Author websites

Author Websites… a necessary evil?

I think every writer needs a website. They can be frustrating as hell to put together and manage, but unless you’re a top name and your publisher is going to do it for you, you have little choice.


Because relying on social media is a dangerous risk. No matter how useful Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or whatever is to your writing career right now, you have absolutely no control over what’s going on with those people.

Tomorrow they can change their algorithms and overnight a big chunk of your carefully cultured group of followers no longer gets your messages. Social media companies do exactly what they like, regardless of how it impacts on you. And who are you going to complain to?

Good luck with that.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t use social media. Personally I prefer the brevity of Twitter, but that’s just me. If you’ve got a tribe going on Facebook, or wherever else, keep at it. Nothing wrong with that.

But bear in mind that without your own website you could loose it all… Any. Minute. Now.

Too dramatic? I don’t think so. But rather than keep banging on about evil billionaires and their businesses, let me suggest an effective alternative.

Use social media to drive people to your website and then you’re in control.

It’s easier to make contact with people via social media, I get that. But how many of your ‘followers’ actually get your message and interact? I’ll bet it’s not more than a few percent. Let’s say you’ve built up 1,000 followers. You make a comment. How many people actively engage and respond? If you have a book and you shout out an offer, even if it’s  money off, how many sales do you get as a result?

Not a whole bunch. But that’s OK, it’s the same for everyone. The problem is you’re one voice among thousands, and everyone is making a lot of noise.

So let’s say you also have your own website. You put up a few blogs, articles, offers… whatever you think will draw people in. At first, you’ll get zero response. Sorry to disappoint you, but the chances of people coming across your site by accident are somewhere around zero.

Instead, you use your social media to point people in that direction. Kindof a “look over there!” Keep doing that, keep mixing it up and offering things of interest and value, and people will  visit your website. It won’t be overnight, but it will build.

Now the absolutely key ingredient is to capture the details of those visitors. How? By using a mailing list. A newsletter if you like. If you’ve spent any time online you’ll have seen how this works. An author offering a free book, novella or some other incentive, in return for an email address.

There are lots of newsletters around and people do get wary of them. Best case scenario is that you have a compelling offer that people want. And you come across well enough that they are interesting in hearing more from you. Again, the percentage of signups will likely be low.

So why bother?

Because once you’ve got someone’s details, you can talk to them directly. You don’t need to rely on social media. As long as you treat them with respect, they will stay with you. You will know your messages are getting through. In purely commercial terms you cannot have a better potential customer base. It’s not instead of social media, it’s another part of the mix. Another way to get your message out there — except this is one you own and have complete control over.

The practicalities

I’ve just revamped my website. Pain in the arse, and it takes ages, but for me it’s a must. I looked for ‘free’ this and that, and found this Promos Theme (the basic WordPress framework that controls how everything looks). I added a few plugins to make it do things I wanted. There’s a paid version that has more features, and I may get that eventually if I find this restrictive. So far it’s OK.

You can’t do anything about hosting. It has to be paid for. It costs me about $60 a year from Bluehost. I’ve had a few sites over the years and I find Bluehost reliable, competitively priced, and support has been good when I’ve needed it. I was using Revue for the newsletter, but they’re owned by Twitter, and recently got shut down. I’m looking for alternatives at the moment. I’ll let you know.

So my costs for the website are not a huge amount if it helps me keep in touch with people, and sell a few books.

Like I said at the start, it can be a pain. The whole learning process is a bit demanding at first, but unless you can pay someone to do it for you (and that ain’t cheap), you’ll just have to bite the bullet. It’s doable. I have no training at this, I just worked trhrough it and got it done. No reason you couldn’t do the same. At the end of the day, being in control makes it worth it for me.

In the article above the link to Bluehost will earn me a small commission if you use them. It won’t make any difference to what you pay, and I only recommend them because it’s who I use. If you’re not comfortable with that, look them up via Google and go direct. No problem.

Image by Werner Moser from Pixabay