Do You Even Need an Author Website in 2024?

Filed in Author Websites — July 6, 2024

If you’ve clicked into this article, you’re likely a writer wondering if you actually need an author website. Or whether they’re passé in the a digital landscape where BookTok, Amazon, and Instagram reign supreme.

And anecdotally, you’ve probably heard plenty of readers made the declaration: “I never go to an author’s website, I just go straight to Amazon!”

So, here is the very short answer:

No, you do NOT need an author website to have a successful career as an author.

I know. I surprise myself writing that too!

I’m a huge author website advocate.

But. I can also name a half dozen authors off the top of my head who are making bestseller lists or making a ton of money their books whose author websites are non-existent, out of date, or straight up terrible. These authors could point out that they’re enjoying huge success without prioritizing their website, and they’d be absolutely right.

If that approach feels right to you, go for it. If I’ve learned anything in a decade in this career it’s that you have to trust your instincts and lean into strategies that feel right for you.

For those of you sensing that there might be more to the story on author websites, read on.

As successful as those authors mentioned above might be without a website, I can’t help but wonder if they wouldn’t increase their success if they prioritized their website a bit more.

For those of you in the camp of, “Oh, readers are always telling me they never go to an author’s website,” I believe you. But keep in mind that’s anecdotal evidence, which is rarely a great basis for important decisions.

For example, I could toss this (true) anecdote back to you:

I was recently talking with a fellow web-designer (who is also a romance reader) about how convincing authors of benefits of a website was an uphill battle, and she said, “Wait, WHAT?! I would NEVER buy a book from someone without a website. It’s the first thing I check, and if they don’t have a website, my ‘amateur hour’ radar goes off, and I hard pass.”

Now granted, she’s a web designer, so she’s going to inherently biased towards websites. But my point is that to remember that every reader has a bias of some kind. For every Sarah who tells you she never goes to an author website, there’s one Katie who won’t ever buy your book because you don’t have one.

Wouldn’t it be great to have Sarah and Katie’s sale?

But my point here:

Anecdotes don’t tell us much about the big picture.

So let’s switch to actual data:

You may be hearing that readers “never go to author websites.” But numbers tell me differently.

Lots of readers go to author websites.

My own website averages 1-3k visits per week. And I am not an exception. Sure, some of our author clients get fewer visits than that, but many authors on the roster get a lot more. We’re talking thousands and thousands of visits per week.

The actual number itself matters less than what the number represents:

Every website visitor is a potential book sale. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to snub a thousand potential book sales per week by not having a website. And when I was first starting out, and only got 40 visits in a week, that was forty potential book sales that I wanted so badly. 40 website sales I wouldn’t even have had a chance at without a website.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Okay, but if they can’t find my website, they’ll just look go look me up on Goodreads or Insta or Amazon.”

Maybe! Maybe they will. But let’s not forget Katie, who thinks no website means you’re an amateur.

Or the fact the Internet is the wild west of distractions. Have you ever meant to go look up that one food blogger’s recommendation for a spatula, and an hour later, you’re watching Instagram videos of cute Corgis?

The other day I was trying to find that one face oil I liked and loved two years ago, and found myself reading a website about the difference in English cucumber vs. mini cucumbers, and I never did bother to go find that face oil.

Your readers are going to have those same distractions. 

If you want readers to find you, having your official website with your official URL show up at the top of their Google search is hard to beat. Here, you can see my website as the first result (after whatever images Google decides to pull):

Still not convinced? I’m not done!

5 Good Reasons To Have an Author Website

Longevity and Stability

Social media platforms come and go, but a website is a stable presence on the internet. It’s an investment in your long-term career that remains consistent despite the ever-changing digital landscape.

As my friend (and client) Jennifer Probst put it, “My website is the only place on the Internet I actually own. I’m here to stay as an author. Renting a little plot on Amazon or Instagram is not going to cut it.”

Also, the life of the average Instagram post? 24-48 hours. The life of a good website? INFINITE. I’m romanticizing, but it’s also not not true.

SEO Benefits

When most authors think about SEO (if they do at all) they’re generally thinking about someone searching for their book specifically, and hey, Goodreads and Amazon have you covered, right?

Sure. But that’s small-time SEO thinking. SEO isn’t just (or even primarily) about people searching for you. It’s for people who’ve never heard of you who find you.

Here’s an example:

I’ve intentionally littered my site with references to “NYC romance” and “Office Romance.”

Not only are those pages are extremely popular, but I’ve been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, appeared on Inside Edition, chatted with The London Times, etc.

How they found me? They were all searching “New York Romance” or “Office Romance,” and my site came up in the top results.

And I have to say it was really cool hearing from my aunt, my old boss, and a high school friend I hadn’t heard from since, well, high school, because they saw me on freaking TV!!!!!!

Which never would have happened without my website.

Professionalism and Credibility

A well-designed author website adds a layer of professionalism to your brand. Even if you don’t care about Katie mentioned above, who thinks authors without websites are amateurs, consider this:

Years ago, I applied to join Nora Roberts at her bookstore for a joint signing. Nora’s team said yes, and it was an incredible experience.

While I was there, Nora’s assistant mentioned that they were actually fully booked when they got my requested date; but then she looked at my website, and was so impressed that they made room because I was “legit.”

Tell A Story

We’re writers. We know that all the best things in life start with a good story. The most interesting person at a cocktail party, the best Super Bowl ads, the most engaging Instagram feeds, our favorite books, the greatest speeches of all time?

All stories.

Stories help people remember us.

Your website is your chance to tell your story, to create that “sticky” relationship with your readers that just can’t be accomplished with an Amazon page that looks like every author’s Amazon page (because that’s Amazon’s story…not yours). 

Your website is your chance to tell readers what you write and why you write it. Your website makes you a human, because it’s yours and only yours. You’re not a product listing on Amazon, or a “Verified Profile” on Instagram, or a random series of videos on TikTok.

You are HUMAN with a story to tell.

You are not the hero of Amazon’s story. You are the supporting character, and one of millions.

On your own website, you’re the heroine. 

Brand Building

A website lets you add your colors, your fonts, your copy, your aesthetic.

To the uninitiated, this sounds like fluffy cosmetics.

But remember above when I mentioned that an Amazon’s page is Amazon’s story? It means that everything you post onto Amazon ultimately contributes to the Amazon brand (as the place to go for outstanding authors, etc).

If you’re only on Amazon, people are going to see you as a product dressed in Amazon colors. Their marigold logo, that lowercase a, the little arrow.

If you’re a HUGE author, you may be laughing at this. “Amazon HELPS me.” But what if you’re a new author? Or a mid-list author? Trying to stand out among millions?

What if you created a little space on the internet that made people feel special and seen, whether or not they have an Instagram account or subscribe to Amazon Prime.

What if someone saw you, not just as another post on their Instagram feed, with the exact same 4:5 photo ratio and the exact same Instagram font in the caption, but as you.

That is your brand.

That is why websites matter.

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