This post is part of an ongoing series at The Open Book answering questions about book marketing and publicity.
In our last Marketing 101 post, I discussed what to do while waiting for your book to release. One of those recommendations was to refine your online presence. Today I’ll drill down into more detail on that point, focusing on the place where your online presence starts:
These days, it is absolutely essential for any published author or illustrator to maintain a personal website. I repeat: it is essential!Using your publisher’s website as your online home base is not a good solution for a couple reasons:
1) You may have many different publishers over the course of your career, and there won’t be one place where people can see all your books.
2) Publishers won’t have room for all the information you’ll want to include.
3) You need to be able to update your website as often as you need to, without going through a third party.
Some authors choose to create their own sites, while some choose to hire a company to design sites for them (I would advise against having a personal friend build your website unless they are able to teach you to manage and update it yourself). This blog post has some great suggestions for how to build a site yourself. Of the DIY options, WordPress is probably the most popular free option, while Squarespace is a good paid option that provides some additional functionalities like e-commerce. The most important thing to consider when choosing where/how to build your site is sustainability: will you be able to maintain and update the website easily on your own once it is built?
Websites can range from the very basic to the very complicated, but all author websites should include a few key pages:
- Bio and author photo. Every website should have an “About” section where people can learn who you are, where you’re from, and what inspires you. Offer more than what people can glean from flap copy alone. Some authors choose to offer both a short bio and a longer bio. We recommend also offering a link to a hi-resolution author photo that people can download for use in event promotions, reviews, etc. If you’ve done any interviews, you should also post links to them here. Not only does this offer additional ways to learn more about you, but it’s a nice way of showing off some of the media coverage you’ve accrued.
- Books. No author website is complete without an UPDATED list of all your books. At the bare minimum, you should include the title, cover, and a brief description of each book. For upcoming books, include a release date – and don’t forget to change the book to available once it is released. If you have space, you should also include some of the book’s positive reviews and any awards that the book has won. Finally, always include links for people to purchase the book directly: we recommend linking to Indiebound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the Author’s Website.
- Events and Appearances. What kinds of visits do you do? What ages do you work with? If you have an education background or any special skills that make you especially good as a presenter, include them here. You may also want to ask contacts from past school visits if they are willing to write testimonials that you can share here. You may even want to include a few photos or video from one of your visits. You don’t need to include honorarium information, but you do need to include a contact where people can learn more. If you don’t want to be your own contact, use a contact from one of your publishers for visit inquiries.
- Social Media and Contact Information. Links to any social media channels you use should be front and center on your page, so people can find you easily. Only link to social media channels you keep updated—if you only posted on Twitter once, two years ago, it’s best not to direct people there until you begin using the platform regularly. Also include a way for people to reach you: this could be through a general email address, a direct email address, or even through snail mail sent to your publisher at your attention. You can choose to be as reachable as you want, as long as you offer some way for readers to get in touch.
Those are the four absolute must-haves for any author website. Beyond that, there are a few other elements that I’d recommend including if you are able:
- Schedule/Upcoming Events. This is not a necessity, but some authors like to keep an updated list of the events they will be attending on their websites. It’s a great way to promote events you’ll be at and encourage fans to come out to support you, and it can also help generate additional event invitations. There’s one caveat: only add this page if you are going to keep it updated. There’s nothing worse than an author website that lists “Upcoming Events” that actually took place years ago.
- Resources. Some authors create additional resources to go with their books, but even if you don’t create your own, it is likely that someone else will. Your website is a great place to compile these so readers can find them. You can link to these resources on your book page, or create a separate page for them. Either way, making these resources available through your website will help educators who want to use your books with students.
- Email Collection. From the release of your first book (and even before that), you should work to build up your base of contacts. An easy way to do this is to create a place on your website to capture emails, where people can subscribe to receive updates on your work. Most website building platforms should have an easy way to do this. Building an email list can go a long way in helping you promote new titles when they are released.
Beyond these elements, the sky is the limit. Your website should reflect you, so feel free to include other pieces of information that you think readers would like. Whatever you do, your first priority should always be to keep your website UPDATED with your newest book information (even between books), so it doesn’t become obsolete.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!