Indie Soap Box File

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Though you might aspire to be the next J.D. Salinger or Thomas Pynchon, the likelihood of putting out your creative works and then disappearing from public view while still achieving such widespread success is pretty low. For authors, the onus of “the M-word” — marketing — no longer falls completely on the shoulders of publishers and publicists. Authors are expected to get out there and market themselves.

You might already have a blog, and you’ve probably been connecting with fans and other writers on Twitter. But when the time comes to get serious about getting your name out there and selling books, you need your own author website.

An effective author site is more than just a single-page online business card. It isn’t enough to tell people who you are and let them know that you’ve written some books. A good author site sells the author as much as the author’s works. It gives current and future fans a central location to connect with you on a more personal level and keep up with (and get excited about) what you’re doing.

Getting Started on Your Author Site

If web design isn’t up your alley, you might need to rely on webmaster friends or even hire a web or logo designer to help with the basic site. Either way, one of the first things you need to do is secure a domain name and find a good web host to store your new site. (You can find plenty of reviews and advice about both of these online by searching for “domain name registrar” and “web hosting.”)

Now that you have a place for your author site to live, you need to think about the design and start gathering what you need. Here are some of the basic design elements you need to consider:

  • A header image. This is the first thing people see when they land on your site. Apart from your name and your profession, your header image should reflect the style and personality of your work. The color scheme should match the rest of the site, though which comes first — the image or the color scheme — is up to you.

  • Page navigation. Where will site visitors click to get to the content on your site? Navigation controls traditionally appear horizontally just above or below the header image or vertically along one side of the page or another, but you could also create an interactive image that has a number of link areas. Be as creative as your skills and/or wallet allow!

  • Overall page design. Generally, site builders create page templates that are reused throughout the site to maintain a consistent design. This includes any background images, footer images or colors, fonts, heading styles and on and on.

What Pages Your Author Site Needs

As mentioned before, a good author site does more than just tell people that you exist and that you wrote a book. You want a web site, not just a web page to help sell yourself. Here are some of the pages that you’ll need for an effective site:

  • Home page: A no-brainer, yes, but what information belongs on your home page? At the very least, your home page should hold a welcome message, a short description of what type of writing you do and a cover shot and link to your most recent work. It should also have clear calls to action with links or buttons to other areas of your site. Your calls to action might include “Buy my newest book,” “See what I’m working on now” or “Find my next book signing.”

  • About Me: Your About Me page should include both short and long biographies and a high-resolution image of you. If someone wants to write about you and your work, this is where they will do their preliminary (and sometimes only) research.

  • Contact page: If you’re a freelance writer, you should include a way for possible clients to get in touch with you. If you’ve moved into the world of professional novel writing, this contact information might lead to your publisher or publicist instead of directly to you. You should also include links to any social media profiles you want your fans to find.

  • Reviews and testimonials: In the beginning, you may just want to link to reviews of your work, which will take your fans to other websites where they can write about you. As you begin to get more feedback, you can pull quotations from some of the best reviews or from well-known people onto your site’s page.

  • Portfolio page: If you have published a number of works, you should have a page devoted to them. Your portfolio includes not only books you have for sale but information about third-party magazines, collections and blogs where you’ve been published by others.

  • Calendar page: When you start to do book signings or become a speaker, you’ll need an online calendar to let your fans know where you’re going to be.

  • Pressroom: Create a page that links outside of your website to places where other people have written about you and your work.

If you already have a blog, you should incorporate it into your website as well. (If you don’t have a blog, you should consider starting one.)

With proper maintenance and regular new content, your author site can become the hub of your self-marketing campaign, can give you more direct access to your audience and can turn fans of your work into fans of you as an individual.

Part two follows tomorrow, which is all about creating content for your website / blog.