As a writer, it is hard to know where to start when building your author platform. However, the one thing that I can impart to you about a writer’s platform is that the time to start it is now. Not tomorrow, not when your rough draft is completed, and certainly not when your book is finished and you are waiting to find a traditional publisher or independently publish your work on Amazon. You must give your platform time to be discovered and linked to the myriad of places where readers can find you.
There are two types of author websites. A static website that changes only once in a great while and a writer’s blog where the author posts on a regular basis in addition to all the information that is contained on a static website. Both have advantages over the other. The static website needs little maintenance once it is set up. It is the sort of place that you can hire a webmaster to run for you if you are uncomfortable with computers or simply don’t have the time to work on your site. This sort of site is not as good for linking with social media. The blog website takes time from the author’s schedule. You must write posts, work at marketing your posts to many social media networks, and still have all the same information that a static website contains. This sort of website will bring you in many readers, depending on the content you offer on your blog.
STARTING YOUR WEBSITE
The first task you have for your website is to decide on its name. This can be different from the domain name that is associated with it. Since you want to brand yourself as an author, a natural choice for your domain name and the name of your website is the name you will be writing under. Some people will add the word “author” to their name so that it is apparent that they are writers even if only their name appears. You can also choose a catch phrase for your blog and use that as your URL. My own writing blog is called No Wasted Ink and can be found at http://nowastedink.com. Remember, if you choose a name or phrase as your domain URL, you will have to live with it for a long time. Choose wisely.
I highly recommend that you purchase the domain of your personal name even if you decide to use a different domain for your website. As your sales increase, others may seek to purchase your name domain and then charge you a high price for it. It is best to secure it as soon as possible. You do not need to use it on your blog, but can instead choose to park it at your domain service. Do not purchase the name of your novel, after all, you will hopefully write many more books in the future. Keep all your books under one roof. It is better to dedicate a page on your website to a new book than to give that book its own website.
Finally, do not host your domain name with the same company that hosts your website. I have heard countless stories of authors that wanted to move to a new host, but were unable to get their previous host to release their domain or even to point it at the new location for months at a time. They do this to try and force you to stay with them. If you control where your domain is hosted, none of these games can be played on you. It costs a little more to structure it this way, but I feel that it is worth it for your peace of mind.
CHOOSE A HOST FOR YOUR WEBSITE
There are several options when choosing a place to host your website. Remember, when you choose a free hosting option, the host company will likely run ads on your website and they do not always offer to link your domain name to your website.
For a free static website the following are recommended services:
For a free blog website:
If you would rather not have ads on your website and access to email, forms and other features, consider paying for a hosted website. The following can host either a static or a blog website and have push button creation of most of the popular content engines:
When picking a template for your website, choose something that is simple in design. You don’t want flashy graphics, bright colors or purple unicorns. Choose a simple black and white or neutral pallet for your site. You want to present yourself as a respectable professional.
Keep It Simple
Make sure that the navigation structure is easy for the reader to follow, no element of your website should need even a second of thought to find information on.
Do not post counters, guest books, or prominent links to other sites unless you are active on them. This needs to be the final place where a reader will go to learn all about you as an author and about your books.
It Is All About You
On your front page, you should include a prominent location in the upper third for a form that signs up people to your mailing list, a graphic and clickable link to your latest book or to a magazine article that you have published, and your photo and name.
ELEMENTS TO INCLUDE ON YOUR WEBSITE
Both a static website and a blog have certain pages that should be included. These information pages explain to the reader about your history, list your bibliography, upcoming projects and other relevant information. The basic pages you need to include are:
This is a paragraph or two about you as an author. Think of it as a resume with your reader as the prospective employer. List information about yourself that you don’t mind releasing the public and give the reader a sense of who you are as a writer. Always include a photo of yourself on this page. It is also a great alternate place to put in a form for a newsletter, since readers who are interested in you are most likely to view this page.
Create a page that lists your published writing credits: magazines you’ve sold stories to, guest posts you’ve written, books you’ve published. If you can links to your work online, even better. Not only readers will be coming here to see your work, but prospective editors and publishers will as well.
Create a way for people to contact you easily. Most static webhosts provide scripts to create forms for this purpose. The free blog hosts have you use a third party service.
A few optional pages to include:
A page of novel excerpts so that readers can see a sample of each of your published works or even samples of unpublished ones.
A page of character sketches
A page of books that you recommend for reading on Amazon
If you decide to create a blog style writer platform, you will create more work for yourself because you must write blog posts. However, this work is off-set by the greater reach your social media will have to create a readership for your books. It is my personal feeling that a blog is a much stronger base than a static website.
In order to keep the workload manageable, you must regulate the frequency of your posts. Back in the 1990s when blogging first began, the gurus of the time all proclaimed that you needed to post at least once a day to generate traffic. As an author, this is not really the case. You must put your creative writing, the writing that earns you income, first over the writing you do for the blog. Therefore, consider microblogging to be your method. What microblogging means is that you post less frequently, but on a regular basis. You can post once or twice a week, but pick a certain day and time to do those posts and really make it shine. Over time, your readers will come to expect a post on that day and you will gain a following.
I post three times a week on No Wasted Ink: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Occasionally, I will post additional announcements or Vintage Holiday Cards. That is my microblogging schedule.
As a writer, you will need to decide how much time you have for a blog and then set up a blogging plan that you feel you can follow. Remember, you will be doing this for a long time, perhaps years, so try and not do too much at once. You can always change your blogging frequency in the future if it becomes overwhelming.
Your website is the base of your writer’s platform. It is the single thing that you as an author should have up on the Internet so that potential readers can find you and your books. So get started building the base of your platform. It is not as hard as you might think.