Authors know they need a website. But did you know there are different types of websites?
From years of working with authors, I’ve identified 3 basic types of websites, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
The Basic Business Card
A simple online presence for authors to showcase their professional profile. It contains an author bio, a list of their books, and some social media links. These websites are often hosted on platforms like WordPress.com and may feature ads to cover some of the cost. However, due to limited traffic, they may not generate much income from ads or affiliate links.
- Very successful authors who already have a platform and who don’t want to interact with fans
- Authors who don’t want to be bothered with maintaining a website, but who want to be able to say they have one
- Easy to maintain
- Can be ignored for long periods of time
- Lacks the content that helps search engines discover an unknown writer
- Can lead to a false sense of security (I have a website. I’m good.)
These websites cover the basics and little else. There are three mistakes I see made with this type of website:
- New authors sometimes think that this is all they need to do to build a platform. “I mean, if it is good enough for (insert name of successful author who already has a platform) then it should work for me!” No. Big Name Author can get away with it because they are already a Big Name Author. People are going online searching for their name. They don’t need to convince people to buy their books. If you are just starting out, no one knows you exist, so no one is searching for you.
- Knowing that they need a bigger website, but building on a platform that can’t expand. “Since I only need this for now, I will just put something together on (insert easy drag-and-drop website builder).” This isn’t wrong, but it is shortsighted. When they get time to work on their website, they discover that they have to start over from scratch. I’ve watched the sheer frustration of needing to start over delay an author’s growth.
- Authors pay for a hosting platform that would run a stronger website, but only use it for a business card. Wasted money, and they come to believe that having a website is just throwing money away.
The Blogging Platform
A more comprehensive author website that includes a blog or news section to keep fans updated on the author’s latest news and projects. These websites aim to build up the author’s fan base and promote their books through affiliate links and marketing efforts. However, its success depends on the author’s dedication to using the website as a marketing tool. It also depends on the author’s understanding of their ideal fans.
- Most entry-level authors who want to build their fan base
- Successful authors who still want to keep in touch with their fans
- As a middle ground, this type of website is easy to expand or contract. There’s a lot of creativity in how you can put it together.
- Fun, once you get the hang of it. This type of website is dynamic and allows you the most freedom to experiment.
- Entertaining for fans.
- It only works if you use it.
- Costs more than a smaller website.
- Can take several years of consistent effort before you see a return. Not always, but often.
Biggest mistakes I see authors make with this type of website:
- Not using it. They build it, they learn how to use it, and then they get distracted. Or they get writer’s blogging block. Some will use it diligently for 6 months and then give up. This type takes time. I’ve seen many authors give up just as the site was starting to grow. They see a small growth and think that’s all they are going to get, not realizing that website growth exponential: growing very slowly at first, but once it gets going, it can have periods of dramatic growth.
- Not knowing their fans. Authors often build this type of website for themselves. They think about what they want from the website, what they want it to do, but they forget about what their fans want.
- Trying to build it on unstable hosting or a hosting plan that is better suited for a business card website. Cut corners too tight, and it becomes a hassle.
The Pro Business
An author website that not only showcases their profile and books, but also offers additional products and services to generate income. This type of website requires a higher level of investment in terms of hosting power and speed to accommodate the increase in traffic and sales. When optimized correctly, this type of website has the potential to pay for itself and beyond.
- Authors with products to sell, whether books, merchandise, coaching, or other products. This only makes sense if you will use the tools.
- This is great for indie authors with multiple books and a strong following.
- This site should cover its cost and bring in income.
- High-powered — the industry is constantly changing. Owning a site like this lets you pivot quickly.
- Time required to maintain and run it
Biggest mistakes I see authors make with this type of website:
- Building it before they have products to sell. This can become overwhelming, and if the site can’t pay for itself, you’re spending a lot of money for something that is being used like a business card website.
- Building on a platform that can’t handle growth or pivots. Some platforms seem like a really good deal, but when you want to add a classroom, a wiki for your fans, or other power-tool that you’ve just realized your fans want, you realize that you can’t do that on this platform. Then you must decide if you want to disappoint the fans or rebuild your website. No one wins.
- Doing it because someone told them to without considering the costs involved. “(Insert name of marketing pro who is making money through affiliate links) recommended it!”
Questions to consider when deciding what you need:
- How much time do you want to spend on your website?
- What do your fans want?
- Look at the marketing wheel in this post (https://writersinthestormblog.com/2021/07/5-reasons-why-authors-need-a-website/). What areas do you need your website to handle for you?
- How much money do you have to spend comfortably?
- Where are you in your career? Do people already know who you are? Or do you need to charm the search engines so that new readers can find you?
Websites can change and grow. I recommend building on platforms that give you the freedom to move and change, but even dead-end pre-made websites can often be converted or restructured with effort. Knowing what you want is the first step in deciding what type of website you want to build.
Don’t compare your website to the websites of others in different categories. If your website meets your needs and the needs of your fans, then it is earning its keep!
What type of website do you have? Are you happy with it? Is it meeting your needs? Feel free to vent about your website woes!
Top image by Deleyna via Midjourney
Originally published at Writers in the Storm, February 21, 2023, Powerful Author Websites: Get the Results You Want (writersinthestormblog.com)