To Market Advice

Author Website Guide
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Author Website Guide

One of the most common questions authors and illustrators ask is “Do I need a web site?”

If you have published at least one children’s book, and you want to promote that book in a relatively inexpensive way, or if you’re an illustrator who hasn’t yet been published, but would like to make your work easily viewable by potential publishers, then you should probably have a web site.

 

A few years ago, no one was really sure whether having an Internet site was worth the time and trouble, but now that the Internet has proved itself as a valuable research and promotional tool, it’s worth serious consideration by authors and illustrators.

For one thing, educators and librarians are increasingly using the Internet for author research, to contact authors for classroom projects and to decide who to bring to school for events. You don’t want to miss your chance to reach this important audience for children’s books.

If you think you might want to have a web site, give yourself some time to think it through. What do you want to achieve with your web site? How will it get built? Who will write the content? Who will keep the site updated? What components would you like to include and why? Do you want to try and generate school visits? Are you willing to answer fan mail from children via email? Do you want to sell autographed copies of your book to people who visit your site?

One important way to help you visualize all of this is to visit lots of author/illustrator sites and take notes about what you like and don’t like. If you spend some time doing this, it will quickly become apparent to you what you would like to do, and not do, with your own site.

Building a Web Site
Components
Once you have decided that you need a web site, here are the four components you need to find:

  1. Domain name – you need to register a unique domain name for your site (www.greatauthor.com).
  2. Web site host – you need to find a company that will host your web site for you. Think of the host as the “landlord” for your “home” on the internet – you pay them so that your site will be “live” on the internet and visible to visitors.
  3. Content – you need to have content on your site – text, pictures, book covers, etc.
  4. Programming – you, or someone else, needs to take your content and, using HTML programming, turn your content into your web site, so that everyone can see it. HTML is the special language of the Internet, and all sites must be written in that language so that your site looks the same to everyone who views it.

 

Web Site Options
There are a variety of ways to take these four components and create your web site. Here are four choices:

  • Do-It-Yourself, With a Template Site
    Cost: @ $150-$250 per year
  • Do-It-Yourself, With Software or a Hosting Company
    Cost: $200-$250/year
  • Have a Friend, Relative or Spouse Do It
    Cost: Varies
  • Hire a Web Site Designer
    Cost: $350 and up to design, depending on the size of site you want, and $200/year and up to maintain.

Web Site Content
What kinds of information should your site include? Here are some common pages that many authors/illustrators include:

  • About the author – biography and photos
  • Travel calendar
  • FAQ’s
  • Contact
  • Presentations and/or school visit information
  • Complete book list – with awards/reviews
  • Links – to writer’s sites, friend’s sites
  • Downloadable activities for teachers
  • Book ordering information
  • Writing samples
  • Referrals to librarians and bookstores
  • Offers of autographed copies
  • Art for sale
  • Guest Book sign in

Promoting Your Web Site
Once you have created your web site, it’s important to actively promote it – to trade publications, associations, educators, librarians, parents and friends. Put your site address on your stationery, business cards and brochures. Ask your publisher to list it on promotional material about your books and ask if they will provide a link to your site from theirs. Set aside some time each week to visit other sites and request that they link to your site. When you do a school visit, be sure to encourage teachers and children to come and visit your site – before and after the visit. Submit your site name to search engines so that visitors can easily find it using Yahoo!, Google, or one of the other large search engines.