I work with authors at all different stages of publication. Some who are self publishing. Others who reach out to me when their books are only a few months away from release through a major publishing house. The saddest of all are the authors whose books came out six months ago, and only now are they realizing how little publicity their book publishers are doing for them.
But some authors actually reach out to me way sooner than that. In fact, many of them haven’t even finished their manuscript yet.
How Soon Is Too Soon to Build an Author Website?
I’ve written about this before. It’s honestly never too soon. But be aware that the website you build prior to finishing your book is going to be drastically different from what it will be a year later. Once you have a finished book (and cover), book reviews, testimonials, links to buy it, etc… the site will look different because your goals will be different. At that point, you will be aiming to get readers to buy your book. But now, you have nothing to buy.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t have a site this early in the process. Building an online presence is an important piece of being a successful author today, and that’s something that takes time.
So What’s the Site for If It’s Not Selling Books?
Well, some of that depends on if you’re self publishing or reaching out to book publishers. In the case of traditional publishing, you want to make sure that when the person who receives your book pitch takes a look at your site, they are impressed and think, “Now, that’s an author I want to get behind.” More on that below.
Obviously, if you’re planning to self publish, you will be less focused on appealing to book publishers. But in many ways, the goals of the site would still be the same.
This early in the journey, the goal of your author website should be to build a following. That can be done in a few different ways, including:
- Blogging regularly
- Driving traffic to the site through Facebook/Twitter
- Collecting email addresses and building fans/followers
- Optimizing your site for search terms that readers might be looking for
So What Type of Site Would Appeal to Book Publishers?
Put yourself in the shoes of someone who is receiving your manuscript. Let’s call her Jane.
Picture this scenario….
Jane comes across your book pitch. She sees your name and does a Google search for you.
Does your site show up right at the top of search results for your name?
Jane is now clicking around your site. The first thing she wants to know is if this site looks clean and professional.
Did you have it designed by a professional? Is it mobile-friendly?
Jane now wants to know what you look like. After all, she likes to attach a face to a name and is curious whether you’re 25 or 65.
Do you have a professional photo of yourself on the site?
Now, Jane is going to take a look at your blog. She wants to know what you write about, how dedicated you seem to be to it, and if people seem to be visiting it regularly.
Do you post entries on your blog on a regular basis? Are people commenting, and are you replying?
While she’s at it, Jane wants to get an idea of if you’ve already built a list of followers/subscribers. The more people you already have following you the easier it will be to sell the book to a larger audience once it’s published.
Do you prominently collect email addresses on the site? Do you have a social widget that shows how many followers/fans you already have?
Now, let’s not forget your writing. Jane knows that your book pitch is good, but how does she know that you did that yourself and didn’t hire someone? She wants to know what writing you’ve done in the past and where you might have been published.
Do you have a page on your site dedicated to previous writings (articles, book chapters, etc…) and a place where they can be read? Do you highlight any writing awards you’ve received?
If you answered yes to most of the questions above, a book publisher like Jane is more likely to take you seriously. Now, that doesn’t mean she’s going to publish your book. That’s still a ways away. But if, at the end of the day, she’s deciding between two promising authors and you’ve checked more boxes above than the other author she’s considering, you have a serious advantage.
Happy site building!