On the importance of writer’s websites.
This is something some writers may or may not have realized: building an author platform is important, especially when you’re starting out.
Even those looking to traditionally publish will need an author website, and are often asked on query forms whether or not they have them, their social media outreach, and credentials. Why? Even agents want to see how active you are in the community, and your marketability when it comes to your work. This does not apply to everyone, of course, there are always those who get picked up without any social media presence, but it’s best to get started now and understand your platform.
With that said, here are a few things you should think about if you’re considering going this alone or hiring a website designer:
Time Best Spent: Marketing or Writing
Ultimately, a lot of your time may be spent marketing: social media, editing, offering services, writing blog posts, building/maintaining/updating your website, and more. What you need to start asking yourself is what you find more valuable. Do you enjoy the marketing side of writing, or do you prefer to spend that time writing?
Something you may not have considered is that the once-promised aspect of traditional publishing would market your work for you. That’s no longer the case. (Check out this blog post to see what I mean). They want to see you’re active in the community in some way, so building a website is a much-needed step to ensure your readers are able to find you. Consider what social media platforms you’d like to be part of, and start building your (potential) fan base.
With this comes a lot of time spent building your website on places like WordPress or Wix. I’m WordPress all the way, but it is time-consuming. I’ve been able to get help building and learning how to maintain my website, though I’m far off. I still have issues with SEO, security, and formatting that goes awry. When thinking of these issues and how tech-savvy you are, it might be best to look into a website designer, get a quote, and balance your options.
With that said, think about how you spend your day-to-day. Do you have kids? What do you do in your downtime? Full-time job, part-time, or unemployed? Do you travel a lot? Life can get in the way, and it can be easy to push things back that may not take precedence in your life. Do you have to post a blog this week, or update your readers? Nah…but these are important. If you miss one update, then another, and another, you may lose traction and readers.
If you want to make changes to your website, it might be easier to dial in a website designer to take a better look and spend a few hours trying to fix/develop your website rather than trying your best for one to five hours (depending on your technical talents) in developing your website.
That Thing I Keep Bringing Up – Know Your Stuff
It’s one thing to start a website and get it moving, but it’s another trying to build traction and ensuring every piece is in order and working. I cannot tell you how much I have struggled to try and work out the kinks. Now, again, I did not go to school for this and went in relatively blind. Later on, I asked my mother-in-law to take me on and show me the ropes so I could get an understanding of website design.
She’s super talented and patient when it comes to this stuff—I am not. She’s a technical genius, and I’m a technical nightmare. Still, I try. I made my website very plain and simple because that’s what I need. However, I hope to touch base with her when I’m ready to really kick it into gear. For the moment, I’m trying to focus on all these other moving pieces, but that’s what matters—
I don’t have the time, the availability, or the technical talents that many who learn to run their websites have, and I’m incredibly lucky to know someone who does this for a living. In my case, it’s worth hiring a website designer to connect with my readers, easily show them my pages to buy my books (eventually), and lead my readers to my social media pages so they’re getting the latest updates. Not to mention the SEO side of it that will help attract my potential readers.
Finally… the Aesthetics
I have run into writer’s websites with atrocious colors, or look as though they got up and running in the seventies…eighties…a long time ago only to be surprised the website is recently updated. I’ve run into mint green backgrounds with pink ink (for murder mysteries), and dark websites with an eerie tone only to discover they’re romance.
While I suggest taking a deep dive into the look of your website, I do think about Susan Dennard who (once upon a time) had octopi and sea creatures on her website. It was memorable despite being a fantasy writer, and I remember her website well because of it. Turns out she’s a marine biologist—cool! However, I will always remember her as a marine biologist and fantasy writer. Think about what you want to be known as, and what cool quirk you might want to share on your website. It doesn’t necessarily have to match the tone of your books, but how you want your readers to remember you.
Which brings me to the other part of the aesthetics:
When you build your website, can your readers find your merchandise page? How easy is it for them to add your books to their cart? What if they want to know more about you? Do you have an “About” page? Can they contact you? Should they be able to contact you? Navigation is important when it comes to your website because you want writers to have an easy and nice time getting to know you and your work. I have been frustrated and left the website since I could not find a way to buy an author book or blog.
A web developer can help you tackle the above points, and if you need a bit more convincing, take a look at this article by Janet Reid. If you do not know her, she’s a guru of the writing world with a ton of experience who touches on the importance of writer’s websites along with a nice list of what you should have. I highly recommend it as do many professionals.
Now, for fun, take a look at some of these author pages and decide which you think are good and which are bad.
Jerry Pournelle: https://www.jerrypournelle.com/
Tamora Pierce: https://www.tamora-pierce.net/
Stephen King: https://stephenking.com/index.html
Allen Steele: http://www.allensteele.com/
Greg Egan: http://www.gregegan.net/
Piers Anthony: https://hipiers.com/
George R.R. Martin: https://georgerrmartin.com/
Craig Levenger: https://craigclevenger.com/