I’ve been an author website designer for over 15 years, and in that time I’ve learned many things about creating websites specifically for authors. In the beginning, I most often worked with the digital marketing departments of traditional publishers who were not in a position to be creating author websites themselves. They either didn’t have the talent in-house, and/or weren’t planning headcount for it because they weren’t sure how important it was.
Many things have happened since! The traditional publishing landscape has changed dramatically, and while the creation and editing of books follows a similar trajectory, the marketing of books is a very different ball of wax. Equally for self-published authors, the tools they have to bring their books to market have evolved a great deal and allow a level of end-product authors only dreamed of years ago.
I give you this background because what authors are expected to know, the kinds of followings they are expected to have on social media, their marketing literacy, and their ability to sell themselves and their work has changed quite a bit. I used to have regular conversations with authors who didn’t even want to show a photo of themselves online, or who scoffed at the idea of using social media — both of which are unimaginable now.
Any website designer should be able to create something beautiful and functional for you that helps promote your brand, and many have some literacy with marketing and sales. But the lifecycle of the release of a book is a specific kind of lifecycle, and the career trajectory of an author isn’t always a straight line.
When looking for a website designer for your author website you want them to be thinking about the following:
- What’s available to promote the book ahead of release?
- When will the cover be finalized and sharable?
- What events will surround the release schedule? / What’s the press schedule?
- What kind of advanced reader blurbs do you have to work with?
- Will there be an audio version of the book?
- What’s your social media presence and how will you use it to market the release?
- What kinds of people are your fans and what makes them loyal to you?
- If you’ve written more than one book how do you feature a new one without the older ones getting lots?
- How do you create an author website if you’ve written for more than one genre?
- Do you have an exiting mailing list and how will it be leveraged for the new release?
- Are you only marketing your book(s) or your expertise? (ie: are you also a speaker?)
- Do you write elsewhere online and how will that be integrated?
- Do you have a publicist or marketing professional who will provide feedback?
Someone who is familiar with the way books are released, the timeframes, and the people involved will help you have a much more successful end result. They will anticipate next steps, ask questions about things you need to be thinking about, and understand your market in a way that ensures you’re focusing on the right things.
Not all web designers are cut from the same cloth — beyond time-based experience, preferred platform, and general aesthetic, the kind of markets they have experience in, and the kind of clients they most often work with affect the outcome of your author website too. So consider working with someone with experience in the author market to get the kind of end result that will work best for you in the short and long haul.
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If you’re interested in diving into more details about this topic (and many others!), check out my Author Website Planning Kit which details out everything you need to know to build your own author website.
This document consolidates, updates, and fleshes out my most popular and helpful articles written for authors and writers into a single, affordable resource. If you’ve been thinking about it for a while, but aren’t sure where to start, what platform to use, and what key decisions you’ll face, this planning kit is for you.