How Important is a Website for an Unpublished Author?

When should an author develop a website? How important is it before publication? How much time, effort, and money should an author give a website? If a writer has a blog, is a website even necessary?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably had these questions at one point or another. I’ve struggled through them over the past year. I don’t claim to be an expert on the matter. But I can share some of the conclusions I’ve come to.

If a writer has blog, is a website even necessary?

I look at my blog as the place to engage in open and ongoing dialogue with readers. When I write my posts, I communicate my thoughts and feelings. Through the comments, people can respond back. First and foremost, I want readers who come to my blog to know I care about encouraging them, not pitching my book to them.

A website, on the other hand, is a place where I can actively sell myself and my books. Even though I have information about my book on my blog, my website is where I can really showcase everything on a much grander scale. The website becomes the home base for true readership fans.

When should an author develop a website?

Ideally, an author should have a website up and running by the time a book is available for pre-order on any of the major sites. (And no, my website is not ready yet. Live and learn!)

The weekend The Preacher's Bride was posted on Amazon for preorder, a potential reader saw my book there, googled my name, and was directed to my blog. She left a comment that she liked the cover and had added the book to her reading list.

That one communication helped me realize how much I needed a website. When the average reader googles my name, I want to direct them to the front door of my cyber home, my website, where they can gain a positive first impression about me as an author. Sure, they can slide in the back door and lounge around with everyone else visiting my blog. But if that’s not their interest, I want to give them a different place to congregate.

How important is a website before publication?

I don’t think unpublished authors should put too much pressure on themselves to have a website before getting a book contract. Without a published book, not many people are actually going to google our names and try to find out more about us. A blog can suffice for the time being as a cyber home, especially with the new tab features.

On the other hand, a website can help unpublished authors begin to prepare for the future and can possibly save time and effort later. The process of registering for a domain name, thinking through and writing up website pages, and establishing ourselves as professionals certainly can’t hurt.

If a writer wants a site ahead of contract, there are a lot of inexpensive options available. Jill Kemerer has an excellent post detailing some of those options.

How much time, effort, and money should an author give a website?

Once we’re contracted and our book is on its way to shelves, it’s time to invest more into our web presence—and that includes a professionally designed website. I got references, visited a lot of websites, and finally narrowed down two design companies whose work I liked the best.

Between the two, I finally picked Pulse Point Design. After looking at their client portfolio, I decided their work best represented what I wanted in a site of my own. Pulse Point specializes in Christian author sites. Because of their popularity, they’re already double-booked for the next eight months and turn down at least five clients a week. I was excited when they managed to squeeze me in.

Pulse Point Design will start designing my website in May and it will likely be ready for launch in June with a few months to spare before the release of my book.

Now that I’ve shared my opinions, I’d love to hear yours. Do you think a website is necessary? When is the best time to develop one? How much time, effort, or money do you plan to give yours?

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