So you want to build your author website? Great! It’s easy! But it’s easy to go awry, too. I recently wrote an article about this for the literary magazine, Hunger Mountain, and thought I’d share some of that here. Because even though there are a multitude of technologies available, finding the right one is crucially important if we want anyone to actually pick up what we’re putting down. After all the work you’ve done on your writing (and honoring your work by revising), publishing on your own website can be really fulfilling.
What the Pros Know
If you’re interested in building an author website, and you want it to be worth your effort, you need to think like the UX people and the SEO folk. If you’re reasonably handy with the web, you can make a reasonably handy website in just a handful of hours. Platforms like Tumblr, WordPress, SquareSpace, Blogger, and Wix are reasonably handy, too.
But if you want those hours not to be wasted, you probably want people to look at your new site. And if you want people to visit, you probably want to make it worth their while, right? You also want to present yourself in the best possible way, according to your personality. Think of it the way you think of deciding what to wear: how does my wardrobe/website represent me?
What You Should Know
So here’s where you start your website project: with a pen and piece of paper. Daydream some answers to questions like these:
- What do I want to know about other writers?
- Why will people visit my website?
- What should people learn about me?
- How will they know the site exists?
- What are Google search terms that could lead people there? (Know that without an insane amount of effort on your part, people aren’t going to arrive at your website because they Google “short stories” or “contemporary American writer”)
- What’s my message?
- What’s the simplest way to get my message across?
- How often will I update my site?
- What’s my personal brand?
- How many visitors should I expect a day/week/month?
- Do I even care if people visit my website, or do I need one just in case someone wants to find out more about me?
- Do I want to sell anything?
- What kind of tone should my website take in its appearance and in the writing?
- What pages would I have on my website?
- What pages should appear in the main menu?
- How should people interact — with comments, contact forms, social sharing, ranking posts, or maybe not at all?
- How will I measure success?
- How will I sustain the website?
- How much money do I want to spend every year?
As long as you’ve got that pen and paper going, write down your own questions similar to these. I can think of plenty more, and you should too — even things like “what colors do I want my site to feature,” “how many pictures should I have,” and “what is the first thing I want people to see when they visit?”
In order to guide your thinking, look up the author website of writers you like, and those of super-famous writers. Most importantly, focus on writers who are at a similar point in their career as you. What kind of content do they have?