In this internet day and age, YES YOU NEED A WEBSITE!
I have run across several authors that don’t have one. I can only shake my head. That is Promotions 101. The very first thing you, as an author, should have is a website. It can be a blog site or a regular website. Pick your poison so long as you have one and keep it updated.
Tips for your website:
#1 – KISS :: Keep It Simple, Stupid
This is the best advice you’ll get and, for some, the hardest to follow. You don’t need to trick out your site with bells and whistles. People are going there for information about you and your books. They don’t want to wade through a bunch of crap you thought was cute (like music or fun flash effects). Matter of fact, music (especially automatic music) tops the list of the most annoying things people find on websites.
#2 – URL
Your URL should be your NAME. Yes, your name. You are advertising YOU not a book. Books come and go. You plan to have several, I hope. So why name your site after a book that was released a long time ago? You want people to remember your name so use it as much as possible — user IDs like FB and Twitter. Buying a domain is cheap and costs nothing to have that domain pointed at whatever site you are using. Yes, even a free site. A short URL is easy to remember. If that URL is your name, all the better. PLUS, if you decide to change site providers, your domain name stays the same.
#3 – Dark with Light Writing = NO
Black backgrounds with light writing is a great mood setter. It’s also really harsh on the eyes and hard to look at for an extended period of time. Frame any and all text with a lighter color and use dark font to make it easier on your readers, if you insist on using a dark/black background.
#4 – Bookshelf
A book page is a necessity to list all your books and the buy links. This is the MAIN purpose of your website. Your books. Everything else is EXTRA. Whether you choose to have an individual page for each book is up to you and the constraints of the site provider you choose. But you should, at the very least, have a page that lists ALL of your books — titles, covers AND buy links. Don’t make readers hunt thinking that will keep them on their site longer. They’ll leave and you’ll lose a sale.
#5 – Keep it Up to Date
You set up the website. Now you need to keep it up to date. There is nothing more frustrating to a reader than to visit an author’s site and not find the information they are looking for. And that information is usually about a book. The second you announce a book on places like FB and Twitter, you need to have that same information available on your website for people who go there looking for more details.
#6 – Images
The larger the image, the longer your site takes to load. If you take a 1600×2400 image (print size) that is 500Kb and have the website size it down to 200×300, IT IS STILL 500KB! You haven’t changed anything about the image or the size of the image except how it is viewed. Size your images down (standard is 200×300 72DPI). If you don’t know how, ask the publisher’s art director to give you a smaller size.
That’s the basics. There is tons more about websites, but I’m not going to go into that here. It pretty much all amounts to get a site, keep it updated, and make it easy to load and navigate.
Thanks so much for this valuable information. I am getting ready to create a Web site. I have a blog which is updated daily and know I need a Web site so this comes at a perfect time. Is it okay to host it on BellSouth or is there a hosting site you can recommend? Also can you recommend a good web designer? Thanks.
Great advice! I run into far too many writers online who think a Facebook Page is all they need for a web presence. Or they think they have nothing to say before their book release.
Then there are those who have the site, but it's so tricked out the browser times out before it loads. It's important to remember that just because you CAN do something, doesn't always mean you SHOULD do it.
Kenra – FB can't be a website because you have to be logged into FB to see it. Not everyone has (or wants) an FB account. If the idea is for everyone to be able to see it, then an FB website is a fail.
Marilyn – You can just do a website-blog since you already have it. Unless you really want a website. I'm a GoDaddy girl (snicker), though there's nothing wrong with Bellsouth (that I know of).
I have my domain through GoDaddy and they do my hosting. I'm very happy with the site I created. No matter what host you choose, make sure YOU own your domain name. Domain names that come with package deals have a bunch of hoops to jump through if you decide you want to move to a different company or decide to stop using services in the package. I've heard it's a major pain in the butt.
GoDaddy has a website creation tool called WebsiteTonight (though their hosting is much cheaper). I didn't like it. For a beginner, it's great and does a lot. But I know just enough HTML that I found it annoying and limiting.
I don't know any web designers to recommend. There are tons out there but I don't know any of them since I do my own website. The best thing to do is visit author websites. For those you like check the footer. The web designer, if that author used one, will have their contact info there.
Hope that helps.