Your writer's website is the hub of your book marketing efforts. All your social media - Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads - link back to your website.
On your site, you craft the design, present your book in its best light and control the message.
But if your reader arrives and thinks, "Oh, this isn't for me," and bounces away, you've lost the game before it begins.
There are three phases to making your writer's website resonate with your target audience: planning, site creation, and site promotion.
Ideally, before you begin your site, you will take the time to think about what it is and what you want to accomplish with it.
The first question is who is your target audience? It may seem obvious, or it may not. Many authors get stuck on that question and hamper their writing as well as their book marketing. You should have a clear idea of who your ideal reader is -- demographics, lifestyle and worldview.
If your book is already written, you probably had someone in mind as you wrote it. If you're just getting started, having your target audience in mind can propel the work forward, by giving the work unity and clarity.
If you need a resource to help you get a handle on your target audience, let me recommend a book that will help you get clear on that question: Target Marketing for Authors.
The second key question is what do you want your writer's website to do? Sell copies of your book? Direct readers to an online bookseller? Promote your speaking or other services? Collect names for an email list? This goal will be the "theme" of your site, not in a design sense, but like the central idea of a novel. Everything you do should support that central goal.
This will be your "call to action," the overriding message of your website, and the more you focus on this message, the more successful your site will be.
But if you have a site already functioning, it's not too late. In fact, it's important to keep revising your understanding of these crucial questions and allowing for the possibility that your audience may change with time.
Once you know who your target audience is and what you are calling them to do, you can make informed decisions about the design, language, and content of your site.
Writer's Website Design
Color will be an important choice in your website design. Color means different things in different cultures, but for everyone it has a strong emotional pull that most people don't even perceive on a conscious level.
Because of the way browsers handle fonts, you don't have a huge selection available for your site without using some off-the-beaten-track technology. But even making a basic choice between serif and san serif can make a difference in whether a site "feels" more breezy and modern (san serif) or more stable and established (serif). If you do take the trouble to use an unusual font, be careful about readability.
There are a number a basic structures you can use for your site: Blog, gallery, magazine, and so on. Knowing what you want your site to accomplish will help you pick the right structure. It makes no sense, for example, to use a site that's appropriate only for blogging if you don't intent to maintain a blog.
The language you use will depend on who your reader is. You'll choose metaphors that fit the people you're talking to.
On Steven Pressfield's site -- he is the author of such books as Killing Rommel and Gates of Fire -- one of the bloggers described a weary book editor's look as being like a soldier's at the end of a long battle. If your audience is young moms, you might describe the same incident comparing the look to a mother with four small children pushing a cart full of groceries out of the grocery store.
Other factors are such things as formal versus informal language, jargon versus general-use language, and whether you tend to talk more about principles (tech-talk or how-to) or relationships (celebrities, family, office relationships). The goal is to speak the way your target reader speaks to herself.
You'll also choose content to fit your target audience, as well as the goal for your writer's website. If you want to drive book sales, your site will feature reviews and other material to support your book sales. If you want to promote your services, then a planned content marketing campaign may be in order.
Throughout, though, you'll be thinking about where your audience is in the process of learning about your topic. If you're talking to people who are just starting to learn your topic, you'll present basic information in a clear and understandable way.
If you're at the top of your field and talking peer-to-peer, then your material will contain more jargon, both because jargon is valuable shorthand for those in the know and because for experts, the use of jargon shows that you're on top of the game.
If your readers are somewhere in the middle, adjust your content to fit where they are.
For authors, promoting your writer's website is a means to promoting your book, whether it's a one-step process, such as if your site exists to sell your book, or more than one step, such as if your book is part of a larger business offering. Having a clear idea of your target audience will make your writer's website more successful in your promotion efforts.
Not all social media are the same, obviously. For one thing, they come and go -- rise to the top and drop like a rock. But if you're thinking about adopting a new social media outlet, it's good to ask yourself what people use the social medium for and whether your target audience will be looking for you in that medium.
So, for example, even though Facebook has the population of a large nation, most of those people don't want to do business on Facebook. They're there for fun, conversations, relationships. A business-to-business author probably wouldn't do well to pick Facebook as a first social outlet. LinkedIn, by contrast, is much more business oriented, and that same book would probably make good connections there.
Study the social media outlet to determine if it's a good fit for your audience.
Guest blogging is a great way to make contacts beyond your own site. It builds authority in the search engines' eyes, makes new contacts for you, and gives the site owner a break.
Inviting guest posters to your site can have benefits for you as well -- new insights for your readers, more status for you as host of a vigorous posting community, and more new contacts with readers as your guest posters link from their site to their post on your site.
Building a mailing list is one of the most important things you can do as an author. It keeps you in contact with your readers, gives them a sense that you're someone real who talks to them. You can tell them about new book releases and about book promotion events.
Most of the time, people join mailing lists in exchange for a giveaway of some kind. If you know your audience, you can make it something they really want in a way that doesn't cost you very much.
Your Writer's Website and Your Target Audience
Your audience is the lifeblood of your writing career. Without them, you're just talking to the paper. But if that's the case, then your website can be the heart of your writing career, because it's the core of where your readers move -- to learn more about you, more about your work, and to buy your books. Make sure that your writer's website "heart" matches your readers' "type."
About the Author
Jan Bear helps writers establish a web presence so that they can connect with their audience, build a following, and sell more books, even if they’re new to the web.
Learn more about the importance of target markets in Jan's book Target Marketing for Authors: How to Find and Captivate Your Book’s Target Audience.