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.

Maybe You Don’t Need a New Website

update

I recently told two potential clients that I didn’t think they needed a new website. Sounds like I am not a very good businessman.

But they didn’t need a new site. Their existing site worked for them, even though it was a few years old. They had been adding minor updates but nothing else changed. Both sites were built using a WYSIWYG site designs (Squarespace and GoDaddy) which make it pretty easy to update, but neither owner was comfortable in doing anything more involved with the sites other than minor updates without some help. One had forgotten how to access the editing tools.

Web designers and website owners learn pretty quickly that site maintenance ultimately will involve more time and work (and cost) than site creation.

What I ended up doing for them consisted of some smaller but important updates and maintenance. Here are 6 possibilities for you to consider:

  1. Make content changes. People don’t return to your site if it never changes. That’s what makes blogs or news updates on a site bring people back.
  2. A site audit of security, performance and usability can reveal some changes to be made.
  3. How does your site work on phones and tablets?
  4. Does the site have the latest versions of the software, such as plugins? There may be new themes that can give your site a fresh and significantly different look for little time or cost.
  5. Is it worth moving the site to a new hosting account that offers better pricing or more flexibility? can that be done with minimal work by me?
  6. Search engine optimization (SEO) is important but an area that has a lot of scam offers to get your site “to the top of search results.” Simple use of keywords and other page code can help, along with some advice about how to move up the results.
  7. Related to SEO is getting the word out via newsletters, mailing lists and social media. Are you using those things?