I know you've probably heard all about author platforms, and how publishers expect you to build and maintain your own platform. Well, your website is arguably the most important part of your platform. Consider my own experience. I have nearly 2,400 followers on Twitter, and that's great. But how many of them see even a quarter of my Tweets? Ditto the couple hundreds friends on my Facebook profile and the fans on my fan page.
Though I like Facebook and I'm a huge advocate of Twitter, promoting on them is becoming a little like throwing a handful of spaghetti at the wall. Some will stick, but most will fall off.
Now, I'm not saying you're going to have thousands of visitors to your website, particularly before you're published, but the visitors you do have won't be contending with the noise on the social media sites. They're on YOUR page. Get them there, and then keep them there.
Sounds simple, Cassandra, you say sarcastically, but bear with me. It's not simple, but a website is something you can do, and better yet, something you can control. Do you need to know how to program your own website? It would be helpful and make things easier, but no. All you really need to know is what you want on your website and the name of a good, reliable designer.
I won't lie to you. Website design services (good ones, anyway), aren't cheap, but this is an investment you need to make as an author. Let's skip ahead and pretend I've been so convincing you're ready to take the plunge. You've hired a website designer and you're ready to rock. Now what?
Here are the pages you absolutely must have on your website if you're a published author (more on content for an unpublished author in a minute): About, Books, Contact. That's it for must-haves. You can also add a blog if you choose, along with a media kit with things like a shortened bio, an author photo, etc. As far as actual content, you need to have your name and slogan in the body of the home page of your website. What do I mean by this? Well, all those lovely spiders from places like Google can't "read" pictures, so if your name is a picture at the top of your website, the spider can't see it. As far as the slogan goes, that's one primary way to brand yourself, to make you stand out from the crowd.
A word about the Contact page. This should go without saying, but never, ever put your home phone number or address on your author website. If you have a PO Box, sure. But no one needs to know your home address. You may be scoffing right now, but you wouldn't believe how many people do this.
On to the Books page, since I figure the About page should be self-explanatory. What should be on your Books page? As much information as you can reasonably fit on that page without overwhelming your visitors. This includes, for each book:
- Publication date
- Buy links (as many as you can add - do you really want your potential reader to have to hunt for your book?)
- Reviews (snippets are fine, along with a link to the full review)
- Endorsements from other authors
- Information about the series if the book is part of one
Once you've got your wonderful website up and running, measure your results. Sign up for Google Analytics so you can see how many visitors you get and where on your site they're going. I look at my analytics every few weeks, just to make sure nothing looks screwy or off. Don't expect hundreds of visitors a day, especially in the beginning. I've been published for about fifteen months, have eight releases, and get between twenty and fifty visitors to my website each day.
I promised I'd say something about you unpublished (or like I prefer to say, not-yet-published) authors. What the heck do you put on a website if you don't have books out? How about free reads (short ones, and nothing you plan to sell), your blog, and those About and Contact pages? Plenty of updated content to be had on all of those pages.
One last thing: a website should be dynamic. It needs to change. So update it!
Can you think of anything I've forgotten that should be on a website?
Public Displays of Eroticism: The secret fantasy, sex in a public place. One couple's sexual antics at a local park inspires four other couples to bare it all in the open air. Featuring short stories by Cassandra Carr, Jami Davenport and Cristal Ryder.
Cassandra Carr is a multi-published erotic romance writer with Ellora's Cave, Siren, and Loose Id who lives in Western New York with her husband, Inspiration, and her daughter, Too Cute for Words. When not writing she enjoys watching hockey and hanging out on Twitter. For more information about Cassandra, check out her website at http://www.booksbycassandracarr.com, "like" her Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/AuthorCassandraCarror follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/Cassandra_Carr.