If you want to publish your writing and get it in front of readers, you need a website at the core of your author platform. However, that can feel intimidating to a lot of people — and maybe even unnecessary. If you aren’t sure what to do or where to start, here are answers to a few key questions.
Why do I need a website?
You may wonder if an author website is really worth your time — especially if you lack the skills to build your own. With the popularity of social media, it certainly seems easier to create a Facebook page instead.
Resist the temptation to take this shortcut. Your author website serves as your online business card. It’s the only public-facing component of your platform that you own. You should have a presence on the key social media apps for your genre, but your website provides a hub to connect all these spokes. It will remain constant even if social media algorithms change or a new app enters the scene.
What should I include on my author site?
You don’t need a fancy or elaborate website. Remember you can link to your social media feeds to add more content. Your author site simply serves as a home base for your brand: a place where readers and industry professionals can find any information they need.
However, there are a few must-haves. These will make your author site complete:
- A personalized domain, preferably your name (e.g. mine is www.jaclynpaul.com)
- Your name displayed prominently at the top of the page
- Prominent information about any published books, including links to purchase them
- Your full bio and a headshot (professional headshots are great, but a high-quality DIY will do just fine)
- A form or link to sign up for your email list
- A “contact me” link or form that allows people to email you
- Links to find you elsewhere on the internet (social media, etc.)
- Clean design and smooth user experience
Wait, what’s user experience?
Broadly speaking, user experience (or UX) refers to visitors’ entire interaction and experience with your site — and, by extension, your brand. In other words, how people feel while navigating your site matters a lot. This may be your only chance to make a good impression. Don’t let visitors feel confused, frustrated, or impatient.
One of the most important factors to remember in 2019 is that most people will view your site on a mobile device. How your site looks and feels on a phone matters more than how it looks on a computer. And it needs to load fast, too — even on a cellular connection. There are tools to test this by simulating various kinds of data connections, but you can also experiment with your own smartphone if you have one.
Bottom line: make sure your site makes it quick and easy for people to find what they need. Avoid distracting visual elements, make liberal use of white space, and check out how your site works on a phone. Most site-building platforms have tools to make your site adapt to a variety of devices.
Why didn’t you mention a blog?
Many writers feel intimidated about setting up their website because they think it needs to include a blog. Fiction writers don’t necessarily know how to write a compelling blog — or even what they’d blog about — nor do they always have time.
If you don’t think you can or will do it well, I recommend against writing a blog just for its own sake. You should have some way of posting important updates to your website — e.g. announcements about upcoming book releases or public appearances — but you shouldn’t feel obligated to become a pro blogger. If you already post regularly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or the like, link to that. And don’t forget your email list! As long as people have some way to stay in touch, they don’t need to do it through a blog.
That wisdom goes for all aspects of your site: if you’re going to do it, do it well. Include the necessities, but be very careful about adding extras that will create more work for you. You are, after all, a writer. Your website should support your writing, not distract from it.