The Musts (and Common Mistakes) of Author Website Development

An author needs a website. That’s a given. But who’s going to design it? And how should that process go? That’s a good question…

Common mistake #1: An author designs his or her own website
There are many technologies out there which make it easy for an author to sign up for a website hosting package and make their own do-it-yourself website. But that’s not the right way to go … for a variety of reasons. First, unless you’ve worked on websites before, you probably aren’t up-to-speed on the latest trends in websites, what’s working for other people, etc… It’s the equivalent of doing your own taxes when you’re not an accountant. Can you do it? Sure. But will you get the biggest refund? Probably not.

Common mistake #2: An author hires a standard website design company to design his or her website
I had a woman tell me recently that she hired a designer to create her website. He was local to her, in the Indianapolis area, and when he showed her his portfolio, nearly all of the sites he’d designed had been for race car drivers. I guess that’s fairly common in Indiana, but it begs the question: Why did this woman sign an agreement to work with him? He knows nothing about author websites, has no background designing author websites, and has no understanding of what’s working and what’s not for authors. A website designer might tell you that he or she can design any kind of site, and maybe it’s true, but why go with a general contractor to put in new plumbing if you could hire an actual plumber?

Common mistake #3: An author is inflexible about his or her website needs
I had an author call me on the phone today. She found my website and was interested in my services. She then went on to tell me that she’s basically mapped out everything she wants on the site and just wants me to make it happen. Now, that’s just short-sighted. I’ve built hundreds of author websites. I have a very good understanding of what other authors are doing. I know what’s worked on other sites and what hasn’t. Why in the world wouldn’t you want my input on what we should be doing with the website? I love it when an author comes to me with ideas and balances that by being open to my advice.

How it should go
An author should find a website designer and/or development company that specializes in author websites, and then start asking lots of questions about what the company does, how the process works, what their specialties are, etc… The author should be asked lots of questions during that conversation, too. The right kick-off  meeting should involve information-collecting on both sides.

Finally, after deciding to work together, the author should share any ideas that he or she has, and ask for the opinion of the expert on staff with that company. Together, the expertise and experience that the company brings, along with the author’s creativity and unique understanding of the book and the audience, should create a great final product: an author website that benefits everyone.