Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Five Reasons Every Author Should Have a Website

A week or so ago, author Anne R. Allen posted:
That’s why a website you have to pay somebody to update for you isn’t as useful. People want to connect with you—not your web designer. The difference between a website and a blog is the difference between putting an ad in the Yellow Pages or personally giving somebody your phone number. Blogs are friendly. And if you have a blog, you don’t need an expensive website. Here’s what Nathan Bransford said about formal websites:
“The thing about author websites is pretty simple, in my mind. They're expensive. Are they worth the return on investment? I don't know. I can't think of a time I've ever bought a book based on a visit to an author's website. But I have definitely bought books based on author blogs. I know I may not be the average reader, but I still have a hard time seeing how it's worth the investment unless the website is really spectacular.”
So, naturally, I don't agree.

Let's skip over the "That’s why a website you have to pay somebody to update for you isn’t as useful". Of course, this would be true, but there is no reason why you should pay anyone to update your website for you. Modern systems make it as easy to update a website as post a blog entry.

Here are 5 reasons why authors should have websites:
  1. Full control
    Blogger is great. It really is. You can customize your blog design enormously, add pages, change the background, and so on. But there are limits. If you use Blogger (and even more so if you're using or LiveJournal), you'll still only be able to do a limited set of things with your website. What if you want to promote your brand new book, as author Lia Habel does on her website,

    For that, you need a real website. You need the flexibility to highlight different things in different parts of the website and different parts of pages: books, events, competitions, news, and so forth.

    Same goes for the design. A blogging system like Blogger is flexible, but only to a degree. A full website can contain or be pretty much anything.
  2. Full Information About Your Books
    At some point, you're going to have more than one book out. You'll have a back-catalog, forthcoming books, maybe a bunch of different editions. Your readers and potential readers need an easy, quick way to find out about these, because once they're read one, you want them to read more.

    You'll want info about the books, you'll want extracts, you'll want reviews, you'll want easy links to buy, you might want bonus material. Doing all that on a blog and keeping it easy to find would be nearly impossible.

    Add to that info for the media, the events and so on, and no one is going to find it all on a blog.
  3. Not Everyone Likes Blogs
    Shocking, I know. I like blogs. You probably like blogs. But not everyone does. If all you have is a blog, many potential readers aren't going to spend the time trawling through your daily thoughts. They want the bare information about you and your books.
  4. A Website Doesn't Have to Be Expensive
    You will always get the best result by hiring a professional designer who really knows what works and how people use websites, and who can give you a website that will meet your aims, whatever they are.

    But not everyone has that kind of budget, and you have to balance the cost against the returns. Luckily, that's not the only way to get a decent website. You can buy high-quality templates (either as a WordPress theme or as plain HTML/CSS website) from places like for around $35.

    In addition to this, you'll need to pay for web hosting (a few dollars a month) and a domain name (web address - about $10 a year). That's it. A professional quality website for a very reasonable cost.
  5. A Website is Low Maintenance
    If you want a successful blog, you need to post regularly. How regularly is up to you, but all the successful blogs I read have something new at least once a week. If you're working full-time and have a family, you may only have a lunch break to do your writing. Do you really want to sacrifice that for blogging?

    By contrast, you only need to update a website when there is something key to add, like a new book. You can have a great website that you only update twice a year, or one that you add stuff to every day.
Of course, a website and a blog don't have to be either/or. If you add an 'about me' page to your blogger and a page listing your books, you already have a website. And many people who run their own website integrate a blog into it.

Your blog is your chance to talk on a day-by-day or week-by-week basis to an interested community of people, many of whom may never actually read one of your novels. Your website can be a more static collection of information about you and your writing specifically for readers or potential readers of your books.


Mark Jones said...

Good post. It's a strange argument as a blog is the part you have to keep up-to-date the most of a website. And getting an 'off the shelf' blog means you end up with one that probably looks very similar to someone else's. A bit like yours and Anne R. Allen's... :-)

Patrick Samphire said...

@Mark Jones:

Yeah, you're right. I guess the argument in favour of off-the-shelf blogs is that they come with a built-in community, whereas a stand-alone website requires you to build everything from scratch.

It's kind of why I think you should have both, if you have the time. The website for your info for those who are interested, and the blog/twitter/Google+/whatever else to make connections.