The very first thing you need to do as an author is create a website.
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Why do you need a website? I’ve heard from more than one person that websites will be obsolete because of things like Facebook pages and Tumblr. While Facebook and tumbler have their place in this process, I wouldn’t count on that (at least not anytime soon). Your website is the place your fans can find you. It’s where you can sell your products, get email list sign-ups, and post interesting content to attract new people and keep your existing fans engaged.
I started out with a GoDaddy hosted site while they weren’t technically bad, I found they snuck in extra charges and were constantly asking me for more money just to keep my site functional. When I researched other hosting options I wanted to see what other authors and leaders in indie publishing were using and recommending. Most of them recommend BlueHost. I can’t lend personal experience to my recommendation but Joanna Penn and Tim Grahl highly recommend BlueHost so I’d say they’re a safe bet. The price tag was just too much for me right now (I’d rather spend it on professional editing) so at the recommendation of a fellow indie author I looked into SiteGround for hosting. I really like them. I’ve only been using them for a couple months now (I will update the article if anything changes) and so far it’s been an amazing experience. They helped me build my site while keeping my existing site active and then helped me move it to my domain once I was done so I never had any time without a site.
I wish I had taken a screenshot of my old site so you could see the difference.
When I revamped my site I wanted something that was easy to build and change when I wanted and I needed to able to do everything myself. After a lot of time spent on other author’s sites, I decided to go with a WordPress site. It’s easy to build and make changes. Here’s a link to my new author site if you want to check it out www.cameronquinnbooks.com.
A great alternative is Weebly, though I found they also had some hidden charges during sign-up, unlike GoDaddy, they aren’t constantly hounding me for money. I use Weebly for this site and I love it for nonfiction.
For my Wordpress site (linked above) I chose to buy a theme from StudioPress. I used the Author Pro theme, as of the time I purchased, you can use it on as many sites as you need to so this is a great option for multiple pen names (I will have three by this time next year and no I don’t recommend it. If you can stick with one, do that. It’s way easier). Here’s a link to J.F. Penn’s site (Joanna’s fiction site) so you can see how different the theme can be. I bought this one on her recommendation and I wouldn’t go back if you paid me a million dollars.
When you’re setting up your site, you need to remember the goal of this piece of your platform is not sales. I know that seems counterintuitive but having permission to contact your fans is far more important then an individual sale. Think about it, would you rather have one sale today or a lifetime of sales from a fan? Because of this, you need to make sure your email sign up is at the top of the homepage, in a sidebar on all other pages and you can use a pop up for good measure. A LOT of authors hate the pop up. They feel like its spammy and pushy and sleazy, so here are some tips to make sure you are none of those. First, most pop-ups have a setting for when they appear. I set mine for when someone has browsed 70% of the page and if they close it they won’t see it again for two weeks. That way it’s not pushy. I've joined lists after a few visits to the site before.
Depending on what you're offering for sign up to your list you might want to have a page dedicated to it. I have a free book page on my fiction site but will likely stick with a popup and side bar for this site. (If you'd like email updates, the free author platform worksheet and email course, when they're finished you can sign-up here)
The next thing you NEED is an About page. About pages are the most read pages on author websites.
You’ll also want a contact page for when we get into the outreach portion of this series.
And of course, you need your book pages. Using the Author Pro theme you can get a library plugin that allows you to set up your books as I have them on my site and Joanna has them on the J.F. Penn site.
You can add a blog page or not at this point. I will go over your options in more detail when we get to the content section. I know fiction authors get frustrated with blogs but have no fear, I have a few solutions for you.
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