Bookswarm’s founder Simon Appleby rounds up some useful advice and information for authors considering taking the plunge on creating their first website, or renewing an existing web presence.

Why does an author need a website?

5614813544_b480316fcd_mHere are the three most important reasons:

1. A central hub of information about you

It gives you the ability to make it crystal clear to Google and other search engines precisely who you are. Your website is a central hub of information about you, to which both readers and search engines can go for authoritative information.

2. A flexible platform from which to engage

It gives you a flexible platform from which to engage more deeply with your readers, bloggers and the media. You can use it to gather email signups and really only with a website can you reliably and systematically build and own direct relationships. Social media platforms are great but unlike a website you don’t own them and the rules by which they play can change at any time.

3. A place to link to

It gives a logical place for anybody (e.g. journalists, publishers, bloggers) writing about you to link to.

What does a good author website look like?

There’s no definitive answer to this question – it all depends on:

  • The type of books you write
  • Your target audience(s)
  • The ways in which you wish to engage with your audience, and how much time and effort you are able to put in to creating website content
  • How you want to express yourself and your personality on the web

4937023263_fbaa43cfcb_mMany people find that looking at other authors’ sites is a great source of inspiration for their own, and many a brief starts with the words “I want it to look a bit like [insert author name here]”!

If you’re not sure where to look for inspiration, I have written several pieces over the years examining ‘what good looks like’:

Take a look to get some food for thought – and remember, sometimes knowing what you don’t like is as useful as knowing what you do like.

What kind of content should an author website have on it?

8497864053_e6f2023963_zThat very much depends on you and on your audience, as well as your available time to create it. Of course, not all of these ideas will suit all types of writer, but you could consider:

  • News stories or blog posts (blog posts tend to be more opinion, news stories more fact)
  • Event details
  • A listing of your books with access to purchase them from online retailers (or even directly from you, if you want)
  • Samples of your books
  • Going behind the scenes with blog posts about the creative process, your research or how / where / when you write
  • Pictures and videos of locations from your research trips
  • Feeds from social media channels on which you are active

For a few more ideas, Bookswarm client Shannon Selin blogged for us with some excellent Blog Writing Tips for Authors, and I talked about content ideas in the context of social media strategy at my talk for London Book Fair earlier this year.

How much does it cost to build an author website?

7027604401_406e35ba1f_zLess than you may think! Over the course of a number of years and many successful projects delivered for authors across a wide range of genres, we have been able to put together a standard package for authors designed to meet all your key needs. Bookswarm will design and build a WordPress-based website optimised for you, including a range of features designed specifically for authors; and the design will be unique to you – not based on a template.

The cost of this is £1,800 (plus VAT). We know that’s a meaningful investment in your success, and we now offer authors the chance to pay for this in the normal way, or to set up a payment plan over 6 or 12 months, allowing you to divide the cost up in to manageable chunks.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss how Bookswarm can help you

How easy is it to manage the website after it’s built?

3730930942_1b6835eef7_mThe author websites that we build use WordPress. WordPress is an Open Source, free blogging platform which has developed over time in to a full-blown Content Management System (CMS). It’s estimated WordPress now runs 25% of all websites that have a Content Management System (CMS).

Bookswarm uses WordPress for almost all its website needs. We have developed numerous client websites using WordPress, and all of the sites that you can see in our portfolio use WordPress.

Although you will need some basic IT skills in order to manage your site, you won’t need to know how to use HTML – everything is point-and-click and WYSIWYG, and if you can log in to web-based e-mail, and use the basic functions of a word processor, you probably have most of the required know-how. All of our clients receive a training session as part of the project, and all our websites have a built-in support plugin so you can easily reach out and ask us for help.

Once you’re logged in, editing a page, adding a new blog post or event, or setting up new pages, is at your fingertips. WordPress makes embedding media really easy too, so if you want to share video or audio clips you simply need to know how to copy and paste their addresses.

We also provide a drag-and-drop form builder that allows you to easily create web forms – perfect if you want to run competitions, survey your readers, or simply have a contact form for your fans.

What’s stopping you?

4334937069_5abb9e6dba_mWhether it’s taking the plunge and contacting us, setting up a free blog on a platform like Tumblr or having a play with WordPress yourself, we think all authors should have a digital presence that they control, and we’re always surprised by how many still don’t.

This article is only a small taster of the know-how that Bookswarm bring to each and every project we work on. We hope you’ve found it useful. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Image credits

Why?: Ksayer1 on Flickr
Designer’s notebook: Saaleha Bamjee on Flickr
Word: Tom Woodward on Flickr
Money: Tax Credits on Flickr
WordPress t-shirt: Andrew Abogado on Flickr
Water: nina | athena on Flickr