So you’re on your way to becoming an author. Congratulations! The next step is to figure out how to get people to find you and your book. Enter author’s website.
The first place people look for an author or a book is the internet. There are many ways to create a striking presence online. Some authors use social media, some manage their websites, while many use a combination of the two.
They say a person who doesn’t exist on social media doesn’t exist at all. But authors across the world believe having an author’s website is as crucial.
It makes sense first to understand who needs an author’s website. Let’s find out.
Who should consider an author’s website?
Whether you are an established writer with a diverse portfolio or are still working on your first piece, you are an author.
All creators, self-published or not, a novelist, short story writer, librettist, playwright, screenwriter, or someone trying their hand at more than one genre, should think about owning a website.
Why…you ask? That’s a great question. Read on.
Why is an author’s website important?
Success needs a lot of ingredients, and a fantastic social media presence is just one of them. So here are the seven most popular reasons why authors should have a website too.
Your personal space on the internet
A website is like your own store on the internet. You can name it, decorate it, and promote it the way you want. Social media offers you a little less freedom. Even if you have thousands of followers on your Facebook page, they are ultimately governed by Facebook. Everything that you have on your social media account belongs primarily to the site. In the case of your website, you own all the assets.
Creating a personal email list of subscribers is one of the most significant advantages of a website. You can directly engage with your audience on a one-on-one basis. People sign up to your email list when they like what you write and want more of it. That is why email lists sell books more than social media. You can always say more about yourself, offer a sneak-peak into your latest or upcoming release, and include a link for buying the book in the email.
Online is ruling the roost right now, and the pandemic has made it worse for physical bookshops. Yes, we still love to go to bookstores where one could disappear and relish the aroma of the fresh pages of new releases. While those shops are still around the corner to offer the look-and-feel and the excitement that follows the ringing of the cash register, most of the book sales happen online now. More people look for reviews and suggestions online and hit the ‘Buy Now’ tab if they like what they see. Social media can help you promote your creation, maybe even sell a bit. But an author’s website provides a lot more authority and support to your Instagram handle.
Every word that you write builds a bond with the reader. The stronger the bond, the higher the book sales. Your website can help you forge a stronger relationship with your reader by offering a deeper glimpse into your mind and soul as a writer. For instance, an ‘About the Author’ section introduces your background and journey to the reader, a portfolio section can show off your literary work, and a blog can be your personal space to post opinions about topics that matter to you.
As a newbie, the chances are that your first trial might not be perfect; you end up making mistakes and have fewer footfalls or traffic on the site than expected. But an author’s website in the nascent stages of your career can be a great training ground. You can learn from your errors, so by the time your first book is out, you will know much more about utilising your website for promoting the book successfully.
Establishing your brand
The science behind sales is pretty simple; the more people know about your product, the higher are the chances of purchase. As an author, your name is the brand. Therefore, it needs to be marketed well along with the books to your credit.
As a new author, with a website, you get the opportunity to start developing your label early on. However, if you are an established one, an author’s website serves as your platform and forges your brand identity.
Strolling in a marketplace, you tend to drift from one shop to another. Often, a shop with a shiny, colourful façade catches your eye, and you end up turning towards it without a second thought. Ultimately, you get tempted into making impromptu purchases that you didn’t plan at all.
A reader might follow your handle when Instagram suggests it in the list of other authors to follow, but your website is like your own shop on the internet. You never know when something might draw the attention of a passer-by and open doors to unknown opportunities. As an author, you look for chances to get more copies of your book to your readers, more book-signing events, or even some speaking engagements. As the traffic on your website increases, it starts generating more leads. Combining it with your following on social media helps create and maintain a constant buzz around your brand name.
What is the best time to create an author’s website?
The day you start writing.
Yes! It is recommended that you unveil the website before you get published. The trailers always precede the movie. With an author’s website, you get to advertise your upcoming book, release well-timed trailers, and generate curiosity among the audience before the book launch.
Many writers in the making launch their websites while working on their books simultaneously. Take a look at these examples of websites of unpublished authors in India.
Sonia Chatterjee created this site in 2017 to promote her work. She went onto release her book ‘Deal of Death‘ in 2019. This site was a great way to create a base for her book promotions.
For an established author, you might get the desired edge. You can utilise your current following on social media to announce your upcoming website. You can put up a ‘Coming Soon’ web page (here are some ideas) while you work on the website in the background.
Wondering where to begin? First, decide the goal for your website.
How to decide the Goal for the Author’s Website?
Jumping straight into website designing with easy-to-use tools can get you lost among sparkly templates and mesmerising themes. Instead, you need to maintain focus on the ultimate purpose, the reason why you need a website flashing your name perpetually.
Above all, your website needs to be a good investment with great returns.
Goal setting is the first and the most critical step towards designing a website that leaves a mark. The purpose of an author’s website could be one of these:
You become a bestselling author when your book sells well. That’s where a good website comes in handy. If used and promoted well, it can enhance your readership and increase sales.
Imagine having a huge fanbase who would read anything that you undersign. If you are looking to add some speaking opportunities and book-signing events to the wish list, you need a website for self-promotion.
Such websites are designed to assemble an audience around the brand, that is, the author. Websites built with this purpose of self-promotion need to offer a glimpse into your personality and regular activities. You can include a personal blog for sharing snippets from daily life, tips for writers, and your plans for the next book. You can also share links to any interviews that you may have done as an author.
Chetan Bhagat’s portal is a classic self-promotion website.
From the first look, you get the feeling that you have delved into the countless stories from his life. Besides focussing on his literary works, these self-promotion websites take you through various other aspects of the author’s life.
You can find some great tips on self-promotion techniques for authors here.
Propagating your ideas
If you believe in writing on social, environmental, or political issues like the state of the economy, animal rights, social stigmas, and mental health, among others, a blog on your website can be a unique platform to voice your opinions. Many Indian authors like Jyoti Arora run a blog to share their thoughts regularly and keep their readers engaged. Asha Seth is an award-winning example of an unpublished author generating excellent blogging content to build your following.
Building an Email List
One of the primary goals of an author’s website is to get people to sign up for the mailing list, which eventually creates a database of subscriber IDs. This database lists people who like your work and wouldn’t mark your notifications as spam when they hit their mailbox.
Need some advice on creating an email list that works? Here you go!
Attracting the Publishers
New writers looking to get their first book published or established authors searching for publishing houses, let your website be your sales pitch and resume. Show off your best work there, be it your most well-received articles, blog posts, or your interviews as an author.
Building a Career
Writers of non-fiction genres like business and management usually establish themselves as keynote speakers, coaches, or consultants. For them, their book is part of their resume. They use it to show off their knowledge of the subject matter.
If you are one such writer, your website needs to offer a thorough glance into your career. Include any articles and blog posts crafted by you and interviews that you gave as an author. Plus, you can include a section on client testimonials, any past or upcoming events you may be engaging in, or announcements on your future commitments.
Adding content frequently to your website helps it rank higher in web searches. A higher rank means that whenever someone runs a related Google search, your website might show up higher on the results page.
Depending on what your goal is, you could decide the type of website that you will need. Here’s a list of the variety.
Types of author’s websites
This is an online portfolio of the educational and professional background of the author. It highlights your published works and offers glimpses into any upcoming books. You can include any articles, blog posts, interviews, or even an ‘About Me’ section. This website is a detailed resume, and hence personal details are limited. The look, feel, and language of the website are formal business tones.
Amitav Ghosh’s website is the perfect example.
Also called CV websites, these are usually a single-page, more straightforward websites that focus only on your educational qualifications and professional work. They are thoroughly formal websites shared while applying for jobs online or directly with recruiters.
Sharanya Manivannan’s portal is a crisp one-page resume website that puts everything about her profile out there on the façade.
They adopt a more relaxed and informal theme to take visitors through the author’s personality. You create this website to promote the real you. Manoj Singh runs an outstanding personal website.
Here you can include an elaborate ‘About Me’ section where you talk about your background, interests, and hobbies. You can even share links to your social media profiles and blogs for reaching out to readers consistently.
So how do you create such awesome websites that resound with your goal and personality? Is it worth spending on it at all?
Let’s find out.
Free vs Paid Author’s Websites
The most grinding question that can drive us crazy is why to pay for creating a website. Free tools available today are compelling enough, not to mention tempting. And if you are a new, unpublished writer, creating a free website makes all the more sense. As a new blogger, I faced the same dilemma.
The difference between free and paid websites is the same as in any other service. The more services you want, the more you have to pay.
But investing in a website is always rewarding. Here are some reasons why.
Professional Website Name
You can name your website whatever you want. So instead of www.yourname.wordpress.com, you can call it www.yourname.com. The latter sounds more professional and helps establish your brand name. With the amount of time and effort you invest in a website, you would want to sound like the landlord, not the tenant.
Even if you begin with a free website name, called domain, and plan to upgrade later, chances are you will have to shell out more money. So starting with your customised domain is worth investing your time and money in.
However, naming your website right can be tricky. The name should be 6-14 characters long, easy to type, easy to remember, and preferably without hyphens and numbers. These ideas can help you come up with a good website name.
If the name you select is already taken, you will have to create a good alternative. For instance, Amish Tripathi’s website www.authoramish.com or Ashwin Sanghi’s website www.Sanghi.in are exciting yet easy to remember website names.
Here’s an online tool that can help you curate some interesting domain names.
Mostly, free websites are all put in the same place, that is, on the same server. That leads to slower downloading of the web pages.
Imagine a reader searches for ‘famous Indian non-fiction authors 2021’ and finds your name in the top five hits. The moment he clicks on your name, your website takes forever to appear on the screen. Finally, he hits the ’Back’ button, goes to another author’s website in the list, and subscribes.
The longer download time can pull the reader away from your free website before they get to read anything.
As our portfolio grows, the need to expand the website grows with it. And if you are an established author, you would want your website to be as expansive as your work. You can opt for the free trial services, but these platforms save your credit card details and charge you automatically when the trial period is over, if not stopped earlier.
Don’t we hate when an ad interrupts a video we are watching? Imagine that happening when a visitor is reading the plot of your upcoming book and an advertisement of hotels in his favourite destination offering 50% off plops. He immediately clicks on the ad and leaves your book summary unfinished.
Most free websites providers fill up pages of your site with their logos and unwanted ads. They take away the exclusivity and serve as a distraction. Paid versions offer a better, uninterrupted experience.
How many times do you turn to page two in a Google search when looking for your favourite author? Hardly, right?
Simply put, a paid version like www.youwrite.com has a better chance of turning up in the top five search results than the free website www.youwrite.wordpress.com. So when people run an online search, a free website will appear far lower and possibly not on the first page of search results.
As an author, your content is continually mounting. As you mature, so should your website. If your website displays only your short stories today, you would want to feature your books tomorrow. An established author’s website can offer many sections like a blog, the speaking arrangements, interviews given, or even news about the upcoming book signing events.
That means you will need more space, or storage, to expand your website and add pages, which is almost impossible to do with the free versions.
And then you want to design your website so that the reader is lured to move around and not leave in the first ten seconds! The problem with free websites is that users don’t get enough designing tools to craft a swanky portal.
When you start working on the website, you can often hit a wall. That is where good Customer Support can save the day, but it is available only for paid website users.
When free users look for customer service, they are usually directed to the community forums or a published list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Paid users get personalised 24×7 support from most of the service providers for a quicker resolution.
Moving your data from a free website to a paid one can become a herculean task. There aren’t enough tools available that allow a non-tech person to do the math behind it. You ultimately have to hire a freelancer to do the job for you, thus raising your bill.
The final verdict is always the same. Paying to build a website is always worth the investment for an author looking to establish their brand. And your personalised store on the internet will grant more credibility to your label, unlike a free one.
Still, have doubts about opting for a paid website? Check out this extensive list of reasons why having a paying up is better.
How much does it cost to build an author’s website?
Buying a website name or domain costs less than ₹500 per year on platforms like GoDaddy. You can purchase it for more than one year or renew it every year. The price rises as you select more familiar names.
Then you need to buy the space to set up your website on the internet, called hosting. WordPress or Wix offer great comprehensive plans for less than ₹200 per month that are a one-stop-shop for everything you need to build an author’s website. But, of course, the more features you want on your website, the higher you have to pay.
Many fantastic website designers in India can help you weave a website that serves all your requirements.
With these many types of websites, picking out the best that suits you can get tricky. For example, should an unpublished author go for a personal or a resume website?
Certain factors can help you make this decision. Let’s take a look.
How to choose the best website design for an author’s website?
As a beginner, you don’t need an elaborate five-tabs website. But then, as an established author, you don’t want a website that underplays your achievements.
The factors mentioned below can help you make that decision. And no, it is not the genre that you have been writing in.
The first decisive factor is the website goal. What you need the website for decides its theme. If your goal is promoting only your work, a portfolio website is an ideal choice for you. If you are looking to establish yourself and your name as the brand, a personal website would work.
The second is the number of years you have been writing. It is another way of highlighting how many creations you own and what kind of readership you have. The higher the number, the more web pages you will need. Your published or upcoming books consume the most space since that is your primary work and your readers look forward to learning more about them.
Another factor is how you want to engage your audience. A blog can be a great option to connect with your readers frequently. It guarantees a regular audience and not just when a new book is announced, but maintaining it demands time and commitment. So pick it up only if you can manage it. A blog needs to be at least six months old for you to start reaping the benefits.
Here’s a one-stop checklist for everything you need to do and avoid for creating and maintaining a website.
The Checklist for an Author’s Website: Watch Out for These Essentials!
There are certain dos and don’ts about the elements of building an author’s website. Let’s begin with the Dos.
The Basic Elements
- Who am I?: The About section needs to be all about YOU. It should reflect your personality and talk about the writer within you. You can include a concise author bio, but keep it simple. Ideally, your author bio should begin with that one sentence that tells everything worth knowing about you in a nutshell. For instance, ‘Ishita is a blogger, poet, content writer and author of Creating an Author Website’.
- The Author’s Creations: Display all your crafts on your website. Your books need to be put up with a ‘Buy Now’ button flashing underneath. You should also inform readers where they can buy your upcoming publications.
The idea is to highlight what you are offering, place them where it is easy to spot, and make it easy for your readers to grab a copy. Take a look at Kanchana Banerjee’s homepage. The first thing you notice about her website is her latest book, what it is about and where you can buy it.
- Hello there!: As an author, don’t you love listening to your readers and what they thought of your book? You look forward to connecting with them, be it on your website or social media handles. So make it easy for them to contact you. A well-built Contact Me page can help you there.
This page could include a form with a message box to capture reader details or a link to send you an email directly. Adding a plugin to display your Instagram page activity on the website can push your readers to connect with you on social media. Preeti Shenoy’s homepage in the below image has Instagram and Twitter feed and a Get in touch form for her website visitors.
- What’s your name?: Allow your readers to leave their details like names and email addresses so you could share regular updates about your upcoming book(s) and any events you might have lined up. It also allows you to build your subscription list slowly.
- Come back soon!: If you don’t show any new activity or additions to your portfolio, your readers will not have a reason to visit your site consistently. As a result, your site will lose its rank in Google searches. So keep it up and running. Besides the occasional book launches, you could add the series of events you are engaging in or update the blog constantly. You must also include social share icons to enable readers to share anything they like on their social media profiles.
Devdutt Pattanaik’s website is a masterpiece in reader engagement. You just can’t leave this website before browsing through more than one section.
- Reading on the go: Ensure your website design is mobile-friendly. Most of your readers will access your webpage on their mobile, and you wouldn’t want them to bump into an abstract art form instead of an author site.
Spice it up!
An author’s website needs to be exciting and worth browsing. There are some things that you could do to get there.
- Surprise!: Keep your audience engaged. For instance, you can create quizzes about your previous books and reward the winners with signed copies of your upcoming book or a chance to meet you in person.
- Freebies, anyone?: To grow your subscriber base, lure the readers through some free content. You could offer a sneak-peak into the upcoming book, maybe the first chapter or a teaser if they subscribe to your newsletter.
The author of the blockbuster series on Bahubali, Anand Neelakantan, owns a website that does a great job at keeping his visitors and readers engaged.
- Highlights: Keywords are the words that people type while running an online search. They make your website more easily searchable. Having the right keywords on your website points the reader to the page they are searching. Just like regular updates, keywords help keep the website active. You could also include your Twitter or Instagram feed to add automatically refreshed content to your website.
Austin Kleon’s website is a fantastic example of a website that ranks high in online searches and keeps the audience thoroughly engaged.
- Connect with your Publisher: Publishers help a lot of authors create and maintain their websites. So if you happen to have one, involve them in the decision-making. They will have valuable suggestions to give.
Watch Your Step!: The Don’ts of an Author’s Website
While website designing is quite easy, a few misses can cause severe damage.
The Complete Piece
While you would want your visitors to read any short stories or articles you publish, avoid releasing the complete piece on your website if you plan to publish it elsewhere. Editors usually reject previously posted works.
Then, you don’t want the readers to enter your website and crash into bad colouring and fonts, which are too fancy to be taken seriously.
As an author, your name is your brand. Don’t mess it up by hitting the plagiarism wall. Check your content before publishing, just in case it feels like déjà vu. Also, avoid the use of copyrighted images that might put you in a difficult position.
You can check your work for plagiarism here for free.
Don’t let your website show outdated content on the homepage! Any first-time visitor would not like to see your books published in 2005 under the latest releases when you have posted more since then.
If your website or blog enables comments shared by readers, do not leave them unattended. Engaging with them makes you more approachable and gets more readers to your website. And then, there are the spam messages that you want to delete and block as soon as they are posted to keep your website clean.
Indian Author’s Website worth noticing…
…and people who helped build them. Here’s a list:
This larger-than-life website takes the visitor through the celebratory life of Preeti. It helps the reader get to know the author and every part of her life; her books and what people think of them, her opinions through the blog, her interviews and speaking arrangements, and the writing courses offered.
A simple yet powerful website that has everything we have covered in this article.. It checks all the boxes of a great and impactful website. Designed by Oktobuzz.
The first look on her homepage tells you all about her latest release and then introduces her other creations on powerful women. While her website also has many interviews and speaking arrangements that she has done, it focuses first on her books, reviews, and where readers can buy them.
Another masterpiece of a website that dives deeper into the life of Dr. Tharoor and the many hats he dons. Developed by Net India.
Writing is difficult. Storytelling, more so.
Everyone who decides to write full time and become an author wants people to read their work. It takes a lot of blood and sweat to bear and give birth to stories that readers would want to consume.
If, after everything, people don’t know what you write, it can get disappointing. That is where an author’s website enters to save the day! Social Media is essential, but every author should have a website because every author deserves one. They deserve to be well known before they are widely read.
Outside India, especially in the US and Europe, writers build their websites even before getting published. The trend is catching up in India, but there is a long road ahead.