After outlining my plan, I decided to work on the author website and the mailing list together because they are very closely integrated. There are many benefits to getting them both up and running at the same time.
Most of what I’m going to talk about applies to WordPress websites and Mailchimp email lists. These are both easy to use and popular services that are likely to be updated for many years and integrate well together. I hope even if you don’t have a WordPress site that you can still benefit from this info since most websites integrate very easily with Mailchimp.
Other email list services that I have heard are popular for authors are MailerLite, ConvertKit, and Constant Contact. Depending on how many followers you plan to have, and if you are self published or traditionally published, you may wish to look into those services. Self published authors may need more sales tracking than Mailchimp offers, though even at the free level it has quite a few options. Shop around and find the service that works best for you. I preferred integration over most other considerations, so I stuck with Mailchimp.
What my Site Needed
So what should be part of an author website, and what did I need to add in? I had started my site as a blog about the geeky things I love, so it wasn’t set up to focus on my writing at all. And I had been using only the free online WordPress.com site that looked like any other blog out there.
My Own Domain Name
Pretty much every article of advice on this agreed that I needed my own domain name. I decided to just go full in and get my own domain and my own hosted WordPress site. There are loads of places out there that will do all of those things in a bundle for you. I used NameCheap. Alternatives that I know of that are fairly popular are GoDaddy and Bluehost. I would recommend these if you are willing to do a little work on your end in order to keep the price down.
If you would rather have everything basically designed for you or only use a visual editor and not muck around in the back end much, you could use something like Squarespace or Wix. They also offer your own domain, and much easier to design sites, but they are a bit pricier.
Either way, make sure you get your own domain name. And make it something easy to remember, that people can associate with you. Momtoast is my social media handle everywhere, and I thought it would be easy to remember, so I am using it for my domain. Think of it as your online logo.
Email List Integration – FREE
I was thrilled to find out that there are so many ways to integrate MailChimp with WordPress. The plugin I am using is MC4WP (MailChimp for WordPress) which allows you to make forms any way you like and add them different places on your website using a shortcode, which is basically just some code in brackets that you can paste into different areas of your site. It also has an easy to add in widget for the sidebar.
Even if you don’t have WordPress, you can connect your website to your MailChimp account. This will allow you to create things like a popup sign-in for your website without having to add code anywhere. However you do it, you should have some very easy to find and flashy way for people to sign up for your newsletter.
But I Don’t Have Time for a Newsletter
I didn’t think I had time to write a regular newsletter, and I had no idea what I would write about. But I did know that every resource I read agreed that this was the way to attract and keep readers, especially the kinds of readers that might actually buy my book once it becomes available.
I decided to write one twice a month, and to do small update ones more often if something interesting happened. I told myself it didn’t have to be anything fancy, just an update on what I’m writing, and something interesting to me that relates to what I try to put into my writing.
This is why you are getting these in your inboxes, I thought it would be something cool for other writers to see, the things I discovered in the year before getting published. The best advice I got about this was to take things you are creating already, and spread them out over all the media you use. So if you are doing research to market or write your book, share it.
Info About my Book
So . . . my book isn’t published yet. However, I do have some short stories out in the world. So I created an Available Now page that points to things that you can get now. I will add info about Song of the Wild when publication is closer, and I have an actual release date.
Reader Magnet – FREE
This is a free short story that I am offering to people who sign up for my newsletter. I decided to go a step further and offer other things with this signup, like access to the Discord and these articles. In order to keep member only articles hidden I am using a plugin called Content Locker. It’s amazing and really easy to use, again, just some short code at the beginning and end of the article. And then anyone who wants to read it has to sign up for the newsletter. If you are already signed up, it should show as unlocked.
If you would like to host the free story as an ebook, as I am doing, I suggest Story Origin. They are currently free, though they will be getting a price structure soon. They allow a lot more than just Reader Magnet hosting so more on them later.
Analytics and Social Media
I have two plugins that are very utilitarian. Blog2Social lets me send my posts to my social media feeds. Google Analytics lets me know when people visit the site and from where. This is nice because it lets you see if some things work more than others. Don’t get hung up on the numbers, just see if something gives you numbers.
Just for Fun
There are bunch of other plugins I added to the website just for fun. Those are outlined below, in case you would like to know about them.
WooCommerce, Printful (and all the ones that come with it) – because I liked the idea of putting my art work on a t-shirt. That’s pretty much all. Oh, and I can link to books that I would like to recommend to others.
Sassy Social Share – to make it easier for people reading articles to share them on their own social media
Smash Balloon Instagram – This came with the template that I chose and runs my Instagram posts across the bottom of the website.
Ko-Fi Button – I have a Ko-Fi, though I don’t push it much. I’m hoping to earn some money for the conventions I’m going to for promotional reasons. This makes it easy to add the button to my site.
Next up are social media strategies, or non-strategies, as the case may be.
Stats Update (as of April 10, 2020)
Twitter Followers: 1732 (+15)
Facebook Author Page: 6 (need to figure this out)
Instagram Followers: 247 (+75)
Pinterest Followers: 117 (no change, haven’t worked on this yet)
Mailing List: 209 (+196, yes, and I will tell you what I’m doing in the post after next)