Creating a writer’s website can be daunting, especially if it’s your first.
Does it have to cost a lot? Should you hire someone to design it? How often do you need to update? These questions and more can result in an author’s head spinning, but a few tips may help.
1. Yes, you need a website.
In the information age, a website is necessary thing for a writer…even if you’re not published yet. It gives you a chance to start building a following before you ever have a book published. Let’s say you signed a book deal and your book is coming out in two years. If you start a blog today, you have zero followers, but if you’re blogging consistently and interacting with people on social media, you can build that number from zero to 100 and then to 1,000 followers by the time your book comes out. Since they’ve had this time to get to know, they’ll not only be interested in buying your book, but helping you launch it because you’ve built a relationship with them. If you don’t launch a website until your book debuts, you don’t have a built-in audience behind you.
A website also gives you a platform from which to present yourself the way you’d like to be seen. Think about it. If an agent or editor is considering working with you and they type your name in to a search engine, what will they see? A website gives you a chance to put your best face out there.
2. Decide what you want your website to do.
A good author’s website serves a purpose. If you have books, the website gives you a showcase for the book where you control the things said about the book and the length of the commentary. That’s always nice. An author’s website also gives you a place to put the stuff you’re going to be asked by kids who are working on “about the author” school reports, so be sure to include a biography and some things about your writing process.
A blog is a great way to always have fresh content on your site which helps when people search for you online. Another way to get people to your site is to offer free content. such as a coloring page for kids, a curriculum guide for teachers, or an exclusive article for adult readers.
If you’re looking for work-for-hire opportunities, a website can include a list of your published works and samples of your writing. I’ve actually gotten work offers because of samples on my website. And a website can be a kind of portal, a central location linking all the places you exist online: your Facebook, your blog, your Twitter handle, etc.
3. Keep things clear, fast-loading, and professional.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have cute. Visitors like something to look at. But it does mean you should skip the black backgrounds and drippy white text because clutter is the death of a good author’s website. You want the content to be easily consumed. Visitors tend to be impatient at best.
4. Keep navigation easy.
On every single page of the site, you need a link back to the homepage so visitors never feel stuck, wondering how to get back to something they saw earlier.
5. Watch copyright violations!
Be sure every image you use on your site is actually yours. Don’t copy cute graphics or photos from around the web. Just as you wouldn’t want website creators to plop your story on their site just because they liked it, so also you don’t want to do that to artists and photographers around the web.
6. Visit a lot of author sites before you start yours.
It’s always valuable to look at websites and see what you like and what you don’t. The more you visit sites by other authors, the more you’ll understand how a website works from the perspective of the visitor.
7. Updating your site is easier if you link to (or embed) your blog and
other social networking materials.
If you’re like a lot of us, you’re already posting new material (even if it’s just chatty stuff) online. If your author website allows the visitor to find all that stuff smoothly, then you’re “automatically” updating your site all the time. Be sure also to keep your publication lists up to date (mine isn’t; bad Jan!)
8. Start small.
There is no need to invest in a massively expensive website
if you’re unpublished or if you have only a few magazine credits. It can be very inexpensive to buy your domain (website) name, which should be your name (i.e. www.yourname.com) or a version of your name (i.e. www.authoryourname.com). Once you purchase your name, you’ll need hosting and WordPress.org which has free themes you can use to customize your website. Having these three things in place will let you start small and continue to grow your website as your career grows.
So don’t be afraid of author’s websites. They don’t have to be costly and
they can actually be fun. Give it a try.
With over 100 books in publication, Jan Fields writes both chapter books for children and mystery novels for adults. She’s also known for a variety of experiences teaching writing, from one session SCBWI events to lengthier Highlights Foundation workshops to these blog posts for the Institute of Children’s Literature. As a former ICL instructor, Jan enjoys equipping writers for success in whatever way she can.