For nearly five years now, I’ve taught classes on how to build and optimize author websites. Every single class, here’s the most common question I receive:
Is it OK if I publish my book on my website?
This question gets expressed in a multitude of ways, such as:
- What if I post full chapters of my book on my website (or blog)?
- If I serialize my book on my website (or blog), is it considered published?
- How can I charge a subscription fee for work I publish at my website?
My first answer is a very direct one: Sure, posting content you own at your website is OK. But why do it?
- What do you gain by posting your book, in part or in its entirety, on your website?
- How will anyone know it’s there?
- Why will anyone want to read it on your website?
What are you trying to accomplish by putting it on your site and not publishing it through the biggest retailer of ebooks (Amazon)?
This question indicates a misunderstanding of what author websites are meant to accomplish—or at least the majority of them.
An author website is primarily a marketing tool, not a publishing and distribution tool.
The No. 1 reason to build an author website is to create a marketing and publicity hub for everything you do. It tells the story of you and your work. It’s a 24/7 business card that never stops working on your behalf. It offers official information about your books, offers a way for readers to stay in touch (such as through an email newsletter or links to social media), and provides a public face to the media and others who might wish to offer media coverage.
Some authors blog on their website, and in that case, yes, there’s a publishing function involved—but the blog is, at its heart, a marketing tool, part of your author platform and long-term business strategy.
There will always be success stories and inspiring case studies of authors who blogged their way to book deals, or who serialized their work on their own site, and somehow amassed a huge following. One such example is The Martian. But these are such outlying cases that they have no bearing on the fact that author websites aren’t ideal as a publishing and distribution platform for book-length work. They’re best at building your author brand and direct marketing to readers.
A much more effective way to build a readership is to publish and distribute your work where the readers are looking for their next best read—whether that’s Amazon, Wattpad, or some other platform for reading and writing where thousands of people gather. It’s quite difficult for fiction writers to turn their own site into a destination site—not impossible, but not within the existing skill set of most authors. [Read more…]