When it comes to navigating all of the shoulds and should-nots of being an author, there’s a lot of conflicting advice online. Some people are diehard advocates of using every social media platform (not me), others insist on building an email list (me), but — realistically — the best strategy for you might not be the one you “should” do. So, if you’re trying to decide if you need a website or just trying to discover what needs to be on your author website, here’s what you need to know.
First of all, do I have to have a blog?
I’m going to put the nail in this one right away. No.
To be a little more long-winded, I honestly don’t think every author needs — or even should blog. Would it be nice? Maybe. Is it necessary? Definitely not.
Blogging takes a lot of time, energy, and mental effort that — let’s face it — not everyone has. (That’s okay, btw.) When you’re an author, especially if you’re also working full-time, taking care of a family, or simply trying to maintain some sort of balance, that comes with the responsibility to make decisions about what you can and can’t manage. Sometimes adding a blog to that list is too much, and many people (correctly) make the assumption that it’s better to not blog than to have a “meh” blog.
My philosophy is that you should always think about where your time is going to make the most impact. We only have a limited number of hours per day, and if you’re only able to dedicate X amount of time per week to building your brand as an author, creative, or [insert-the-blank] then you need to figure out which actions will be the most effective for that use of time.
Some things get cut. That’s not only expected, it’s actually a good thing. I would rather have less things to stress about so I can do a better job focusing on the things that remain. Cool? Cool.
Okay, so why do I even need a website?
If you’re an author, writer, or any sort of creative entrepreneur, having a website can be pretty helpful. It’s not always required, but it is something that I encourage.
Why? Because websites add legitimacy, they house useful information that people actually use (shocker, I know), and they can help you build your email list without even needing to do that much work.
Personally, I’ve had a website for the last 7 years. It’s changed a lot over the years — morphing from a landing page to a home for my journalism to the resource for creative entrepreneurs + big dreamers that it is today. It doesn’t require a lot of upkeep, and — even when it was just a landing page — it helped people find basic information like how to contact me. Sure, they can find that information on social media, but let’s be honest. Not everyone uses social media, and that’s okay.
What should I put on my author website then?
There are a few things that matter most when it comes to creating a website — any website — and a simple landing page for an author is no different. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does need the following:
A decent design.
It’s 2019, friends, which means your website needs to look like it’s from 2019. Or at least close. Out-dated websites and fonts (sorry, Comic Sans) aren’t putting your best foot forward, and sometimes that can be a big turnoff.
If you’re not sure how to create a stunning website, try using a website builder with templates like Squarespace or WordPress. You don’t need to hire a professional website designer to come up with something simple and functional.
The second biggest mistake you could make on a website (besides auto-playing music) would be to make it difficult for people to actually find stuff. Things need to obvious — and I mean SUPER obvious — because people don’t want to waste time searching for something that shouldn’t be that hard to find.
What basics should you include?
— Your name
— Contact information (even a simple email like [email protected] is better than nothing)
— A recent headshot
Links to your work (if applicable).
Y’all, this is one that should be obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget it. It’s not enough to just have the name of your book or a picture of it — add LINKS, friends! Everything should be clickable. Okay, not everything, but a lot of things should be. The name of the book, the book cover, a buy link — make it easy for people to click and buy/pre-order/learn about your book.
Links to your social media.
Another obvious one, but people still forget it. Update your social media links on your website! Especially if you’re using a template, don’t forget to fill them out.
Driving people to your social media encourages them to check out what you’re up to and connect with you, whether it’s an agent or a potential reader. Connections are what make stuff happen in this industry, so we should WANT them to find our social pages. Otherwise, how will they know that we’re working on an exciting new book idea, just won an award, or happen to have a golden personality that they’ll love. 😉
An email newsletter sign-up.
Okay, hear me out. Every author needs an email list. It doesn’t have to be particularly active, you don’t need to send out weekly updates, but you should start building it ASAP. Why? Because it’s better to get a headstart on this now than regret it later.
Email marketing is more relevant than you might think. It still offers much higher conversion rates than social media (yep). Plus, the average open rate for email is somewhere around 21% while social media engagement rates are ridiculously low. Don’t believe me? The average engagement rate for Facebook Pages is around 0.1%, Twitter is 0.5%, and Instagram is 1.6%.
Translation? It ain’t great.
It’s easy and cheap (free if you use a service like Mailchimp) to start building your email list, and I can guarantee that having an email list you never use is better than needing an email list and not having one.
In the long run, what you should have on your author website — whether you’re an aspiring author or a seasoned veteran — isn’t super complicated. It should be useful for people landing on it, easy on the eyes, and provide value (for both you and your website visitors) without needing a lot of upkeep.
Ready to move on to social media? Download your FREE copy of my Social Media Platform Planner to find out exactly what you should be doing to grow your brand. This planner is based on the thousands of hours I’ve spent working with authors and publishers on book marketing, so you don’t want to miss out. ✨