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Your Website and Your Book: A Necessary Relationship

/by Martin Young/

You would be amazed at the number of authors who view having a website as either an unnecessary luxury or a chore. Yet, a good website will be the single biggest marketing tool for your book. Therefore, it’s not only important that you have one, but that you get it right. And, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but ‘getting it right’ involves hiring a professional to work alongside your print designer to create a unique and engaging experience for your readers.

With just a couple of clicks you can now have yourself a nice looking website on a service like WordPress.com or Blogger, but one major downside with these services is that you have limited control over the design and functionality of your website. For instance, if you want to change the colour scheme on WordPress.com you have to pay extra, and even then you have limited power to change the template in total. Moreover, the Blogger platform is very much geared towards blogging and can’t really be extended to provide a website worthy of your hard work as an author.

By hiring a professional you’ll have full control over how your site looks. You don’t have to use the limited number of templates on offer, so the only boundary is your imagination. You want your book to be unique and memorable, so having free reign over the website that represents that book is invaluable.

Some people feel that all they need is a Facebook page, and I’m regularly told by marketers that social media is the most powerful tool for advertising a product. While this is true, it’s also worthwhile considering that nearly half of the UK population DON’T use Facebook, and considerably fewer use Twitter. I won’t talk even mention Google Plus.

It’s therefore very important that you have an online presence to represent your book which doesn’t rely on people being a member of a social network. Facebook and Twitter not give you limited control over the appearance of your page (like many of the blogging platforms), but they also limit who can see our page. Having your own website allows you to consolidate your brand online, so that it can be viewed in one place, and then shared on social media platforms. It can be hard to get a feel for a product on Facebook when it looks like every other page but with a different header image, but a bespoke website can have multiple functionalities, which not only helps to sell your book but also helps to improve the search rankings of your website. Facebook and Twitter should only be additions to your marketing campaign, and social media should always lead people back to your website, where you can give your fans a clear picture of what you and your book are about.

Above all, your website is the public face of your book. By the time you come to publish your book, you’ll have put in hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of hard work into it, so you wouldn’t want a substandard website to advertise it. So, my advice is to hire a professional to build the site for you.

There are a few things to remember when hiring a web designer. Don’t be afraid to speak to a few different web designers so that you can make sure they understand your ideas. Ask to see samples of their work, and don’t be afraid to ask for references. Also, consider if they’re someone you’d enjoy working with, because you will most likely spend a lot of time on the phone or in person with this individual fleshing out the ideas for your site.

Once you’ve selected someone to build your site, put them in contact with your layout/print designer and make sure that you all stay in touch regularly – it’s soul destroying doing a week’s work only to have a client tell you it’s not what they wanted.

You will hopefully write many more books, so it’s important to choose the right person if you want a lasting working relationship – a good web designer should be a friend for life!

Martin Young is a web designer and online media consultant, and through Digital My Way he will be donating a website to the winner of the Self-Publish or Perish competition.

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2 thoughts on “Your Website and Your Book: A Necessary Relationship

  1. I have to admit that it is a very exciting thought having someone design a personalised web site – I have to wonder how expensive that would be though. It’s such a highly skilled and time consuming thing to do, what sort of costs would be involved for a site that could be expanded to include future books – are we talking about hundreds of pounds?

    • Hi Diane,
      We are talking hundreds of pounds but, if we look at it in the context of this competition, the website accounts for less than 25% of the overall self publishing cost.

      My strategy would be to initially start with a book website which has a section about the author. If you’re self publishing your first book, people will buy it because the book is good and there’s a buzz around your product – not because you wrote it.

      I think building an online presence as an author is a gradual process and as such I’d suggest you only consider an author based website after your first book has been successful and you have a reputation that will draw readers back for future releases. This not only reduces risk by lowering your initial investment, it also gives you a way to build on the momentum of your first book while you work on a second.

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