What’s an author website for? Do you really need one? Do you need one if you aren’t published yet?
Here’s what an author website is for: engaging potential readers. Yes, you really need an author website, and you need it as soon as you can do it–that is, as soon as you can identify who those potential readers are. You need it well before you approach a publisher, who will surely evaluate both your manuscript and your platform before deciding whether to take you on.
You will know who your potential readers are if you have settled on a genre, or several genres. Try to figure out what these people would like to read about that you can talk about well before you are published.
It needs to be something you like and do. Cooking? Gardening? Ranching? Raising children? Living with pets? Talk about the things that are important to you, that those potential readers of your books might also like to hear about. Tell mini-stories about your adventures with your kids or your dogs. Ask questions. Get a conversation going.
Readers especially like to hear about the creative process. Show them a picture of a house or a landscape that piqued your imagination. Discuss when you write, and where. Show them your writing table. Ask about their dreams of writing a novel.
Don’t talk about your upcoming book all the time. None of us likes sales calls. Slip in a teaser once in a while.
How will you do all this talking to your readers? You need to put yourself in front of them, wherever it is they go online. Goodreads? Amazon reviews? Blogs about books? Facebook? Each of your comments in these places should contain a link back to your very own turf on the web, your website. The more links coming in from outside your site, the higher your site will rank on Google search. The higher the ranking, the easier it will be for people to find you based on subjects they are interested in.
And, of course, talk about all this stuff on your blog. Be sure to pin your photos from your blog posts into a Pinterest board. This really attracts potential readers, so don’t ignore this tool! And use keywords in the picture caption, hashtags even.
Did I say blog? Do you need a blog?
Your website at yourname.com should be more than an older-style static website, which is like a billboard in cyberspace that just provides info. Your website should include a blog, becoming a newer style dynamic website which is really a conversation platform. And you need to post on a regular schedule, at least weekly, preferably more often. Posts can be short, like 150-250 words. In fact, short ones with an image are most effective.
What if you already have a billboard-style website of your own plus a free blog on blogger.com or wordpress.com? Many writers started out this way, and their fans are used to it now, so that’s what they need to stick with. But they are loosing out on the higher Google rankings for their website (at myname.com) that a blog on their own site would bring. (Note that higher Google rankings cause your post to stand out more in the sea of 3 million posts on the same subject.)
WordPress or Blogger? I use WordPress, and once had a Blogger blog. I like WordPress better–you can have static pages alongside dynamic blog-post pages. But if you like Blogger, I am sure you can make that work!
Oh, and one more thing: avoid saying “Welcome to my website.” Use something meatier instead, like a thumbnail description of yourself and your hopes and dreams.