Really, I’ve been asked quite a few times “do I need a website.” As in, “I’m a fitness trainer, do I need a website?” “I sell baseball cards, do I need a website?” “I’m an unpublished author, do I need a website?”
Yes. Yes. Yes.
The idea of having your own website is hard to grasp, and it really boils down to “who cares?” As in, who cares about me enough to visit my website?
When you’re first getting started and creating your own website, building up the content, etc. here’s the thing—you’re right, nobody cares. Not one person who isn’t a friend or family member is going to care. Do you know how many blogs and websites are out there? Do you know how many authors are out there? They all can’t be cared about.
That is, until you make them care.
This might immediately conjure up a dreaded catch 22—I need a website to help people care about me and what I have to say, but they won’t visit my site if they don’t care about me, and the only way to get them to care is to get them to visit my site.
What in the actual heck.
This is why I have such a strong love for SEO, and the value behind it.
Think about the different types of marketing….
You can create a social media ad and stick it in front of someone, and thus interrupt their browsing.
You can create a print advertisement and stick it in front of someone, and thus interrupt their magazine flipping.
You can create a banner ad and stick it in front of someone, and thus interrupt their blog reading.
You can create a website, fill it with meaningful content, and then have it fall in someone’s lap when their searching and have a need to or challenge to overcome.
Now, which of those two scenarios is more likely to lead to the audience on the other side actually caring about you and what you have to say…those who are having their day’s interrupted by your marketing pushes, or those who are seeking you out in a time of need?
You didn’t give two clicks about me before finding this article (and you still might not) but at least I have a pretty good chance to prove my worth.
So now what?
Of course, if building a website and getting Google to like it better than other websites was easy, we probably wouldn’t even be debating whether or not you need a website as an unpublished author; you’d be rushing to build one!
But, it’s not easy; it’s quite hard, actually, which probably has you on the fence of sinking time and money into getting a website up and going.
I totally hear you.
Luckily, I was in that same boat. No, I’m not an author, and yes, I do have SEO expertise, but if you’re a writer – which you are – then you can, and should try, to make it work.
Here’s how I went about it
Before we get into the tangibles of actually putting your website together, it’s imperative you build the foundation, which is mostly based off your goals.
Put it this way, imagine you built a site everybody immediately loves and flocks to—what do you want those people to do?
Some possible goals:
Build a following/mailing list: Perhaps one of your goals is to build a mailing list of interested readers in order to prove to publishers that your book and idea has legs.
Think about it…if you were a publisher considering two authors, wouldn’t you be more drawn to the one with a built-in fan base of sorts?
Another thing you can accomplish with a mailing list is monetization, either through a paid newsletter, course, etc. That’s a whole different beast, and for another time.
Sharpen your skills: You could also want to build a site for the sole purpose of saying you did, while also gaining the skills required to actually put together a site, write for one, etc. Think of it as a feather in a cap, resume builder, or simply a personal achievement.
To be ready when the time comes: As a published author, your site is up and ready for your book fans who want to visit to get to know you and your works on a more intimate level. As an unpublished author, none of that is a concern…but the point here is, things can change quickly.
So, one very good reason for starting a website as an unpublished author is so that you have a website ready to go once you get published!
This goes hand in hand with the first point…guess who you can reach out to when it comes time to not only sell your book, but when you need to generate reviews for it? Yes! The mailing list you’ve been building through your site as an unpublished author!
What is needed to actually start building a website?
The very first thing you’ll want to figure out is your domain name (for example, rentmywords.com is my domain). While most anything that is a cute and catchy phrase from one to three words long is already gone, there are still plenty of suitable domain names for your website to be.
If it were me as an unpublished author, I’d just do my author name, simply firstnamelastname.com, or some combination of name and genre, book title, etc. if you find your name is already taken as a domain.
Sure, you can always change your domain name, but the process is a pain, and not something you’d want to do if you could avoid it.
Where to look? Every domain name I’ve purchased has been through GoDaddy, each leading to a pretty good overall website experience. One thing I liked, especially as a beginner, was the hand holding through all of the different add-ons. Sure, their goal is to upsell, but as a beginner who had no idea they needed something until that something was put in front of them, the process was helpful.
Which brings us to…
When you create a website, it’s not enough to just create it…you need a service to make it available to the internet masses, which is exactly what a host does.
Again, I’m only speaking from experience, but a WordPress managed site is the way to go. Why? Because you’re most likely going to want WordPress as your CMS (Content Management System) as well.
You thought choosing a domain name was stressful! Your website theme is basically the look and feel of the site itself; it’s identity or skin, if you will.
Thus, going into the process you probably have some idea as to what your ideal website is going to look like. If building your site through WordPress, you’ll have the option to choose from a number of free themes.
For me personally, I wanted something that offered a few more bells and whistles, and was a bit more customizable. So I paid a few bucks for a pro version of a free theme.
It’s the MH Magazine theme, to be specific, and I chose it because it had what I needed, but also seemed to offer good support and demo documentation. Meaning, there were plenty of examples of how you could customize the site to your liking, with instructions on how to do so.
While the above steps might result in a bit of stress over making the “right” decision, this one probably comes more with uncertainty—what do I possibly write about?
Take a deep breath, and think about your goals.
As an unpublished author, what will your website do for you? It will serve as your own personal information center. Really, it’s the only place online where you truly own the content and everything taking place.
So, you want to promote YOU! Thus, an “about” page is a must, along with a contact page, and probably an area where you talk about accomplishments and/or endeavors. This can totally be the place you promote any writing you’ve completed.
About Page: Who are you? This should be the easiest writing you ever do, but can sometimes turn out to be the most difficult. Even as a writer, you shouldn’t have any shame reaching out to someone on Fiverr or Upwork for some help. Keep it short and to the point.
Contact: How can someone get in touch with you? Most people either just include a contact form or email address. If you do include an email address, I recommend getting one that corresponds with your new site as it helps you appear a bit more buttoned up. Meaning, it’s time to move on from that old Hotmail address. You should also add your social media profiles here.
Your Work: You of course also want a showcase page, or an area of the site dedicated to your work. If you have a book you’re trying to get published, here is your chance to show it off. Have other articles out there? Blogged on another website? Anything that boosts your credibility can go here.
Blog: This is where the rubber really meets the road. No, it’s not cliche. It’s not a trend. I’m not saying it because everyone else says it. It’s a tried and true tool that, if utilized properly, will take your site – and potentially your career and thus your life – to new heights.
As for the content of the blog, again, what’s your goal? If you’re trying to attract publishers, your content should be geared towards what publishers would be searching for. If you’re trying to build a fan base, your content can probably be a little more general; perhaps book reviews on titles similar to yours.
Graphics and Imagery: Building a site is a challenge, but making it pretty is easier than it has ever been for us non-designer types. Why? One word. Canva (or Snappa). Why else? Another word. Fiverr.
For those who don’t have the time or patience to design, but might have at least $5 to hire someone to create something for you, Fiverr is an awesome option.
Ready to Build?
I know, it sounds like a lot. And it is a lot. But remember—anyone who ever started anything had to start from square one.