Finding time to write can be a struggle.
Most authors have day jobs, or families, or social lives… or maybe all three.
So if you manage to find the time to finish a writing project, whether that be a novel, a nonfiction book or anything else, you’re doing well.
But then there’s the time you need to set aside for marketing it. More time!
At the bottom of the mounting to-do list that being a busy writer involves, there’s probably an item you keep putting off and maybe worrying about… your author website.
It’s tempting to not bother. After all, these days, everyone’s on social media, right? They can find you on Twitter, or Facebook, or maybe Instagram.
Wrong. Even in 2019, social media won’t be enough if you want to find readers and sell books. You need an online marketing platform that you have total control over – and that’s your website.
In this post, I’m going to show you why social media isn’t enough if you want to showcase your work and attract readers, and give you some tips for getting up and running with a great author website – without writing any code or spending much (or even any) money.
Why You Need an Author Website
You’re still doubting me, right? You use Facebook every day, and all your friends do. Plenty of them are readers, so why shouldn’t they look for authors and find books on Facebook?
And you know JK Rowling is famous for her tweets, so you know you can use Twitter to find readers too.
Well, no. Sorry, but social media is a really, really tough way to reach readers. And it’s only getting tougher.
If you want to have a professional presence as an author on Facebook, you’ll need to set up an author page instead of using your regular profile to push your books. There are three reasons for this:
- If you want to run ads for your books on Facebook (which can be very effective), you’ll need a page to run those ads from.
- Your friends are not your target audience. How many of them read in the genre you write in?
- Do you want to bore your friends with constant writing updates, or do you want your readers to see the stuff you only want to share with your friends?But Facebook pages have a problem, and that’s reach. If you post to your Facebook page, only a minority of your followers will ever see that post.And that’s because Facebook wants you to pay them to boost that post, so you can guarantee that all your followers will see it.
That seems pretty harsh. They’re your followers, and you worked hard to get them to like your page. Now you have to pay to talk to them?
Yup. And the proportion of people seeing your posts organically (i.e. without you paying) is continuing to shrink.
So you need a platform that you have control over. That won’t make you pay to get your message out and show people your stories. And that platform is your website.
Once you have an author website you can:
Put a link to it in the back of all your books, so people can find out more about you.
Use it to gather mailing list subscribers and offer people a freebie (a novella or short story maybe) in return for their email address.
Even sell books directly through it, as long as you own the rights. (You will if you’re self-published, you probably won’t if you’re with a publisher.)
Have I convinced you yet?
Good. Read on.
Creating an Author Website
So you know you need an author website. Your next-door neighbour has a thirteen-year-old son who’s a total geek and can do it for you for free. Fantastic.
I’ve worked with lots of people who needed a website over the years, and many of them have started out with a freebie that a friend, colleague or relative put together for them. In every case, it hasn’t gone well.
There are plenty of website providers out there that will let you set up your own website for free or at a low cost. And it means you have control over your site. You don’t have to wait for someone else to fix it if it crashes. You don’t have to tear your hair out because they didn’t update your site when your new book came out. You can do it all yourself, and without writing any code.
Here are some of the options available to you for creating an author website:
- Use a website builder like Wix or Squarespace. These are easy to use and intuitive. The free plans are quite limited, though – you’ll struggle to get them to link to your mailing list provider, for example. But if you have zero experience, these can be a good place to start.
- Use a blogging platform like Blogger. These are free and easy to get started with, but they look very old-fashioned in most cases and won’t reflect so well on you as a professional author.
- Use WordPress.com’s free website platform. This is the best place to start if you have no budget and no experience. There’s loads of support available, you’re joining a vast community of fellow bloggers (many of whom might follow your site) and you can choose from a variety of themes to make your site look the way you want it to.
Get yourself a hosting package and a self-hosted WordPress.org site. This uses the same software as WordPress.com but gives you lots more flexibility. And even better – the site is 100% yours. You aren’t reliant on anyone else’s service and you own the content and the code.
Which one you use is up to you. If you want a more comprehensive guide to the pros and cons of each, my FREE Author Website Blueprint will steer you through the maze.
And if you’ve decided you want a WordPress site, my book WordPress For Writers will give you a step by step guide to creating and managing your site, either on WordPress.com or WordPress.org.
For more resources on author websites, including tips on setting them up and getting the most from them and round-ups of the best themes and plugins, you can follow my site RachelMcWrites. It’s all free and there’s no obligation to buy any of my books.
Although if you decide you want to, you’ll make me very happy… after all, that’s why I have an author website!
Rachel McCollin has been helping people create websites with WordPress since 2010. She’s written hundreds of articles and tutorials on web design and development and is the author of five books including WordPress For Writers, which helps authors create a professional website without writing code or spending a fortune.
You can find out more about her books and get tips on author websites at her website, RachelMcWrites.
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