I have been a digital marketer for over 20 years. At the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies, I helped dozens of individual program coordinators market hundreds of enrichment classes that empowered thousands of students. I loved it.

Now, as owner of Dandelion Web Marketing, that experience helps me lean into helping writers. Each writer has a unique message in their book(s), and each has the potential to reach thousands of readers (or more!)

I love it when a writer feels a little more empowered to make their dream of publishing a book come true.

But for a long time, I resisted working with writers.

As a website designer, I knew my custom design services could get expensive, and many writers pay for marketing expenses out of pocket. Plus, I didn’t know the magic formula to make every book a bestseller (I wish!) and wasn’t that what everybody wanted?

That changed a few years ago, at the 30th UW-Madison Writers’ Institute.

I had just given a presentation called “Make a Great Author Website,” and several writers came to speak to me afterwards. Many said they were ready for a website, but found all the technical set-up and early decision-making to be headache-inducing.

Things like registering a domain, what platform to use, where to host a site, and dozens of other getting-started details had them going in circles. With so many options available, they needed help getting pointed in the right direction.

That’s when I knew I had something to offer.

I realized that if I could get writers past that first hurdle, I’d be doing them a great service. I went home and that very night developed the first of my services designed specifically for writers. The Author Quickstart package delivers a ready-to-go WordPress website built with authors in mind.

These writers also needed guidance on how to use and promote their website and reach their readers online.

As time went on I developed more ways to support writers and authors including email marketing, book advertising, and editing services for new bloggers (because writing for the Web is not the same as writing a book.)

I now know that there are many ways I can help writers on their path to becoming a successful author.

With that in mind, I’d like to share the advice that most frequently comes up in my consultations with writers.

My Web marketing advice for authors

Unpublished writers or authors without a website often ask, “Do I really need a website?” Yes!  One of the first things an agent will do is Google your name in search of your online presence. You are at a disadvantage if nothing comes up.

Their next question is: “Can’t I just use Facebook?” No! You should have a public presence that is owned by you, not Facebook. Your website is a platform where the content is all yours and you are in control.

Writers who already have a website ask me if their content is  good. Usually what they’ve written is fine, it’s what is missing that grabs my attention.

Commonly missing on new author websites

An email signup form. Especially one that connects directly to an email marketing tool such as Mailchimp. Even if you aren’t yet sure when you will have something to send, start collecting those emails. You can’t go back in time and get them after you are ready.

A link to buy your books. It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to overlook. Once your book is available to the public, make it as easy as possible for the visitor to go quickly from interested in your book, to buying your book.

Proof. You need to include content that serves to prove that what you write will be worth the investment of the reader or agent’s time. Lots of content can serve as proof. Book reviews are a kind of social proof that people have read and liked your book. But even unpublished writers can include content that demonstrates their talent, commitment, expertise or insight.

Visitor tracking. Google analytics is a powerful and free tool for understanding your website traffic. You can get insights on how your visitors found you and their actions on your website such as what pages they read, when they subscribe, and what they download or buy.

Social media sharing. Even if you aren’t active on social media, make it easy for visitors to share and mention your website on their social media.

All of the features above are free and can truly contribute to the success of your platform.

The most important advice of all? Don’t wait until your book is published before starting to build your writer’s platform.

The purpose of your platform is to help launch your author career or next book. But it can’t do that if it doesn’t exist yet. Since agents and others will go online to learn more about you, the more established your online presence, the better.

You don’t have to do everything at once. 

The truth is, there are a lot of moving parts to Web marketing. But that doesn’t mean you have to tackle everything at once.

Create a small website that you can grow into, select one social media tool to explore. Once you have the basics of your writer’s platform in place, then you can start thinking about how to attract visitors, win subscribers, and connect with your readers.

Of course every writer is unique and each has their own specific questions or concerns.  I’d love to hear yours; that’s why I offer free consultations.