After you’ve been a member of writing communities for a while, you see the same questions coming up repeatedly. Common questions from people getting into writing are “Do I need my own website?”, “What should I put on my author website?”, and “How should I set up my own website?”
Do I need my own website?
At the core, I don’t think any author NEEDS a website. Instagram and Facebook provide a space where authors can put the information that would typically be on their websites. Like many other writing adjacent activities, authors have the same 24 hours in a day that everyone else does and they have to figure out what is a priority for them.
The biggest value of your own website is that it’s a place on the internet you own. It is VERY rare that any action could be taken against someone with their own website. With sites like Instagram or Facebook, you’re at the whims of the site owners and you can find yourself in the situation where you’re shut down because you’ve unintentionally broken some rule they have.
A website gives you a channel to communicate with fans. Email can work for this, but it’s possible for spam protection to block your emails. A website remains a fixed place where your readers can go to see what you’re up to. You have complete control over this direct interaction with your reader.
A website can host content that you’re using to try to sell books and direct readers to other sites where you’re publishing something new or in a different way than you have historically.
What should I put on my author website?
On my website, I have general information about myself, links to interviews with me, an up-to-date listing of all my books (with links to buy them), links to reviews of those books, links to my social media presence, information about signing up for my email newsletter, and a blog where I write about various topics I’m interested in.
Beyond these, if I ever had a Kickstarter or Patreon I’d certainly link to it from my website (and post to my blog about it). If I had a podcast, I’d make it easy to listen to it from my website. If I had some special edition releases or merchandise related to my writing I’d post it there. If I were offering any other services (like reviews, editing, or proofreading) I’d provide information on my site.
If you’re trying to come up with ideas for what to put on your site, look at the sites of other authors writing in the same genre as you.
How should I set up my own website?
This changes year-to-year and by the person, so I’d recommend googling “how to create a website.” There are different options depending on how technical you are and how much money you’re willing to spend. It’s easy to hire people to help you. A typical author’s website is a fairly simple site. Money and effort should probably be put into making it look nice before any fancy technical elements.
A website can be created for free, where it’s a subdomain of an existing host (such as Google Domains, WordPress, or Wix). It’s well worth paying $12 per year to have your own domain name. Beyond this, hosting can be found as cheaply as $3 / month (I pay $12 / month to Linode for more powerful hosting and am happy with it). I’m very cheap and resist putting money into publishing that I don’t have to, but find this is good value for money.