Monday, 7 March 2016

Do I have to have an Author Website?

by Iola Goulton

Last month, Jeanette O’Hagen introduced our 2016 joint posts between Australasian Christian Writers and Christian Writers Downunder with a post on platform, that elusive necessity for modern authors.

As Christians, we have an advantage in that we know our platform needs to be built on the Rock, not the shifting sands of popularity and changing trends.

As Jeanette said, while God has a plan for each of us and our writing, we need to use our God-given talents in obedience to God’s plan and the gifts He has given us.


I like this quote from Robert Louis Stevenson, because it reminds me that while responsible for planting the seeds (and perhaps keeping them fed and watered), God is responsible for the harvest.

In terms of marketing ourselves as Christian writers, we're not the responsible for the overall harvest (blog hits, comments, sales). Our job is to do the best we can in planting the seeds: writing the blog post or the magazine article or the book, and making sure it's out there where our target reader can find it (even God can't make your book an Amazon bestseller if it's still sitting on your hard drive).

One essential of online book marketing that every “expert” agrees on is this:

You must have a website.


Your website is one of the seeds. It's your online home. It’s where readers will go to find out about you and your books. I asked in a reader group and they confirmed this: they most commonly visit author websites to find out:

  • More about the author
  • When the author's next book releases
  • What other books the author has published 
  • The correct order of a series

And a website is where agents, publishers and editors will look to see if you have that magical platform. And it’s where publicists and bloggers will look to find information about you.

You also need a way for readers to subscribe to your email list—your list provider will probably have a way to integrate this with your website. I'll talk more about email lists and why they're important in a later post in this series.

Your website one of the foundational elements of your platform and of your passive marketing. While it's a lot of work to build a website, the ongoing maintenance isn't as difficult, as long as you set it up properly (and remember to keep all your themes and plugins updated, especially security plugins. I've learned that the hard way).

What does my website have to have?

Actually, not a lot. As long as it's well-designed and consistent with your brand and genre (which I've discussed on Australasian Christian writers here, here, and here). You need the following pages:
  • Home (to bring people into the site and introduce your brand)
  • About (to introduce you as the author, in order to begin to develop a relationship)
  • Books (only once you actually have one, of course!)
  • Contact (to allow people to communicate with you)
Other pages—blog, media kit, reviews, writing advice—are all optional. Which makes it a lot easier to set up a professional author website, and a lot harder to find excuses as to why you can't!

The one other essential for an author website is a way of capturing the email addresses. I'll be discussing this in a future post.

You'll notice I haven't said you have to have a blog. That's next week's topic!

Meanwhile, what questions do you have about author websites? What author websites have you visited you particularly liked? What did you like?

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website (www.christianediting.co.nz), or follow me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/christianediting), Twitter (@IolaGoulton) or Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/iolasreads).

10 comments:

  1. Excellent summary, Iola. Home-base, yes. We all need one.

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  2. Great post Iola. I think that point about connecting is really important. When I go to an author's website, I want to feel that I'm getting to know them a bit and that they care about their readers. If it's all just 'buy my book' or if it looks like they have minions to deal with the public instead of interacting themselves, I don't tend to stay. BTW, I like your new site :) Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you - I'm pleased you like my site.

      I do agree that I tend to stay away from "buy my book" websites (and Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds). A website is partly about sales, but more about building relationships.

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  3. I love visiting writers' websites. Thanks for the timely reminder that when we design and manage our own, we're planting the seeds, and not necessarily responsible for all the hits.

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    1. Yes, your website is mostly passive marketing. Kristine Rusch wrote a great book about this, Discoverability. I recommend it.

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  4. I love author writers that are clean and easy to navigate. I'm usually visiting to find out more about their books or to find contact details :)

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    1. Agreed - and isn't it frustrating when you can't even find that?

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  5. Hi Iola, thanks for your informative posts. I am in the process of accepting/claiming my career as a writer (instead of looking for jobs elsewhere!). I have written one book so far, which I published through CreateSpace last June, and more recently through Smashwords, as well as being a semi-regular blogger. I am being challenged more recently about how I promote myself - LinkedIn has been one forum, and very recently, finding a few facebook groups. Now, having my own website is another challenge - not one I had even thought about until reading your post. I have been looking up some information about getting domain names and hosting, and I realise it is a whole other world! My main question at this point is whether you can recommend a website host, as I really don't know what is required. Thanks, Ruth.

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    1. Ruth, I don't really have any host to recommend. My site (Christian Editing) is hosted by Illisys, while I see a lot of Americans recommending BlueHost. But I'm no expert in this area, sorry.

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