Some people still think they need to have a website, which is fine, and that they need to pay a "web designer" several hundred dollars or more to build a website for them, which is not fine. Too many self-described web designers build sites with bells and whistles that you don't need and that actually inhibit navigation. Too many of them build sites that require you to go through them to upload your own content. Unless you're a big outfit--or admittedly helpless around the internet--you probably don't need a web designer. Today, your web hosting service is likely to have templates that enable you to design your own website, maintain it by yourself, and upload your own content as needed. Trust me. You do not want to have to go through your web designer every time you want to add a news item, change a paragraph, or delete a comma.
I have even better news. You can skip the web hosting service altogether--you know, the one that requires you to pay $7.99 or $12.99 a month to host your site. Instead, you can start a blog for free, via either Wordpress.com or Blogspot.com (among others), add a few "pages" and, presto, you've got a blog and website--with no monthly bite into your credit card. If you want to get really fancy, you can buy a domain name for an annual fee and point it to your blog name, in which case your fans will find your blog/website by typing in mydomain.com instead of myblogname.blogspot.com or myblogname.wordpress.com.
What do you do with this blog/website?
First, you need to decide whether to make your blog all about your book or all about a subject, to which your book may be related. I prefer the second approach, even though I have a book blog myself (www.to-jerusalem.com). However, that happened because I started the blog as a way to upload drafts of my book and get some early feedback. Now that the book is out, I'm trying to figure out what to do with it. I like the "subject" approach because it gives you more leeway to talk about your broader work, while still offering you the opportunity to sell your book but in a more subtle way. For an example of this second approach, see www.consistentlypersistent.com.
Second, design your blog. This is the fun part, and it is reasonably easy. If you need help, it won't take long or several hundred dollars for someone like me to show you the ropes.
The blog part is the collection of "posts" that appear in reverse chronological order. Some bloggers do very short posts or random comments. My posts, like this one, tend to be more like small articles.
However, to turn your blog into more of a website, you need to create pages. Here are some suggestions, which have to do with marketing both yourself and your book:
- Book Contents: List the Table of Contents from your book, hyperlinking to sample chapters if you wish.
- Buy the Book: You can put a link to Amazon or a button that will take buyers to a shopping cart almost anywhere. Howver, I like a "Buy the Book" page because it makes it easy for those who come to your website explicitly to buy the book. I don't want to force them to hunt around.
- Testimonials: Got too many testimonials? You should have such problems. This is one place you can use them. Put reviews here as well--or perhaps on their own page.
- News: Notify your readers about your book signings, presentations, and appearances--or any developments that affect your work.
- Presentations: As an author, you should be making yourself available to do presentations, workshops, or seminars. List and summarize those here. These presentations can be ones you already do or ones you would like to do.
- FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions. This may or may not apply to you and/or your book.
- Article Index: If your posts are really articles, why not list them on a page and hyperlink to the original post. Blogs archive posts by month and subject, but I find that a little cumbersome. You can make it easier on your readers.
- New Activities (or Stories, Recipes, Projects or Whatevers): If your book is a collection of Whatevers, you can add more Whatevers on this page--and you've got the makings of another book.
These are just a few ideas. Remember, you're an author, and authors don't just write books. Now I've got to get back to work and implement some of these ideas for myself. The Publishing Pro.