Vann is a professional graphic designer who has been creating websites since 1995. He is the creative director at Elegant Book Design and works with authors to create beautiful book covers as well as websites. Find him on Writers Boon and get 15% discount on her services.
One of the realities of self-publishing is the fact that you’re in charge of your marketing and promotion of your books.
While most publishing platforms offer some marketing tools within each platform, to maximize your book sales, build your brand and grow your audience, authors need a professional website and sound marketing strategy.
What is the purpose of the website?
An author website should go beyond offering basic information about you and your books. Think of your website as a marketing tool that helps you perform specific marketing objectives.
An effective author website should:
- Build your brand
- Connect you with new and loyal readers
- Link visitors to your books for online purchases
- Build your email list
- Announce news and events
- Link to social media
Building your brand
Building your brand is more than just having a distinctive book cover design. Your website can help promote and build your brand by offering great visuals and far more information about your books than is typically shown online through a publisher’s platform.
Connect with new and loyal readers
An author website can offer a blog so you can communicate with your readers, offering them insight into the world you create with each book you write. Blogging is easy to do and you can engage readers by writing short posts every week and allowing comments to be posted by your readers.
While many readers enjoy an author’s books and wait months or years for a new book to appear, the book publishing marketplace is a readers’ paradise and it’s easy for readers to discover other authors in the meantime.
One way to keep your readers wanting more is by blogging about your books.
Tease your readers with excerpts from forthcoming books.
You can also offer tidbits of information they might have overlooked when reading your books, or interesting facts you gleaned while researching your book.
Some readers like to know more about their favorite authors and a blog allows you to communicate on a more personal level.
Link to your books for online sales
Having teaser text on your website for each of your books is great, but having a direct link over to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks or other publishing platforms is even better. Many authors will have a webpage for each of their books, as well as a link from the book image or a “buy now” link which goes right to the various publisher websites where the reader can make a purchase. For readers who prefer shopping in a bricks and mortar store, you can provide information about store locations for your books.
Build your email list
If you are building your readership by using an email list, your website needs to offer a quick way for visitors to subscribe. Your website can automatically add addresses to an email marketing platform such as MailChimp or Constant Contact. MailChimp and Constant Contact are great email tools for managing subscribers and sending out great-looking email with news, such as information on forthcoming books and book signings.
You can leverage your email list by partnering with other authors to cross-promote one another’s books, creating a win-win marketing strategy.
Announce news and events
If you have an upcoming book signing or you are appearing at a book fair or other event, your website can be a great way to help spread the word and offer details about the where and when.
You can also offer a press area on your website with press contact information. Add an event calendar for another way readers and local press can learn more about where you will be appearing.
Linking to and from social media
Your website should link to your social media platforms, typically Facebook, but also Instagram, Twitter and others. Social media is important because current and potential readers spend a lot of time there and use social media to talk about what they are doing, including what books they are reading.
While social media is great for creating brand awareness and for letting your followers know more about you and your books, think of social media as fluid and fast-moving. Many authors will link from their social media back to their websites where more detailed information can be available all the time.
When you have a book signing announcement or public appearance, post it to Facebook. Better yet, have someone video broadcast you live at your book signing or post photos of you with readers on your Facebook page or Instagram. While social media is about people and what they are doing and thinking about, keep in mind that because social media is fast-moving, you will need to post something every few days in order to grow your following online and keep your audience interested.
Should you do it yourself or hire a professional website designer?
So, you’re fired up and ready to create a website – how do you start? Do you do it yourself or do you hire a professional?
There are pros and cons to each approach.
While there are many website publishing platforms you can use to build your website, there can be a steep learning curve on the fine-tuning of your website to make it more search engine-friendly. The time you spend building your website might be better spent working on your next book or you may not be comfortable making decisions about your website that seem overly technical.
Many DIY platforms – while inexpensive – typically have simple features and will become expensive when you want to add more advanced features. Also, you never own the website and moving from a “free” publishing platform to your own hosted website can prove an expensive lesson.
Building a website yourself can be a daunting challenge, but having a seasoned professional to answer your questions about Google, hosting, domain names, SEO and the like will help you get your website up and running quickly, and provide you with a resource for training and support as your website grows.
Last but not least, working with a website designer will allow you to create a professional, engaging website with all the website features you need to market yourself.