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You might have guessed that I think a website is critical for authors, but few of you will remember how ugly this site originally looked. Before I had a logo designed and de-cluttered the side bar, I used a free WordPress theme that wasn't at all optimized.
We all have to start somewhere but we also need to improve. So I am pleased to introduce this guest post by James Chartrand from Men With Pens, one of the top copywriting and web design sites.
It’s no surprise that authors tend to be a little old-fashioned when it comes to technology.
Many still write out their books by hand. Some swear by typewriters or nib pens. And when they need a reference, they’ll reach for a heavy dictionary or thesaurus instead of heading to the Internet for the same information.
Many authors are equally old-fashioned when it comes to their website.
Most don’t have websites at all. Others haven’t changed their websites since the dawn of time. Some hacked together a basic website that’s barely functional.
There are well-known writers. Authors of excellent books, whose websites just don’t reflect the level of skill, professionalism, and credibility they clearly possess. Their websites hurt them despite their renown and reputation.
Imagine what a bad website would do to you.
When Your Work Outshines Your Website
There are hundreds of examples, but here’s one: Anne Bishop is a well-known fantasy writer who won the Crawford Award for her first work. She’s the author of fifteen books, the most popular being her Black Jewels trilogy. She’s a very successful author.
But her website looks like it was built in 2003.
Ursula K. LeGuin is an astoundingly prolific writer with enormous breadth. She’s best known for her science fiction and fantasy, but she’s sought after for her essays and non-fiction as well. She has five Hugo and six Nebula awards, and she holds the record for Locus awards with nineteen to her name. She is an accomplished public speaker and has been interviewed countless times.
And her website looks like this.
The intention of pointing out these websites isn’t to imply that these authors’ accomplishments are in any way diminished by their lack of a well-designed website. In books, words really do speak for themselves.
That said, there’s a reason the old adage has us judging books by their covers.
What Good Website Design Does For Your Book
These days, every publisher drills this into the heads of authors: the appearance of the book matters greatly in how well it’s sold.
The most exceptional book in the world won’t be read if no one picks it up. And what gets people to pick up a book? As a general rule, the cover is a good bet.
Authors have understood this for some time. Many have gone to bat for their cover art design because what the publisher believes will sell isn’t consistent with the author’s brand, with how they want the book to be seen by the public eye.
Design is important.
But for some reason, many authors stop believing their website design is equally important. It’s as if the website was somehow removed from the books.
It isn’t. Your website can be the most powerful selling tool you have.
Stephen King has a powerful-looking site. It’s clearly a basic modified template, but it’s a good template. It fits his image. It showcases his work. It features modern-day design without any blue links in Times New Roman.
Is it the most brilliantly designed site in the world? No, but it fits him. And it helps sell him as an author just as surely as his book jackets do.
Let’s say you have a beautifully designed home page. Your website looks as gorgeous as the cover art of your book. That’s a grand beginning, but good website design goes beyond simple aesthetic – which is where we get beyond branding and into marketing.
A website that reflects your brand helps your readers believe in who you are.
A website that lays out information about you in a way that’s easy to understand? That helps readers show up for you.
When your website features upcoming events or helps readers talk with other fans in a forum, or when your website offers easy links to stores where your books can be purchased, that makes it much easier for readers to engage with you.
If you have a blog, you can communicate with fans directly. The same goes for a newsletter. You can build a huge fan base, like Patrick Rothfuss, by connecting with your readers.
You’re reminding readers that you exist by showing up in their inbox every day.
All this makes it much more likely that readers will be there for you when you ask them to show support for your new book.
There are a thousand ways to leverage a good website, and sadly, most authors don’t make use of them. Some consciously choose not to have a website at all, and that’s an acceptable choice.
But if you’re going to have a website, it should be a good one.
It should look like you. It should look like your books. It should look credible and reflect your talent. And it should make it easy for readers to find you, engage with you, and show their support for your work.
If you want a website design business who understands writing, what it’s like to be an author, and how to leverage the online world to help your book succeed, you’re in very good hands. Owned by popular writer and online business expert James Chartrand, Men with Pens will show you the way. Get in touch with James today.
Top Image: Flickr Creative Commons Thorinside