Whenever I have an initial conversation with an author who is interested in building a website, there’s one question I ask that basically determines everything going forward: What are your goals for your site?
Why is this question so important? And how does it determine how the website will function?
Here are the three most common goals for an author website, and how each one manifests itself in how the site functions:
Goal #1: To Sell Books
Some authors have one, very simple goal for their author website: to sell copies of their book(s). They don’t want to build a profile for themselves. They don’t want to be doing a “greater good.” They just want to sell books. And once a site visitor clicks that “buy the book,” link, mission is accomplished.
If this is an author’s goal for the site, then the books need to be the central piece of the site. The design should resemble the book covers(s). The name should resemble the book title(s). The books should be front and center, and links to purchase them should be in every possible place.
Goal #2: To Build an Author Presence
Sure, an author has written books. But, for some authors, the website isn’t about selling those books. For many authors I speak to, the website is supposed to be about them. Maybe it’s a place for them to bring together all of their writings under one umbrella. Maybe it’s because they want to become a recognized name in their genre. Maybe they want to build a career doing speaking engagements and media appearances on the topic. Regardless, these authors want a website that gets their name out there, builds a list of followers, and so on.
This site would be completely different from a website about one or more books. This site is about the author. It would be named after the author, be centered around the author’s name and photo, and focus on what the author brings to the table. The most important elements on a site like this include a place for visitors to sign up for e-mail notifications from the author, an author blog, and any media/press the author has gotten.
Goal #3: To Spread the Word
This is probably the least common of the three author goals, but it’s no less important than the others. You see, some authors write a book because they have a very important message that they want to get out there. And they view the website as an extension of that message. This type of author website is a place where people can learn more about the subject after they’ve read the book, where they can share their own stories, and where they can recommend other resources on the topic.
Such a website needs to be chock full of information — links, resources, a blog, a place for readers to chat, etc… It should offer what the book does and more.
See? There’s no such thing as one type of author website. It’s extremely important that you figure out exactly what your goals are for your site before you get started.
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