Do you need an author website?

image by Mohamed_hasan to Pixabay

Do you need an author website?

This question often comes up in groups of new writers in relation to the cost and process of self publishing.

In this post, I’m going to talk about websites and what they can do for you.

I’m also going to explain why I think the question “Do you need an author website?” is the wrong question to ask.

It is a question that comes from the hope that you may not need one, and you are, in fact, looking for excuses not to have a website.

While having a website or not is a decision that can probably wait until you’re a little bit more established, the question should centre around what you can do with a website, rather than whether you need it. Because you can always find some big name author who doesn’t have a website and use that as an excuse not to have one.

Of course, if you absolutely hate the thought of having a website, you should probably not have one, unless you can pay someone to maintain it for you.

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s start talking about what you can do with a website.

Functions of an author website

Of course the most obvious thing is to display your books and series in a way that is pleasing to the eye, and is not cluttered with advertising for other books, as is so often the case on retailers, especially Amazon.

You can put character sheets and background information, photos of locations where your book is set, cut scenes, recipes, games, the examples are endless.

These things are the public-facing part of your website, and to be honest that is only a small part of its full functionality.

I would argue that the most important functions of your website are those that the public cannot see.

Search results – If you have a website that has your name in the title, even better if you own the domain with your name, and you put up posts that have your books as titles, and especially if you use some kind of SEO plugin, your books will guaranteed come up first in a search for your name and your titles.

You may say, but nobody ever searches for me, and I would say: 1. that’s a “you” problem, not a process problem, and also, 2: you’d be surprised. Never make assumptions.

So, having your books come up first in a Google search on your name, your titles or your series titles is hugely valuable. When people click on those links and go to your site, you can send people to wherever you please, whether that be the retailers, some kind of subscription service, Wattpad, Kickstarter, or your own store on your own website.

Don’t underestimate the value of this.

Another thing you can do on your website is to put forms for people to sign up for various series or to receive your newsletters or anything that you fancy.

Free websites do not allow you put forms or other things that require user input, although there may be a shortcut if your mailing list server allows you to make landing pages.

Another very important function of your website is that you can use redirect plugins to direct people to wherever you want. If they click a particular link, for example one that is in the back of your book, you can change where they get sent without having to reformat and re-upload the book. So, for example, you have a page that reads, you can change whatever that URL refers to.

And also, most importantly, any data that you get from people clicking your links, especially if those people are on your mailing list, is yours. If you send people to your book on Amazon, you don’t know what happens when they get there. Amazon collect the data about the behaviour of these people, and it is lost to you.

And last, but not least, you can use your website to sell books directly to your readers. This is a fairly advanced strategy that I have discussed in some other posts.

What do you need right now?

All these things may not be very important for you at the moment, so you might decide to not go all out on the website.

In that case, I would definitely advocate that you set up some place on the Internet that is going to be yours and is easily transferable to a fully blown author site once you are ready for it. WordPress, Wix and Weebly all have free options. Just grab a free account, and if you can and it’s still available, grab the domain with your name, and put up a few posts about your books. Don’t worry too much about this. You can always change it later.

It’s not a terribly good idea to solely rely for your home base on social media or any site you don’t own. Facebook can and does occasionally ban accounts. Other sites, like the popular Substack, may suddenly increase their charges or reduce functionality for free accounts, so it’s either pay up or go somewhere else. They have you by the proverbials. At the very least make sure you collect the email addresses of your readers and you have a way of contacting them. A fully blown website can always wait until later, when those advantages of a website I have mentioned in this article become important to you.

Selfpublishing Unboxed

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