We’re going to start here, at the beginning, because as I lurk around blogs and forums I see a lot of authors still asking the question, “Do I really need a website?”
After all, there are so many other places on the web for authors to connect with readers—some are even free and very easy to set up, like Facebook pages and hosted blogs (e.g. blogspot.com, wordpress.com).
But before you push the easy button, here are three big reasons why it’s important for you to maintain your own author website:
Control your identity.
Who do you want to be the owner of your online identity? You? Or Facebook? If you’re only operating on Facebook, that’s Facebook’s identity, not yours.
Yes you can customize a Facebook page (to a point) and yes, Facebook is where everybody lives nowadays. But what would you do if you built a following of thousands, created a custom design and experience, then tomorrow—boom!—Facebook decides to redesign their website, rendering your design customizations useless?
Or, what if they were to change their newsfeed algorithm so pages no longer appeared in front of your followers with the same frequency? These things happen, and there’s nothing you can do about it unless you own Facebook.
What you can do on a third-party website is completely out of your control. Your website is a better place to take control of your brand.
Control your content.
You may not want to believe it, but as important as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter are today, things are always changing on the web. Don’t believe me? Ask MySpace. Websites come in and out of vogue on the web, do you really want to house all of your content on a website you don’t own?
You can always centralize and store your content on your own website and then share it to the appropriate social media or community websites you belong to. In this sense, your website serves as a “hub” that will evolve right along with the web.
Control your search results.
The best way for you to control what results appear when people search for you online is to have your own website that’s optimized for search. Full stop.
Build your community by offering your readers a choice to connect with you “where they live online.”
People use the internet in very individualized ways. Some people hang out on Facebook all day, others Twitter, some like to read blogs on Flipboard and some like to avoid social media altogether and get all their favorite content updates delivered to their email.
If you own your own website, you can give users a choice about where and how they want to connect with you. And the more connections you have, the better your reach when it comes time to ask for the sale.
Having your own website gives you the ability to drive sales and traffic directly to online book retailers. In some cases, like Amazon, you can sign up to be an affiliate and make a percentage of each sale. More money in your pocket.
There are additional ways to monetize a website and we’ll get to that in coming posts—but first, get a website (we’ll cover how you do that too) and get some traffic (and that).
Bonus reason to maintain your own website: Give yourself the flexibility to change and grow.
Owning your own website gives you choice and flexibility. You may burn out on Facebook, want to try your hand at blogging, experiment with book trailers on YouTube or maybe podcasting. If you already have an established website, you can just expand it. You’ll already be showing up in search, people will know where to find you, and you won’t have to re-invent the wheel every time you want to change or grow. Your website can change and grow right along with you. Third party sites really can’t make that promise.
On a budget and worried about cost?
We’re web designers and of course we would love for you to hire us to build you a beautiful, custom-built website and train you how to use it. But we understand it’s not always in the budget. Setting up an author website is something you can do yourself if you’re willing to put a little time and elbow grease into it.
There are a lot of gimmicks out there designed to make you think getting rich and famous on the internet is fast, cheap, and easy… but mostly, these promises will leave you feeling frustrated. We like to help people and provide sound, ethical advice, but we only have so much time and we have to make a living too. So we’ve started this blog and it will be useful to those of you trying to make your way on the web on your own. Bottom line: if you don’t have the funds, you must make the time. So be sure to come back.
No such thing as a free lunch. Minimum costs for hosting your own website are: Domain registration (about $15/yr) and web hosting (about $10/month).
Some words of advice if you venture down this DIY website path: Self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org) is a good option for most authors. It’s a free software that’s very well supported by a gigantic development community. So being, there are many, many tutorials easily found online to help you get started and learn how to install the software on your own web server (“self hosted”), set up and customize a theme, and manage content.
Stay tuned to Launch the Book and sign up for our email updates. We’ll be bringing plenty of get started with WordPress training content to the party, and we’re developing some starter WordPress themes that are designed specifically and strategically for authors and their unique needs—they’ll give you a solid foundation to get you up and running quickly. We’ll notify you when those come online in May, 2013.
In the meantime, if you need assistance setting up your own website, we are available for affordable Skype training consultations (FREE until the end of April, 2013 to celebrate the launch of Launch the Book)—we can walk you through the steps, help minimize the head-banging and get you off to a solid start. Or just leave a comment and we’ll do our very best to respond to any questions you may have!
We hope this helps, please let us know, and hope to see you soon!