Author Website Basics
By John Burke
It's indisputable: all authors and small publishers must have their own mobile- friendly, professional looking author website. It is, by far, the most important element of your book marketing strategy. I have developed over 150 author and publisher websites in the last 20 years, and although a lot has changed when it comes to developing websites, some things remain fundamental. This blog covers the author website basics you should consider as you are getting started—or before you get started.
1. What is the Purpose of Your Author Website?
First of all, you have complete control over the content of your website, and you can put just about anything and everything on it. Many people jump into the process of hiring a web developer before thinking about the purpose of their site. Obviously you want your author bio and book information. What else? Excerpts and book reviews? Interviews? Audio and video? Is your purpose to communicate with readers? If so, you should have a mailing list with a signup form on your site. You should also connect it to your social networking accounts like Facebook and Twitter. You’ll want a contact form. Do you plan to blog regularly? How do you want to sell books: with links to online retailers or sell directly on your site using ecommerce?
Thinking about the purpose of your site will help you plan a site that serves your author goals and needs for the long term. It will also help guide you in your discussions with potential website developers. Don’t assume your developer will know what you need, or know anything about book marketing in general, and books in particular. I’ve seen too many websites over the years where the developer was more interested in showing off his or her skills, with little consideration as to the effectiveness, organization, or ease-of-use of the website.
2. How Will You Build Your Author Website?
Consider if you even need a web developer. There are do-it-yourself options out there such as WordPress, Wix, SquareSpace, and Pub Site, that make it easy to create your own website and, as importantly, update it afterwards. Some people like this option, others don’t. The different platforms have different levels of ease-of-use. Try asking other authors if they’ve used any of them and what they thought. Asking authors will help you determine if the platform is good for books and authors. A hybrid model would be to have someone do the initial design and setup and then you take over the updating.
3. What’s in a (Domain) Name?
A few years ago, there was a rage to get domain names (URLs) for book titles or series. That may be ok in some cases, but we have always recommended that you build a site and your author brand under your name. We have encountered authors over the years that started building a new site for every book or series. This splits your book marketing efforts, money, and time. Not to mention, it increases your updating headaches exponentially.
If you have a common name at all, it will most likely be taken already. Don’t despair though—you can always use names like johnburkeauthor.com or johnburkebooks.com, or john-burke.com, etc. You can start looking them up for availability at a registrar. I recommend GoDaddy for registering your domain name. They are the industry leader for a reason. Another thing . . . don’t let your developer register your domain name through their hosting company. Keep your domain name separate and completely in your name and your control. Someday you may want to move your website elsewhere and you’ll thank me for this tip.
4. Who’s Hosting my Website?
Your site has to be on a server to be live to the world and it’s referred to as hosting. The hosting fees range from $5 - $25 a month. If you have chosen a developer, they may recommend a hosting company or have their own server they host on, which is fine (but keep that domain name separate). Just ask them who you call when there’s a problem. It should be them, not the hosting company. If you use one of the DIY platforms above, hosting is built in.