Does an author need a website?

I had some great news last week – a quite well known YA author (no names am afraid) approached me about a problem they were having with their website. In fact they wanted to know whether it was even worth them having a website when they had a profile on their publishers plus their Amazon authors’ page, a Facebook page, Twitter profile, and Goodreads (and so on).

“I am just not sure that I get any sales from the site”, she said “and it costs me hundreds of pounds each year to maintain it”.

When I visited the site I could see exactly what the problem was. In fact there were two problems – design and money.

Her website was poorly laid out and had no clear call to action – as a casual viewer it wasn’t clear what I was meant to be doing – was I there to sign up for her newsletter (if I was the link was well hidden), to find out about her latest release or to find out more via her social media channels?

All of this content was there but I couldn’t find it because it was buried under layer upon layer of confusing menu choices.

Worst nothing seemed to be up to date – a news item from two years ago was on her front page and events that had long since passed were on her appearances page.

The whole thing was messy and unappealing.

Estimates vary but you only have seconds to grab someone’s attention when they first visit your site and every time a visitor hits the x button and navigates away from your site (known as the bounce rate) it potentially is a lost sale.

The author’s problem was compounded by the fact that not only was she stuck with an unappealing site but that every update she made cost her the hourly rate of her ‘web master’ which meant she was reluctant to add content on a regular basis.

No wonder she was questioning whether she should even have a website.

Now the great news for me is that, after a long chat, she fell back in love with the idea of having a site (and asked me to design it for her!) and we discussed in detail how it should be part of her overall marketing.

This post started off with the question – “With all the other opportunities around does an author even need a website”?

And my answer is a resounding yes – but it needs to be an effective website!

More than 2 billion people worldwide use the internet and over 58% of them use it for shopping. Your website is a virtual representation of yourself as an author and should form the foundation of your platform and the central hub of everything you do. Amazon, Goodreads and your publishers site (if you are lucky enough to have one) may all be great but isn’t it better to get people to your site, isn’t’ it better to have the opportunity to get their email addresses – to be able to talk to them directly?

A well designed site with a contact form (or even better integrating your site with MailChimp or MadMimi) can convert casual browsers into buyers and committed fans.

Does your website have what it takes?