If you own a car, then you appreciate the ability to travel and go new places. Yet, cars come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and features. You can even customize a vehicle to fit your specific personality and needs. However, every automobile has something in common…a car won’t work unless it contains important elements, such as an engine, steering wheel, transmission, tires, seats, and fuel. Without these components, you’ll never go anywhere.
Likewise, your website won’t drive your business or ministry forward unless it has crucial elements. Sure, you can build a site that reflects your tastes and personality. But, you need more than style and technology to drive your career forward. There are certain non-negotiables that must be included to make a website work for you.
To be successful, your author website needs to achieve two specific goals. Using our car analogy, your website must let visitors “test-drive” the benefits of your message. Without a test-drive, people are usually hesitant to make a purchase. In addition, your website should serve as a place for people to gather and talk about your message. Smart authors invite their readers to participate as an online community where everyone can share feedback, updates, and common interests. Examine your website and ask yourself two questions:
1. Does your website allow people to experience (test-drive) your message?
2. Does your website provide a community where fans can gather and contribute?
Below is a list containing 11 essential necessities for any effective author / speaker website. Show this list to your web designer and make sure your site includes each element. Items beyond this list would constitute add-on features and generally increase the overall cost. I’ve also included a list of extra, add-on features you can include if your budget allows.
Basic Necessities for an Author Website:
- Home page: minimal text; strong graphics; easy navigation layout; latest news area
- Newsletter Signup: Pop-up window on Home page that lets visitors register email
- Bio page: use your bio to show how your expertise produces results for your readers
- Books page: show your books, give excerpts, and describe results each book creates
- Speaking page: include professional audio / video samples of speeches if available
- Events page: list upcoming speaking events, book-signings, and media interviews
- Endorsements page: show testimonials from well-known leaders or celebrities
- Store page: include pictures and benefits of each product offered
- Free Resources: offer helpful articles, book explainers, and discussion guides
- Media page: list past media appearances; include downloadable headshots and press kit
- Contact Us page: list an updated mailing address, phone number, and email address
Additional Author Website Elements
1. Social Networking Features
Use your author website to create an online community for your readers. For example, you could use the following options:
- Add posts to a personal blog 2 – 4 times per week that allows readers to comment.
- Host an online forum where visitors can post questions and discuss topics together.
- Send out a helpful monthly e-newsletter that invites reader response.
- Create a FaceBook page and update it on a regular basis.
- Use a Twitter account that provides consistent value to the reader.
Note: www.WordPress.com offers free templates with customizable options that make an affordable option for those on a tight budget.
2. Monthly E-Newsletter
As mentioned above, a monthly email newsletter is a great way to keep readers informed and engaged with your books. Use an e-newsletter provider that gives you the ability to create unlimited email newsletters and offers a built-in system to upload and manage your subscriber database. I recommend Constant Contact due to their unlimited e-newsletter capability and statistical reporting for email databases up to 2,500 subscribers for only $30/month.
3. Audio and Video Samples
A great way to let website visitors test-drive your message is through audio and video. For example, you could show a book trailer video, offer an audio sample of a keynote speech, display behind-the-scenes pictures, provide a personal interview, etc. For best results, tell your web designer to make the media files play in a streaming format. Use your multi-media content through your website to liven the experience for visitors.
4. Built-in E-commerce Store
Increase your revenue by selling books and related products directly from your website. You will need a shopping-cart capability with credit card processing, a “virtual terminal,” customer notification, and the ability to modify products, pricing, etc. I recommend www.e-Junkie.com and www.PayPal.com and their “Website Payments Standard” account that includes a virtual-terminal for only $30/month.
5. Content Management System
If you prefer to make constant changes to your website on your own, then tell your web designer that you need a content management system. This will cost extra, but it allows the website owner to manually update text and pictures on each web page at any time.
You can’t drive a car that’s missing essential elements. Likewise, your website can’t help drive your author platform forward unless you include all of the key ingredients. Make sure your website contains these critical components in order to spread your message and sell books.
Sidenote: Lately, there’s been a popular trend among authors to setup a free blog and use it as a substitute for a real website. That’s a big mistake, because the best blog still makes a cheap-looking, one-dimensional website. Worse, blogs can’t provide all of the tools you need to appear professional, such as an online store, audio/video, event calendars, e-newsletters, downloadable files, etc.
If your business or ministry looks homemade, then people won’t take you seriously. They’ll just classify you as an amateur. So, spend the money necessary to get a professional designer to create a quality website for you. Expect around $3,000 – $5,000 for something decent. If you do it right, you will reap your return on investment many times over.