Is Your Author Website Doing Its Job? 6 Things to Check

Author website strategy

Today’s guest post is by Laura Pepper Wu, the co-founder of 30 Day Books, a book studio that provides marketing tools and resources for authors wanting to find more readers.


Recently, I did some informal research about how authors view and use their websites, and the results were a little disheartening.

Many authors have a website simply because they have been told that they should have one as part of their online marketing strategy. The problem is, there is very little strategy involved at all; rather they build a site without really knowing why they’re doing it.

Without truly understanding why having a website is necessary—or what its full potential is—a site will collect virtual dust. In some cases having a bad website can be worse than having no website at all!

I like to think of an author’s website as the homebase of their online efforts. It’s the hub where, unlike with social media, you are fully in control of the content you can share and the image and brand you project. It’s a place that allows you full-on engagement with your readers without distraction.

In between book releases, you can keep the momentum going and communicate with your readers as frequently as you want. You can also attract new readers through your blogging, video blogging or newsletters hosted on your site.

Here’s a list of 6 things that a good author website could—and should—be doing for your career. It’s not an exhaustive list, so I’d love to hear your advice in the comments below!

1. Build your mailing list.

Many people avoid collecting e-mail addresses because they think that having readers and followers on their social media accounts is enough.

But you can speak to your readers much more directly through a newsletter: give them “sneak peeks,” cover reveals, let them know about promotions, share your news, etc. And the response rate is usually much higher than if you did this on your Facebook Page or on Twitter. 

If you can collect the e-mail addresses of even a small percentage of the people who visit your site during the launch of your first book, then, when you’re ready to launch books two and three, you can let your readers know directly without depending on them seeing it on their fast-moving social media feeds. Since they’re already your fans, you’ll have a “ready to buy” audience, which helps your book launch gather momentum and be successful early on.

Action Tip: Not collecting e-mail addresses is one of the biggest regrets of authors who are publishing their second books, so learn from their mistakes and get proactive! Mailchimp is a great e-mail management system that is free up to 2,000 subscribers.

2. Host content that YOU own.

The writing and content you build on your website is YOURS and no one else’s! Communicating with readers on your Facebook page or other social media accounts is an important part of your online marketing, but social media platforms change all the time—and the content built there can get lost. It was recently reported that Facebook recently closed down the Cool Hunter’s page with 788,000 members on it and five years of content that was non-retrievable. 

Action Tip: Your website is evergreen for as long as you want it to be. It gives you brownie points with Google, and it can’t be deleted. (It also doesn’t compete with baby pictures, vacation snaps or news of engagements, which soon distract even the most loyal reader-fan!) Split your marketing time between social media and creating content on your own site.

3. Provide media with info about you and your book.

You should have a dedicated media page with cover images, blurbs, author bio, purchase links, and so on—a “one-stop shop.” Bloggers, site owners and other media will love you for it! It avoids the need to e-mail big attachments back and forth and makes their lives easier—meaning they’re more likely to feature you.

Action Tip: Create a dedicated page on your site just for media folk. Check out this post for tips on how to build a great author media page.

4. Engage and interact with readers.

Engagement is becoming a clichéd word in the online marketing world; I prefer the “I feel like I know you” effect! There are people online whom we feel incredibly familiar with, even though we’ve never met them in person. Through video, e-mail newsletters and two-way conversation on your blog, you can create this same feeling about you in your readers. Jane is a wonderful example of how this can be done; Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project is another great example.

Action Tip: Respond to blog comments and social media mentions as much as possible to engage with readers. Think of it not as you in front of a classroom speaking to an audience, but as you standing side-by-side with friends and having a conversation.

5. Showcase yourself as a professional.

Your site should show that you take your career as a writer seriously. No matter what publishing route you are planning to take, if you want to do a book signing, an event at your local library, be featured in the local press, or land any noteworthy gig, a professional-looking site that’s easy to navigate makes a big impact on others. People judge a book by its cover—and by its author’s website!

Action Tip: Looking professional doesn’t mean spending a ton of money on website design. Using WordPress along with a nice theme will take care of design, then including specific content on your site—such as a media page, a well-written about page, high-quality images of your book cover, and quality author headshot—will also go a long way toward showing that you’re adept.

6. Persuade potential readers to take a chance on your book!

In one place, you can curate a sizzling book description; showcase reviews from your various platforms (Amazon, GoodReads, screenshots of Tweets); add social proof, such as awards you’ve won or bestseller status; and write a blog that your ideal readers will enjoy and respond to. What better way to convince a potential reader that they’re going to enjoy your work?

Action Tip: Be sure to include buy links in several visible places on your site, and make it as easy as possible for readers to purchase your books if they want to. Your website is, after all, the perfect place to find you more readers.

Now over to you! What is your website doing, or not doing, for your career as an author?

Posted in Digital Media, Guest Post, Social Media.

Laura Pepper Wu

Laura Pepper Wu is the co-founder of 30 Day Books, a book studio that provides marketing tools and resources for authors wanting to find more readers. Her latest projects include Authorlicious, a website theme built for authors, and the short yet powerful e-book 77 Ways to Find New Readers for Your Self-Published Book. Say hi @LauraPepWu.

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57 Comments on "Is Your Author Website Doing Its Job? 6 Things to Check"

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fcmalby.wordpress.com
fcmalby.wordpress.com

This is a great post. The mailing list I think is a key element for any author. Amazon has technical glitches and facebook accounts can be closed down but the mailing list should be able to weather the storm and help future book sales. Thank you ladies.

Philippa Rees

It seems that authors who combine some kind of ‘author service'(Editing, marketing etc) achieve a building following. You suggest selling books directly but although I have a slow moving WordPress.com site I understand you can have a ‘donate’ but not a ‘buy’ button. Is this the case? Contriving reasons for visitors to return with book relevant blogs is not easy without it seeming contrived. This is a good post, and lots to implement, but all the bells and whistles don’t achieve reasons to drop in regularly.

Jane Friedman
There is a danger, if you’re a writer, of marketing only to other writers—which I think is what you imply with the “author services.” That’s not the goal of your website. It should be reader-focused, and if you’re a novelist, your readers probably aren’t going to be other writers. I don’t see why an author would want a donate button on their site unless they’re offering content/services for free. And it’s not necessary to have a buy button, since most authors send their readers to Amazon (or other retailers) to buy their books. Re: blogging. Having an author website doesn’t… Read more »
Alexis DeLuca
If I were standing next to you at a cocktail party, I’d confess that I didn’t realize the importance of e-mail lists. I’ve intentionally shied away from them since I hate being spammed and didn’t want to appear too pushy. I’ve also been holding back on commenting because of my ridiculous self-consciousness. (This is my first comment so it’s a good thing I have a drink in my hand.) Now that I’m blogging, the idea of commenting has a whole new resonance. I really, really want to know what people think….about anything and everything. Social media? Well….let’s just say my… Read more »
Jane Friedman

Re: e-mail lists, see my comment in response C.L. Stambush. If done correctly, such communication is NOT spam. Unfortunately, there are a lot of authors out there who are bad role models, and DO end up spamming potential readers and fans. Don’t be one of those people.

C. L. Stambush

When you say authors need to build a email list do you recommend that commenters leave their address if they are allowed to comment, or is there another way? Michael Hyatt says not to this because it annoys readers. I kinda agree.

Jane Friedman
I’m sure Laura will jump in here, but as someone who has been running an e-newsletter for a couple years now, I’ll put in my two cents. E-mail newsletters have *nothing* to do with the comments on your website or blog (or with scraping e-mail addresses). You, the author, should never personally add people to your e-mail newsletter unless requested to do so. People should opt-in through a form or link you put on your website. (See mine here: https://janefriedman.com/free-newsletter/) E-mail newsletters can be tremendously effective if you strictly abide by the opt-in rule, and NEVER e-mail people without their… Read more »
Teresa Robeson

Thank you for this article! I forwarded the link to everyone in my critique groups because I know they’ll all learn something from it.

Lisa Angle

Thank you for sharing this information on author websites. I will pass it along to my clients. I already encourage them to sign up for MailChimp.

Alda
One thing I never see addressed in relation to MailChimp or similar services is the requirement to provide a physical address in the email. That is the single reason I haven’t started building an email list with MailChimp. I know an address is required by law, but it really puts me off. I work from home (i.e. don’t have a business address) and am not convinced at this point that it would be worth renting a P.O. box just to have an address to provide. And there is no way I’m going to send out emails or newsletters with my… Read more »
Jane Friedman

I’ve been using my home mailing address for quite a while now, without any problems. I’m afraid I can’t recommend ways to circumvent the law, though if you have an agent or any kind of business partner, perhaps they would be willing to have their address affiliated with your e-newsletter.

Alda

Thanks for the response Jane – and I salute your courage! Did you never have any second thoughts about sending out your home address?

Jane Friedman

Certainly it gave me pause, and for a while I used my university office address. But people who really want to find out my mailing (or home) address have other fairly easy methods of doing so. (As a side note, if you’ve never checked out http://www.spokeo.com, you might want to—and request to be delisted if you find yourself.)

Alda

Thanks for the tip Jane, and no – I am not listed. Am guessing that comes from living in relative obscurity on the edge of the inhabitable world (read: Iceland).

Jane Friedman

LOL. That would explain it.

Alda

… and ps. thank you for your wonderful site. Such a wealth of excellent resources, and so warmly presented. 🙂

Anthony

Alda with services such as Aweber, you can have your city, postal code and country, leaving off your street address number and name. I’ve found authors and clients to be comfortable with that.

Wordpress
I started with a WordPress blog. I don’t have an author website yet. I would like to make a website out of my blog. Would I add a different theme for different pages and how would I make a professional site out of the blog? I am working on my debut novel now, so I don’t have any publishing credits yet. Would I still add a media page and indicate that? Also, my about page is in first person, should I have that in third person? I heard somewhere that it should be in third person. Lastly, would I be… Read more »
Rebecca Vance
I started with a WordPress blog. I don’t have an author website yet. I would like to make a website out of my blog. Would I add a different theme for different pages and how would I make a professional site out of the blog? I am working on my debut novel now, so I don’t have any publishing credits yet. Would I still add a media page and indicate that? Also, my about page is in first person, should I have that in third person? I heard somewhere that it should be in third person. Lastly, would I be… Read more »
Jane Friedman
If you have a WordPress blog, you can transform it more into a professional site by simply adding more pages and treating it as your professional site. Here’s one post where I address how to make your WordPress homepage static, which is desirable if you’re not posting often and you’re not blog-focused: https://janefriedman.com/2011/12/09/big-mistake-author-blog/ I would not add a media page if you do not have any published credits. As far as your about page, that’s up to you. If you take a look at mine, you’ll see I manage to offer both 1st person and 3rd person. I recommend first… Read more »
Rebecca Vance

Thank you for answering. This clears things up quite a bit for me. Your blog has been quite a help as I continue to learn. I appreciate it!

Marlene

Excellent information. Very helpful.

Marlene

I produce a monthly literary event and send emails in batches to about 150 people informing details about the event. Would it be better to use Mail Chimp? I’m thinking I could use graphics, make the email more interesting and attractive. A friend uses Mail Chimp for his newsletter, which also is a blog (people can post comments). What is this called? Newsblog?

Jane Friedman

I recommend MailChimp, yes! It would be free for you to use with that small of a list, and their setup helps you ensure compatibility and readability across all types of e-mail clients and mobile devices. MailChimp also has specific templates available for events/announcements.

For the most part, the industry still terms this an “e-newsletter”, a marketing communication sent via e-mail.

Marlene

Woo-hoo. I’m doing the Happy Dance. I love hearing new ways to make life/business easier. By the way, comment on collecting email addresses: I’ve been doing that for six years. . . that’s how I built my email list to announce writing events. But . . . I always ask before putting anyone on this list.

Marlene

Forget to mention very helpful post. Informative. Thank you.

Wendy S. Marcus

Excellent post! I use Mailchimp and have been very happy with them.

Meg Akabas

I have been using Constant Contact, but now that I have a book coming out my e-mail list is increasing and it is more expensive the larger the mailing list. If I switch over to Mailchimp, does anyone know if i can import my mailing list I already have set up in Constant Contact into Mailchimp?

Jane Friedman

Yes. MailChimp offers a “switcher’s guide” for an easy transition:
http://mailchimp.com/resources/guides/switchers-guide/

Jim Hamlett

I’ve been told by a reliable source that MailChimp is a fine email handler if you don’t intend to do any affiliate marketing. I’m not sure if that’s a restriction that applies only to the free portion (first 2000) or if it’s applicable no matter what the level. I haven’t verified this yet.

Jane Friedman

I use affiliate links/marketing on MailChimp and have yet to encounter any problems. I’m afraid this is one of those myths that has cropped up.

Here you can find MailChimp’s very direct answer to this concern:
http://kb.mailchimp.com/article/does-mailchimp-ban-affiliate-links/

AnnabelSmith

I love the idea of creating a media page – fantastic. So much great content here as always

Sandy Bornstein

I have to admit that I’ve been reluctant to use a reputable company like MailChimp to create a mailing list and newsletter. Part of my hesitation is based on not knowing what I should include in a newsletter, how it should be formatted, and how often it should be sent. Can you provide examples or templates?

Jane Friedman

Here are my archives:
http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/home/?u=f8b16374ec668e8d6004fcc38&id=b84a4334ba

But there is no “right” way to do it — only what interests your audience/readers.

MailChimp provides dozens (maybe hundreds) of pre-designed templates, so you don’t have to worry about formatting/design.

As far as frequency: Again, up to you. I know some authors who send e-mails only1-2 times per year. Others send every week. It depends on what your goals are or what you want to accomplish, and what stage of your career you’re at.

Sandy Bornstein

Jane, Thanks for taking the time to respond. The link was helpful.

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Bibi K.

Such an informative and well put together post. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am a new author, and also new the world of social media. I created a blog, because as you said… I was told to.

I’ve been trying my hardest to use it frequently for the benefits to my book, but I find it hard and don’t really know the point of what I am doing.

I will take this advice to heart, and be referencing it in the future.

Kudos, and I look forward to more of your work.

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Barbara

I have a generic website; for my book, though finished, has not garnered an agent nor been published. This is real basic stuff, but do I start a site about my book that MAY get published someday? If so, what the heck do I write about. It is an autobiography/memoir about showbiz and gambling. Appreciate all I’m learning, from you Jane.

Jane Friedman

Important point to remember: It’s an author website, not a book website. Books may come and go; you the author remain constant.

You don’t need to start a website to talk about an unfinished work, but you may want to start a site (even if not publicized) that is about you, the author, and what work you focus on. It may be too early to do that, but once you’re set to become an author, a website soon becomes essential … Unless you only ever plan to produce one piece of work …

Wendy

There is so much to learn and do to promote and grow your business. We can all use some great advice like these 6. It helps point us in the right direction

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Renee DeAngelo

Great tips. Thanks for the info.

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Anita Dawes

I have read all the articles and followed all the advice but I am not getting much response on my website. http://www.anitajaydawes.net
I want my site to be really successful, but nothing I have done is working.
Is something missing, or am I doing something wrong?
Can anyone advise me, please…

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