Authors: Here Are Five Reasons To Stop Telling Yourself You Don’t Need A Website To Market Your Work
By Lauren Layne
Let's face it, the idea of creating (or revamping) your website might be scary. Terrifying, even. There are so many things to decide: What to put on it, where things go, what colors to use, what language to use, the list goes on. Not to mention, where do you even start? It seems so much easier to market yourself on social media, where things are pre-fab, and call it a day.
But there are SO many reasons why you should never do that.
I’ll be the first to admit, that when it comes to websites, I’m a little biased. For starters, my background is in the online world. Prior to becoming an author, I was a web marketing and e-commerce manager for T-Mobile. It was literally my job to learn what made a website compelling, and to figure out how to get someone to buy based on that website.
Fast forward a few years, and while my first love is writing books, I’m still a pretty outspoken advocate for the power of a great website. My website has helped me get discovered by Inside Edition, The Wall Street Journal and BCC!
In short, websites matter, especially if you want to play the long game in this career. Social media trends change, Amazon algorithms are ever-evolving, but with your website, you control the story.
Today, I’m launching the first in my Author Website series: Five reasons you NEED an author Website. (And no, Amazon and Facebook pages don’t count!)
1. You need a universal online home
As in, you need a place on the web that everyone can access.
Your Amazon author page might be a go-to resource… for Kindle readers. And if you’re a Kindle Unlimited-focused author, that may be your biggest concern. But let’s think long-term for a moment. What happens if you get offered a compelling deal from publisher sells on all platforms (iBooks, Kobo, Google, Walmart, etc)? Or what if you sign an iBooks-exclusive deal (they’re becoming more and more common!). Your Amazon page just became woefully inadequate as a way of serving all your books, and all your readers!
Same goes for Facebook. It’s a great way to reach people… who are Facebook. But plenty of people aren’t active on Facebook. This is increasingly true of the younger generation, many of whom don’t even have a Facebook account. It may be tempting to think of Facebook as an adequate replacement for a website, because it seems like everyone is there. But I promise, not everyone is. And for those who aren’t, they won’t even be able to access your Facebook page because they don’t have account. Don’t lose out on a potential reader, because they couldn’t even get to you!
Think of your website as your online home base: the place on the web that doesn’t require any other account in order to use.
2. You want to own your content
Similarly, while Amazon and Facebook are amazing resources for reaching people, never forget that you’re playing by their rules! This is especially true of Facebook and other social media platforms. How many of us have heard of people put in “Facebook jail” — authors locked out of their Facebook account for posting a picture of a guy’s butt, or something that someone deemed racy on Facebook? Doesn’t seem like a big deal, but what if it happens on release day?
Or even more alarming, those whose Facebook accounts are shut down altogether for accidentally violating Facebook’s policy. Say, maybe using a personal Facebook profile to promote your books instead of a Facebook Business Page (technically, a Facebook gray area, you guys! Even more so if your profile is under a pen name!)
Same goes for Amazon. All it takes is one trademark/copyright issue, and you risk your Amazon page/books being removed. Even if it’s due to a misunderstanding, even if it’s only temporary, that’s going to hurt a lot more if Amazon is where you’ve been directing all of your social media traffic.
Is any of this likely? No. Will it happen to you? Probably not. But risking it is akin to writers who don’t backup their work. An author website is, at the very least, your backup. You make the rules, and no shifting Facebook/Amazon algorithm can hurt you.
3. Be Oprah-ready
Okay, enough of the Facebook doomsday talk. Let’s talk about something more fun. Like what happens when you’ve got the next Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight on your hands, and you’re on the verge of becoming a household name. Make it easy for Oprah and The Today Show to find you!
This is the number-one reason I sell new authors on why they need a website! Do you really expect Oprah’s team to come find you through Facebook Messenger or Instagram Direct Message?!
Or what if you’re not quite in-demand just yet, but Good Morning America is looking to do a piece on romance authors and are narrowing down their options. Who do you think they’re going to choose: the author with the professional, updated website, with a dedicated email address for media/press queries? Or the author whose only online presence seems to be a Facebook profile with a lot of cute dog photos?
Don’t get me wrong, I love me some cute dog pics. But if you want to make it to the big leagues, you’ve got to present yourself as a big player!
4. Google-proof yourself
Even if you’re not ready or able to invest in a big, fancy website just yet, it’s a good idea to buy your domain name (ie, firstnamelastname.com), and get even a super simple landing-page website up.
Why? Google. The sooner you get a website launched, the sooner Google will start picking up that website in its algorithms.
Why do you want this? Because when someone Googles your author name, you want to make sure they’re seeing what they want you want them to see!
I won’t name names here, but I know of one author who failed to secure her own domain early in her career. While she did eventually get a website (under a variation of her name), guess what comes up first when you Google her name? This other website, that has nothing to do with her, or her books.
Similarly, another extremely talented author, with several bestsellers to her name has a woefully out-of-date website. She doesn’t point any traffic to the website, it’s not optimized for search engines, and thus it doesn’t come up very high in Google search results. When you Google her name, you know what you see first? Links to very negative reviews on one of her older books. Probably not what she’s hoping will be her first impression!
Again, this goes back to number three and being Oprah-ready. Make yourself accessible and irresistible, not just to those die-hard fans already following you on Instagram, but to those would-be readers who are just waiting to stumble upon you, if you give them the chance!
5. Backlist, baby
Social media can be a great way to promote your first book or your latest book, but what happens when you’ve written ten books? Forty? We authors tend to think that because we’re most focused on our newest book, everyone else is as well. But don’t forget that there are thousands, even millions of readers, who haven’t discovered that masterpiece you wrote five or six years ago, or even that bestseller from three years ago.
Sure, definitely pimp that new release to your heart’s content on Facebook — advertise it like crazy. But after readers have devoured that delightful new release, make sure they have an easy one-stop-shop to easily browse and binge everything you’ve ever written. Even if you think websites are passé, at the very least, it can and should serve as your “book catalog” of sorts.
Remember, most of us make just as much on per book sale whether it’s a new release, or a book from two years ago!
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About the Author
Lauren Layne is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than two dozen romantic comedies. Her books have sold over a million copies, in nine languages. Lauren's work has been featured in Publishers Weekly, Glamour, The Wall Street Journal, and Inside Edition. She is based in New York City.
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