By Mariah T.
As an author, what is the best way to reach your target audience, your readers? How can you showcase your talents for publishers, literary agents, and the media? The best way to accomplish these things is by having an author website. Social media is necessary, and you should certainly have a presence on the main ones, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. However, these are insufficient on their own because they are third parties and you have no control over them. They could close down or change the rules at any time, leaving you at their mercy. There is no substitute for having a base that you control and that will serve as your primary online home.
Before focusing on the specific details of an author website, there are basic things you need to know and do first. The two primary tools you need to get started are a domain name and a hosting platform.
The Domain Name
Every website needs a domain name. Think of your website as your home, and every home needs an address. Your domain is your address. Domain names normally begin with “www” and end with “.com” for example, http://www.authorwebsitename.com. This domain is what people will type in their browser’s address bar to navigate to your website. Many providers are available for you to purchase a domain name, and it is best to purchase one individually rather than as a part of a hosting package so that you have full control over the name.
Domain providers include companies like Namecheap, Name.com, and GoDaddy. You will pay an annual fee for the right to continue using the domain, and you can register it for one year or multiple years. As an author, you could choose a domain name based on a single book; however, if you have or are planning to write more books, it’s probably best to use your name. You may have to play around with options if the domain name you want is already taken.
The Hosting Platform
Once you have your domain name, you then need a hosting platform, which is where all the files and other media on your website will live. Think of the hosting platform as the land on which your home (website) resides. Without hosting, you can type your domain name into the browser, but it won’t reach its destination. Popular hosting platforms include Hostgator, Bluehost, and GoDaddy. Most hosting platforms offer domain names as well, but as stated earlier, it’s always best to purchase the domain name separately rather than as part of a hosting package. Some hosting platforms actually hold the name hostage if you choose to move to a different platform, so it’s in your best interest to retain full control.
Author Website Sections
Your author website should consist of clearly identified pages or sections. The goal is to ensure a seamless experience and easy navigation for your website’s visitors. The following are ideal pages for an author website:
Your Home Page
As the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” People will land on the homepage when they first visit your website, so you need to have the important information here to provide an overview. For example, your pen name, the type of genre you write in and whether your works are fiction or nonfiction, etc. Providing this information ensures that visitors don’t waste time on content that doesn’t interest them. A great example of an author’s homepage that sets everything up nicely is Brandon Sanderson’s.
About the Author
What do you want the world to know about you? This is where you’ll share your biography to provide insight into you as the author. This can include anything from awards you’ve won to personal details such as whether you have pets. You may provide your contact information on this page or use a separate page for that purpose.
This is the main area of interest on your site. Do you have books published already? You’ll want to list them and link to where they can be purchased. If you have any upcoming books, you can list those as well and post updates about their progress to wet the reader’s appetite for what’s to come. At a minimum, you need the title of the book, an image of the cover and a synopsis of the book. This is also a good place to provide a list of the table of contents or sample chapters. You can also provide testimonials and reviews for social proof. A simple, clean example of an author’s book page is J.K. Rowling’s.
Your Contact Information
Many readers want to contact an author, so be sure they have a way for them to connect with you. You may set up a separate section on your website for this, or you may place the information in the website’s footer or sidebar. You’ll want to provide links to your social media pages and provide either an email address or a contact form.
Running a blog is optional but is a nice feature to have. You can use it to update your readers on various information, including book release dates, behind-the-scenes tidbits, character backgrounds and more. You can also hold a Q&A session once a month to give your readers a glimpse into your world as an author. If you hold book signings and other events, your blog is a great place to share that information.
A newsletter is also optional and it will often contain content similar to a blog. The difference is that readers sign up to be notified about pertinent information by email. They may not remember to visit your blog, but if you have their email address, you have direct access to share book release information and other details with them. You can offer free sample chapters or a free report to entice readers to sign up.
Your author’s website is your most valuable asset and serves as your platform to the world. Once you choose your domain name and hosting provider, you are ready to start building the sections that will make up your website. Whether you are already published or are merely thinking about your first book, you absolutely need a website. It will give you credibility, serve as a showcase for your existing works and works in progress, and allow you to build a following. There are thousands of examples of author websites and if you are looking for inspiration for creating your own, check out some of the websites of these authors here.
For more author tips and writing advice, check out more posts from Digital Pubbing!