Every author who contacts me does so because he/she knows it’s time to build a website. But what these authors often don’t understand is just how important it is to have a long-term vision when building a site. Think too short term and you might make mistakes that are hard to rectify down the line.
Here are five examples of how short-term thinking can damage an author’s web presence.
1. Naming the site after a book. There are certainly instances in which a website should be named after a book — not the author. But unless an author is absolutely, positively sure that he or she won’t be writing any other books in a similar genre, it’s a good bet to go with the author’s name as the website name. Otherwise, what is he or she to do when the next book comes out?
2. Making the website resemble/represent the first book. This is very similar to the item above. All too often, an author builds a website that reflects the first book cover. Maybe it uses the same color scheme as the book cover. Maybe the design is structured around an image or icon used on the cover. Regardless, this tells site visitors (either consciously or subconsciously) that the website is an extension of that book. Any future books will look out of place without a complete redesign.
3. Not collecting email addresses. I always (and I repeat, always!) recommend that authors start collecting email addresses of site visitors who are interested in their works. “But I don’t plan to send newsletters or anything,” they sometimes tell me. It doesn’t matter. Even if you never plan to do anything with the list, it’s a good thing to have. After all, you never know what you’ll be doing in the future — a TV interview, perhaps, or publishing another book — that you would love to alert all your followers about. Build the list. Figure out what you want to do with it later.
4. Making the site too design-heavy. Web design can be a beautiful thing. But it can also be overdone. Remember: images can be a pain in the you know what to change. So, for example, don’t have your homepage text appear in an image. It may look pretty, but it won’t be easy to update when you have a new announcement to make. Ditto with the navigation. If the tabs on your site are images, it’s a whole lot harder to add a new page when you want to promote your new book trailer, press release, etc…
5. Not blogging or focusing on SEO. An author website is a long-term investment. It takes lots of time and energy to build it to where it needs to be. Over time, it will rise on the search engine rankings. The blog (if it’s regularly updated) will build a group of followers. Anyone who doesn’t want to invest the time in either of these things is thinking short-term. He or she is also not being realistic. A site is not going to jump of the top of Google search results just for existing. It’s going to take some sweat and some thought to make it work, but a good author website is well worth it.
Can you think of any other short-term mistakes authors make on their websites? Share them with us!