August #AuthorTip: Author Websites

Continuing this post series with a tip for author websites:

Yes, you do need one. Here’s why…

Social media controls content and visibility. It’s not just Facebook hiding your posts; it’s Facebook deleting posts it deems unacceptable. It’s your tweets getting buried beneath a flood of millions of others happening every second of the day. It’s Instagram freezing or deleting company accounts. You are never in control of your content on social media.

And before you think your author profile on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords or your Publisher’s website is good enough, or that you can post blogs on Goodreads just as easily, think again. Those are all good things to set up to enhance your online presence, but they are not sufficient. Why? It’s still someone else’s sandbox, and you only get to play there as long as they let you. And if for some reason they stop playing nice, you could lose your content, whether it’s one post, or five years of posts. Forever.

You cannot control content on someone else’s website, no matter who it is, or how much you trust them. You can only control it on your own platform, and that is a website or a blog. Unless you post something that’s against the law, or a major catastrophe destroys the hosting company or servers, whatever you post on your website will stay there until you choose to remove it.

And now you will say that websites and blogs are dead, that everything lives on social media now. Even if that were true (which it isn’t) you can still share content from your website all over social media. The only difference is that if your social media post is removed, the original content is still live on your website. So instead of posting that image of the Birth of Venus (which FB might delete because of nudity) you can post it on your blog and share a link to it.

But websites take time, you say, and cost a lot of money! Actually, no they don’t. You can get free hosting on sites like WordPress, Blogger, or similar hosting services, and every one of them will have dozens of pre-designed templates you can use, so you don’t even have to be a coding genius to make a beautiful website in minutes (or hours, depending on how much content you want to post). My advice would be to pick one that gives you room for expansion and upgrades, and invest the $5-$25/year in a custom URL. Those babies are worth their weight in gold for an author. They move with you wherever you go.

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Enhancing Your Author Website

Multiple writing projects have kept me busy lately and I haven’t had a chance to update this blog (or my author one, for that matter), but I came across this article just this morning and had to share, because I couldn’t have said it better myself. Yes, as an author, you absolutely do need a website. But just having one isn’t enough, if you don’t have it properly set up to inform your readers and capture their interest. The Book Designer’s “Top 10 Ways Your Website Leaves Readers, and Leads, in the Dust” aptly summarizes the basics of how your website should work.

Because it’s geared more generally toward fiction and non-fiction authors, I offer one caveat for fiction writers specifically:

You don’t need to, and likely shouldn’t, post too much contact information on your website. Unlike non-fiction writers whose books usually support their other career, and who want people to contact them for business reasons, you probably don’t want strangers and fans blowing up your phone and showing up on your doorstep uninvited. That can get super creepy and becomes a privacy/security issue. What you do want is to provide your email address and your social media links.

If you’re making your own website, the best advice I can give you is Google your favorite authors, check out how their websites are laid out, and try to emulate the features you like best.

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

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