This article offering author website tips is our second guest post from Irish children’s book author Avril O’Reilly, who I met when she took one of my book marketing courses. (Be sure to read her first post, “Use surprises to get media attention.“) Awesome Avril, the author of A Fairy in the Family Again, is currently building a website for her book using WordPress. Connect with Avril on Facebook and Twitter.
Author website tips
By Avril O’Reilly
Creating a website to promote your work (and yourself) is scary! There’s no doubt about that.
Authors worry about the cost, the content, the how, and the when – there’s a lot to consider.
We might take a look at author websites in the interests of research. That’s when panic sets in, Looking at the huge, sprawling sites belonging to the likes of Lee Child, James Patterson, or Karin Slaughter can be downright intimidating.
I have been speaking to the people at Frequency Designs, the firm behind Anthony Horowitz’s very smart website. Based on Ireland’s scenic South coast, Frequency Design created this and many author sites.
I picked up some insights from designer Liam Fitzgerald. He talked me through Horowitz’s site — you might be surprised to learn how much you have in common with this published author. Fitzgerald shared some lessons for authors at all levels.
First the bad news
I was shocked to discover that writers have to pay for their own websites. The publishing houses do not pay. An author, if lucky, might get a page on the publisher’s site.
And what about updating a site? I imagined the PR company would add news about events and new titles. Not so. And Fitzgerald says that publishers offer no help with “the technical nonsense.”
“There has been a transition over the past 7 to 8 years,” he explains. “In the past, the publisher would have done a marketing-led site for the duration of the book launch, and then abandoned it. The strategy was ‘Hit ’em hard, hit ’em fast.’ The site was never updated then it would be abandoned. Now writers are left to their own devices.”
So, Horowitz has to shell out for his own site and update it himself. Not so different from us self-publishers then.
Now the good news
A few years ago, authors showed how professional they were by the quality of their book covers. Writers had to decide between paying an expert or having a DIY cover. Now it seems that we are facing the same tough choice again when it comes to how we look online.
Still, websites are much easier to develop and manage than they used to be. Website platforms such as Weebly, Wix and Wordress allow people with no design or coding skill to use ready-made themes to put together something good-looking.
You might decide to go it alone with a WordPress theme. Themes determine the design of your site. Spend some time seeing what is available and what it will cost you. Quality costs.
If you can afford a web designer, they can show you how to maintain the site yourself. They can also offer a wider range of themes.
What are the costs?
Google local prices for these costs:
- Hosting (monthly or annual fees)
- A domain name
- WordPress themes
- A designer
If your mum is launching her knitting book in the library, then a free Weebly site might be acceptable. Long-term success demands more.
Think about how you would fill these pages well:
- About (with pictures)
- My books
Register your name
Once you have a sense of where you want to go with your site, you need to register its domain name — your site’s URL. There are many good reason for registering your author name as a domain – quickly.
- It looks professional.
- It is what the big name authors do.
- It makes you easy to find when journalists or buyers look for you. They will check Facebook, Twitter, and online. Be ready.
- It will last longer than a site based on a single book title.
Fitzgerald describes a worst case scenario when a writer becomes known and an online casino, or worse, steals the name before the author can reserve it. Then the writer ends up having to buy an alternative address — avriloreillywritesbooks.com or something similar.
He says, “If you do nothing else, at least buy your name as a domain. Spend on that.”
Hiring a web designer
Authors have to think about how they want to spend their time and as Fitzgerald knows, “Time gets eaten up on website learning.”
He advises hiring an expert. “The free themes can all look the same. That adds to the home-made look.”
You do want to stand out from the crowd — and always in the best way possible.
Ask your questions about author websites by commenting below.