If you’re any serious about your writing career, you must have an author platform. Basically, it is a website where readers can find out different information about you, buy your books and stay in touch with you.
You must know that you need to build your author platform even before you’ve written your first book. Whether you plan to go traditionally or self-published you need to let the readers know that you exist.
According to the article at The Balance Careers, book publishers want authors with platforms, but keep in mind that even if you plan to publish yourself, you will need some sort of audience who will be waiting for your book release.
While there is no right or wrong way to organize your website there are some guidelines which may help you to build a better website.
I’m not going to go into technical details of building a website, there are plenty of resources for that, I will simply try to explain what are the most important tools, or means of communication – if you will, that an author website should have.
My author platform is about to turn one year and it has been through a lot of change during the last 12 months. I’m a sort of person who tends to learn on the road and I will try to sum up what I’ve learned during my first year of having an author platform.
A blog is important
For the first six months, I strongly refused to write a blog. I’ve seen it as a complete waste of time and energy which I could’ve been spending on writing my novel, but I’ve learned that blogging plays a crucial part in reaching the audience.
Without my blog, I had zero visitors on my website for six months. Nobody, not even my mother would visit it. Naturally, there was no new content, nothing to share and therefore no visitors.
Once I’ve started to write daily blogs, to share it on Medium and my other social media platforms (which I use as a phonebook – if anyone searches for me, I’m there), the traffic on my website dramatically increased. It went from 0 to 500 page views per month. My medium articles get three times more attention and I get around 1500 reads per month. I know that it’s not much and that I’ve still got a lot to work, but it’s certainly much more than zero.
Build an e-mail list
According to the most successful self-published authors Mark Dawson, Nick Stephenson, and Joanna Penn, an e-mail list is the most important tool of your marketing platform. It will enable you to directly communicate with your readers.
While having a Facebook Page, Twitter profile or any other social media presence is important, an e-mail list is the only tool which is owned by you. If Facebook, Twitter, and even Amazon, change their rules and algorithms, and your posts and books won’t reach your readers as much as they used to, you will still be able to send an email to your readers and let them know that you’re releasing a new book.
To gain the reader’s trust and to make them leave you their e-mail address, you must offer something of value in exchange. It can be a short story, a booklet or even an entire novel.
A signup form for your e-mail list is a very sensitive tool. One mistake can scare your reader and she will never leave her e-mail address even though she can get a free novel for that; you must play easy and so that your reader is sure that she won’t get spammed.
I’m personally struggling with my e-mail list but recently I’ve learned much from Nick Stephenson and his free book Your 10,000 Readers, which you can get on his website. Also, I’ve got some great tips from August Birch and I feel that my signup form finally looks, at least, decent.
While you’re building you’re e-mail list, don’t be afraid to contact your readers periodically. It can be weekly or even several times per week. You can let your readers choose how often would they like to get their e-mails. You can send them blog posts you’ve published, insights in your writing, short stories, anything they might like to read. If not sure, you can simply ask them.
The other important segments of your platform
When readers visit your website they might want to learn a few things about you. Therefore, you would want to add:
- About you page, with your short bio and a headshot.
- A page for each of your books (if you have any), with the links to all retailers where the book is available, and with a short book description.
- A Contact page
- Links to all your social media platforms
- Newsletter subscription button
The user experience should be pleasant meaning that the design should be simple and your reader should be able to find everything with ease.
If you want to learn more about building a website, visit Jane Friedman’s website, she wrote many useful articles for authors.