computer opened to a google search for an authors website with an writer typing on the keys, a white mug of coffee sitting nearby

Author Website or Blog- Why You Need One and How to Make It Work For You

If you ask writers about the need for an author website or blog, you’ll get a LOT of empassioned responses: don’t have one, do have one, they’re expensive, I don’t need one because I’m not published yet, I just do social media…

This isn’t a popular opinion, but you DO need and author website (or at least a blog) and BEFORE you publish your work. Here’s why and some options to consider for optimizing your marketing.

Social Media Presence

If you’re banking on social media to keep you connected to your potential buyers, you risk a lot.

  • Social media reach: While you may have “7.5K followers” on X, are they actively engaged followers that might buy your book someday? Or did they just hope you would follow them back to boost their own numbers?
  • Followers: Who are you interacting with? In many social media spheres, authors share/commiserate/rejoice with …other authors. In some cases, like THE GRIM READER (a craft book FOR writers), this audience makes sense. But you can’t expect your 7500 writer-followers to be interested in buying your dystopian, post-apocalyptic romantasy (ok, maybe I would!). YOUR audience is (mostly) readers. Finding readers interested in your genre should be a main focus.
  • Social media instability: As we’ve all seen over the last few years, social media is constantly in flux. One day there’s Twitter…the next, people are bailing to go to Mastadon (where IS that now?) or Blue Sky. Instagram was a hot ticket until TikTok (or BookTok) came along. If you have banked ALL your marketing into a social media platform and it goes away (MySpace, anyone?) you lose ALL your followers in the blink of an eye.
  • Maintaining social media: So, is the right answer to be on every.single.platform? Probably not. It’s haaard to keep up with even one. Try keeping up with 3 or 4 or 5. Actively. Not once a week…daily! Hmmmm.
a set of scrabble tiles spelling blog

The Value of an Author Website (or Blog)

  • A place to call home- when all the world’s shifting and changing around social media platforms from day to day, your site will be there. You can direct social media followers to the site. If you get on podcasts, go to book fairs, book signings, etc…you can direct your customers to your home. And agents and publishers WILL ask to see your platform!
  • Options- With your own site, you have your own options. You get to decide the set-up: do you want a blog? or a website? Do you want to have a separate page to sell your books or just add a link to your Amazon page within a blog post?
  • Costs: Let’s just get this one out of the way, since it’s usually the big sticking point for writers.
    • Free!
      • There are free sites to choose from. Mine was on WordPress. But there are many other places to blog.
    • Paid:
      • Eventually, I not only needed to have a way to sell The Grim Reader as it came out, but to expand to have both my non-fiction and fiction work on the same platform. I decided it was time to go with a more formalized site.
      • Do it yourself hosting:
        • There are many services out there offering to set your site up for a fee, and allow you to use pre-built templates to make your website or blog. It all looks so easy, too! So of course, I did this! Honestly, it was a disaster. I had a couple of days where my site was broken, the hosting company did not care, and I was reduced to a crying puddle of hate…all while I was trying to have a visible platform for a new publisher that was reading at my manuscript.
      • Get help!
        • I chose this option (after many tears and lots of chocolate). I reached out to some of my writing pals (YES! this is another time all those contacts come in handy!). Thankfully, they connected me to a writer whose full-time gig is designing websites for…writers! OMG. She spoke my language. She new what I needed (and what I didn’t). She was cost conscious. I felt the money I spent was reasonable AND my website was up and running within an afternoon. Better yet? She set it up so I can take care of the site myself. She taught ME to edit, fix, and add to it. And then? If I need her, she’s available. (I pay a yearly retainer, but she has other programs, too!). There are many other options, of course, including paying for full web design and management. But that does get costly, and many of us fledging authors don’t have a bunch of cash to spare. If you do (YAY!!!) go for it!

What Should You Include on Your Site?

While you have a lot of design flexibility (depending on the kind of site you choose), there are some crucial elements to consider, to make your information useful and enticing for readers to return.

“Consider ‘white space’ as a design element…” Chris Sigfrids

  • Clean and sharp
    • Do:
      • Make your pages and posts clean from clutter (such as too many pictures or links). Pick a few that work and pull your reader’s eye down the page.
      • Add a link or two, including the important link to purchase your work.
    • Don’t:
      • The worst pages I’ve seen are filled with several videos, too many pictures, lots (and lots) of links, and long prose down the page. By the time I’ve scrolled awhile, I’ve lost interest and forgotten what I was even reading about.
  • Branding
    • Do:
      • Many writers cringe at the idea of branding, but, it not only looks professional, it helps readers remember you amongst the masses of writers online. It doesn’t have to be fancy- pick somthing that reflects you and your writing. For ideas, check out the links on this month’s IWSG blog hop for ideas. For me, I’m both a triathlete and a pharmacist. I’ve blended the two together on my home page and as my target for writing topics.
    • Don’t:
      • Don’t just do something odd or offbeat for the sake of shock value to get readers to remember you. Be You.
  • Useful navigation menu
    • Do:
      • If you have more than one page on your site, having a clear and easy to navigate tool bar is very important. Don’t make your reader hunt for your information. An example of mine is here.
      • If you have a single blog page, make the links highly visible.
  • Pop-ups
    • Do:
      • Create a pop-up box feature. Pop-up boxes can be very useful to direct readers to sign-up for a newsletter or follow your page. Even more importantly, you can collect their contact information, building an email list that will come in handy to notify followers as your book baby is about to be born.
    • Don’t:
      • You’ve all been to websites where pop-ups keep covering the page and annoying you over and over again. Be mindful when designing yours! Mine pops up several seconds after a visitor accesses my site, but then it leaves them alone.
  • About me
    • Do:
      • Make yourself human to your followers. Let them know a little bit about you. Just like your characters in your stories, make your readers care about you, even if just a little. I do Ironman triathlons. I make Shortbread- an old family recipe. I worked in a newborn intensive care unit as a pharmacist. These are facts my readers learn about me. They also give me credibility for the content of THE GRIM READER.
  • Comments
    • Do:
      • Whether it’s a separate comment form or one within a post, give your readers the ability to leave a comment (this helps engage your readers with you). Everyone loves to add their opinion to posts, so give them a chance to weigh in.
      • Can comment forms really help? Oh, yes! Recently, I got several emails through my comment (contact) form. Two offered guest spots on their podcasts. One wanted assistance checking the reality of a scene involving a villain drugging another character.
    • Don’t:
      • Don’t make the comment section hard to find. On posts where the pages scroll and scroll…and scroll…before getting to the bottom, sometimes I’ve had a terrible time finding the comment icon. I often just give up. Don’t do this to your readers!
  • Posts:
    • Do:
    • Don’t:
      • Stay away from vitriolic, whining posts that may lose you readers. Readers often want escape, not to be embeded in politics or anger.
      • Don’t just post to post. Post something useful for your readers…people don’t have time to waste reading fillers.
  • Stream of consciousness: I see so many blog posts where writers just start to write… and a page later I still have no idea where they were headed or what they wanted to say. It’s a little bit like those online recipes where, before getting to the “how to make this,” you must get through rambling prose that starts something like “When I was a child…” ARGHH!

Help!?!

If you want to do a deeper dive into the options for an author website or blog and what to include, there are wonderful resources on the web. I’m linking several great articles below. In addition, check out the a variety of styles via the blog hop (below) to get an idea of what you like. Even better, the IWSG blog hop this month includes posts about just what writers like (and what they hate) about websites and blogs. How timely!

Check Out the Following Great Resources:

Insecure Writer's Support Group Logo

Insecure Writer’s Support Group Blog Hop!

This post is part of a monthly share by writers willing to share their insecurities, questions, and support each outher through this writing journey. Check out some of the bloggers, below. And visit IWSG to join in on the fun next month and get information about an upcoming 3/27/2024 PITCH CONTEST!

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