, but particularly so for your homepage.
4 // A Fully-Optimized Website
Both for visitors and for search, it is important to ensure your author website is optimized. This includes a site that is regularly updated, mobile-friendly, and fast.
Research and strategically use keywords throughout your content. Use keywords on your home page, in header tags, title tags, and meta tags, in the anchor text used to describe links, and in the URL of new pages.
Include social media sharing options. Make it easy for visitors to share your posts and pages across their own social media accounts by including share buttons on posts and key pages of your website. (I currently use Social Warfare Pro on this site and love the simplicity. Please note that this link is an affiliate link.)
Encourage follows on your social platforms. You can use a WordPress plugin like Simple Social Icons to customize and display icons that link visitors to your various social profiles.
Add essential plugins and widgets. Plugins can add a lot of functionality to your author website. There are thousands of options, but here are a few to consider: Akismet (spam filter), W3 Total Cache (site speed optimization), WPSmush (image optimization), Yoast SEO, Updraft Plus (for backup), Sucuri Security, and Cookie Notice (for GDPR compliance).
Build good incoming or backlinks to your website. This can increase your search engine ranking and website traffic. List your author website in relevant directories or forums, and offer to write guest posts for websites with similar topics to link back to content on your website.
Optimize your images. Large, high-quality images can slow down your website considerably, so use options provided by your web host, a plugin like WPSmush, or a photo editor to optimize your photos for web publishing.
Audit your website from time to time. Click on links and update them regularly. Monitoring the performance of your website is important if you want to track whether it is working well, or not. Keep a list of your objectives and metrics on-hand to check whether you are moving towards your goals.
It’s Time to Get Started…
Your readers want to know more about you, so if you haven’t already it’s time to set up your professional hub and showcase your creative work.
Your author website allows you to control what people see when they search for you, the actions they take when they are on your website, and the experience they get as part of your online community.
I’ll help you get everything set up in Part 2 of this series, but for now, if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comment box below.