Do you need a writer's web site? — the brochure

A clean, simple web site may be all you need.

Last time I asked the question, “Do you need a writer’s web site?” and discussed one possibility, which I dubbed “the megaphone approach”—that is, a pure social media strategy for getting the word out about your books and attracting new readers. As explained, I’m pessimistic about this approach for a few reasons.

A more promising way to establish an online presence is what I call—

The brochure approach

As printed on the tin: A brochure web site introduces the author, catalogs his or her body of work, and provides links for where to buy. It’s an online brochure. It’s a chance to shine a light on your work and let the world know what you have to offer.

The top-level home page might have an announcement or two (latest released book, a sale on Amazon). Clicking through the site, there may be pages listing all the writer’s books, or one web page per book (or book series). Somewhere in all of this is a biography page with photos and links to the author’s social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)

And that might be all there is to it. Brochure web sites are largely static and rarely change, meaning they do not encourage readers to return day after day.

Still, brochure sites serve their purpose: They inform curious visitors what books the author has written, and offers links to online retailers where their books can be purchased.

There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but it’s unlikely the web site will see a lot of traffic, either. More importantly, it’s not guaranteed this web site will appear high on Google’s list if someone searches for the author’s name or book title. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the other major book retailers have strong Google juice. Their sites are designed to maximize search results. If you have a common name (such as, say, “Jim Nelson”) or your books’ titles are common phrases, that can also hurt your search results.

That doesn’t mean a brochure site can’t change that. The difference between ranking high in Google search and being buried in the third or fourth page of results is taking care to ensure your site is clean, well-designed, and easily indexed by search engines.

One example of a good brochure web site is Jennifer M. Lane’s. The design is tasteful, the site is well-organized with a menu bar across the top for navigation, and all her books are easily found. She has prominent links to her social media accounts and her author pages on other web sites. There’s also extra goodies, such as free short stories, book club discussion guides, and puzzles and recipes inspired by her books. And she has a good top-level domain name (jennifermlanewrites.com).

In fact, if I was to build a checklist for the writer’s brochure web site, hers is a good model to follow:

  • Home page listing all (or most recent) books plus important announcements

  • One page per book (or book series) with description, review blurbs, and links to retailers

  • Attractive book covers help bring graphic appeal to the site

  • Links to social media accounts

  • Mailing list sign-up form (you really should have a mailing list if you don’t already)

  • Biography & contact page

  • Top-level domain name

And that might be all you need to get a brochure web site started. If you’ve written four books, a brochure site might only be six pages or seven pages in size (home page, one page per book, biography, and contact the author.) With a cup of coffee and some headphones, you can put it together in a matter of hours.

There’s a truism in the online industry: Search is king. Web searches are the number one way people will find you and your books. For all the hubbub about Facebook and Twitter, search beats social media by orders of magnitude. A professional-looking, well-designed web site with a top-level domain is the best way to make sure your writing is what people find when they search for it.

When I Google Jennifer Lane’s name and the title of her latest book, her web site is at the top of the search results. That’s exactly the position an author wants to be in.

Next time, I’ll discuss some strategies for building a brochure web site.


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