This is the second part of a workshop I hosted for the Palouse Writers Guild on Saturday, July 28, 2018. To see the first part of the workshop, click here: Building An Author Platform.
ESTABLISHING YOUR AUTHOR PERSONA
Even introverts publishing under a pen name need an author website and that’s why it’s absolutely vital to contemplate your author personal at the onset. Some people are wholly themselves online, while others may use a pseudonym and have an online persona different from who they are in real life. It is essential that authors figure out their persona BEFORE beginning to build their website; the website becomes the author’s identity.
When editors, agents, and publishers receive queries from prospective authors one of the things they do is Google the author because they want to see the size and scope of platform, prior works, etc. Readers also look for author websites. The whole point of a website is making yourself and your work easy to find. Without a website the author simply does not exist.
A website should list all the author’s credentials and show evidence of “literary citizenship.” It is always best to have the website listed under your name (or pseudonym) rather than under the book title because that would require launching a separate website or completely revamp the old one if you publish subsequent books. The website is the place to boast about published works, accolades, and give readers all the information they need to fall in love with your work and writing journey.
The Author’s Guild recommends keeping all work together on a single site, this is true even if the author works in several genres. That’s because there’s basically twice the work involved when managing two author platforms, personas, and profiles, not to mention the loss of potential crossover benefit between the audiences.
Once an author has identified their persona, then the research begins. It is important to study the competition. Search keywords specific to your market or genre. Searching popular authors within that genre will generate ideas of items that can be adapted for your website. Next, search yourself and your work. It is important to know what other people are seeing when they make similar searches. This also makes sure there are no unpleasant surprises later.
Before You Begin
Before you begin building a website you will need a domain name and web host. Domain names can usually be purchased for about $10 from GoDaddy. Keep several domain names in mind because the one you want might already be taken. (More information on choosing a domain name can be found here.) Also, you need to renew your registration annually; otherwise someone else could buy your domain and charge you a ridiculous amount to get it back.
Free web hosting is available through sites like WordPress, however that means your web address will include WordPress.
www.KhalielaWright.com vs. www.KhalielaWright.wordpress.com
To add a degree of professionalism to your site, it’s best to find an independent host, which will cost about $5 per month, but has the advantage of not being identified as “free.” I used Server Canyon and am very happy with the service.
STEPS TO BUILDING AN AUTHOR WEBSITE
- Choose a Theme. You can build a website entirely from scratch, but why bother when there are so many wonderful themes to choose from? Once you have a theme, customize the colors, header, and site identification.
- Add Plugins and Widgets. These will link to other favorite sites, social media, calendars, etc.
- Watermark your photos, graphics, and other imagery.
- Create an “About” Page. This is the most visited page on an author’s entire site. Make sure it has a stellar bio that highlights your expertise and accomplishments. Be sure to include your author photo, and consider incorporating photos of you writing, at a book signing, or teaching a workshop. Remember to include a contact form on this page so readers, book reviewers, etc can easily get a hold of you.
- Create a “Published Works” Page. List all prior publications and include links. This will help lend credibility to your work as an author. If you work in many genres you may have multiple pages, one for fiction, one for nonfiction, one for poetry, etc.
- If you have something to sell, sell it! Link to wherever your book or product is sold.
- Create a “Work-in-Progress” Page. This is where you update readers who are not-so-patiently waiting for your next book.
- Start a Blog and Write a Pillar Post. The first post on your blog should orient your reader to what you are all about. It should reflect your author brand and persona.
- Include a Call to Action. At the end of all posts, ask your reader to do something: share the article, subscribe to your email list, leave a comment, or ask question.
- Auto Publish. Nobody wants to waste time on social media when they could be writing. Use WordPress plugins to automatically share all new blog posts to all of your social media accounts.
- Make it Easy to Share. Just like auto-publish there are WordPress plugins that make one click sharing possible.
- Set up email Subscriptions. This automatically mails all new blog posts to your email list, that way your readers never miss a post.
Keys to Success
The key to a successful blog is consistency. Start by posting monthly or quarterly, you can always increase from there. If you start out trying to hold yourself to posting daily, you will quickly exhaust yourself, peter out, and your readers will find you unreliable and wonder where you went. It is far better to start slow and build momentum than start hard and fast only to crash and burn a few months down the road.
If you are new to bogging and not sure what type of information to include, focus on building an audience by sticking to a specific topic. Ideas include:
- Writing and writing advice. Interview other authors and influencers or swap book reviews with other authors. Host guest bloggers and offer endorsements of their writing related sites.
- Your area of expertise. Non-fiction writers can specialize in a particular area, like gardening if your book is a botanical or fishing if your book is on fly-tying. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box if you’re a fiction writer. Someone who writes murder mysteries and is also the County Coroner clearly has an edge over other mystery writers when it comes to expertise. The same would be true for a historical fiction writer who is part of a Civil War re-enactment society or a member of the Glasgow Vikings.
- Share testimonials. Testimonials allow other readers to identify with your current fans and reinforces how your book or your work will resonate with them, too. Testimonials are also a great form of social proof.
- Fiction-centered. If you’ve written a novel, your blog could tie in with the fictional world. Consider offering offer character back stories, unpublished chapters, detailed maps of faraway worlds, or behind-the-scenes development of the story.
The key is to a great website is creating evergreen content. Evergreen content is anything that will appeal to readers regardless of when they happen to stumble across the site. Also, if you do an interview, give a lecture, participate in a reading, or win an award, etc., showcase these successes on your blog, too.
Other things to remember when blogging:
Create Link Love. People love the sound of their own name. Email the author or blog owner and let them know they were mentioned in your article. Who knows, they may even share a link to your article with their followers and pingbacks can be useful in driving blog traffic, too.
Encourage Fan Involvement. Encourage fans to create book trailers, brainstorm cover ideas, and share pictures of themselves reading your book.
Say thanks. Find ways to thank fans for their support. Give your core fans an advanced copy of your upcoming book, offer special discounts, or autographed copies.
Further information on developing an author website can be found at:
10 tips for choosing the perfect domain name
101 Quick Actions You Can Take Today to Build the Writer Platform of Your Dreams
Build Your Author Platform: 7 Manageable Ways to Start From Scratch
Fiction Author Platforms: Why You Need One and How to Build One
How to build your author platform (starting where you are)
How to build your own author platform—from scratch
Q&A: Establishing your Author Platform