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Sunday School, Part 1: Author Websites

Happy Sunday! Last month, I polled readers and fellow writers about topics they'd be interested in hearing about on the blog once I revamped my website. Thanks to everyone who sent feedback! Now that the new site design is up, I'm following through on the promise to incorporate those topics into the blog. Over the past few weeks, I've posted lots of sneak peeks of current, potential, and upcoming projects, and now I want to switch things up a bit.

I have quite a few friends who are also authors, and I've received several questions about how to get started building their own online platforms to showcase their work and connect with potential readers. Having taught myself the fundamentals of literary marketing over the past five years, I'm going to use my new Sunday School series to post weekly tips based on my own experience.

To kickoff the series, I'd like to discuss the first thing I did before my very first book was published. I created my website (which, if you've been with me since the beginning in 2012, you'll see is quite different from the first version). If you're going to build a platform for your books, you need to have a central hub online where readers can come to learn more about you, get a taste of your writing style, and find out where they can purchase your work when it's released. Start by purchasing your desired domain name if it's available. I recommend either www.[yourname].com or www.[yourname] so that it's easy for readers to search for your new site.

I've had some author friends voice concern about how costly it can be to hire a graphic designer to build their site from the ground up, but the good news is that you don't have to do that! There are so many options out there for authors on a budget, such as WordPress, Weebly, Blogger, Tumblr, or Wix, which is what I used to build my own site (though I started out on Weebly). You can select one of dozens of prefabricated website templates and customize the colors and fonts, add in your own graphics, and more to make it fit your brand.

Once you've selected your layout and color scheme, build out the different pages that will make up your site. There are lots of engaging pages you could include on your site, but I've narrowed it down to a handful of helpful suggestions for you to consider:

  • About the Author - feature a brief bio and perhaps a link to a printable press kit if you have one

  • Books/Series -include a list of all of your works or create subpages with a list of books from each of your series

  • Blog - a place to share your thoughts, snippets from your upcoming books, or establish yourself as an expert on a topic related to your writing

  • Contact Page - include a contact form so that readers or media contacts can reach out with questions

  • Giveaways - build some buzz through giveaways of books, gift cards, or other goodies

  • News & Events - share articles featuring your books or post a calendar of upcoming book signings and appearances

When you've built your website, include metadata on each page to optimize it for search engine results, boosting your chances of showing up in searches on Google, Yahoo!, or Bing, etc. (Don't worry--I'll cover more about SEO in a future Sunday School post!)

Once you've launched your website, you're officially on the path to growing an online platform to reach new readers and market your books! If you have questions, feel free to post them in the comments section below or reach out via my contact form. Stay tuned next week for another lesson in Sunday School!

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