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The Five Biggest Mistakes Writers Make on Their Websites

    Categories: Marketing and Promotion

OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn

This is a guest post from Melissa Donovan, founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.

As I wander around the web, I come across a lot of writers who spend their days in cubicles, and then fill up their evenings and weekends writing. Some of them are just starting to submit their work. Some of them are already published authors. In fact, more and more of them are self-published authors with decent repertoires. They dream of quitting their day jobs so they can write, full time, for a living.

To achieve their dreams, these writers have to successfully market their work and sell their books. The burden of marketing almost always lands squarely on an author's shoulders, whether the author has chosen traditional publishing or self-publishing.

The vast majority of these writers are making one big mistake in general: they are not treating their writing like a business. I know, all the artists roll their eyes and get angry when I say things like that, but there it is. If you don't treat your writing like a business, you will fail. That's all there is to it.

Luckily, the Internet makes running a business a whole lot easier than it used to be. It still requires a lot of time and energy, but it's not as costly and it's much easier to do yourself.

As a writer striving to make a career out of writing, your number one asset is your website. Through your website, you can connect with agents, editors, publishers, other writers, and most importantly, readers.

Below are the five most common mistakes that writers make on their websites. These are big mistakes that could result in missed opportunities and they are mistakes that are easily repaired.

1. No Bio

In business, an about page is one of the three standard pages every single website should have (the other two are home and contact). It's not unusual for this to be the second most visited page on any website (after the home page).

For an author, this page should be called a bio (short for biography), and every writer's website should include this page. Agents, editors, and readers are interested in knowing what you're all about, and this is where they'll go to find out.

What to include: Your full (pen) name, your purpose or mission (to publish a novel, for example), credentials, and achievements. Check the bios of successful authors for examples.

2. No Social Media Presence

A lot of writers and business owners initially rail against social media, but once they learn how to use these sites effectively, they're hooked. There are huge communities of readers that you can tap through sites like Twitter, Facebook, and GoodReads. In fact, many writers (including myself) will tell you that using social media marketing properly can lead to publishing opportunities and increased sales of your work.

Tips: Make sure you get a Facebook page (also called a fan page or like page) as opposed to a personal profile, and make sure links to your social media profiles are clearly visible on your website.

3. No Contact Information

This is probably the single biggest mistake that writers make on their websites. They hide their email addresses somewhere or forget to include them at all. If you're already a huge success, then maybe you don't need to make yourself accessible via email. But what if an agent is interested in representing you? What if an editor wants to publish your work or offer you a book deal?

It's not enough to leave your blog comments open and share links to your social media profiles. You should provide a clear and easy way for visitors to contact you privately.

What to include: Create a contact page and make sure it appears in your navigation menu. Use a form for privacy (a form hides your email address).

4. The Content is Not Polished

If you're a writer and you want to be considered professional, every single word you publish should be polished. Yes, the occasional typo will slip through. That happens to everybody. But when a reader or publishing professional comes to your site and every published page reads like a first draft, they're going to click away in search of writers who know how to proofread, edit, and use good grammar.

Tips: After you finish composing a page or a post, read through it a couple of times to clean it up. If possible, let it sit overnight and give it a final review before you publish it.

5. The Design is Abysmal

There are so many lovely free website and blog templates that there's no excuse for having a cluttered, ugly, difficult-to-navigate website. Nobody wants a cookie-cutter site that looks just like dozens of others but it's a heck of a lot better than having a site nobody wants to visit at all. We get it. You're a writer, not a designer. If you can't afford to hire a professional designer, get a decent freebie until you can.

Tips: Use a blog as your website platform. There are tons of free blog themes available. I recommend getting a self-hosted WordPress site.

This weekend, set aside a couple of hours to step back and look at your website. Are you making any of these mistakes? Look for other areas of your site that could be improved. Read through some of your content and check for typos and other mechanical errors. Take a little time to clean it up, and then get back to your writing. Good luck!

Do you have any questions about your writer's website or blog? Add them in the comments below.

About the Author: Melissa Donovan is a professional website designer and copywriter. She is also the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.

Top image: Flickr CC Mouin M

Joanna Penn:

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  • Hi, thank you for an excellent post. I was dragged kicking and screaming into the social media waters by my little sister who is PR savvy, before the launch of my first book last year. She set up a Twitter account, an author fan facebook page, an email account with my name on it and told me to shake up my personal blog. Then she refused to give me the passwords so i could write on them directly myself since she didnt trust me to do it properly. and because she knew I would try to take them down! After a few months of letting me 'practise' she let me take over my own accounts. A year later I am in charge of my own platform building and thanking her a hundred times over for her (bossy) suggestions. Keeping the FB page has meant I have possible readers already for my second bk which will be launched in Nov. Twitter has given me immeasurable helpful info ( like this post of yours) and contacts with other writers, agents, cover designers etc and helped to increase readership for my blog. So anyone hesitant abt social media when it comes to promoting their writing - I say go for it. And follow the awesome tips above!

    My question is please - my blog is 'personal' in the sense that i talk about my slightly demented life as a Domestic Goddess, my writing, and more. Yet i keep reading advice for writers to make their blogs WRITER blogs. ie write about their books, writing process and stuff like that. I dont think this would work for me. My blog readers are not interested in me as a writer, they are interested in me as a person and in my writing as a person/mum/daughter/teacher/cook/ hot rugby player stalker etc...who also happens to be a writer. I am torn. My readership has been growing exponentially but do you think that i will need to shift to more of a WRITER blog if i want it to keep growing?

    • Hi Lani,
      It's so great you are seeing the benefits to social media - I totally agree with that and although I also got into it for marketing reasons, it is so rewarding in many other ways. I wouldn't give it up now!

      On blogging, absolutely do what keeps you motivated - lifestyle blogs around personality and life get the biggest, most passionate followings - check out Penelope Trunk as an example. I started this blog as a writer but I am about to spin off a new one around my own personal stuff as this is aimed at writers, and as writers, we are actually aiming at readers :) BUT I am also selling products to writers so I need a site for that too. Basically, a blog takes so much energy and loving that you need to do what makes you happy and what fits with your brand. Writing about hot rugby players is very cool :) so I would say in this case, you should probably stick with your lifestyle focus, with occasional focus on writing, rather than turning into a writer's blog! BUT again, it's all personal - there are no rules anymore.... all the best, Joanna

  • Dear Joanna,

    This is a great article.

    My e-book will relaunch in six weeks. Never mind, for now, the initial launch, a trial by fire.

    Do the blogs at wordpress allow for a click now function, where people can go and buy the book? It's also been recomended that I start a newsletter on the website so that the names of readers (market) are available for communications and new offers. Your thoughts?

  • I just wanted to thank you sincerely for all the helpful tips. I am going to update my site right now, going with a more minimalist design and adding the email (can't believe this never occurred to me and neither could the three writers I have shared the advice with), and adding some to the about me section. Now quickly remove this article so the rest of the writers can't compete, HURRY!

  • Wow, looking through your old blog posts this does seem very helpful. I have always been a little shy of putting bio page on but if it truly does help then I am going to start working on one.

    If anybody feels that they could take a look at my author site and offer any feedback it would be greatly appreciated.

    http://www.mwrowe.come

    Thanks

  • Wow, looking through your old blog posts this does seem very helpful. I have always been a little shy of putting bio page on but if it truly does help then I am going to start working on one.

    If anybody feels that they could take a look at my author site and offer any feedback it would be greatly appreciated.

    http://www.mwrowe.com

    Post above would be a typical example of first drafting! Website address wrong!

    Thanks

  • Hi, Joanna Penn,
    please, accept my apologies for not responding to your comment. I am not yet versed
    in using social media mechanisms.

    Hi, everyone,

    I have just finished my website in WordPress with professional help, though. Could
    you please, check it out and leave your comment. I also want to draw your attention that
    I started a children book club and invite all children aged 9 + and their parents to
    join me in reading masterpieces in the genre of fantasy, adventure and science fiction.
    My URL is http://www.an-animation.com.
    Thanks a million!

    Asya

  • I am a new author and I am working on my first novel. You have given me the ideas to create a new website. This is useful information to get started. Thank you.

  • Hi. Thanks for the information. So glad I found you. I have been reading advise from marketing bloggers but somehow a fiction author didn't fit into their formats. My blog is fairly new and of course I would appreciate you looking at it. I am sure there is much needed work. Unfortunately, I am greatly challenged in the area of technology online. I am trying to save money but I am afraid I need help with all these add-ons bloggers use. (A 101 course)I have a list of 83 subscribers thus far but not may comment and I do not even know if they get emails from me when a new post comes or ... (I don't know a lot of things, sad to say).
    Presently, I have a life-style theme focusing on putting feet to your dreams. What do you think of writing a continuous fiction story with a short thought to ponder and comment on the material covered? Just wondering if that has ever been done succssfully.
    Thank you for your one-on-one attention. I do appreciate any advise you can offer. My publicity campaign for my new book "Dreams With Feet" begins in Jan/14 and I want to be ready.
    Thanks again. have a great day.

  • Hi, I don't know if you are still checking this post but I came across it in a search when researching how to create a good writing website.
    I have a question. I already have a website for my meditation business with a FB page, twitter and IG account to go with it. Should I create another site using my name as the url (which I have purchased)? Or, could I use the same one? Even writing this my thoughts seem to go to creating a separate writing platform....

  • Informative article, have pinned it to Pinterest board. I'll follow the points you've mentioned especially about the author bio.
    Thanks.