Do You Need an Author Website?
How to spend your time and/or money
Anyone else struggling to maintain even an iota of attention lately? No? Just me? I didn’t think so. ANYWAY! When I feel like this I try to focus (lol) on small tasks that I can accomplish relatively quickly and thus get the boost of dopamine of Accomplishing! A! Task! This week? A website update.
My amazing sister Erin bought me katemckean.com as a present a long time ago (I highly recommend doing this! It’s a fun gift!), long enough ago that it was pre-Squarespace and I had to have a friend code it for me because I do not know html. Gah, this was pre-tumblr! Pre-Twitter! Anyway, it was great and functioned as a business card and was just there for people to get the basic information they might need about me, outside of our agency website.
And this is all you need. This is the perfect concept for an author website, especially to start. A business card. A place for people to find you when they google you. Some way to contact you and some way to get them the information you want them to have. THAT’S IT. If that’s all you need right now in your career, you can stop reading (don’t stop reading) and go off and put up a simple website with your name, contact email, short bio, and links to whatever you want to link to. Headshot not required! You don’t have to put your picture up there. (But let’s be real, it’s likely your picture is up on the internet somewhere, so you can throw up your favorite selfie and be done with it.)
I AM SERIOUS THIS IS ALL YOU NEED.
I am not going to review the various hosting services and website-maker-companies, and if you have one you like, leave it in the comments. A lot of people use Wix. You can use tumblr and have your own domain redirect there. (It’s not as hard as it sounds.) I am a big fan of Squarespace and it didn’t take me that long to figure it out and I promise you can, too. Yes, even you.
I do not personally believe you need to hire a whole firm to design and code your website, unless you want to. You can, if you have the funds. But I promise that with a weekend and some YouTube videos, you can put up a basic business card style website and that will be good enough until you need more. And if you need more, then you can deal with that later.
When writers think they need more on their website, they usually think to add one or more of the following:
Excerpts of their books (published or not)
Trade reviews, awards, blurbs, accolades, etc
Links to buy their books (always good to have. Remember DON’T JUST LINK TO AMAZON-if your book is available widely.)
A blog (¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
A downloadable press kit
You can put up an excerpt of your book (clear it with your publisher first, please). That doesn’t hurt. You definitely want to include links to where people can buy your books, but as above, please, please, please don’t just put one retailer. Put them all: B&N, Indiebound, Bookshop.org, Amazon, Books-a-million, even a direct link to your local indie, as well as a link to the publisher’s page for the book. Your publisher likely has guidance on what to include and maybe even widgets (it’s not as hard as you think) to add. And a press kit can just mean your bio and picture/headshot/selfie. It really comes in handy when you start doing events or writing online and you can just point to it and always have it ready. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that!
If you’re really, really feeling like you need to do more (do don’t need to do more), your website could have a blog and a forum and a personally curated list of resources for writers and and and and and. But guess what? You don’t need that stuff. If you can USE that stuff, then go ahead and do it. If you think you’re going to link to it all the time and references it in talks and promote whatever it is and write your blog three times a week, then do it! But if you think those things are going to raise your profile as a writer (and you don’t plan to do all those things and regularly) then it’s not going to magically happen without effort. You probably have enough things to do already. Don’t worry about your author website too much if you don’t have to. I am giving you permission to do less.
Think of your author website as a place readers can find answers to basic questions: what have you written, what’s your bio, where they can buy your books, how they can reach you. Everything else is gravy. And if you find you need to add something to it later, you can, when you need it.
I hope this alleviates some stress you might be holding on to regarding your author website. There are so many better things to stress about than this.
HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY TO TERRY BLAS!!! His latest graphic novel: WHO WAS THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE: CESAR CHAVEZ (illustrated by Mar Julia) is out today as part of the new Penguin Workshop WHO HQ series of non-fiction graphic novels for kids. Congrats Terry and the whole team!!!
Stay warm, friends. Stay healthy. Get vaxxed.