In 2013, I observed a conversation on Twitter where a publisher said they didn’t believe in author websites “for a lot of authors”—that social was a better place for authors to spend time from a marketing perspective.
It bothered me, and I ended up writing a blog post about it, exploring why a publisher might think this—rightly or wrongly.
Since then, I’ve taught countless conference sessions and webinars about author platform development, content strategy, marketing and promotion, and long-term best business practices. Hands down, the No. 1 thing I’m questioned about is social media—by the unpublished writers, advanced writers, and well-established career authors. I don’t mind fielding such questions, but I find social media the most difficult topic to teach effectively, and I’ll have a separate post about that tomorrow.
On the flip side, I rarely field questions about author websites, aside from technical ones about what service to use or other fiddly details related to domains, hosting, and WordPress sites. I believe this happens for a few reasons: Website design and development is a more technical area, plus few authors actively engage on their site with readers. It can be something of a “set it and forget it” thing. Who’s really looking at an author website that much anyway, especially one without a blog or active updates?
Meanwhile, everyone you know is likely on Facebook—it has 2 billion users and it’s the No. 1 app in the world. Many visit daily (hourly!).
Yet social media is ephemeral, volatile, and out of your control. The content is visible now, buried tomorrow. Your account could be shut down. You could be limited in who you reach over time. You might have to pay money to get the same level of engagement as a few months or a few years ago. It’s not so great at organic discoverability, meaning it’s hard to get seen by an entirely new audience who doesn’t know you … unless you run ads or you can motivate your friends and followers to share and repost things (make things “go viral” as we once used to say).
But yes, social media is still where most readers spend considerable time, even though it tends to inspire love-hate feelings and remains a primary area of complaint and unhappiness in some people’s lives. But it’s necessary, right?
I may be in the tiny minority of people who happen to think social media isn’t 100% critical for an author’s online presence. Yes, it makes things much more difficult if you refuse to use it, and I don’t like it when writers spurn it out of some kind of literary peacocking—believing that it’s “beneath” them to market themselves on social media.
But effective marketing and promotion (and platform building) does exist beyond and separate from social media. These days, I get more noticeable results from my website and blogging efforts, email newsletters, and in-person networking than I do from social media. Not that I want to give up social media—quite the contrary—but I could walk away from Facebook and still earn a living. Not so with my website—it’s absolutely fundamental.
So I want to make a case for why investing more time in an author website—focusing more on this aspect of your platform, branding, and overall messaging—could have a lasting impact on your brand and reach.