Making Your First Author Website

    David Marshall Posted by David Marshall, Vice President of Editorial and Digital, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

    David Marshall heads the editorial department, which is responsible for 40-50 new titles per year and 5-10 digital products or initiatives. 

    Say hello to David here.



    Making Your First Author Website

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    An attractive, well-designed website will do wonders in promoting you and your books.

    What: Create an author or book-focused website which directs readers to information about you and your works. Keep your goals in mind as you design your website. The most important goals are usually building bonds with readers and selling books, but some authors may also have the goal of promoting their speaking and consulting business.

    Build bonds with readers. With a website, you form an opportunity for your visitors to learn about you, the author, and interact with your thoughts and works via blogs, comments, FAQ's, etc.

    Sell books. Equally important, your website can provide customers with the ability to purchase products directly from your site or link to other sites such as our Berrett-Koehler site, Amazon or Barnes & Noble. They can also view sample work, preview chapters of current or upcoming books, and stay up-to-date on books in your pipeline.

    Why: A website not only brings visibility to your books, it can establish your credibility as an expert on your chosen topics. Having your works on the Internet may also attract additional audiences. Your website works for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even when you are sleeping; it is your non-stop promoter.

    How: Since website design has a reputation as tedious and time-consuming work, many choose to hire a web designer or work closely with a tech-savvy individual. But you can create a professional site all by yourself using simple tools and templates.

    Blueprint- Start by jotting down a "blueprint" for your site-what you want to include, a rough visual sketch of the layout, a general color scheme, a timeline for delivery, and a budget. Keep the timeline and budget a bit flexible, as you will likely encounter pieces of the website puzzle that require much more attention than you initially anticipated.

    The Basics - Focus first on a simple site that includes pages for your bio, descriptions of your books, news for your works, and a way to order books. If you visit other author websites, you'll find that each site includes different promotional tools, such as blogs, author videos, webcasts, interviews and photo galleries.

    Style - Remember the elements of sites that annoy you, such as neon lettering on loud backgrounds, text too small to read comfortably, busy backgrounds and setups, and long loading times. You can avoid these common mistakes by visiting the sites of well-established authors who have their sites expertly built. Take their site presentation as free consultation. Keep everything simple and fluid.

    Do-it-Yourself Software or Hosting Templates - If you are building the site yourself, select a hosting company such as WordPress with a wide assortment of templates to build from. The leading hosting companies offer easy-to-modify templates that require no programming or technical training. Building with user-friendly software should not only help to quell any fears about writing code, but should also make this process enjoyable. Remember to leave ample time for learning and training.

    Keeping it Fresh - Be ready to make updates as you return to your site and observe your traffic. You may see better ways to present and structure your own site's presentation. If you have a news and events section to inform your readers on where you will be speaking next, be sure to keep it updated.

    Web Hosting Company Selection - When you choose between hosting companies, make sure not to consider just price, but also the quality of tech support reported by user reviews. If you plan to host video and audio components on your site, make sure your plan includes plenty of storage and memory.

    How Much: Building a website on your own can be quite time-consuming, so while it may cost $50-$200 for web design software and a monthly fee ($5 to $10) to have your site hosted online, you may decide your time is better spent writing and in public speaking engagements. Hiring an IT manager or web design company to handle the site development will give you much more ease in creation and access to newer developing technologies.

    The pricing of web design varies, but including long-term maintenance and upgrading, you may pay anywhere between $35-$250 an hour on designers, depending on how reliable, talented, specialized or effective they are. Generally, a professional site can be developed between $2,000 and $30,000 depending on how small and simple or large and complex it is, then you should plan on annual retainers of $100 to $2,000 for ongoing maintenance, updates, and utilization of the newest technologies (generally about 5-10% of your initial site development cost).

    If you choose a professional service, find someone who provides high-quality and on-time deliverables, favorable pricing, and excellent customer service.

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