Let me start by saying that a blog and an author website are two different things.
From the word weblog, a blog is a website that is designed to be interactive with regularly updated content. This can be why they are so popular today and why every writer should have one. Blogs are a great way to communicate with readers, meet new friends, and network with business people in your field.
A website is less interactive, not updated in the form of publishing new posts, and exists for selling products or services, promoting products, and displaying more information about the owner. Every professional business person will have a website. The biggest disadvantage from the network side for websites is that they are stationary. After someone purchases your product or service, joins your newsletter or discovers more about you, there is no room for interaction like with a blog. This may have you to question, why then, is it important for authors to have both?
Having a blog is great, especially since they are so popular. The blog, however, is really just the first step. Every professional person will have a static website where people can go to learn more about them, discover where they are offline, follow their social media, and purchase their products. It looks more professional on business cards and flyers to display a website people can go to that is formal and stationary in addition to the blog. Though there’s no interaction on a website, you don’t really want it to be. The author website is to be as professional as you can afford without a lot going on. It’s your online store and people do not get to kick it in the store.
Products / Services
One of the biggest advantages of having a Website is being able to sell your books through your website. Instead of relying solely on Amazon and other places (where you can’t monitor who your fans are), selling directly through your own website gives you more control in this area. You can sell paperback copies of your book, add other products related to your books, add an email sign-up form to collect email addresses, and know who your supporters are. You can see exactly who just bought your book and reach out to them more personally. Even though you can, technically, sell through your blog as well, there’s a lot going on. On this blog, I have people following, commenting, liking, and reblogging daily, I’ve got the slide sidebar widgets, and pages. There’s just too much going on. I’d prefer my online store to have its own space on an author website and to also have a blog so that I can further build with those who support me.
Paperback and Hardcopy
Paperback and Hardcopy books are highly underrated, as well as the author website. Today, everyone relies strictly on Amazon and Lulu. It makes sense then why there’s always a complaint about Amazon’s algorithms: authors will have nowhere to go to sell their books. I am not sure why. As a Self-Publisher, you have the freedom to sell your books however you want* (Disclaimer: In case there are restrictions on you selling your books through your website, you can instead create a new page and link it to your Amazon account. People who go to that page–your book page or store–will be taken directly to your page. Check out Angela Ford’s page HERE. She does this beautifully. Also see how her blog and author website is so integrated. Goals!).
Build an author website and add a store for your paperback books. In 4 Common Sense Reasons it Can Benefit You to Self-Publish, we talked about the benefit of having more control but I am noticing that we do not always exercise this right. We are adding more and more rules to Self-Publishing that limit our ability to be creative and to have more control of our work. (By limit creativity I do not, in any way, mean that your creativity should ever supercede excellence. Be as creative as you want but don’t just put anything out there).
Despite their issues, I would still recommend that authors have a presence on Amazon for readers. The two questions I get most from first time customers:
“You gotta website?”
“Are you on Amazon?”
I am not talking about writers, bloggers or people familiar with the online scene or the publishing process in any way. I am talking about regular everyday readers (especially those who spend a lot of time offline) whose first thought to find a book is to go to the library or look it up on Amazon. If only for this reason, I would say to have a presence there. Amazon and Goodreads (which is owned by Amazon) is where the readers are right now. However, you don’t have to be a slave to them. There is no way that Amazon should successfully enslave any Independent Publisher to where they can no longer sell their books in the unfortunate event something happens and they can no longer sell through Amazon.
Although eBook is king, having a place where people can purchase paperback copies of the book is beneficial in more ways than one, but I’ve edited this due to certain third party restrictions you may have selling your books through your website. I wouldn’t want to get anyone in trouble. Just research and read your terms and conditions. It is good to have paperback versions of your books through along with the ebook. Be sure to research also when pricing your paperbacks. You can charge anywhere from $13.95-$17.95 or even upwards to $20.00 but you should do your research before setting your price and do your calculations. Setting the price too high OR TOO LOW can influence sales. Be sure to factor in how much it costs to print your book when setting your price. For print-on-demand, the method many Self-Publishers use to print their books, the printing cost will be deducted from your retail price, meaning your book royalties comes from the retail price minus the printing costs and wholesale discount. You don’t want to price your book so low that the printing costs leave you with little to nothing in profit. Also, consider the cost of shipping, handling, and State tax. But remember not to over price either.
Where to Start
There are tons of easy-to-use website builders you can use to create your author website but the gold standard for an author website is WordPress. I really don’t want to be repetitive. There are already tons of excellent articles on why WordPress is the best place to build an author website and there’s no use re-creating the wheel. I found an informative article that should provide all you need to know HERE.
Now, about WIX…
I hear a lot of talk about how bad sites like WIX are and how authors should not use them. While WordPress is what I’d recommend, you use, there’s nothing wrong with using WIX starting out. You have to start from somewhere. WIX may not be something you want to make a permanent home but it’s not terrible. I use WIX now and it’s not great but it can work until you can do better. (I’ve had my author website longer than I’ve been blogging or even knew about WordPress so I’m behind in that respect but, like I said, it works for now.)
Author Website? Blog? Or Both?
It only makes sense for authors to have both a blog and an author website.
Author websites present a professional image for the serious author, enabling them to build an online store where people can go to purchase their books and to access their Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Lulu, Apple iBookstore or Smashword links.
Blogs help to foster relationships and build trust with readers. Instead of purchasing a book once from a website, they can come on over and join you in a place where they will receive consistent content and insight into your writing life. People can provide feedback and interact with you daily. The more time you spend with someone, the more time you have to get to know them. Blogs give you the opportunity to build trust with your readers and to stay connected with them.
The purpose of the blog is more providing valuable and informative content than it is selling. Though you can surely sell through a blog, I would suggest using the 80/20 rule: 80% providing value, and 20% selling. That’s because blogs aren’t really for hard selling but for networking. Authors who lack the skills to blog (and focus only on writing and trying to sell their work) often find that the blog doesn’t work for them. That’s because the true purpose here is not to just write but to also interact.
If you really want to make your blog work for you:
- Be sure there are links to your author website on your blog.
- And then make sure your blog is accessible on your author website.
- Go back to your blog and add an Author Media Kit, Media Page or a page with a list of your books. (I have all three). Since your website is your online store, you obviously don’t need to create a book page there but these pages on your blog will drive people to your store.
- On your author website, create a new page and link to the Author Media Kit on your blog. It will save you the time of having to re-create the page and further connect your blog with your author website (unless you are already utilizing the blog feature of your website).
Built-In Blogs – Most website builders (Like WIX) will have the blog built into the site already and you can always use that. However, I happen to like WordPress better far as blogging is concerned. You get much better engagement and interaction blogging via WordPress than you’ll get through the blog feature of your website builder. That is because blogs here (and blogs in general) tend to have more traffic.
- The blog’s sole purpose is to be interactive (updated content, promotion, guest posting, interviews, building trust, forming relationships, creating bonds, etc.), driving people to your website.
Blog > Social Media > Author Website > Shop > Purchase
- Your author website’s sole purpose is to sell.
“Blogs and websites work in very different ways, serve very different purposes and produce different short-term results. However, they are both necessary to increase your online exposure and to strengthen your online business reputation. It is important to have both as part of your online presence. They function well together and undeniably, you will see positive results over the long term if they are a part of your business online.” – Michael Cohn