You may already have one or more planks of your author’s platform in place. Maybe you have a popular podcast or a thriving professional practice. Maybe you’re already on the speaking circuit or are an expert guest on the cable news shows. Great. That’s a head start. But unless your following numbers in the high tens of thousands, you will need a broader platform.
Whether you are a writer by trade or are a business person who has written a book, you need a website. As millions of authors have found out, putting your book up on Amazon does not translate to automatic sales.
Build A Platform to Build Your Sales
Your mailing list, those people who have freely given you their name and email address and implicitly, permission to email them, is your number one asset when it comes to reaching your audience and selling your book. If you have a TV show, that’s great, but it’s a one-way relationship. Your viewers can watch you, but you can’t directly control contact with your viewers. Of course, if you’re Oprah and you say, “Go buy my book,” that’s about all you have to do. But since there’s only one Oprah… we mere mortals must work a little harder. (And watch Oprah the next time she launches a book. She’s doing the talk show circuit to push sales, not just to chat. Even she doesn’t leave her book marketing to chance.)
So it’s great if you have a radio or TV show, a podcast, or some other means to ask people to buy your book. If you have a large, responsive platform, meaning tens of thousands of viewers or listeners who immediately do what you ask, this may be all you need to do. But that’s just one avenue. And, for those of us who aren’t famous, or who realize that people need to hear our message more than once before they buy, we need to have more control over how we contact our fans. That’s where a strong mailing list comes into play. And your website is ground zero for your mailing list. Whether you already have an audience or are starting from scratch…
You Need a Website
Almost every publisher has a page on their site devoted to the books they have published. The cover of your book, title, your name (YAY!), a brief description, and a link to buy will be snuggled right in among all those other books they’ve published. In other words, you’ll be lost in the sauce. Unless you are already well-known, the publisher isn’t going to plaster your book on the front page of its site. So, while it’s nice to have your book listed on your publisher’s site, again, it’s not going to translate to sales.
I could say you need your own website for that reason alone and leave it there. But you know I won’t. That’s because there are many more reasons why you need your own website. Your website is the hub for all your activities: it verifies that you (or your company) are a real entity (let’s not get into the weirdness of that); it is a place to give information which helps create a relationship and can lead to reciprocity; it promotes you, your business, your book, your services; allows people to get a sense of “knowing” you; it can showcase your expertise and authority; and most importantly, it is where you build your mailing list. (Are you sensing a theme here?)
If you already have a website for yourself or your business, great! Add a page for your book with a link so people can buy. Better yet, add a downloadable something—checklist, sample chapter, helpful exercise—that people have to put in their name and email address to get. Also make sure your book is on the front/home page of your site with a link to the page about your book. If you have more than one book, you can list them all on one page with descriptions of each one. If you want to go more in-depth, you can link from that page to a second page that goes into the book in more detail. No matter how many or few pages you use, make sure that you have a Buy link every time your book graphic appears. Make it easy for people to buy your book.
Your Website Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated
Don’t get all twisted up and go spending thousands of dollars to have a site built. Your website will grow with you, but your initial site only needs to do two things: Give you a professional-looking presence on the web and have some way to harvest visitors’ names and email addresses.
Use WordPress for your site. It is easy for you to work with. It’s easy to find people who work on WordPress sites. You can customize it as much or as little as you want. You don’t have to know how to code. You can master the basics in a couple of hours. My one caveat is do NOT host it on WordPress itself. Get your own domain name and host it with your own hosting company. (I use SiteGround and yes – that’s an affiliate link.) Yes, you can go with those free, easy-to-build sites like Wix or Squarespace, but to me, they are the equivalent of the free cards from Vistaprint. If you’re in business, invest in your business. (See “professional-looking presence” in the above paragraph. Thank you.)
As an author, your site can be fairly simple. A home page, an About page (the second most read page on every site), a page about your book or books, a contact page (which can and should include a media kit), and a blog. (Yes, you must have a blog if you’re a writer. It showcases your writing.) Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Workweek, among other books, has a fairly simple site: the home page is his blog (which is actually a podcast), then he has a separate podcast tab and tabs for Books, TV Shows, About, and Contact. Basically six tabs.
Guy Kawasaki’s site is even cleaner: Three short columns: Evangelist, which links to his About page; Author, which links to his Books page; and Speaker, which links to his Speeches page. Not surprisingly, these are the first three tabs on his menu bar. His other three tabs are Blog (still think you don’t need one?), Resources, and Contact. Very simple. Very clean. Not a whole lot of bells and whistles.
Your entire end goal, for all the facets of your platform, not just your website, is to build your email list and thereby broaden your reach. A website is a natural collector of people’s information: you offer some piece of downloadable (to keep things simple) information that is valuable to them and they give you their name and email address. Once on your list, you can start building your relationship. If you don’t have a website with an opt-in to build your list, get started now.