As you may know, I decided nearly a year ago to self-publish my debut novel, The Elysian Prophecy.
This sent me down a road of obsessive reading and library visits to learn how best to make a career out of self-publishing.
And I started to notice a trend. A lot of writers who are now making a living for themselves started off with very little marketing. They labored over their novel for years, polishing it as best they could, and then hit that publish button.
No one rushed to purchase their novel. Why? Because no one knew that it existed.
In all of my research, I learned one important thing: marketing can make any decent writer a successful writer.
But we’re not going to talk about what makes a decent writer today. We’re going to start at square one: your website.
The moment that you decide to be a published author, you should make a website. Before you ever start writing, you should make a website.
Because marketing your novel starts with marketing yourself. The best way for people to get to know you is through social media, and your home base should be your website.
What if you’re late to the website game? Already published or written a novel and don’t have a website?
It’s never too late to start! Get your butt on Blogger or WordPress and make a website right now! (err…after reading this of course)
So you sign up somewhere to make a website. What next? What information should your website include? You can even gather all of these details before you ever start construction on your website if you want to!
Include information about yourself, your upcoming or published novels, contact information, and links to other social media.
Make a professional bio. You can make it first person or third person, depending on what you’re comfortable with and what you prefer. Include a good professional-quality photo of yourself. While a lot of sources will tell you to make this bio brief, I’m going to stir the pot a little here.
Your front page bio should be short. Your “About Me” page can be as long as you want it to be. The secret here is to keep the reader engaged. Include funny pictures of you as a middle schooler or writing as a toddler. Keep the boring details out but let people know who you are: what music you listen to, what books you read, the movies you watch. Don’t create a block of words for you readers to wade through because guess what? They won’t read it.
Your novels should have a central focus on your website. Have you seen my homepage? The very first, rather large block is strictly about my novel. Some writers only have information about their novels on their website, but let’s not be that extreme!
Each of your series should have it’s own page, with each novel in that series stemming off of the series page. The series page is your “parent” page and the page with details on your novel is your “child” page.
For WordPress, I know this is an option on the right hand panel when creating a page. Keep looking out on my website/YouTube channel for a tutorial of WordPress in the coming weeks!
My novel is set to be a series, but I haven’t titled that series or started writing on the sequels. For those reasons, I don’t have a series page because…well, I don’t have a series yet. Once I get around to writing that second novel, expect to see an Elysian Prophecy series page!
Your novel page should include a cover photo if you have one, or a “Cover reveal coming soon” image with a generic, patterned background. Write up a synopsis that peaks the reader’s interest. This will probably change if you’re in the early stages of writing your novel but that’s okay. Just let the world know what your novel is about at that moment.
If you’re just starting out and can’t share very many details of your novel, then include some fun extras for your readers.
Do you have a Pinterest board for inspiration? Include a link to that! Are you someone who has to have music in the background while you write? Make up a playlist that suits the mood of your novel and smack that on your site. Are you an artist? Sketch some pictures of your characters and/or aerial maps and show those to the world.
Is there a lot of research involved on a narrow subject that your book is centralized around? Think archery for Hunger Games. Share some of that research!
Any extra detail that you have is an opportunity to market your novel. No, you shouldn’t give away any spoilers. That’s not the kind of information we’re talking about here.
Have fun and let your readers get to know your novel. Have a fun example of something you can include on your website? Leave a comment down below and share it with us!
Create a separate “Contact Me” page. If anyone ever has a question for you, or wants to discuss a business inquiry, you want to make it easy for them to do this. Don’t make them jump through hoops here.
Depending on where you create your website, there are preset forms that you can include in your page (on WordPress it’s also on the right pane of your page settings). It’s also nice to have a brief paragraph before your contact form detailing how much you want to hear from your readers. If someone spots a typo, has a suggestion for your site, or just wants to chat, let them know that you’re available for that!
Somewhere on your website, you should also include links to your other social media. Depending on the theme you use for your website, this could be at the top of your page, on the right hand side, below your header image, etc. It should always be somewhere that’s readily accessible to the viewer. You don’t want it to blend into your background too much, so choose a color or style for your social media buttons that draws a little attention. Do this tastefully, though: don’t make your buttons lime green or fluorescent yellow unless that’s the look you really want to go for.
Don’t have any social media accounts? Make them! When I made my website, I didn’t have any social media. Like at all. Don’t ask me why I didn’t have any, because I spend so much time on them now I have no idea what I did pre-sosh-meeds (see how cool I am now?). We all start fresh and new at some point, so don’t be afraid to start from scratch!
All of these additions are completely optional, but should be highly considered.
Do you want to blog? Your answer should be “Yes!” Sharing your writing with other people is the perfect opportunity to get your name out into the world and people on your website. Have you become an expert on boating after all of your novel research? Write about it! A lot of writers, like myself, use their website to share tips and document their journey to publication.
If you’re unsure what to write about, just write what interests you. Do you like to read and review books? Do you like movies? Are you a ninja at whipping out short stories or poems? Pick something and stick mostly with that – when you spread yourself too thin, readers aren’t sure what to expect from you. Someone may fall in love with you for your poems but fall out of love with you because of your movie interests.
Your largest marketing tool should always be your newsletter. There are plenty of sites out there designed to help you create and manage a newsletter (I use MailChimp) but what’s so important about this?
How often do you sign up for newsletters? Probably not that frequently. You only sign up for something that you actually care about. When someone signs up for your newsletter, they’re saying “Hey, I love the information you’ve given me and I’m excited to know more.” They believe in you and trust you enough to give you their information.
Once you create an account with a newsletter website, you should figure out what you want your e-mails to be about. Don’t make them too frequently, otherwise people will unsubscribe and you could potentially lose a sale. Keep your e-mails mostly about your novel: giveaways that you may be running, promotions on your books or just information on your latest work in progress (like those Pinterest boards or character sheets).
For some amazing information on building an e-mail list, check out Nick Stephenson. He’s been in a ton of YouTube podcast videos and is widely considered the Godfather of building your newsletter list.
Also consider purchasing your domain name. When you sign up with WordPress or Blogger, your chosen domain name will have .wordpress.com or .blogspot.com at the end. This is okay, and I had mine like this until about 6 months ago, but you want to be professional here. You don’t want people to think “Oh, this is just another person’s blog.” You want them to think “Wow! Who is this writer?” You want to impress them with your website!
Always be professional. You can let some of your personality through – hell, you can even cuss in some of your posts, but don’t do that on your About Me page, or your front page. You want to make a career out of this, correct? Then act like a career professional and keep that side clean!
Typos. Try to read and re-read everything you put on your website because you’re bound to be bitten by the typo-dragon eventually. Pay particular attention to any static pages (about me, your novel page, your front page). Typos in your blog posts are bound to happen, just make sure they’re a rarity.
Your domain name. It’s preferable to have your domain simply be your first and last name, or initials and last name – whatever will appear on your novels. If that’s not available, trying adding “author” before or “books” after. Keep it simple. You want this to be something people could easily remember if they were trying to look your website up to show a friend.
Starting your website is the first step toward marketing yourself as a writer. For an awesome video on how to set up your site as a self-hosted website on Bluehost, click here! Joanna Penn breaks down everything you need to know in a really informative 30 minute video. She’s kind of the coolest.
Let me know if you’ve set up your author website, and if you included any other material not listed here. I love hearing from my writerly friends, so let me know what’s up!