Self-published author websites have different needs than websites for authors with traditional publishers. As a self-published author you might be looking for a traditional publisher, an agent, and/or to create a community of readers interested in your existing & future work. Or, you might just want to go the indie route because it appeals to you. There are lots of reasons for self-publishing your work, but no matter your reason, you need a successful author platform to get (and keep) things off the ground.
With a traditional publisher, your publishing team will most likely guide you through not only the creation of your book, but also your marketing & publicity campaign. They’ll manage distribution, book sales, appearances/interviews, and they might even manage the creation of your website, your social media platforms and your mailing list. They have the connections & budget to streamline your release and make sure everything is in place how & when it needs to be ready. When I am hired by a traditional publisher to create an author website, lots of decisions have already been made about the author brand and messaging. But when I work with a self-published author, it’s only about half the time that my client even knows what decisions need to be made. And this is part of what I love about my job … helping self-published authors determine what’s right for them and their book(s).
So what are some things self-published authors need to think about with regards to their author platform & website? Here’s a quick list:
- You need a website. If you’re considering whether you can just have a Facebook page or an amazing Instagram feed or a killer Amazon author page, the answer is no. And here’s why: You want to own and control all of the information about your content and your audience as a self-published author. From your domain name, to the links to your information, to your mailing list, to your images and text, you should be able to change anything at any time, and you should be able to count on it being there. While it’s unlikely that a company like Facebook would suddenly fold, what if they make a new (stupid) rule about how Facebook pages operate? What if the bit.ly URL shortener goes belly up? What if you’re getting ready to release a new book and some service is down for maintenance? You can create a great Facebook page & Instagram feed on top of your website, and you can/should even integrate them into your website, but ultimately everything should funnel back to your site.
- Turning visitors into fans. Creating highly searchable content on your website is a great way to make new people aware of your work. In addition to social media promotion that links back to your site, each site visit from a unique user is an opportunity to create a new fan. So how do you do that? You create value for them, and you capture their email address so you can let them know when something new is available. You might create value by demonstrating (visually & through text) how entertaining your books are, how much they’ll learn from you, or how you can improve their lives. And you can capture email addresses via a mailing list and/or a blog subscription. And then you follow through — you share valuable information, you entertain, you alert them when exclusive content is available, you create extras like audio files or videos or short stories you can share with them. These are the things that keep people engaged, coming back for more, and willing to share what they love about you with their friends. Your goal is not just to sell books, but also to create ongoing marketing opportunities so that you have a sustainable business/career, not just one successful book.
- Selling books. As a self-published author, you are not only responsible for your author brand & reputation, but also for your book sales. You might be using a service that packages distribution with creation (CreateSpace). Or you might list your book with a behemoth like Amazon. Or you might want to sell directly with a service (Gumroad) or your own e-commerce solution (WooCommerce). Or, you might use some combination of these options. But you do want to think of a working strategy for how to attract the right people to your book, and also get it into their hands. Successful self-published authors generally don’t rely on only one avenue, they have many. So as you move from book production into book marketing, consider format (ebook vs print) and retailers, but also consider how you might package your offerings. Your fans should be able to buy your individual books, but what about selling a whole series? That way you’re leveraging not only your new work, but also your previous work into sales. What about partnering up with other authors in a similar genre and selling a collection? That way you can share the cost of promotion & bring your books to a new audience. What about packaging a seasonal short story with a previous release just before a new release & offering a coupon code? That way an existing fan can read the short story, and share the previous book with a friend. These ideas, and many others, will help get your work into the hands of new and old fans alike. And your author website allows you to create a landing pad to centralize and promote information about these kinds of offerings.
As a self-published author, you have many hats to wear, and you want to make sure the time you’re investing in your writing career is going towards creating a lasting & successful platform. Creating a successful self-published author website will not only result in making your current book a success, but also your future books, and the time in between books. This is a long game that is really about the relationship between you and your readers, so set yourself up with a way to manage that relationship so that everybody wins.