Author Social Media – Personal Website
Why does an author need a website? The short answer is always the best answer – because it’s your name, your work, your message – who better to define it than you? What can a personal website do for you? A personal website can provide information, promotion, interaction, and credibility. In short, a personal website is a one-stop destination where your readers can find you. This is why the personal website is the center of an author’s Universe and platform.
Getting it right is the crucial element. As an author you first need to define your message – what do you want readers to take away when they leave your site. If you immediately answered “buy my book” well then you’re wrong. No one wants to be bombarded by heavy handed sales pitches, and they certainly aren’t going to go looking for it. Your website needs to be an extension of you and your writing. It needs to be the virtual living room that you invite your readers in to so they can get to know you. Your goal should always be about attracting not just any readers, but loyal readers. Think long term, not instant gratification.
Once you’ve defined and honed your message to your readers, your next step is to determine how much time you’re willing to devote to your platform over all. What I mean by this, is once all your social media is set up and running, how much time per day, week, month, etc., are you willing to devote to interaction with your readers? As a writer, you have a schedule you stick to in order to develop, write, edit and produce your writing, so take the same care with your platform. It’s not just another marketing avenue; it’s an extension of your writing. With a well-developed strategy, a minimum of two hours a week will serve you well in your social media platform.
Now that you’ve got your message, and you know how much time you’re going to spend online, it’s time to talk about design. I know many of you are thinking, wait, why aren’t we talking .com vs. blogging sites? Well, the truth is, you can’t decide which type of site you need until you know what you want it to look like, so design comes first. The most important thing, and I can’t stress this enough, is that no matter what you do, it must be professional. You wouldn’t send your manuscript out to an agent or publisher with coffee stains and crayon scribbles, so your website should be the same. Again, your site is an extension of who you are and what you write – make it professional.
When it comes to design you have to remember that every writer is different, so every site should be different. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be similarities; in fact, most sites have the same feel and information on them. The best way to decide how you want your site to look is to look at other author websites. If you write children’s books, then your website should reflect this. A playful color scheme, pictures that relate to the theme of your books, and fun graphics, all draw the reader to your genre. If you write fantasy or science fiction, the scheme would be darker, bolder, with graphics that tie in to your books or genre.
So does this mean you need to learn how to do internet coding, HTML and CSS? Absolutely not – I mean it doesn’t hurt, but it’s not necessary. First thing to do is research. Pick some of your favorite authors, pick authors that write in your genre, and pick some indie authors. Then, go check out their websites. Make detail notes on what you liked, what you didn’t like, what options and menus they had on their sites, what you felt was missing, and most of all, what message did you take from their page. My recommendation is to visit a total of twenty sites, and make sure you get a nice mix of styles and subjects. This will help you formulate your own plan. Like the clean and simple graphics of that murder mystery writer – then build on that. Want a page that displays all your books and offers readers a peek inside? Then jot that down on your list. After you do this, you’ll start to envision your site and be better able to communicate exactly what you want. Remember to note to include links to all your social media sites and RSS feed links, make it easy for your readers to follow you on all formats. Now that you have the basic plan for your site we can discuss .com vs. blogging sites.
Ah, to have that ever elusive myname.com website – well, here’s your chance. Depending on your design and your social media plans, you have to make this choice. I’m a strong believer in blogging, after all, you’re a writer, so show people what you do. In addition, blogging is a very personal connection and readers love getting to know their writers. But at the same time, when I’m looking for something I appreciate being able to type in www.whatIneed.com and get what I’m looking for.
While blogging sites are mostly free and easy to navigate, they do have pros and cons. A personalized domain has its own challenges and benefits, so I’ve put together a little chart that may help navigate this important decision. (Again, this is only my opinion – I recommend you do the research on each site and see how you feel about it).
|Blogging Website (WordPress.com or .org, Blogger.com, Tumblr, Squarespace, Google+, Hubpages, LiveJournal, etc.)||Free
Easy to set up
Network of bloggers
Ability to share posts
No targeted users (yep, 12 yr olds can see your stuff)
Paying for customization
Low Usership – too many sites, not enough users/readers
Less ownership of your work
No personalized .com/.net/.org – you’ll get the bloggingsite.com extension (some allow you to pay for this to be dropped)
Ads on your page
No custom email
No SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – you’ll have to market your book AND your blog.
You own all your own work
You decide what can and can’t be posted
Custom email addresses (email@example.com)
Integrated website AND blogging if you choose
Ability to link all your social media
|Complete customization – you’re on your own unless you hire a web designer or learn HTML/CSS
No network to connect – you will have to find readers
SPAM – bots love to post comments, so you’ll need a spam filter
Cost – not just name, you need hosting and yearly fees.
Posting can be cumbersome if you’re not computer savvy.
These are just a few of the Pros and Cons I came up with when researching my own website. As you can see, I decided the cost and upkeep for a personal domain was the best choice for me, and I’ve never regretted that decision. It takes time and effort to build an audience, but in the long run, I feel that a personal website is an author’s best choice. I think blogging sites aren’t as sophisticated as they need to be to give that professional feel, and with limited customization, you don’t get what you want, you settle for what you can do. I’m not knocking the blogging sites, of them, Google+ would be my personal choice, but I prefer to be in complete control of my message.
In closing, it’s your Universe, so ultimately the choice is up to you. If you prefer a simple blog with maybe a few pictures, then a free blogging site isn’t such a bad choice. With the right template, you can shed that “I’m part of a blog site” feel and most sites will give you a domain without the blogsite.com extension for a fee now. The best advice I can give you is this, decide what’s right for you and your message. You know the type of reader you want to attract, so use the tool that helps you best find them. As a recap of the main points:
- Define Your message: Know what you want your website visitors to take away from site. How do you want your potential readers (and loyal followers) to feel when they see your website?
- Allocate a Set Time for Social Media: Readers and followers like to know when you’re posting, have a schedule so they know when to expect updates from you. Be prompt, be engaging, but most of all be there.
- Identify Your Design: Make sure your site is a true reflection of who you are as a person and a writer and most of all that it reflects your writing – Professionally. There’s nothing worse than a website that looks cluttered and amateurish. If you don’t have the necessary skill to design it yourself, hire a professional designer. Your cousin Joe may know how to work a printer, but he’s not an expert. An expert will tell you what works and what doesn’t. They will also give you tools to perform the upkeep yourself once they’ve completed.
- To .com or Blog – That is The Question: Knowing how to reach your intended audience is just as important as the site itself. I advocate a .com, mostly because I see this as a commitment to your career overall. You’re a writer; you want to be published; you want to be taken seriously; then invest in your career. Build a website, make the effort to find followers and readers, and build a solid platform. Agents and Publishers can make and distribute your book, but your part doesn’t end when the book is written. You now have to help market and sell your book. If you spend time to build a solid foundation of loyal readers and followers, you’ll be that many readers in when your masterpiece is written and sold. It will also help sell your manuscript when an agent Google’s you and sees your website has X number of followers and you have a crisp, clean design. All of this just ready and waiting for your new loyal readers to find you on the web.
All in all, a personal website is a solid investment. Not just of money, but of time and effort, all adding up to one stellar writing career!
Main Article Social Media – Authors Platform
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Article 4 – Social Media – Author Platform – Facebook.com
Article 5 – Social Media – Author Platform – Twitter.com