If you are a new author then you know how important “word of mouth” advertising is. Well in this day and age, it isn’t just verbal words that are important, you have to have a strong web presence as well. People are spending more time on their computers and smart phones than they are actually conversing with each other. This gives anyone that is interested in you the ability to learn as much as they can without having to actually ask you any questions. So, if you want people to know about you, you have to make yourself available.
Website – I cannot stress how important it is to have a website. Not just any website, but a website that is pleasing to the eyes. Think of your website as a portal into your life. I know that may sound intrusive but take a moment and consider everything your eyes take in the moment you visit a website. Ask yourself these questions:
- Does my website look appealing or does it look like something that was simply thrown together by an amateur? If your website looks like something that was created in the 90’s when the web was just starting then you have some major work to do. You need to understand that the appearance of your website is just as important as the cover of your book.
- Do you have far too much information on the front page? You need to draw your visitors in and if someone has to scroll down to get to the meat of your website then you are going to lose visitors instantly. Too much information is an instant overload to someone that is first visiting your site. They simply want to know if your website is something that they would be interested in and if you have anything to offer them. Allow your other pages to offer the finer details but use your homepage as a teaser to let the visitors know what all you have to offer. Keep most of the content within the range of a single page view that requires no scrolling.
- Do you have pictures? I can’t tell you how boring it is to visit a site that has no pictures. I love to read but I don’t want to go to a website and spend hours trying to find what I’m looking for. You must always remember the old saying, “A picture can speak a thousand words”. Take advantage of the stories pictures can tell in a single glance.
- Does it look like a cookie cutter of every other website out there? Dare to be different. You want to be singled out, not blend in with everyone else. Choose a color template that best represents you. That may sound crazy, but it’s true. People are coming to your site to know more about you so allow them to enter your realm just as you allow them to enter the realm of your story when they read your book. Another note, I know there are some amazing websites out there with dynamic content using Flash, but a word of caution, Flash takes a long time to load and that pushes people away. Not everyone lives where they have access to the super fast internet. Be considerate to all your visitors. Also remember that a lot of people will be viewing your site on a phone and I’ve heard a rumor that some phones are discontinuing the use of flash. Just because something looks amazing doesn’t mean it’s functionally appropriate for what you need.
- Do you have an actual website or is it just a blog? I know this sounds harsh and I understand the effort you put forth into your blog, but when people search for a website they expect a website, not a blog. Too many people know that anyone can have a blog and it makes you appear cheap and possibly even lazy. If you can manage to put together a manuscript, especially an ebook, then you have what it takes to create a website. There are tons of free web hosts that offer free templates that can be easily personalized and remove that cookie cutter trap. (Weebly is a great place to try)
- Do you have your own Domain Name? Don’t freak out, it’s really not that complicated and or even expensive. Think of a domain name like a physical address. If someone is looking to find out where you live so they can visit you then they need to be able to find your actual address. If you are using a web address that is only a sub-domain (ex. whoever.weebly.com) then it is akin to that person being stuck trying to find out where you live with only a P.O. Box number to direct them. Don’t let your fan’s get lost, direct them by giving them your real name to guide them straight to your site. But be aware, there are thousands of ways to buy a domain name, but most of them charge far too much. You don’t have to buy a domain name from the site that is hosting your website. Shop for the best price. (Go Daddy is a great place price wise and customer service wise.)
- Does your content read like it is copied straight from Wikipedia? We are all fans of something, what do you look for when you visit a site of some author or band that you love? One of my biggest pet peeves is going to a site that offers nothing more than what can be found in a million other places all over the net. Personally, I don’t even understand why they took the time and effort to cut and paste the same old crap most people already know. People come to your site to learn about you, they want the exclusivity that can’t be found anywhere else. They want to hear from you, not some other person that is doing your promotional work for you. They’ve read your books now they want to know more about you. This doesn’t mean you have to tell them every detail of your life, but they want to understand who you are as a person. Your website is a great place to promote your work, but always remember that the website is about YOU. There is nothing better than to discover the real person behind the one you are a fan of. As pretentious as this may sound, as an author you are setting yourself out to be a sort of public figure and you want to be relatable. Make your fans feel like they are your friends.
- Have you made too many changes to your website? The easiest way I can describe how aggravating this is to your visitors is to remind you of the fuss that generated when facebook changed to the timeline design. People are still complaining about it to this day. Think about what it is like to go shopping at a store you have been going to for years and they suddenly changed everything and you can’t find anything. Don’t do that to your visitors. If you do make changes, make sure you make an announcement describing the changes to help your visitors find what they are looking for. Don’t assume your visitors can just figure it out because most likely they will just give up and move on.
Take some time out and do some of your own research. Visit the sites of the people that you love. Note everything down that irritates you and what piques your interest. Note the fine details of what colors are pleasing to you and what colors are difficult to read. This is extremely important and will be something that will carry on with you throughout your career. There are a lot of other things I can add to this list about content and user friendly add-ons but if your website doesn’t look good then none of that matters. Let’s help each other out here. What have you found that works the best at drawing in visitors to your website?