Gigi Griffis is a content strategist, copywriter, website consultant, and 12-time published author who travels the world full-time with her freelance business and her small dog, Luna. She adores tough mountain hikes, European summers, and the Oxford comma. You can find her at her travel blog, her business site, her DIY Website Workshops, or on Facebook.
It’s common knowledge these days that successful authors need an online presence. It’s how we connect with readers, share our ideas with the world, and—ultimately—sell our books.
For more authors, the first step in developing that online presence is getting a professional, beautiful website launched…but here’s the thing: the website actually isn’t quite the first step. Strategy is.
Before you start choosing a website builder, writing an About page, and choosing your social media icons—here are four strategic questions you should ask:
1. Who is the website for?
Who is your ideal reader? Take some time to really sit with this question.
Is that ideal reader male, female, adolescent, teenaged, a career professional, a retiree? Who are they fans of? Are they religious? What do they value? What matters to them?
The more you know about your readers, the better your decisions about your website will be.
If you’re writing for college students who are into comedy, an occasional swear word in your web content might be appropriate or add to the humor and voice of your site; if you’re writing for a devout religious group, it probably isn’t.
If you’re Tim Ferris, your audience is primarily male and so the colors, setup, and language on your site can have an intensity and bravado that wouldn’t be appropriate for Nora Roberts or Elizabeth Gilbert.
2. How can I help them?
Okay, so now you know who your audience is…so how can you help them? What do they want? What do they need? What do they dream about? And how can you speak to those things?
Knowing the answers to these questions will not only help you not only know which messages about your book will resonate with people, but also what other content you might want to create. For example, if your books are non-fiction business books for managers, you might decide a management blog or a video interview series with top management consultants is an additional helpful thing you can do for your audience.
If your audience is Romance-loving women between 40 and 60, sharing stories of love found late in life or links to other Romance authors whose books you love might be an added benefit to your readers.
Knowing what they want and need can help you determine where to spend your energy—and how to structure and design your site.
3. What do I want them to do?
Such a simple question—but one that people far too often forget: once those ideal readers reach your website, what do you want them to do?
Should they join your email list to be the first to know when your novel hits the shelves? Should they click through to your already-published books and buy one? Should they fund your Kickstarter?
Identifying exactly what you want your readers to do on your website will help you design the site and write your content around that goal. If, for example, your number one goal is for readers to fund your Kickstarter campaign, it should be front and center on the site.
If you want more newsletter subscribers, make your subscription attractive, easy to find and join.
4. What’s in it for them?
Now that you know what you want your readers to do on your website, it’s important to ask yourself the tough question: Why would they do it? What’s in it for them?
If you want someone to buy your book, why should they buy your book? What is compelling about it? How will it help them? Will it entertain? Educate? Keep them guessing? Is it a textbook that will help them understand the inner workings of the human brain or a romance novel designed to leave them feeling warm and fuzzy?
This question applies no matter what your goal is. Whether you want them to fund your Kickstarter, join your newsletter, or do something else altogether, it’s important to get clear on what’s in it for them. Because once you understand their motivations, it’s a lot easier to speak to those motivations—and then to hit your own goals.
“Join my newsletter to be the first to know when the book hits the shelves!” or “Join my newsletter for a free glimpse at my first chapter!” is much more compelling than just “Join my newsletter.”
So, what now?
Once you’ve answered those questions—once you’re clear on your audience, what they need, what you need from them, and what’s in it for them—it’s time to start the website creation process. And every step of the way, you’ll want to keep the answers above close at hand.
How exactly will those answers help you build a better website? Well…
Let’s say your goal is to get readers to sign up for your newsletter so that you can let them know when your book is officially available for purchase. Let’s say you also know your readers are women over 40 who love romance.
When you’re choosing a design for your site, based on this knowledge, you’ll want to pick something that has a big front-and-center way for people to sign up for your newsletter. When you’re writing content for the site, you’ll want to write something for that front-and-center newsletter sign up that speaks to that specific reader’s desires. For example, “Join my newsletter for monthly updates—and a free PDF with my all-time favorite romance authors who feature characters over 30!”
Your text might end up shorter in the end, but you get the idea. Knowing a few key things about your goals and your readers’ needs means designing your website around those things…instead of trying to wedge them in later. It’s much easier and cheaper to design your site with the newsletter front and center first than to go back and redesign two months later.
So, you’re ready to build your website…now what? You’ve got two options:
1) Do it yourself.
If you haven’t done it before, this can feel pretty daunting. There are so many decisions to make (who should I host with? Does it matter? Does SEO matter? If so, what do I need to know about SEO? Do I need a logo? What should I put on my homepage?)—and it can get overwhelming really quick. Especially if you don’t have any tech experience.
2) Hire an agency or a series of freelance designers, SEO experts, developers, and other web experts.
You’ll probably end up with a better end result, but agencies get pricey really fast. Averages for a website from an agency are currently at $15,000 or $20,000—and that’s without SEO, content, or strategy.
Really, neither option is ideal. Which is why I created another solution.
Instead of doing it all yourself or hiring a team of experts, what if you could do the site yourself, but with a web expert with 15 years experience walking you through every single step?
In my DIY Website Workshop, over the course of seven weeks we’ll go from strategy to content (including SEO) to design to launch—all with no tech experience required. Here at Writers Boon, we’re also offering a discount. So if that sounds exciting to you, check it out.