Social Media for Writers: Do you need an author website?

October 08, 2017
Do you really need an author website? What's the point? I share a few thoughts in this post.

Ten years ago, this might have been a redundant question, because of course you need an author website, of course you need some kind of platform to communicate information and content to your readers.

I remember when I was maybe twelve, thirteen, and if I’d read a book I’d liked, I’d go to the author’s website to find out if they had other books, find out any behind-the-scenes content, and learn more about the author.

But now there are so many platforms available for you as an author to be able to communicate with your readers that this becomes a trickier question to deal with. And although it’s maybe not strictly ‘social media’, I thought it was important to include in this series.

So now, I’m a lot less likely to go and search for an author’s website if I liked their book: I’ll go look for them on Twitter instead, and hope there’s a link in their bio if they have a blog or website I can take a look at; but otherwise, chances are, I won’t actively go searching for their website before I go to their social media.

Let’s start out by looking at what the point of an author website is.

As I said right at the start of this post, it’s a platform to communicate information and content to your readers. It’s a place where you can put up information about your books (what books you’ve published, their cover and blurb, where readers can buy them), and tell readers about yourself.

And yes, you do need some kind of platform like that as a writer. You want to be able to direct your readers and your audience to a place where they can learn more about you and your novels.

They’ll find you on Twitter or Instagram, sure, but it’s harder to convey all the info they’re looking for there. You’d have posted it, but a link to your second novel might be buried under a few dozen Tweets about editing and what show you’ve just started binge watching and replies to other writers you’ve connected with. So yes, you want a place where you can basically info-dump and send your readers to.

You want a site where you can showcase your work, your books, your other projects and social media channels. You might want to link to interviews or just post snippets and quotes from articles about you and reviews of your book. You want an ‘About Me’ spot where readers can learn more about you, the person behind the book. You want a point where people who want to know who you are can go to and if they want to, find some contact details to get in touch.

But what about a blog, I hear you ask. Why can’t I just use a blog instead? I’ve already got one, do I need a website as well?

This is the tricky part of the question, and honestly? It’s up to you. You have to decide what works for you.

A quick summary of the main points, before I go into more depth: at the end of the day, a blog is free to set up, you’ve got to pay to have a website, and you can use a blog for all the same sort of things.

The main difference is that your website is static. And that might make all the difference for you.

As you’ll have noticed even if you’ve only just clicked onto my blog today to read this post, my blog is a blog. It’s mostly about writing, and my life, and less about my books. I don’t even have a link in the top to a page telling you about my books. See? I really don’t. Maybe I should, and maybe I’ll change that, but this is primarily a place for me to blog. This is not a place I’ll direct a reader who wants to know if I have any other books published aside from the one they read.

A blog is not static. You can create static pages, of course you can, but every time you add a post it’ll update the home page on a rolling basis and push other content further back into your archive, which can make it harder to find.

A website on the other hand has a home page that’s static. You’ll see the same thing every time you visit it. There’s often less content than on a blog, too, which can make it easier for your audience to navigate.

When my writing started to become popular on Wattpad, I set up a Tumblr blog. I added static pages to it where I wrote about each of my works published on Wattpad, which later developed into pages about each of my published novels.

The big reason for me that I wanted to set up a website separate from my blog was to make things easier for my readers. My blog was my blog. I’d talk about books I was reading, I’d run the Writing Wednesday series, I’d answer questions from my readers. I wanted somewhere simpler to direct them where they could just find out about me, my books, and where to buy them – and then access my other social media platforms if they wanted to.

Like I said, though: there’s nothing stopping you using a blog as your ‘author website’ if you want to. Especially if you know you won’t really be blogging or posting anything else on there.

And if it’s the pricing you’re worried about, it’s actually not that expensive. I mean, it is, but it’s not completely extortionate. I paid something like £300 (I think?) for ten years. That gave me ten years of my domain name (the URL), the hosting platform for the website, and ten email addresses. I use the email I set up with my website – - to give out online. If I meet someone in real life, I’m usually happier to give them my personal email, but I like to have this ‘professional’ one that keeps things safe and separate. But at the end of the day, that was what, £30 a year? I felt like that was okay for me.

A note on the pricing, actually: you can buy a domain name (your URL) but that doesn’t necessarily include hosting. That means you own the URL but you don’t have a website space to build alongside that URL. You can use the URL on blogging platforms, or you can just pay a bit extra for the hosting (GoDaddy do this, and I think Wix do too – I’m not sure about other providers). If you have hosting, this means you’ll be able to build your website up there and then. The provider will create a blank space in the internet that corresponds to your domain name and is waiting for you to add your info and make it look pretty.

And a note on building your website: no, you don’t have to be a coder or know much about any of that to be able to build your website. GoDaddy (and I think Wix is similar) offer free templates or blank templates where you can add/drag/drop text and pictures, embed a Twitter widget or Youtube video, etc. They’re crazy easy to do.

I’ll talk more in the next post about how to set up your author website, but I wanted to cover a couple of the main bullet points that concerned me when I first got mine.

Look, you don’t strictly need a website website – but you do need something that acts as your author website, and Facebook probably won’t do the job in this case.

Do you have an author website, or are you thinking about setting one up? What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments!

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