It’s surprising, but authors still ask me if they need a website. The short answer is, “Yes”. I know building and maintaining a website can sound like a daunting, time-consuming task. And if you’re still in the writing or editing process, you may think a website isn’t the best use of your time. But as I’ve said many times, authors should start building their platform/brand as soon as they have an idea for a book and a website is the foundation of your author brand. Besides, new tools like Pub Site make building and maintaining a professional website quick, easy, and inexpensive (more info on Pub Site below).
Not convinced? Here are five reasons why I think an author website is necessary.
1. Your readers want to know more about you
In our digitally connected world, you can’t put your book out there in the world, but leave yourself in the shadows. Your readers want to know you. They want to know your interests and values, and they want to be able to connect with you. Your website is a place where you can tell your story—where readers can find out more about you and your expertise. Your website is where you build your brand and keep your content alive in real time. I recommend building a site under your name and not the book title.
2. Why take a hit on your digital reputation when you can avoid it?
Ever hear the quote, “It’s not what you say, but what you don’t say that speaks the loudest?” Well, that applies to your website, too. If an interested reader does a quick search for you and doesn’t find a website, are you okay with what that says about you? Not having a website could be viewed as unprofessional, out-of-date, or not connected. Publishers who want you to be a marketing partner for your book may see your lack of a website as a reason not to take you seriously as a writer. If you want to grow your brand and your business, you need to show up with a website.
3. Other social media platforms don’t cancel out the need for a website
While some players in the publishing industry contend that you can use a social media site in place of having a website, I couldn’t disagree more. Facebook or Twitter often change the user experience and you just have to follow along. For example, Facebook recently changed its model to more of a pay-to-play platform, making it more difficult for content to appear in news feeds organically. Do you want to be dependent upon Facebook’s algorithm or functionality to determine who sees your content?
With your own website, you are in control. You get to decide what your audience sees. Your website and each social media platform are totally different entities. Knowing your readers and where they spend their time will tell you what social platforms you should prioritize, but bottom line: You always need a website.
4. Grow your email list
A newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with your super fans, those people who have opted in to hear from you on a regular basis. Your website is the ideal place to collect these names and build a community. While you can converse on social media, your website is a home base where collecting emails and generating content meet. Your mailing list is a big asset, and you should have control over it. Without a website, it would be difficult to collect email addresses on a consistent basis or have a home base for the content you send out in those emails.
The content you’re including in your newsletter can also be housed in a blog; this blog should live on your website because it is a great way to keep your community engaged, as well as bring traffic to your site.
You may not be there yet, but if you want to sell other products or services down the road, no other social media platform (not Twitter, not Facebook, not Pinterest) can organize the products, books or services like a website. You can integrate your website with shopping cart tools, add new products all the time, and have them organized under a one-click navigation (i.e., under the word, “Store”). Better still, your website can include testimonials from your super fans, solidifying your brand, expertise, and the products you offer.
Despite popular belief, your website doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. You can keep it simple. Pub Site is a new website builder developed specifically for books and authors. It’s easy to use and supports ISBNs, social media sites, author tours, blogging, online bookseller links, e-commerce, and more. There are other tools for DIY websites, like WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace, but none of them are designed specifically with authors in mind. Give Pub Site a try. It’s free for 14 days and takes a couple of hours to set up. If you don’t like it, you can try something else; if you like, it’s only $19.99 a month.