by Jenna Kalinsky.
If you are an author and do not have an author website, let this be your tough-love wake-up call. In our Internet-dependent climate, the fact is if you are a writer and do not have an author website, at the worst, you do not appear to exist to the world at large, and at the least, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to engage with audiences, build relationships, and establish yourself firmly in readers’ consciousnesses, critical for any writer who wishes to connect with audiences and sell books.
You may think you don’t need an author website, fear the tech involved, or assume your presence on others’ pages or social media will suffice, but having your very own website that serves as your placeholder in the literary canon, your online living room, and a perfect opportunity to market yourself and your work is both a game changer and a necessity.
An Author Website Is Proof You- as Author- Exist
In our Internet age, when we want to know something, we Google it. It’s always satisfying to find what you’re looking for, isn’t it? Alternatively, when we search for something and don’t find it, it’s disorienting and easier to discount that the thing we were searching for is important or even exists.
When a person hears your name, sees it on a book jacket cover, reads it in a magazine, meets you at an online writers’ conference, or even chats with you in line at the supermarket, the first thing they do to learn more about you as an author is Google you.
When you have a website, you are automatically verified as a writer of note. Because your site is the virtual extension of your physical self, being present on the web gives others a solid and embodied sense of you as a human and as a writer.
If you do not have a website, people may wonder why you’ve chosen to eschew connecting with your audience. They may feel slighted or even affronted and wonder why you feel you’re above such pedestrian things as engaging on the web, discounting you or your work as a result.
A search will surely bring up evidence of you and your work on other websites, but such instances are due to publication happenstance and are not a representation of you. Even Elena Ferrante, if that really is her name *
and whose whole schtick is to maintain anonymity has a website.
In all cases, when a reader can’t find you, they can’t engage or develop a relationship with you, and soon they will forget they were interested in you or your work in the first place. Where you could have given them something, you gave them nothing. If you’re in the business of purveying ideas, stories, or books, that’s a substantial lost opportunity.
Many authors cite their Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn page as their primary presence.
A social media page is a good first step if you’re just starting out, but it’s not nearly as effective as a website.
Social media fads come and go, and people aren’t always on those platforms either regularly or at all. Also, because you’re borrowing on someone else’s platform whether social media or your publisher, you can’t customize how you come across or what you include.
Your Own Author Website Allows You to Invite Them into Your Online Living Room to Show Them Your Sketches
A website is a multi-useful place where you can:
- Showcase your personality, giving your audience the opportunity to feel like they know you and can develop a relationship with you (handy if you’re selling books!)
- House all your publication links, excerpts, reviews, upcoming appearances, blogs, and any other literary items of business pertinent to you as a writer and to your writing
- Sell your books, courses, or products.
Four members of our creative team, Krista Foss, author of Half Life (McCLelland & Stewart), Karen Quevillon, author of The Parasol Flower, Shasta Grant, author of Gather Us Up and Bring Us Home, and Christina Chiu, author of Beauty, all had books launch in the past year few years; you can see on their sites how they incorporate their books into their “brand” as authors.
Bringing in new visitors and turning them into loyal followers is a lot easier when you have a built-in opportunity to create a warm and inviting space where you exist as an author- and a person. You can share as much or as little personal information as you’re comfortable with (some authors have made a career out of sharing intimate details of their lives while others provide only the business details of their public persona), but details notwithstanding, your “you-ness” can still shine in how you present yourself visually and thematically.
Image above: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s author website (a perfect example of a beautiful and well-organized site)
The colors, layout, logo, images, and your bio will all give off a wonderful sense of your personhood. (Shasta Grant’s site, for example, has adorable (and memorable!) illustrations).
If you go a step further and write a blog, that’s where your essential self can shine (or your “curated” essential self for the public sphere) and nurture reader relationships.
How you host your publications, links, reviews, etc. also invites further reading and intimacy. While there are publication repositories where you can store your clips, if you want to direct someone to engage in your work, directing them to your very own website rather than to someone else’s where hundreds of other authors also store their work will give them the chance to engage with only you, which is ultimately what they’re looking to do if they’ve taken the trouble to check you out in the first place.
Your Author Website: The 10 Essentials You Need
This comprehensive article details the 10 Essential Elements any author website must have. Use it as a checklist to make sure you’ve covered your basics.
Then you can get into the nitty gritty with the pages below.
Basic Pages Your Author Website Should Include
A spare “calling card” style website should include, at minimum, the following pages:
- Your Publications (containing excerpts/clips/images of your publications linked to online booksellers
Additional pages or areas of the site you can offer may include:
- Links to your social media pages
- Videos of you reading your work, talking about writing, or interviewing/being interviewed or in conversation with another writer
- A blog or articles
- Events or appearances such as guest podcasts, interviews, blog tours, seminars or workshops open to the public
- Upcoming publications
Use Your Author Website for Outreach & Engagement Opportunity
Nowadays, unless you’re a household name, your publisher is limited in how much they can market and publicize your books. A more interactive author website is your opportunity to take the literary bull by its horns.
Once you have a website, you can build in interaction and engagement opportunities to foster loyalty and enthusiasm in your readers. Again, you’re building a relationship by
b) existing warmly and extending yourself into your community.
Hook Them and Keep them Engaged Content through Email
Further, you can invite repeated contact with your website visitors by offering them something for free: a tip sheet, a mini-course, or an e-book in exchange for their email address.
Then you can send out periodic emails or a newsletter to your already warm audience to keep them up to date on what you’re doing, offering, and thinking.
(See what I did there? :))
There are numerous email providers who provide free plans up to a certain number of subscribers and reasonable paid plans once your numbers grow (Mailchimp, SendinBlue, and Mailerlite *(If you go with Mailerlite, which is what we use at One Lit Place, here’s a link to save $20).
These services allow you to send out attractive brand-specific emails to share information, invite a feeling of connection and community, and sell products and books.
Many authors nowadays keep Substack newsletters, which is another great way to engage (and even monetize that engagement by charging a nominal fee).
Sell Your Books, Run Writing Seminars, or Teach from Your Author Website
If you’re selling books or have upcoming appearances, seminars, or workshops, not only can you advertise these from your site, but you can run iterations through your site itself, building in an in-house way to connect with people and serve them intimately yet further.
WordPress has numerous plugins that make teaching and membership possible, you can use an all-in-one website that allows for teaching, membership, emails, numerous integrations, and more such as Kajabi, Kartra, or Podia, or you can keep your own site basic and link to a teaching site such as Teachable or Thinkific.
There is never a time in an author’s career when you don’t need a website.
If you’re new or emerging and have only one or two publications to your name, it still helps to plan ahead: look at author websites of writers you like and admire to see what you will do once you have three or four credits to your name.
Don’t take it from me; the venerable Jane Friedman also feels strongly that all authors, including those without publications (yet) should have a website.
Poke around designers’ websites such as those on DanielleLewisDesigns (who has done design and marketing work for One Lit Place & several of our authors (I like to call Danielle “the Logo Master”)) or Pinterest to look at logos. Start refining your “look” on Instagram or through seeing what others are doing that you can learn from.
Again, your author website can be humble or sophisticated, but matters above all else is that it exists.
When you have a site, it serves as an invitation to your readers to recognize you are someone of note, interested in them, and that you are an author who has taken the time and care to occupy your spot on the web for a very good reason.
These resources will walk you through step-by-step what do to do get a website on different platforms, how to manage the tech, and what items to include.
- Jane Friedman, How to Build an Author Website
- The Write Practice: 10 Steps to Building an Author Website
- One Lit Place Resources for Website Building & SEO
- Get a FREE author website (writer’s portfolio) through Carrd
Get A Professional Web Designer or Copy Editor or Copy Writer on the Case
It’s important that you allocate your time to those tasks in which you are skilled and to outsource those that might threaten that beautiful head of hair of yours. Coding is a nasty beastie for some and for others, lots of fun. Writing fresh, engaging copy, making sure you’ve presented your best self to the world with a quick proofread? Let us help.
Web Design: Let us help! We offer 3 packages from basic to custom. Let us help you conceive, design, build, and maintain a site for you from simple to sophisticated.
Copy editing and copy writing: We also help authors with website content from substantive editing to light proofreading to make sure it’s clean, clear, and on-brand.
And if you’re stretched for time? No problem. We’ll write your pages for you.
Have a look at our editing and copy writing for website services:
Or contact us any time for a free consultation to talk about your website and what you’d like to do!