When Do I Need A Website?

Everyone has a website, it seems. National corporations, your neighborhood deli, musicians, brands, tech sites, magazines, artists… Eventually, every author asks him or herself, Do I need a website? When, in the course of my career, should I start that website?

There is no right answer, of course. As with so many aspects of publishing and writing, much of it will depend on the author, how far into their career they are, their time, money, etc. But there are a few factors to take into consideration.

  1. Don’t put the cart before the horse. If you don’t have a finished manuscript, the best website in the world is not going to get you published. You need to generate a product before you market it. Now, that is not to say you can’t have a website before you finish your first manuscript, but spending your writing time noodling around on a website and picking a color scheme is not necessarily the best use of your time. Be certain you will finish your manuscripts and submit queries before you spend precious time building a website. That said…
  2. Build a brand (and website) before you sell. There will come a point where you are ready to send your baby (manuscript) into the world, and you should be ready for the world to come looking for you. As editors and agents receive your query letter and manuscript, one of the first items on their ‘to do’ list will be Googling you. I promise. I speak from the experience of watching my Google analytics after I sent out query letters. They will want to see if you are professional, what other manuscripts you have, and can they obtain more information ‘about you.’ Now, it may be that you aren’t ready for a website when you begin querying. That’s OK. But even if your website is basic, it will show them something of who you are. All of that said…
  3. How much time should you spend on your website? My answer to this question is, How much time does it take away from writing? See #1. Does maintaining the website and/or blog mean you’re not writing? If so, then you don’t have a product to sell on that website. It is also easy to use your website as a method of procrastination when the writing gets tough. I speak from personal experience on that one, too. Now, the corollary question is…
  4. Do you pay to have a website created/maintained? This will depend on your tech savvy, your free time, and the money you want to spend. Your website is your brand, as well the location readers go to learn more about you. It should be visually appealing, easy to interact with and contain the content most interesting to readers. If you have no tech skills, pay someone. It’s likely tax deductible. (Assuming you are operating as a business and not as a hobbyist, which is a topic unto itself and requires a tax advisor. Don’t deduct it until you speak to said advisor.) If you have some tech skills, there are many free platforms and themes you can use. Remember that you need a product, and if paying someone to maintain the website allows you to create more product, than the ROI may be worth it. So, now that you have a website, what about…
  5. The rest of social media? Editors and agents will look for your marketing platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, Tumbler and Pinterest. How many followers do you have at said places, and how savvy are you about using those social media outlets? How active are you? Do you have a modest fan base established, even if you are not published yet? Authors are asked to do more promo and marketing than in the past, and showing the editor and agent you have already started to build your brand using various social media is important. Having the website as the base of those various outlets can be a boon to your brand.

Websites are a useful and necessary tool for an author. Pick the best time to start yours based on your career. Be strategic about timing, as websites cost time and money. Content and functionality are a must, but be conscious of brand and what you want to convey to readers. There is not necessarily a right and wrong to building a website, but making thoughtful choices is key.

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