Authors are told to create and maintain a website as part of their long-term marketing efforts and author platform. Why do you need an online presence? How do you build an author website? Keep reading to find out!
Why do authors need a website?
Building an author platform looks different for every author, but a website is the hub for all your online efforts. You need a central place to tell your unique story, to showcase your work, and to market to your target readers. And a website gives you an opportunity to stay current between projects — you can write blogs, keep readers apprised of your latest events, and stay in touch with book clubs. A thoughtful website is a meaningful investment in your long-term goals.
Your author website does 3 essential things:
It tells Google and other search engines precisely who you are. It is where readers and search engines go for authoritative information on you.
It gives you a platform that you own (versus a Twitter account or Amazon author page) from which to build relationships with fans and media sources.
It provides a logical place for others to link to when they write about you and your work.
Well-designed author websites:
Establish your credibility as a writer
Make it easy for people to find and purchase your books
Encourage visitors to sign up for your email list
Allow people to easily contact you
Present a professional appearance
Alert your readers to book signings and festival appearances
How do you make an author website?
Step 1. Buy Your Domain
Before you do anything else, purchase a domain. Typically, this will be your author name. If yourname.com is not available, consider yournameauthor.com, yournamebooks.com, or yournamewriter.com. John Green, author of The Fault In Our Stars, uses this naming convention for his website. Also consider purchasing domains for individual book titles — you might not have plans for these immediately, but they could prove useful in the future. It is important that you retain ownership of both your domain and website.
Step 2. Gather Your Assets
Even if a professional will implement your website and email marketing plans, you need to supply them with a few basics to get started. Simple tasks you can take care of today:
Images. Website images will include your headshot and any book covers. Perhaps you also have foreign covers to display or other marketing materials provided by your publisher. If you work with a web designer, they can help you select other photography or artwork that your site may require.
Bio. Authors often display a short bio on the Home page linking to a more detailed bio on the About page.
Book Descriptions. Have descriptions of each book ready to go.
Purchase Links. Where can your visitors buy your books? Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound are fairly standard. Have a list of links complied for each book leading to all the major retailers.
Contact Information. Most new authors will want to include a contact form directed to their inbox. You may also want to include relevant information for an agent or publicist.
Social Media Profiles. Gather up login info and/or links to your Facebook author page, Twitter, Goodreads, etc.
Reviews. Collect any positive recognition or reviews that your work has garnered in the media. Reviews provide social proof and can help sell your work.
Step 3. Choose A Website Builder
Are you debating which web platform you should use for your author site: WordPress vs Squarespace? Whether you plan to DIY or hire a professional, Squarespace is hands down the best website builder for professional authors, writers, and bloggers (scroll down for more info).
Step 4. Organize Your Content
Step 5. Optimize the Site
Website optimization is a broad topic, but familiarize yourself with the basics of SEO. Start with SEO-friendly content, use keyword-rich headings and titles, and remember alt-text for your images. If in doubt, hire an SEO expert or seek training.
Step 6. Promote Your Work
Showcasing your work is one of the most critical aspects of the website. While it is important to introduce yourself to readers, make sure you present your work front and center. Site visitors should instantly know you are an author with books for purchase. Use strong calls-to-action to encourage site visitors to explore your site and take action.
Step 7. Capture Site Visitors
Most author websites use a lead magnet to capture email addresses. This allows you to hook interested readers and build a list for future publications all at the same time. How do you do this? To start, you will need an email marketing program in which to collect emails (i.e. MailChimp). Then you can offer content giveaways in exchange for a site visitor’s contact information. Place an email signup prominently on your site and consider using a pop-up. Offer a chapter of your new book or other content to compel visitors to subscribe to your list.
Step 8. Keep Content Current
Even if you don’t have a newly released book, that is no reason to let your online home gather dust. A website is one of the easiest ways to stay active online. When people visit your site, give them something new to see each time: updated social feeds, regular blog posts, or a list of recent appearances. Then when your next book comes out, you won’t feel like you are sweeping cobwebs from your digital space. Remember, anything on the web related to your work — press releases, book reviews, etc. — can lead visitors back to your website, so make sure it shines!
Step 9. Maintain the Site
See the point above about the importance of staying current. But if you don’t plan to spend much time updating your site, then over time you will want to remove content pages as they become irrelevant. For example, if your last book appearance was three years ago, hide your Events page until it is needed again. If you rarely blog, hide the dates on blog posts and write about evergreen topics. And if you are busy writing your next book, let someone else help with ongoing website maintenance.
What is the best web platform for author sites?
Squarespace is our preferred website platform for authors and writers. Why? The all-in-one website builder offers easy-to-maintain, award-winning templates that can be customized to your liking. Comprehensive marketing tools and powerful blogging features help you engage with your audience. And Squarespace gives you round-the-clock support, unlimited hosting, and top-of-the-line security. Authors who move from Wordpress to Squarespace enjoy the easier maintenance. And thanks to the platform, your Goodreads author profile displays right along with your other social media icons.
Related Services // Author Website Design — Whether you are building your own site or hiring a pro, we are happy to help. We are experts in migrating websites from other platforms, such as Wordpress to Squarespace. And for DIY writers, we offer Squarespace hosting discounts and trainings or walkthroughs before you launch.
Every author needs a website