Author Websites and Self-Promotion

Dickens poster

Charles Dickens was a big self-promoter and if he were writing today 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 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 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. In 2020, 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 and build your audience.

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.

That self-promotion online has a lot to do with having 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.

Every writer I have worked with or just talked with about websites has wanted to know how to get their site to be the top result when someone searches for their name. That’s a whole other topic but in general, your “page rank” from Google and other search engines largely results from how many other sites link to you and how important those sending sites rank themselves. A link to your website from The New York Times is going to move you up a lot more than a link from your friend’s blog – though both are important to have.

Here’s a quick set of tips to help writers increase their search results, and I’ll write more about search engine optimization (SEO) in other posts – including the scams involved in paying to get higher results.

Making a Living As a Blogger

full frame shot of eye

Photo by Vladislav Reshetnyak on Pexels.com

Right off, it would be difficult to make a living just by blogging, although I’m sure a few people are doing it.

Some people who blog casually get seduced by their statistics. I know several friends who have websites and blogs and are rather obsessed with their web stats and analytics. They are always checking to see how many hits the site gets or what pages or posts are most popular or what search terms are being used to find them. Social media has encouraged this with Likes and Retweets and Reposts. Our smartphones love to send us notifications that someone has engaged with some piece of our content.

I do check my websites’ analytics occasionally. I have ten sites and blogs that I do, so it can’t be a very regular thing. I do like to look every few months to see what has been happening, but I also have clients that I do websites for and they are always interested in their stats.

I blog almost every day but it’s not my “job” – though it’s nice if someone clicks on an Amazon link that I use and buys a book or something and a few pennies drop into my account.

I got this alert about one of my blogs last December:

Your page is trending up
Your page clicks increased by more than 1,000% over the usual daily average of less than 1 click.

Possible explanations for this trend could be:

  • Modifications you did to your page’s content.
  • Increased interest in a trending topic covered by the page.

Of course, I was happy that people found this post from back in 2010 and are still reading it and hopefully enjoying it. Google’s “possible explanations” for this are both correct, as I did update the page that month and the topic of the solstice was probably trending across the web as we slipped into winter.

This post was inspired by my browsing Amazon to find a book for a friend who wanted to try to start a blog that would make money. I certainly don’t have a secret formula for that, but I did find a bunch of people who have written about blogging as a job. The idea of having “passive income” is very appealing – and probably quite difficult to do in any meaningful way. Still, give it a try. If you find the secret formula, let me know – then write the book.