Learn how to make technology work for you, instead of the other way around.
Why do writers need websites? The answer is simple: to promote their work. Self-published authors quickly find out how difficult it is to rise above the noise of the thundering herd without one. These days, even authors with traditional publishing contracts must do much of their own publicity. That can include online networking, blogging, building a mailing list, sending out newsletters, and jockeying for position in Google search results. All these things are made vastly easier with a website of your own.
Think of your website as a centralized location where you can direct people from your other online sources: FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, and anywhere else you happen to be mentioned on the web. You can also use it to sell books, share new work, and connect with readers. A website is much more than just a billboard or a storefront. It’s a powerful tool with the potential to boost your career.
Luckily, you don’t need a lot of technical knowledge to have your own site. There are several ways to create a pretty-looking page for free, using services such as Weebly, Wix, SquareSpace, or WordPress. The first three are simplest, because they offer drag-and-drop page builders that make it easy to see what you’re doing. However, WordPress is my favorite, because it’s the most versatile, the most powerful, and also the best for SEO, or search engine optimization. (SEO is a topic worthy of its own article, but for now, just think of it as a measure of how well your site ranks in search results.)
WordPress sites come in two flavors: self-hosted or WordPress-hosted. (‘Host’ refers to the company or individual that owns the server where your site files reside, while a ‘server’ is just a computer whose job it is to serve your site files to whoever requests them.)
If you have a self-hosted WordPress site, that means you run your own server, which obviously requires some technical knowledge. A WordPress-hosted site is hosted on their servers, which requires no technical knowledge, and which they graciously allow you to do for free at WordPress.com. There are a variety of extra services available for a fee, of course, but it is possible to get a website up and running in under an hour without spending a dime. If words like “server” and “hosting” make your head spin, WordPress.com is a great option for you.
Once you have a site, what should you do with it? Below are a few tips for the new or potential site owner.
- Try to fill a niche, rather than appeal to everyone. Marketing anything to a specific group is much easier than trying to market it to the whole world. It’s a strange paradox: the narrower your focus, the more people you will reach.
- Fresh content is important. Site owners are constantly trying to please the Almighty Goog, which likes sites that have newly-updated material. Don’t think you can just put a site up and not touch it for three years. The Goog will smite you for that. Try writing one blog post a month to start. These will quickly add up. Which brings me to my next point:
- Blogging is important. These days, anyone who is capable of sending an email or using Word already possesses the skills needed to write and publish a blog post. The technicalities are no longer a hurdle, and that’s a great thing, because it means you’re free to focus on the only thing that will ever really matter: writing strong material that people find useful or enjoyable.
- Share link juice. If you are friends with other writers online, connect with them to create a “ring” in which you promote each other’s work. Ask writer friends to write guest blog posts for your site, and also ask if you can do the same for them. Provide links to their sites on yours, and vice versa. It really does help.
- Use social media to drive visitors to your site. Think of your website as the place where you want all your readers to end up. The more traffic you get, and the longer they stay, the higher your site will rank. So, if you write a blog post about how crime writers can create suspense, don’t repost the whole thing on your Facebook page. Instead, post a link to it on Facebook, so people have to go to your site to read it. And that brings me to my final point:
- Get fully covered. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you’re on Facebook, you’re online. You’re missing the huge swath of the population that doesn’t use Mr. Zuckerberg’s marvelous invention. In other words, your Facebook page doesn’t replace a website.
If all this makes your head spin, you can always pay someone to build and manage a site for you. One excellent solution is Mighty Wee Websites (https://mightyweewebsites.com). For the price of a small cup of coffee every day, they’ll send you a questionaire about yourself, then use your responses to build, launch, and host an attractive five-page site for you. For a limited time, owner Dave Thomson has graciously allowed Authorlink readers to use the coupon code WEEGIFT25 to receive 25% off their first year of service. Dave even built a sample writer site, which you can see here: https://williamkowalskiauthor.com
Writers like me, who cut their teeth pre-internet, will sometimes pine wistfully for the old days when you didn’t have to think about all this. I feel we’re very fortunate to have all this technology, but it does tend to take up a lot of time. Writers need one thing more than anything else: time to write. Take advantage of the services that have sprung up to help you get noticed, so you can focus on what’s important: writing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
William Kowalski is the author of fourteen books that have been translated into fifteen languages. You can visit him online at https://williamkowalski.com.