Even unpublished authors need websites
Sorry, but you can’t be a JK Rowling anymore
We are creatives. We dream. We imagine. We define magic systems and build worlds never set foot on by man. We craft cultures and make characters move and dance and think.
We befriend our coffee cups in the dark corners of coffee shops, and harbor the dream that our carefully chosen words may one day end up nestled between two hard covers and cradled in someone else’s hands.
But let’s give that coffee a second to wake us up. The days of the “writer in the shadows” are over. We all want to be JK Rowling—undiscovered until our book hits the shelves. We want to do what we do best—write—and let the rest take care of itself.
Yet, today’s writers can no longer afford to believe that is how it’s going to happen. Instead, we’ve got to take charge of our own careers and—whether we like it or not—we’ve got to market ourselves ourselves (not a typo).
A website is a tool of the trade
This all hit me while watching Meg La Torre’s literary agent interview with Kaitlyn Johnson of Corvisiero Literary Agency. Here’s what Kaitlyn says:
“A website should be up and at ’em immediately. […] At the end of the day, you still have a career as a writer before you have a career as an author, so you should still be working on the platform of I am selling myself in someway to prepare for when it goes from writer to author […].”Kaitlyn Johnson, Corvisiero Literary Agency
Dickens, Hemingway, and Austen didn’t have Twitter—they didn’t even have email. The business of writing has changed and if we want to be successful we’ve got to adapt.
Let me prove it to you.
Here is a list of some bestselling YA authors who have websites:
— Tomi Adeyemi (Children of Blood and Bone)
— Holly Black (The Cruel Prince)
— Kiera Cass (The Selection)
— Laura Sebastian (Ash Princess)
— Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes)
— Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give)
Me thinks that isn’t a coincidence. Each of those bestselling authors have blogs with rich content—and many began these websites before their books were acquired or even represented.
You need a website.
You need a Twitter account.
You’ve got to make yourself visible—and better yet, findable—online. In reality, once you do get a book deal (you’ll get there!), you will be a part of its marketing team. You’ll be posting on social media, scheduling interviews, and reading your book aloud to anyone who’ll listen. So, why not prove to industry professionals that you’re already good at marketing yourself and your writing?
Just do it! It’s actually really fun. 😉
Quick-start guide to setting up your website
Luckily, creating a site today is super easy. Even a caveman can do it! I set mine up in one day.
Here’s how to get started…
STEP 1: Set up
Set up your website by using hosts like WordPress, Weebly, SquareSpace, or Wix. (I’m sure there are many others, but those are the ones I’m familiar with and have heard good things about!) Do some research and see which one you like best. This site is hosted by WordPress. The only thing you’ll have to pay for (if you so decide) is your domain name, which is about $12+ for the year. If you don’t want to pay, just keep in mind that your domain name may read something like: nadineavola.weebly.com. Here’s a really good website that explains the pros and cons of a free website vs. self-hosted website: “How to Start a Blog.”
STEP 2: Design
For me, the design part is really fun! However, you can easily get caught up in it and realize that it took you four hours to choose your font. Many of the sites have themes you can choose from that have all of the design features pre-set. But there are usually ways you can still customize things. I would say, pick a theme that represents you and then customize the things you deem necessary. But, remember, your goal is to get your site up and running. So, try and find the balance between creating a site that looks professional and publishing it in a timely manner. (You can always go back and adjust some things after it’s live.)
STEP 3: Organize
Organize your site. Decide which pages you want to include. But here are some that every author website should have.
— Home page
What’s the first thing you what your visitors to see? Probably a photo. Maybe a short “hello” blurb. Try to make it you, so that your site stands out!
— About page
Visitors what to know more about who you are. Don’t be shy! Give them some background, but don’t forget to tie in your writing expertise.
— Contact page
How can you be reached? Make it simple! If you only give your visitors the option of a really long, complicated form, they will probably forgo trying to contact you at all. On my contact page, I listed my email and provided a form, so visitors can choose what they feel most comfortable using.
STEP 4: Blog
Now, here’s the big question: Do you want to include a blog? If you choose to create a blog, make sure you’re going to commit. In the YouTube video I mentioned earlier, Kaitlyn makes a good point that it’s better to not have a blog than to have one that hasn’t been updated in a year. This is your choice!
I hope these tips help you in creating your own author website! You don’t have to wait until you are represented or published to create one. In fact, most agents will be excited to see that you already have one up and crackin’ before they represent you. Essentially, your online website is your digital business card. It’s free and it’s easy, so no excuses! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Also, for more resources, check out the links below that I used to help me write this post! Good luck! 🤞🍀
Looking for more?
- Unpublished Writers and Websites: Should You Have One and What Should It Say? by Jane Friedman
- 11 Author Website Must Have Elements by Kimberley Grabas
- How to Start a Blog by Robert Mening