Why you need an author’s website: how to set it up

A quick guide to help South African self-published authors create their own author’s website

  • Have all your works in one place
  • A platform for your readers
  • To practice writing
  • Build a mailing list
  • Sell
  • How to set it up:
    • What to put on your website

Have all your work in one place

Yes, I can hear you say “but I have social media pages and that is where my audience is.” You are not wrong, social media is a great place to keep in touch with all your followers and to show parts of yourself and your work in real time.

But what about the reader or potential reader who stumbles onto your social media page and would love to see or read more about you and sample your work? This is one of the reasons an author’s website is important. As authors we need to remember that we are the business. So in the same way we would setup a website for a regular business, we need to do the same for our book/ writing business.

An author’s website keeps all your titles in one place and makes it easier for the potential reader to decide if they will stick around. Moreover, if you get your subscriber list correct you turn potential readers into long term customers (more on mailing lists below).

A Platform for your readers

As mentioned above an author’s website is a platform for your readers. A place they can visit and learn more about you and your writing journey, or just find out what your thoughts on various subjects are. For example, I stalk Hugh Howey’s website and I have learned quite a lot about his views on important things. This is all before I have even purchased his books. And I would have bought the books already but, this year I have promised myself to use all my book kitty money to buy South African authors.

The point I am making is that when you have a platform where your readers and potential readers can come and get lost in, without the noise of other profiles on social media, you begin to create a bond that will sustain you through book releases.

To practice writing

The one way (apart from reading LOADS) to get better at writing is to write! And a blog on our author’s website is a great addition, I even think it is mandatory. When we are in between books or experiencing writers’ block on a particular project, the blog can be a great place to release some of our writer’s anxiety.

This is also the place where we can write about the things we love and believe in, making it easier to attract only those people who see life the way we do. These people are known as a tribe! And this is what every author wants, a tribe so fully committed in us and our work that they stick around for years. But for us to have a tribe we have to put in the work needed to create an open, helpful and loving space.

Building a mailing list

As we create the open, helpful and loving space and potential readers land on our website, we then need to turn them into subscribers. It is vital to have a mailing list as a business, and remember we are a business, because we don’t “own” social media followers. All our followers belong to whatever platform they are on, so the 1000 followers on Facebook will all disappear if Facebook decides to shut down, leaving us with no leads.

A mailing list, overtime, will also help us gauge our income. When we have properly secured and kept in touch with all the people who give us permission to contact them, we will soon learn how many people to expect to buy the next book before we need to market it on social media or anywhere else.

Building a mailing list also gives us access to people who are eager to help us succeed. These are the people we can send early drafts of our book to and have them give us feedback. This tribe, are the people we can ask about what we should write about next.And if any of the social networks ever go bang, or change the format of their offering, we will still have a way to contact all our clients or potential clients. A mailing list is vital to the fabric of the entire business. And a simple way to achieve this is having an author’s website.

To sell

The bottom line, we are a business as authors and businesses need to profit to count as a business, right? So yes, we do need to sell some books. But guess what? If we spend time creating a pleasant experience for our readers then, the books will sell themselves. People just need to know they can trust us and for them to get there we need to be open, helpful and loving, our task is to provide value. Once we have provided value our tribe will go to the end of the world for us. And this experience isn’t as intimate across social media platforms.

Now if I have convinced you about needing an author’s website, then keep reading for a quick overview of how to set it up.

How to set up your author’s website:

  1. Domain: You must get a domain name registered and it MUST be your name. Why? If you use one of your titles as the domain name, you will restrict yourself going forward and make it hard to brand yourself. So your name and surname are what you want to name your website as this also makes it easier for people to find you on google and it makes it hard for people to forget you are an author. To register a domain you can use Go Daddy South Africa
  2. Hosting: Then for your domain to have a home, you need hosting. Think of it this way: if you were starting a business where people could walk in and purchase your products, you would need to have premises/ building to call your shop. A hosting company is your landlord for the space you are renting on the internet. There are loads of hosting companies one of the popular ones here in South Africa is Afrihost. I however decided to go with Siteground because it is an annual payment and then I don’t have to worry about monthly recurring. And it has the WordPress and Woocommerce seamless integration.
  3. Platform: I have opted to use WordPress + WooCommerce as my website’s platform because, it is a plug and play if you have used it before. It is not hard to figure out, just takes a little patience. If you you don’t have the time to figure out all the pieces then Shopify might be better suited as a start. The draw back with Shopify is that the monthly costs can add up and eat into your book sale margins. But it does offer you a professional and seamless website in minutes.

Okay, now you have your website, what now? what do you fill it up with?

Click button below if you need help setting up your author website

What to put on your website?

The very first thing to remember is that your home page is your business card/business brochure. This is the page a potential reader lands on after they have searched your name. You want the potential reader to see as much as they can to be intriguded to stick around and navigate to other pages on your site.

Your home page must introduce you, so a picture of yourself and your latest book is a good thing to land on . Here’s an example below:

About section: The About section on your home page is a snippet with the read more tag, that will take the reader to the about page of your website. The About is where you put your bio, the bio that you would send in a press kit.

Pop Up Subscriber: A subscriber pop up is needed on your home page too and must pop up when a reader scrolls back up on your site as this is usually a sign that the reader is about to leave.

A Newsletter sign up prompt: Again, this is a way to make sure you collect the details of the people who come on your site and this newsletter sign up should be on that home page.

You can also have links to your blog and you shop on the home page, in fact on my blog the very first thing is a link to my latest book that takes the reader straight to the purchase page.

The goal of your home page is to help your reader browse what is in store for them should they stick around. So everything you absolutely want them to know before they leave should be on your home page with clickable links to send the reader to the pages they find intriguing.

I hope this has been helpful and please share it with an author or aspiring author you know. We only truly win when we win together.

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