Your website and your email list are the two most powerful marketing tools you can create. They are also the two that are most totally under your control. While social media is a wonderful tool, small policy changes can have a huge impact on small businesses that rely on them. Many small business have suffered through massive (for them) financial impacts when their preferred social media made a change that decreased their traffic. This is totally beyond your control.
Your website and your email are totally within your control. Your choose the url and hosting service. You design and build them, or pay someone to do so based on your vision. You write the emails, add graphics, choose when to send them, and everything else. Your website is your most basic tool, and the one that should do the lion’s share of the work for you in creating an email list.
Clearly, the sky is the limit for websites, but most authors create a WordPress blog and so should you. WordPress is widely used, free, and seemingly unlimited in its ability to be customized. This doesn’t mean you need to try to turn into a blogger, but if you set it up as a blog, then it is easy to share updates with your readers.
The very first page you are prompted to create is your “About” page. As this blog post from Jeff Goins discusses, this page can be quite powerful because so many visitors go there. It is worth going back every few months to update it and keep it fresh. It really doesn’t take very long.
The other key first step is choosing your theme. This can feel like you are drowning in choices. Just remember: You can easily go back and change your theme. Find one that suits you, customize it a little with your blog name and other information, then get started on creating content. Once you have some content, it may help you hone in on what, exactly, you want your website to look like. If you can’t find something you like, it is possible to pay a designer to create a customized WP web site for you.
There are many books, websites, seminars, magazines, videos, etc. available on how to create and tweak your blog. Don’t get too bogged down in all the details. Getting a name and actually creating something are the two most important first steps. Without those steps, you cannot build a website. Take them as soon as possible! Then keep adding content. At it’s most basic, it really is as simple as that.
Getting More Advanced
When you are ready to get more advanced, adding plug-ins will probably be your first step. These allow you to do a lot more with WP. One example is “SEO Smart Links”. This plug-in makes it possible to radically improve the SEO on your website, and you definitely want to do that.
One critical step as you build your website is finding a way to get your visitors to register so you can create and grow your own email list. Your website should have a plug-in to help you collect email addresses. SumoMe is a popular plug-in for this.
Creating a more customized website, possibly paying someone to design a custom look for your site, is another good step to take as your website skills and confidence grow. There are several online sources for help with this. Upwork (formerly O Desk) is a popular one.
As you grow in confidence and skills, the sky is the limit with a website. But to get started, even a simple landing page is better than nothing. And it’s more than a lot of people have!
Not all websites are – or should be – blogs, but blogs are a good way to keep readers interested and coming back. They can also be a substantial distraction from your writing because you have to write a blog, and that is a totally different kind of writing from book-writing.
Many successful bloggers are able to create books from their blog content, and it is possible to take your books and turn them into blog posts, but in both cases, it seems to work better for non-fiction than fiction. If you are considering having a blog, take a little time to seriously think about what you want / need from the blog and whether that is really the best fit.
If you have a more static website, or at least one that isn’t a blog, you can still add a section for periodic posts. This is a great way to include updates for your readers without tying yourself into writing blog posts on a regular basis. (Having regular blog posts is important for growing and sustaining a blog.)
Truthfully, unless you are a blogger, you will be better served by creating a more static website and simply having a small section where you can post periodic updates. There is a reason most blogs fail, just as there is a reason most books aren’t worth publishing: Doing it well is a skill that needs developed, honed, and practiced, and that takes quite a bit of time. If you are primarily a writer, you will probably be better served by focusing on honing and practicing that skill.
With that said, successful bloggers can more easily turn their content into a book because they can either take individual posts and expand them into chapters for a book, or they can combine posts into chapters. In many cases, they already have more than enough on their site for one or more books. There will still be a lot of work to create a single cohesive book, but a lot of that is editorial.
Finally, try to have a site that is mobile-friendly. A lot of people surf on their phones, tablets, or other devices. If your site doesn’t load quickly on those, they will go somewhere else.