As an author, your website is one of your most important marketing tools. It's the first place potential readers will go to learn more about you and your work, and it's a great way to build an audience for your book before it's even published.
A professional author website is also a great way to build a buzz for your book and connect with potential readers. So if you're not already online, now is the time to start!
Just so we are clear, if you're looking for a straightforward answer on when to build an author website, my answer is: NOW!
In this article, I will share the benefits of having a reliable website over social media platforms and a step-by-step guide to setting one up, either by yourself or through a professional website developer.
Why a Website is Better than Social Media for Your Publishing Journey
If you are wondering whether or not you can use social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., to sell your book? Yes, you can. Infact, even TikTok is a great tool for authors! Have you heard of Book Tok??
However, while social media has a lot of benefits, there are some definite drawbacks to relying on it too heavily.
As an author, it's important to have a presence on social media. It's a great way to connect with readers and build hype for your latest book. However, you need to remember that you don't have the same level of control on social media as you do with your author website.
Social media platforms are owned by private companies, which means that they can change the rules at any time. For example, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are constantly changing their algorithms, which can make it difficult for your content to be seen by your target audience.
Additionally, privacy settings can also change without notice, which could impact how your readers see or interact with your content. That's why it's important to have an author Website that you can control. You can decide what information is presented, how it's presented, and when it's updated.
That way, you can be sure that your readers will always be able to find the latest news about your books.
Building A Loyal Following
The easiest and most reliable way to sell your books is to have a dedicated and loyal following. The most effective way to gain this is by email lists. One thing about social media following is that not everyone cares what your page posts; some even followed you unknowingly and do not engage with your content.
Whereas someone who subscribes to your mailing list is interested in your books and content. They want to be the first to know about your next project or event, and they are surely going to want to buy your book(s).
It Is Hard To Build An Email List Using Social Media
Not impossible but very difficult to build an email list from social media. The best way to get people to subscribe to your emails is by creating a professional website. You only need a page displaying an opt-in form, and all visitors who want to buy and keep buying your books will subscribe.
🌟Top Tip: It might be a good idea to use an Instagram tool, such as Linktree, to funnel any interested Instagram followers over to your site and have them sign up for your mailing list that way.
A website makes you appear professional. When all your work is presented on a well-arranged website, you are at ease of communicating with your readers in a professional, non-intrusive way.
When readers, especially new ones, want to find your works, all they need to do is type your name or title of your book, and the search engine brings them to your website.
It is easier than having your new readers scroll over hundreds of social media profiles that share your name trying to find you. It is also a good place to sell your author copies or run competitions and giveaways.
How to Set Up an Author Website
An author's website is an online representation of you. As such, you have to ensure it channels your professionalism and dedication.
- Decide What to Communicate Through the Website
The first thing you should do is decide what it will include; this is a vital step, especially if you want to hire a developer to do the work. You should be able to communicate your expectations with them rather than ask for their opinions. Remember, the website is your whole career; protect and direct the setup process as much as you can.
To guide you in deciding how to design your Website, I will recommend the pages you should include on your website. Most author websites, such as this one, have the following pages:
- A Home page. Herein, the reader gets an introduction to the Website. It is also where authors showcase their newest works or upcoming books and events, so be sure to include a banner for your forthcoming book/ event.
- An About page/ Author Bio page. On this page, you share your bio. Use this page to inform the visitor about yourself and your achievements. This page will help them to make a decision when subscribing to your email list, so create your bio carefully.
- A Books page. This is the page you use to showcase your work(s). Display all your books and prices, and under each book, a "Read More" link that will lead them to a description page dedicated to it. You can go into a lot more depth about the book, the back story and the inspiration behind it or the characters. And, format it in an easily digestible way. This is something you wouldn’t have been able to do efficiently on the book listing page on Amazon or social media.
- A Mailing list page. This is an email opt-in or signup page you will use to collect the email addresses of all readers who wish to stay connected with you. Use a service such as MailChimp to provide you with the form your subscribers will fill to form an emailing list.
- A Blog page. If you are not sure you should blog, other authors, such as this one, use it to advance their writing and keep their Website active.
🌟Top Tip: If you have written a novel and have fans of that novel, you can also use your blog to keep them engaged by creating your own sort of fanfiction or spinoffs from individual characters.
- A Contact page. Use this page to let your readers and the media know they can reach you directly. Herein, you can also link your social media pages and a direct email address you dedicate to correspondence about your books and events. It might be a good idea to also use a form for correspondences regarding wholesale book distribution. Very so often I receive emails requesting my wholesale prices, directly from my books site.
- Get a Domain Name
After you know the purpose of your website, it's time to start the creation process. You need to decide what name your website will go by or what your readers will search you by. A domain name should ideally be your name since you intend to use the website for marketing multiple books and events. Use your first and last names here, e.g., yourname.com, so it's easy for your readers to find you. However, if you have decided to publish under a pen name, it would make the most sense to use that as a domain name.
Once you settle on your domain name, the next step is to check its availability. In a likely instance that the domain name is unavailable, consider adding some information or characters, but ensure it still looks professional for an author. An example would be yournameauthor.com, or your-name.com, etc.
To search for a domain name availability, you can use services such as Namecheap and GoDaddy.
When you have a domain name you like, you should buy it as soon as possible, there is nothing more disappointing than your domain name's availability just falling off the face of the internet.
I mentioned NameCheap above, as a means to search available domain names but they also allow you to purchase the domain name if it is available. Alternatively, you could pay for a shared hosting plan with them and get your domain name for free.
Shared hosting will be the cheapest hosting available and more than sufficient for an author website.
- Create the Website
At this point, you can hire the services of a website developer if you doubt your abilities or want to speed up the process considerably. The following are the steps to follow once you have the website layout and domain name, regardless of whether you create it yourself or you hire a professional to do it.
If web design isn’t your thing, even the most basic website can take some time setting up. You can hire somebody inexpensively, to do that all for you, all you need to have is your colour scheme, logo and the page information ready to copy and paste. I tend to use Fiverr for such services, logo, web design, even covers and illustration.
A platform dictates your Website's success, and by extension, your books' success. The most successful platforms are WordPress and Squarespace. The best hosting companies include BlueHost, Inmotion, Hostinger, NameCheap and GoDaddy, among others. Take your time here; think of the costs and needs of your website and make your decision on which company offers the best package for that.
Just as NameCheap off hosting plus a free domain name, many other platforms will have their own deals, such as Bluehost. So again, shop around and choose which is best for you.
- Create a web hosting account and register your domain therein.
For example, create a hosting account (subscribe to a package) with BlueHost and purchase your domain therein. Most companies give you a free domain with your hosting package so it would be best to get it with them rather than via a service like Go Daddy and worry about changing Name Servers and all of that technical stuff.
- Install your platform.
From your hosting account's dashboard, install your preferred platform, e.g., WordPress. Once installed and set up, save the installation and login details the hosting company will provide. Your chosen company will likely have a more detailed step by step as well as online support chat to aid you in the process.
- Test the Website.
If you want to know if your website is live, type your domain name in a web browser, and see if it appears.
- Customize your website.
Once you confirm your website is live, go ahead and set your preferred theme, color and fonts, add widgets, add a sidebar, etc.
- Add Pages.
Once you are satisfied with the appearance of your site, it is time to create the pages you had decided upon in Step 1 and add all relevant content.
- Add Navigation.
With your pages all set up, add a navigation menu that your visitors can use to go from one page to the next.
Even if it is your first book, ensure you have a professional author website before you publish. A website gives you more credibility, is your online representation, and your first and most important marketing tool.
Creating the Website before your book is published gives you the chance to market it and pre-sell it. This way, you have the opportunity to prepare your shipping infrastructure.
You can also include the website address in your books going forward so all of your readers know exactly where to go for fresh, new releases. This is a method of marketing I talk about here.