Imagine you have been given the opportunity to design the in-store display for your latest book. You've got a reasonable budget and a decent amount of floor space you can utilize.
That's the kind of creative thinking you need when considering the website you'll want to have for promoting yourself as an Author.
1. Let's talk Design first...
In your books you create an ambiance, theme or mood that the look of your website needs to reflect this in its design. For example, if you're a romance novelist, then you'd want your website to resemble the types of settings you put your characters into. Ideally when readers visit your website they should get a feeling for the books you write even before they've read a single word on your website.
Basically, the same sorts of considerations you have with regards to your book cover design should be given to the design of your website.
2. Next Consider the Amount of Space You Want
In a book store, you've got on-shelf all the way through to full window display as options for promoting yourself and your book. And the promotional decisions that are made will dictate how much you need to contribute to make that space work for you.
Your website is the same. How much information do you have to share with your readers right now, and what is your longer term vision for your website?
To begin you may just have a biography, some contact details, information about your book, where your book can be bought and a few notes about your next book or current project to share. In this case your website requirements are small and a few pages will get the job done properly.
If your career as an author is more advanced you may already have a following that want to engage with other fans through your website, there may even be a back catalogue you want to showcase, plus providing media and PR information and a calendar of appearance dates. For this you'd need a much bigger website that has many more pages and some complex features and functionality, like a forum, events calendar or media kit.
For most authors your website will start small and needs to be able to easily grow with your career and promotional activities. But just like a bookstore you need to have the flexibility to choose right amount of space for your promotions, as you're ready for right now.
3. Education package or Entertainment package?
Chances are that your book satisfies one or the other desires - It either educates the reader or entertains the reader and in some special cases it manages to achieve both.
This shouldn't stop. When people visit your website they expect that theme to carry through from your books to your web pages.
If your books educate, then continue educating; point them to resources and other websites where they can continue their journey (it can be as simple as directing your readers to the sources you used for your own research). You become the conduit through which people have expanded their knowledge and understanding.
If your books entertain, whether that's through sympathy, fear, lust, humour or any other emotion, you want to continue that experience from your books to your website. Blogging is one way to continue entertaining your readers; whether you blog in the style of one of your main characters or blog with your authors 'voice', the important things is to keep entertaining.
4. Sell, sell, sell
This doesn't mean that you should turn your website into a shopping cart or online bookstore. In fact it's best if you don't. There are after all plenty of places that can sell your books for you (do you really want the hassle of calculating shipping rates and collecting taxes or do you just want to keep writing?).
What's meant here is promote your books and have plenty of links to the stores that sell your books, online and in the real world.
However, chances are that once you begin building your fans and reader following that you may not be able to write books quickly enough to satisfy their demands. This is when you need to think laterally and get on board with merchandising.
(Important Note: Please check your contracts to ensure that what ever you do in the realm of merchandising you don't breach the terms of your contracts).
There are hundreds of ways to leverage your author's profile that potentially generate a bit of extra income and keep fans happy. From getting "white label" (also called "private label") products manufactured and packaged with your brand, to the humble print on demand services of a company like CafePress. A quick Google search will reveal a wealth of options for you consider.
...alternatively, you may want to go for the straight sell
If that sounds like too much hard work then there is always affiliate sales. This is where you just sell other peoples products. For example, author Michael Connelly frequently mentions different songs in his novels; in fact he has an entire web page in his website devoted to listing the songs. With the assistance of a website designer, each of these song titles can easily be linked to iTunes or some other music store where the songs can be purchased. And because it was Micheal's website that instigated the sale of the song, he'd receive a commission.
There are many different ways in which an author can generate additional streams of income with affiliate sales. It's simply a matter of looking at your books and seeing what you can leverage from within their pages.
5. Getting Eyes and Attention
At the end of the day, the thing that really matters the most when it comes to your website is that people know it exists, they visit it and then keep coming back.
This is where the worlds of Marketing, SEO and Social Media all collide and in theory bring lots of â€œtrafficâ€ (visitors) to your website.
There are literally thousands of courses you can take or buy to learn the finer points of these massive topics if you're determined to do this yourself. The reality is that what works one day doesn't the next and so you begin the fast track of keeping up with all this technology.
Instead the better way to deal with the getting of attention is to focus on the few things that you know really do work with your reading audience and stick with these for your own efforts (if you must do it yourself).
However the best and ideal solution is to get someone else to do it for you - let them have the headache of working out why your Facebook page changed over night and now doesn't work properly and then finding the right fix; or why Google dropped your website down from page 1 to page 12 and how to get it back to page 1.
You're a Talented Author
You're a writer and a damn good one; so focus on where your talents are best utilized and have someone else deal with the rest wherever and when ever possible.
Your website is intended to promote you as an author, get people to engage with you and buy your books. If your website is doing anything less or is turning into a black hole where your time is concerned then you really need to reevaluate it and how you manage it.