I heard there's a rumor going around in book publishing that authors don't need websites. I kid you not, in 2014 I still hear people saying authors don't need a website. If it was a true rumor, many authors would exhale with relief. Who has the time to get a great website up, keep it updated with fresh content and still have coveted writing time? If you are an author, you may view getting your website up as a time-suck or annoyance, but that doesn't mean you don't need one. Authors without websites, your careers are like houses without foundations. Not convinced? Here are five reasons why you've got to get your author website up.
1. Your readers want to learn more about you. In our digitally connected world, you can't put your book out there in the world, but leave yourself in the shadows. Your readers want to know you. They want to know your interests and values, and they want to be able to converse with you online. Your website is the place where readers find out more about you and your expertise. Your website is where you build your brand and keep your content alive in real time. You should own your site. If your publisher owns your site, what happens if you decide to change publishers or decide to self-publish some day? As you develop a blog (which can be re-purposed content from your book) you can regularly reach out to your readers with content of value. Your website houses your content for your email newsletters. And if you want your blog to get more views, you want to be able to share it on Google+ (so it comes up in Google searches). Without a website, your blog is homeless.
2. You need a place to build your community. As you collect email addresses of your interested readers (I call them your super fans) you are a creating a vetted community of people who are stepping forward and saying, "I am interested in you and what you have to say." Your website is the ideal place to collect these names for your email newsletter. You are building community. While you can converse on social pages, your website is a home base where collecting emails and generating content meet. Your mailing list is a big asset, you should have control over it. Without a website, it would be difficult to collect email addresses on a consistent basis or have a home base for the content you send out in those emails.
3. You need a place for ecommerce. If you want to sell other products or services, or that's your plan down the road, no other social media platform (not Twitter, not Facebook, not Pinterest) can organize the products, books or services like you can organize them on your own website. You can integrate your website with shopping cart tools, add new products all the time and have them organized under a one-click navigation (i.e. under the word, Shop.) Better still, your website can include testimonials from your super fans, solidifying your brand, expertise and the products you offer.
4. Other social media platforms don't cancel out the need for a website. Your website is where you are in control. No one else can change the rules like they can on other social media sites. While some players in the publishing industry contend that you can use a social media site in place of having a website, I couldn't disagree more. A website is where you call the shots. If you are only on social media sites, you are always playing another person's game. Facebook or Twitter could change the user experience and you just have to follow along. For example, Facebook recently changed its model to more of a pay-to-play platform, so if you opted for a Facebook business page in lieu of your own website, you now have to play by Facebook's rules. Do you want to be dependent upon Facebook's algorithm or functionality of who sees your content? If you have a website, you get to decide what your audience sees. Your website and each social media platform are each totally different entities. Knowing your readers and where they spend their time will tell you what social pages you should sign-up for, but bottom line: You always need a website.
Despite popular belief, your website doesn't have to be expensive or complicated. You can keep it simple. WordPress is often recommended as a hosting platform because it's author friendly, easy to use and easy for people to find (good search capabilities). Keep in mind one thing: It's better not to have a website, than to have a bad one. If you have a website, make it good one.
Fauzia Burke is the Founder and President of FSB Associates, a digital publicity and marketing firm specializing in creating awareness for books and authors. A nationally-recognized speaker and digital branding expert, Fauzia writes regularly for Huffington Post, MariaShriver.com and MindBodyGreen. For online publicity, book publishing and social media news, follow Fauzia on Twitter: @FauziaBurke and Facebook. To talk with FSB and ask publicity questions about your book, please join us FSB on Twitter and Facebook.