Monday, March 4, 2013

101 Thoughts on Self-Publishing -- 004: Build a Website

In Thought 002, I recommended that you write a blog. Your blog is where you write articles to stay connected with your audience, announce new releases, hold contests, etc. However, I would also recommend an "official" website. The information on your website will be more static that your blog and will, first and foremost, showcase your books and provide easy-to-find links where a reader can buy them. It's a good idea to have this information on your blog, too, but your website will be your professional web presence.

Let's begin with a domain name. If it is available, get a .com domain name with the name you publish under. My domain name is MichaelKRose.com. If your name is already taken, try to get something that represents you and your work and, most importantly, is easy to remember and easy to type.

Once you get your domain name, you'll want to create an engaging home page. Have a look at my website here. Right away you'll see my major works prominently displayed with banners. There are many ways you can organize the information on your website's home page, but I would strongly recommend that the information be visual, as with my banners, or with the full covers of your books. Let readers be compelled not just by the words but by the images as well.

You'll also notice that I have visible, accessible links to my social media outlets: Facebook, Twitter and my blog. Give readers an easy way to not only click over to your books but stay connected with you as well. I've seen some author websites with very confusing or limited links. On some I could not find direct links to Amazon product pages, on others I could not find any way to contact or connect with the author. Make it easy for your readers. Make sure links are clearly distinguishable from the rest of the text by making them a different color. Use the widely-recognized Facebook and Twitter icons to draw your readers' attention toward them.

Finally, you'll see a list of products available in my web store. If your website package has the capability, I'd recommend setting up a store. Lots of readers like signed copies; give them the option to put a permanent, physical reminder of you and your work in their homes.

Let's look a little more at my website. If you click on any of the banners on my website's homepage, you'll be taken directly to a page dedicated to that book. Here is the page for Sullivan's War. Again, you will see that I have put something visually interesting--the book cover--on the page. I have also included the official book description that you will find on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble product pages as well as easy-to-click buy buttons. Finally, I have included some quotes from reviews of Sullivan's War. When you do this, I think it is important to link to the actual review so readers can see the rest of it. If the review appeared on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, this has the added benefit of taking readers to a site where they can buy the book.

The rest of my site has what you would expect: An "About" section with a brief bio and links to some interviews I've given, plus a page dedicated to reviews of my work. I need to update the interviews and reviews section, but you can look at them and get an idea.

Now, I'm far from being an expert on web design, and I'll reiterate that these are self-publishing thoughts, not tips. Still, I think that if your website has these basic elements, it'll give you a solid, professional-looking home on the internet. What else do you think should be included on an author's website? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Just leave a comment below.

If you're enjoying the series so far and would like a single page to bookmark, I'll be adding each of my 101 Thoughts on Self-Publishing here. Also be sure to subscribe by email (see the box in the sidebar) to be automatically notified about my new posts.

You might also be interested in my eBook, Building a Promotional Package: How to Prepare for Your Successful Book Launch. Details about it can be found here.

All the Best,
Michael K. Rose

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