Authors often ask me, “How do I know if my author website is ready to launch?”
I love this question because many authors use the wrong approach.
Here is my philosophy for effective website launch timing.
Your Website is Not a Book
After a book is published, there’s nothing you can do to fix it. So books go through a long editing process to try to get the book as perfect as possible. Promoting a book is all about the initial launch trying to get as many people to buy the book on day one as possible. This is the easiest way to hit the best seller lists.
Websites are different. Using the book launch approach for your website is the 100% wrong approach.
Launch Broken, Then Never Stop Improving
When Wikipedia launched, it was awful. It had hardly any articles and the articles it did have were bad. But every day a committed team of volunteers made it a little bit better until it became as reliable as Encyclopedia Britannica and one of the 10 most visited sites in the world.
This approach can work for your book website. Slow continuous improvement over time will give you far more results than a intense one time effort. Many authors are terrified that if they launch with problems the world will see those problems. So they delay the launch of their site for months. They don’t realize that when they launch their website virtually no one will visit it that first day.
Results take time. Plant early. Hoe often. Click to Tweet!
Benefits of Launching Early
The key to an effective website is to launch early. If you’re not launching your website early, you’re missing out on couple of key opportunities.
- Better SEO – Google uses website age to influence how it ranks. Older sites get the advantage. Every day you wait to launch makes your site one day younger. Launching early starts that ticker sooner.
- Early Feedback – No one’s going to visit your website when you first launch it except your close friends. These friends can give you feedback on how to make it better.
- Discontent – If you feel that your website is perfect when you launch it, then you will be unlikely to do the continuing work needed to make it successful.
- The key to an effective website is to launch early and then iterate often. – Click to Tweet!
- Your website is alive. You need to treat it like a garden, not like a brochure. – Click to Tweet!
- If your website is better every time your readers visit, they’ll keep coming back. – Click to Tweet!
- The key to an amazing author website is continuous improvement. Not perfection.- Click to Tweet!
Doing it Right
Great examples of continuous improvement are Michael Hyatt and Mary DeMuth (an Author Media client). Michael and Mary are constantly tweaking and improving their sites. Their sites are never perfect, but are better than they were. If you would like some encouragement, go to the Way Back Machine and take a look at what these sites used to look like. You will see that these sites are always “under construction” in one way or another.
Need help making your website better? Schedule a free 15 minute consultation with one of our author website experts.
I agree – launch your website as quickly as you can! I made the reverse error: I launched my website, http://www.publicationcoach.com, LONG before I had finished my book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. If I had to do it all over again, I’d try to put the book launch closer to the website launch. There’s certainly no good reason to delay the launch of your website, however. The value of building your SEO is incalculable!
Great tips. I launched my site a few years ago and am encouraged to know I’ve done it somewhat correctly. 🙂 Most recently I went live with a complete re-design (from wp.com blog to self-hosted site). It was definitely a work in progress that I leaked out over three months. I chose a number of site testers (volunteers from my facebook tribe) who got previews and helped me find the glitches, then I did a soft launch. I’ve continued tweaking it ever since. I absolutely love the instant gratification of perpetually editing afforded online.
I don’t fully launch my sites when I first make them. I create a splash page that gets published right away (take a look at my site now: http://www.dragondiaries.net then look at it again in a few days). After the splash page has been put up, I take some time — usually a week — to think about layout and design and color. Then I build up the website until it has enough data to hold visitors’ interest. After that, I fill in the blanks and keep updating and overhauling.
I have a blog with WordPress and have a domain name. I would like to have an author website that incorporates the blog. My issue is that I am just starting out and since I am working on my debut novel, I don’t have any books to promote. I would like to have an established website for when I do have my book for sale. Is it too soon to have a website?
Rebecca, I would focus on finishing the novel before putting much more effort into your web presence. You website is not as important with fiction as it is with non fiction.
Excellent advice! I think there are a lot of writers who think, as you said, that something has to be perfect before it goes up. But think of how many people do searches online for everything that pops into their head nowadays. Wouldn’t it be better that they happen upon, say, your book on gardening roses than someone else’s?