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Author’s Website Guide

What you need to know before you build your website

There are several key aspects of a website. If you’re trying to promote or sell your writing online you’ll want to make sure that you have everything in place to help you succeed.

Our Author’s Website Guide is an overview of everything you’ll need, but if you have additional questions let us know how we can help.

Domain Name

This is the URL that people will type into their browser to get to your site. It should be as short as possible and easy to remember.

How do I select my domain name?
It’s best if you use the name you use as an author. For example if you’re Bob Smith, but your write as Robert R. R. Smith, then use robertrrsmith.com. If you domain name is already taken, try additing ‘writer’ or ‘novels’ to the end of your name. For example robertrrsmithwriter.com or roberrrsmithnovels.com. Why is this important? Search engines place great importance on the domain name. It’s their first and best clue to what your site is about. The more your name appears on your site, including in your domain name, the higher your site will be ranked by search engines for anyone searching for your name.

If you want to promote a specific book, rather than a body of work, then register the domain name as the title of the book, if the domain name is available. Use the name without hyphens if you can, but if it’s not available, then try something like this: my-book-title.com. You can also try .net, but .com is the most common and easiest for people to remember.

Can I register more than one domain name?
Yes, you can. This won’t necessarily help you with search engine rank, but it will help anyone searching for your name or your book title. It also protects the name from purchase by someone else.

How much will a domain name cost?
Domains are for sale by registrars and hosting companies and the price can vary greatly. Many hosting companies offer domains free with purchase of hosting, so it’s best to shop around the web for the best deal before making your decision.

Hosting

Once you have a website built you need a place for it to live, which is on a server that sits at a hosting company. There are many hosting companies and their prices vary. These companies compete highly for business, so look for special deals and discount codes. It’s recommended that you simply call and ask for help. (Do your online shopping before you call so that you know what services are included and the price ranges.)

Select a company whose name is familiar to you and offers phone support if you need help. Companies offering 24/7 support can be a real comfort if you run into problems. If you aren’t familiar with any companies, ask friends to see who they recommend. Also, Web Design for Writers can provide this service for you if you find it’s too overwhelming to deal with yourself. Most of our design packages include the first year of domain and hosting for free and setup is taken care of for you.

Site Content – What Does an Author Website Need?

The answer to this question depends on what you want to achieve with your site, but the basic content pages you’ll need for your author website are:

Home – A summary of you and your latest work, a photo if you are well established, links to contact you, and links to samples of your work. A copyright notice with the current year should appear at the bottom of the page.

About the Author – Your writing resume. Include information about any awards or honors your work has received, something about why you write or why you write the type or genre that you do, and your contact preference (email, phone, mail).

Writing – This may be links to your online writing samples (hosted on other websites), pdf downloads of your writing samples, or links to purchase your book or ebook.

Additional Content for Your Site

Reviews and testimonials – Your praises sung by others is always a great addition to your site. It lets readers know what others are saying about your work and goes a long way toward establishing your credibility as a writer.

Social medis links – Let the people who visit your site know how they can reach out to you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.

Shopping Cart – Selling Your Book or eBook Online

There are many ways to sell your writing online. You can pick one sales channel or multiple sales channels. It all depends on your personal preference and how comfortable you are working with various online resources. Some of the choices include:

  • Amazon – softcover, hardcover, Kindle
  • Barnes and Noble (including Nook for ebooks)
  • CreateSpace
  • iBookStore
  • Smashwords
  • Sell the book yourself on your website

When you sell your book on a site like Amazon, you’ll obviously benefit from their reputation as an online bookseller. You also get the advantage of their shipping process and can be hands off to the whole sales process. On Amazon, people can post reviews of your book, and there’s a recommendation feature that could help you gain more attention than your website alone could. The downside, of course, is that Amazon gets a cut of your profits.

If you sell your book directly from your website you have a bit more work to do, but you get more of the profit from your sales. If you’re selling an ebook and don’t have to ship anything, selling directly through your website is a great alternative. The downside is that the payment process now rests on your shoulders.

You’ll need a payment processing company like PayPal or Authorize. When you set up an account with them, they’ll provide code that is added to your website that will show “Buy Now” buttons or links. You’ll have to give the processing company a small portion of your profits, so shop around for the best deal. Web Design for Writers has worked with many payment processing companies and we’ll be happy to help guide you through the process.

If you have a publisher and will be selling the book through another website, all you need to do is put a link on your site to the publisher’s sales page for your book.

Using Your Author Site to Land an Agent or Publisher

If your work isn’t yet published and you’re hoping to attract an agent or a publisher, then you definitely need an online presence. Both agents and publishers expect to see you online, with a website and even social media pages like a Facebook page and Twitter account. They want assurance that you are passionate about your work and that you understand how to market to your audience. A website to attract an agent or publisher should include the basics – home, about the author, writing samples – plus contact information on every page. The site should be clean and attractive. Think of it as an online query letter; it should sell the quality and marketability of your work.

Author Blogs

Does an author need a blog?
The short answer is no, although your agent or publisher may be telling you that you do. (In that case, you should probably listen.) Blogs can be a great way to build a relationship with your fans. You can blog as you the author, or as one of the characters. A blog gives you a chance to reach out to fans between releases of your work and to hear from fans and interact with them. Building a relationship with your fan base sells more work. That’s why your publisher will want you to have one. You can also test out some of your writing with fans and get feedback. Some writers build ebooks or book content out of all their blog posts, using their blog posts more like a draft for final work.

However you use the blog, be aware that blogging is a time commitment. To blog successfully you should add a new post at least once a week. Many online experts believe once a day is more successful, but you’ll have to decide what will work for you. (Also, an unattended blog is worse than not having one, as an outdated post will make your site appear as if you’ve abandoned it.) You’ll also have to learn the blog software, which may require even more time, at least initially. If your writing will suffer because of blogging, rather than flourish because of it, then you may want to forego writing a blog.

How does Blogging work?
You’ll need blogging software. A blog site is different than a regular website because it requires the ability to subscribe (RSS), post a comment, and moderate comments – all on the fly. Blog software varies in ease of use, but most are free, so take them for a test drive and see what you think.

You may have a website with a blog that’s built into the site or you can use a blogging site like wordpress.com or blogger.com. If you choose one of these, then your web designer can simply link to your blog. It’s best, however, to have your blog and website together on one site. Search engines give higher rankings to websites that include blogs. If you want to take this approach, you’ll probably need the help of a web designer to get the site set up for you, but you can maintain the blog yourself once the site is up and running.