Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Every author needs a website. Or two. Or maybe seven.

Writing may be a hobby, but authoring is a business.

And, just as potential customers of restaurants and clothing brands expect them to have websites, so do potential readers of your books.


It’s extremely important to have a website—or even multiple websites—to provide information about you and your books. If you don’t have at least one website, you are missing a major opportunity to impress and interact with potential readers.
  • Readers expect authors to have websites. Don’t disappoint them.
It’s neither difficult nor expensive to build and maintain a website. You can easily produce your own site, or you can pay someone to do it for you, or use the services of your publishing company.

Authors' websites (and blogs) follow several formulas, and you can have one or more.
  1. You can have a website to promote one book.
  2. You can have a website to promote a series of books.
  3. You can have a website to promote a cause you support, and also promote a book.
  4. You can have a website to promote your publishing company.
  5. You can have a website to promote you as an author.
  6. You can have a website to promote you as a person.
  7. You can have a website to promote the subject of a book.
  8. You can have a website that promotes an organization or location related to your book, and also promotes the book.
  9. You can have a website that deals with a subject unrelated to your book, but also promotes the book.
With websites, the more the merrier. The more sites you have, the more likely it is that people will find you, and the more opportunities you will have to sell books. Your site or sites should have information that will be useful and interesting to potential readers, as well as to members of the media, and booksellers.
  • Many potential customers don't know that your book exists, and don't care. While some people will find your site(s) by searching for the book title or your personal name, it's likely that many more will search for a subject—such as the JFK assassination, movie monsters or Italian food—that your book deals with.
  • If your book is not nonfiction, but is a novel or poetry, it will be much more difficult to attract customers with web searches. Some genres such as dystopian fiction or romantic poetry include so many thousands of books that it will be very difficult for your work to stand out.
  • If you have a website for one of your books, it should also help to sell your other books!
Website, blog, or both? A blog ("web log") is a specialized kind of website. It’s somewhat like an online diary or journal, but it’s written for the world to read—not just you and your heirs. If you are an author, you should seriously consider writing a blog, or several blogs. You are now reading one of my blogs. At one time I wrote five daily blogs. Now I write fewer blogs and post less often.

A blog usually consists of some introductory text plus multiple entries (“posts” or “postings”) displayed with the newest post on top, followed by older posts. The main page of a blog typically displays three to ten posts, and there are links to older posts that may be grouped by year, topic or both.

I (mostly) like Blogger, which hosts this blog. It's owned by Google, and it's free. I pay extra for my BookMakingBlog.com address. The Google connection makes it easy to “monetize” a blog by carrying small "AdSense" ads on it. I like Wordpress, too. Many authors use it.

A blog can be "free-standing" or it can be a section of a website.

  • Anyone searching for topics you’ve blogged about can find links to your blog, find your blog, and see an ad for your book and maybe buy it. Google typically indexes this blog less than an hour after I publish it. A robot thinks I'm important. Wow.
  • It’s tougher for fiction. Many novelists’ blogs seem to attract only other novelists—not readers. If you are a novelist who specializes in post-apocalyptic gay teenage albino vampire sex, how many blog posts about your novel could you come up with over the years? Three? One? Maybe a better strategy for a novelist would be to blog with news and opinions about something remotely related to the book topic—like teenage sex, vampires or albinos—that might catch searchers who might be interested in reading a related novel.
You also need to be on social media. I have Facebook pages for me as a person, me as an author, for my publishing company, and for various groups—some related to books. I sometimes use Twitter and LinkedIn, but have not yet tried Instagram, which some authors rave about.

[below] Website for Bette Isacoff and her book Star Crossed

[Below] Website for Barbara Barth and her book, The Unfaithful Widow


[below] Website for my book, Do As I Say, No As I Did (no longer online)


[below] Website that provides help for victims of internet harassment, and promotes my book, Internet Hell (no longer online)


[Below] Website for my publishing company, Silver Sands Books


[Below] Website for my books about publishing, Create Better Books (no longer online)

[Below] My personal website, MichaelMarc.us



Fortune magazine once said that a website would take six months to develop and cost $500,000. A well-known book marketing expert wrote that a writer’s website could cost as much as $6,000 to set up. Both costs are very wrong and could needlessly scare off writers who would benefit from having websites.

Today you can develop a website for zero dollars and no cents in less than an hour, and pay less than $10 per month to a “hosting company” to make the site available to the world. I use Wix for my recent sites as well as Network Solutions and previously used Yahoo

Free hosting is available from several companies, but is generally not a good idea because you’ll get a long, clumsy, ugly, amateur-sounding URL (“Uniform Resource Locator” or web address) like http://billsbook. nrk44.freehost123.us instead of www.billsbook.com.

Try not to get a URL with a hyphen in it (unless it’s a product name or term that is already hyphenated). If the name or term is hyphenated, your website should work both with and without the hyphen. The Coke website can be reached by typing Coca-Cola.com or Cocacola.com. Or Coke.com

Short URLs are better than long ones.

While URLs can end in a variety of ways, including the ubiquitous dot-com, as well as dot-net, dot-USA, dot-CA, dot-TV and others, it’s generally best to use dot-com. If your website is DavidsBook.net, many people will go to DavidsBook.com. They may find nothing—or a competitor. I use a dot-xyz for one site and don't think it hurt me.

Resist the temptation to use the dot-net version of a URL that’s already in use as a dot-com.

There are probably more than 330 million URLs in use! While it’s been said that all of the good URLs have been taken, your book name may be unique, so you have a pretty good chance of getting it as a URL. If you want a URL with your personal name in it, you may face some competition unless your name is unique.

Pay a few bucks so you will own similar URLs to capture bad spellers and to lock out potential competitors. Direct bad spellers to your site. You can register the alternate “phantom” URLs at NetworkSolutions and have traffic forwarded to the real website address.

Many book websites include an “online press kit” that replaces the once-common cardboard portfolio. At a minimum, the kit (which is really a page or a section of a website) should include a news release (“press release”) about the book, plus photos of the cover and the author and a brief author’s biography.

Some book websites sell books. Mine don’t. They have links to Amazon and Barnes & Noble which sell my books. I want to write and promote books, not operate a warehouse and shipping department. I make money when someone follows a link to a bookseller and buys a book. It’s easy money. If your website does not allow people to order books, include links to your books on bookselling sites. Don’t just mention that the book is “available at Amazon.com.”

Obviously, your website should inform people what your book is about and try to convince them why it is vital that they buy it. The site is a good place to post reviews and comments from readers, reviewers and previewers, and to note awards the book has won. You can also show your table of contents and some excerpts to get people interested.

(above) There was nothing on Kevin Dorival's website that explains how to get a free copy of his book. The name of the publisher is probably not "Self-Publishing."

Make sure your website is well-written, complete, accurate and has no dead links, wrong links or template artifacts (below).


There's more in The One-Buck Author's Website Book
  


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