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Websites for Authors: Marketing Tools or Personal Exhibitions?

websites-for-authorsDo you know what one of the biggest struggles we run into with authors is? It’s the difference between what the author likes and what we know works.

Rather than try to explain further, let me give you an example…

A Hypothetical Situation

Author Jane Smith just finished writing a book.  She reaches out to us about building her an author website.

Based on all the information we collect about her book, her audience, and her goals for the website, we put together a proposal that includes recommendations for site layout, color scheme and content. It includes a tagline that summarizes what her book is about, a navigation that is easy to use, a color scheme that resembles the book cover, and various functionalities within the site itself that we have found to be helpful in increasing book sales.

But Jane pushes back. She wasn’t happy with the cover to begin with, and doesn’t want the site to use the same colors as the book cover. She also wants a super-large banner at the top of the site (which would push the content below the fold) because her best friend had a similar site and she really liked the way it looked. Oh, and she doesn’t want those large “buy the book” buttons because they seem too promotional.

We have hit an impasse.

An Analogy

Now, let’s forget about websites for authors for a moment and talk about a similar situation in a different industry. In many cases, I like to equate building an author website with staging a home for sale.

If you were designing the interior of your home for the purpose of living in it, you would design it exactly to your specifications. After all, it would be for you, making it essential that you … you know … like it. And if your favorite color happens to be purple, then you should design your home with a purple theme. It’s for you, after all.

But if you’re redesigning the interior of a home with the purpose of flipping or selling the house, it would be a completely different story. In that situation, your goal would be to decorate the house in a way that other people would like.

And there are professionals who understand what needs to be done to get a house sold; colors should be neutral (it doesn’t matter how much you like purple), furniture should be sparse, personal photos should be completely removed, and everything should look fresh and clean.

Building an author website is much like doing interior design of a home for the purpose of a sale. Personal preference needs to come second. The expertise of professionals should come first.

The Lesson

There’s no denying the fact that an author should be happy with his or her website. Authors need to feel proud of the final product, and be comfortable promoting it as an extension of his or her professional self. That’s why we always work hard to find a compromise with Jane Smith and every other author who may have strong opinions about a site.

But at the end of the day, websites for authors are marketing tools. After all, you’re not paying the money and investing the time to get it built so that you’ll like it. You’re investing the time, money and effort to advance your career and/or sell books. And it’s important to keep that in mind when you’re working with a website design firm. They’ve done this before. They know what works (and what doesn’t).

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