Charles Dickens was a big self-promoter and if he were writing today he would definitely have a website and be on social media.
I have built websites for several authors and their needs are generally similar. (A few of my samples are here.) If someone just typed your name in the search bar, what would we find? Chances are they are looking to find out About You (biography), your Publications, any Events you might be involved in (readings, workshops) some samples of your writing, and a way to Contact you. And those 5 topics make up a reasonable starting place for a website menu.
For a business, if you don’t have a website you don’t exist, and for a published (or hoping to be published) author that is also true. It has been true for a decade or so that having a website is a mark of validity. (That is unfortunately also true for conspiracies, scams, and questionable groups.)
Every writer should have a website as a way to market and promote yourself and your writing, build your audience and sell your work.
I have worked on designing sites for a number of writers who were actually told by their publisher that having a site was a requirement for being published. The bigger publishers often will host a page for your book with a few of those elements but a lot of the marketing of writers (especially novices) falls on the author. Self-promotion is important.
I wrote recently about some tips to help you boost your search engine optimization (SEO). One of those ways is for authors to have a social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram etc. It can also be having a blog as part of your website so that fresh material is out there about you. If the only update to an author site is when they have a new book (which might be a year or years apart), people are not going to return to your pages.
Authors use blog features to stay in touch with their readers. You can also guest blog on other writers’ sites. In this past pandemic year, online blog and book launch tours and interviews became commonplace. Even commenting on other people’s blogs and including your name and website URL helps.
Search engine spiders are out there 24/7 on the web looking for changes to web pages to feed their algorithms. If your site remains the same, it doesn’t help your SEO or hold your audience.
Typically, there is a lot of time between books, so short-form publications keep your name visible. Publications in periodicals can bridge the gaps. Offering some new writing as a blog post, memoir, story excerpt, poem also keeps the gap filled.
Having social media followers helps build audience. Besides the obvious big platforms like Twitter or Facebook, consider offering some video. Audiences are quite wiling to watch short videos recorded with some care on a phone and posted on YouTube (which also allows you and others to easily share on their own sites).
I believe you should own your name as a domain and as a handle on social media sites. You should also do that by creating accounts on some sites where book authors are featured. Check out Goodreads, LibraryThing, BookBub and
LinkedIn (particularly for nonfiction writers and journalists).
Being a self-published indie writer is more common and accepted today. In the last century, a lot of “vanity presses” would print your book for a price and do little else for you. Now, sites for self-publishing offer more from social promotion to press releases to entering your book in contests. If you are in control of your own book distribution, then get it with as m. Everyone thinks first of Amazon and yes it should be there, but also consider Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play, Barnes & Noble, Ingram, OverDrive, Libby, Hoopla, Scribd, Tolino, Playster, Bibliotheca, and Baker & Taylor.
Today, authors need to do more of the promotion than ever before and it is easier to do it than ever before.