What to Know BEFORE You Get a Website

If you subscribe to the MSWL newsletter, then you would have received the latest one this week in which we (Mike and Sierra!) answered some reader website questions.
Here are the questions and our answers. If you have more general questions about websites for authors, feel free to send us an email and we’ll answer them here on the blog!

Q: What things should a writer consider prior to having their own website?

testimonialcat3A: A writer should consider how much work he or she plans to put into the website. Will you have a blog? Will you blog regularly? (It’s okay if you don’t, but don’t set yourself up with a blog if you don’t want one and then force yourself into it.) What do you want the website to do–and who is your audience? If your audience  is readers, then the website has a very specific goal: interest that
reader enough to make a sale. You’re also selling yourself, so you need to infuse the content and design with your personality. If your audience is varied, for example readers, other writers, and librarians, you’ll want to make sure the site is set up for those audiences all at once. It can be a tricky balance, but thinking through your website structure and content ahead of time is key.

When choosing a website designer, look at their website. If the design is cumbersome or looks template-y (that is, overly slick and formulaic), then you might get the same thing. Does the designer do custom work, or do they stick you with a template? A template, especially in WordPress, can have a lot of limitations to the things you do to it or add later. Does the designer have a sense of marketing? Will they understand your audience, or will they simply throw something at you and hope it sticks? A custom design should integrate your brand elements into the overall look. This can be made up of a number things: your personal brand, design elements from your book cover, etc. However, the key thing to remember is that this website represents you, so make sure that whoever you work with understands your brand and incorporates that into a custom look. You simply won’t get that with a template. (Hint: we don’t use templates!)

Q: I write predominately for children and YA, should I stick to appropriate content?

testimonialcat2Absolutely. This is part of knowing your audience.  Kids visit author websites as part of school projects or because they love the books and want to know if more are coming. Some of our MG clients have tapped into this by engaging younger readers with games on their site. Others know that librarians and teachers will visit the author site for resources, like study guides. One of our author clients is a former teacher and she created a reading guide with questions relating the book to Common Core standards. Any author can do this, it just takes a but of research — and man, what a way to show you’re connected with your audience!

If you’re an author who just doesn’t see yourself going that far, don’t beat yourself up, but do keep in mind that a site filled with profanity and political messages won’t do anything to further your readership. Readers won’t come back.

What do you think? Have a question? Email us or leave it in the comments below!

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