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SPS-331: Websites for Writers – with Stuart Grant

If an author is selling books at online vendors, do they need a website? James talks to author and website designer Stuart Grant about this and many of the other details related to websites.

Show Notes

  • What is the role of a website in an author’s platform?
  • Should an author sell books directly from their website?
  • How book covers inform website design
  • Tips for designing and building your author website
  • Where can you find a website designer?
  • How websites have changed in the last few years
  • What does having a website designed cost?

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

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SPS LIVE! 2022: Grab your tickets here.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

SPS-331: Websites for Writers - with Stuart Grant
Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show.

Stuart Grant: I think authors often underestimate how much a reader is interested in them. Don't be afraid either. People are a bit, "Oh, I don't know if I should put a picture of my dog, or whatever, on the website." If it's appropriate and if it works for the style and design, then absolutely you should.

Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers, no one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?

Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello and welcome to the Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: Hello, Mark Dawson. Yes, as I said at the end of last week's episode, we are batch recording at the moment. So, we don't have any new Patreon supporters to announce, because we haven't had the week that's gone by, but we are going to be talking about author websites. Your little home, your little space on the internet, which is a very important thing.

It's funny, isn't it? I can remember probably 10 years ago, people talking about websites dying. They were a thing of the past. Social media was taking over. But of course, it hasn't happened. Websites are still important. We use the web for everything and social media has found its own place. And in the same way that when some social media platforms' demographic changes, which just happened with Facebook, people say, "Well, Facebook's finished."

Well, it hasn't finished, has it? It's just finding its feet again. And TikTok's come along and stuff. But I think we can safely say that having a website as an author is important on a multitude of reasons, but not least because in this early days of building a mailing list, et cetera, you need somewhere to send people.

Mark Dawson: Yes, you do. And there are other ways to do that without a website. So, a place like Book Fund will allow you to build a list without having a website. You can do it on their platform. But generally, I don't think it's essential, but I think it's not far off being essential is to have a website.

And they don't have to cost thousands and thousands of pounds either. So, there are options to get websites done for much less, which is one of the reasons we've got Stuart Grant on the podcast today to talk about that. A good quality website that isn't going to break the bank.

James Blatch: Absolutely. Well, that's what we're going to talk about. Talk about DIY, doing it yourself, what you need to know, how easy it is, the best recommended products to use, and then the options if you are going to outsource it, to use that word, what are your best options, and how much can you expect to pay? Okay, that's it. Let's have a listen to Stuart Grant and I'll be back with Mark in a moment.

Stuart Grant. Welcome to the Self Publishing Show. It's a funny thing to welcome you to this show, because you are one of the people who helps put it together in the background.

Stuart Grant: Indeed. Yeah, for about six years now, in fact.

James Blatch: Six years.

Stuart Grant: Yeah, team SPF.

James Blatch: It's been a long haul, yes.

Stuart Grant: It has, yeah.

James Blatch: Okay, well, we are going to talk about author websites with you today, because that's one of your side hustles, as they say in America. You create design, build author websites for authors. So, what I'd like to talk to you today is what makes a good author website, how important it is, why we should have one, and then the options for creating, whether you want to do DIY, or use someone like yourself, or go to, I don't know, Bill Gates and get him to do it, which presumably there's some really expensive options as well.

Why don't we start at the beginning and talk about an author website and its role in the author's ecosystem.

Stuart Grant: It all started for me because I have built websites for a long time, but I've obviously been in this community and lockdown came, and I wasn't going out doing the Instagram courses and things that I had been doing. And I thought, "What else can I do?" And along came author websites into my hand really. Looked at Reedsy, signed up with them as an account, and then started to really deep dive into what an author website is.

You guys had spoken about that kind of stuff previously on the podcast. I think the number one thing for an author website is that it's yours. You own that brand, that space, that real estate. It's entirely yours. You're not subject to the dimensions of Facebook. You're not subject to the dimensions of an Amazon profile, or whatever. You have complete and creative control over your website.

So, it's a place really that I think authors need to use as a hub for their brand, obviously their products, for their contacts. All of that stuff can be focused on the website. And probably author websites are fairly underused, if I'm honest. I think probably some authors don't realise the power of it. It is an alive, breathing thing.

That sounds very hippy, but it is something that you can manage and update, and keep your readers in contact with you. So, fundamentally, it's a resource for an author to put their work life, whatever, in a corner of the internet. It's like building a plot on the moon. You've got your corner of the internet.

James Blatch: Yeah. And that's the problem with having your product page on Amazon or Kobo, or whatever. You can fill in the blanks, the blurb, and the title stuff, but you don't own that space. And if people visit it, you don't know. And if they want to know more, they can't leave their email for you anywhere. So, you do have to have somewhere.

Stuart Grant: Exactly. That's one of the downsides of those. Obviously, they've got hundreds of upsides, but the website really does let you own it all and have complete control. There are things on there that you may want to add to a website that you wouldn't put anywhere else. Maybe photos of you and your family, or whatever. Much more personal kind of things.

I think authors often underestimate how much a reader is interested in them. People say to me, "Oh, should I have a domain that's my book name, or my author name?" Absolutely every time it should be your author name, because that's what they're going to Google presumably.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Stuart Grant: Because they want to know about you. And sometimes when I'm building author websites, people send me two lines of a bio and I feel like saying, "Be you, be more interesting. Tell us more about you." I've read books about Lee Child. You know?

James Blatch: Yeah.

Stuart Grant: I'm fascinated in the process, in the person and the life. So, I think look at your websites and make sure you are giving readers things that they might well be interested in. Don't be afraid either. People are a bit, "Oh, I don't know if I should put a picture of my dog, or whatever, on the website." If it's appropriate and if it works for the style and design, then absolutely you should, or can, which is the fundamental difference between that and Amazon, or Facebook.

I think the whole thing about websites has moved so much in the last, well, five or 10 years really, what we want from a website, because in one way, they are just like a 2D leaflet. That's the worst case scenario. They're just almost a piece of paper that you just scroll down. That's it. But I think the world has moved on and we're actually expecting a lot more from those things now. It would be worth everybody Googling not for sales, but to have a look at the third generation EarPods website on Apple.

If you want to see where web design is going and what it is capable of, it's got a kinetic energy, it's got loads of movement, animation. These are companies that spend billions of pounds on working out what attracts people to keep and stay on a website. So, I've taken a lot of inspiration from those things. So, all the websites that I'm building now, I try to infuse with animation and some sort of kinetic energy. If it's not breathing and alive, then it's effectively dead.

I know that's what's attracted some of my clients to work with me, because they've seen some of the other sites I've done. They've got movement. And obviously, putting the books front and centre. That is it. That you want to sell books. Let's not beat about the bush. That's what you want to do. So, that's my focus as a web designer. Try and help that happen by making sure that things are in the right place, that readers' eyes are drawn to the right part of the website, that there's perhaps not too many distractions in some places.

James Blatch: How many of your clients are selling their books through the website directly?

Stuart Grant: Some are. I actually dissuade them from it, or try to, because the fear for every author, I suppose, is you buy a job lot of books, they sit in your garage, then you get an email to say you've sold one. You've got to pack it up, take it to the post office. What a faff. And why not let the big boys do the heavy lifting for you?

And of course, you're not going to make as much on per book. And obviously, you've got the facility like you have to sign your books if you've got a pile that you can sell. But as a rule, I would say, "Let it be done by somebody else and don't get into..." But it is more than possible.

I've got a number of clients who do sell a signed copy, or a bit more of an exclusive version, rather than just a standard print version. I do think that is a bit of a waste of everybody's time. If you are trying to sell all your sales through your website, it just isn't going to happen. What you want the website to do is direct people to where they can buy the stuff in as few clicks as possible.

James Blatch: What about eBooks though, using BookFunnel, or some other distribution method?

Stuart Grant: Well, having edited, or helped to edit, and produce the podcast over the years, I've listened to pretty much everyone. So, all of that experience comes with me when I'm looking at these websites. BookFunnel, what a great invention. A lot of my clients use that to deliver that ebook. It really is the gold standard for getting that lead magnet back out to the reader.

I totally use services like that when needed to provide a free copy, or a lead magnet, or whatever it might be. But the majority of sales I think for most of my clients come through the obvious route, which is Amazon. And again, thank goodness for things like Geniuslink, which is a geolocated link, whereas in the old days, we'd have to put a link for Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Australia, whatever. Now we can put one link and Draft2Digital to do a similar thing where you click on the button and it takes you to your local store.

James Blatch: Yeah, we should explain those links. Not everyone is familiar with them, but they are incredibly useful. So, obviously, if you want someone to buy your book, you don't know where they are in the world and they click on your link for amazon.co.uk and it doesn't work because they're in Canada, or America, or something.

So, these universal links, UBLs, universal book links, whatever you call them. We use Geniuslink, but there are others as well. Yeah, you tell it here's amazon.co.uk link and it creates a single link that when it's clicked on will send people to their local store, depending on their IP address, I guess is how it works, which is a brilliant service.

Stuart Grant: It really is. All of those things have made building websites much easier I suppose and have given a lot more options for creating websites. And it's something that I've really come to love actually. I've really started to enjoy the process of creating it. And there is so much technology out there to facilitate building websites.

I know you said about talking about different platforms. I use Wix exclusively having tried nearly every other platform out there. And one of the reasons I use Wix fundamentally is because it is fully integrated. I don't have to go off searching for third party plugins. That's my dog, by the way.

James Blatch: Ah, what's your dog called?

Stuart Grant: Thank you, Dora. I think the Amazon man's just arrived.

James Blatch: Is your dog called Dora?

Stuart Grant: Yes. So is yours, isn't it?

James Blatch: Yes.

Stuart Grant: Yes.

James Blatch: I'd forgotten that.

Stuart Grant: I didn't copy you. She's just about to take the arm off the Amazon man, so apologies. But yes, enjoying the process. And it's been interesting to see how the need for a website has become much more... There are authors that come to me and say, "Oh, I've got a book. It's on Amazon. What else do I need to do?" And there's a lot more to do.

Actually, the website is one of the most important things for people to find you and also, of course, what Mark talks about is mailing list.

James Blatch: Yes.

Stuart Grant: You want people on your mailing list and that is the place where you can send them, because you can't do that anywhere else.

James Blatch: So, now the mailing list, we always say at the beginning of 101, you don't necessarily need to have a full author website at this stage, because there's a lot going on when you're publishing your first book. But you do need at least this landing page, we call it, this page that you can direct people to where they can join your mailing list. Usually, in return for getting something like a free novella, or chapters, or something.

Stuart Grant: Yeah, exactly. And I just picked up my thread again. As I was saying, with Wix, that is all integrated. You don't have to use it. I'm not here to sell that product by the way. But it works for me as a designer, because particularly with new authors who are new to all of this and don't necessarily have that breadth of knowledge, I can say, "Well, this particular product has pretty much everything you need all in one place." And that's very useful I think, because as you've indicated, there's whole lot to think about when you start out.

James Blatch: You mentioned Wix. Just explain what that is and where it fits into what we're talking about.

Stuart Grant: Sure. Wix is a website builder that is very much what you see is what you get. So, when you drag something on screen, it moves on the screen. There's no coding involved. It's all in front of you. And it's very intuitive and easy to use. It's incredibly robust, but it basically allows you to build a website fairly quickly without having any kind of previous experience.

Obviously, there are things that you would need to learn a little bit about, but much simpler than a lot of other options out there. There are a couple of other website builders. Squarespace is another one. Obviously, the big player in a sense is WordPress, but that's a slightly different thing and there is more coding and knowledge needed for that.

And it always does make me laugh, because people say, "Oh, 30% of all websites are built on WordPress." And that kind of works, but then I say, "Well, 70% aren't." And there is a bit of snobbery still around WordPress, but these website builders are phenomenal. Really, really easy to use. And that's why I use them particularly.

I think in our 101 course, I run the course in there, or the module, on Wix and Squarespace. So, there's opportunity for authors to learn how to do it themselves. But obviously, we're all of short time. I've got a three year old, a barking dog, a busy wife, I'm a busy man. I wouldn't want to necessarily sit down and make my own website. I'm like, "There's the stuff. Can you do it for me?"

James Blatch: And I definitely don't want to do that, so I went to you.

Stuart Grant: Yes, exactly.

James Blatch: So, if people want to see a website go to jamesblatch.com.

Stuart Grant: Indeed. Yeah. I love the new cover by the way.

James Blatch: Thank you.

Stuart Grant: That's really fantastic. And actually, it brings me on to a really important point. I know you guys picked this up last week on the podcast, but book covers is... I'd say it is the linchpin of everything you are about to do in terms of starting. Again, the amount of author that come to me and say, "I want a website, but I haven't got a book cover." That makes my life very, very difficult, because everything from your first book cover informs the rest of your world.

You've got a brand emerging with your name. Mark's very much got a brand emerging with his name that appears on his book covers and it's got to then follow through onto the website. You've got to use all those things. So, those decisions are actually quite important. And honestly, you said it last week, but the book cover has got to be your number one priority. It's very difficult to come to a web designer and say, "Here's my book cover. And it's absolute shonk."

James Blatch: Yeah.

Stuart Grant: It's very difficult to say that. But as Mark indicated as well last week, you've got to be kind and sometimes it's better to tell people, because I have seen some absolute corkers. You know?

James Blatch: Yes.

Stuart Grant: Not even done in Word. Done in Paint and it's just horrendous.

James Blatch: I think we've all seen that.

Stuart Grant: Yes. And that really is important for your website, because it will help to inform the design and the branding. This is your branding plot. This is where you can start all of that growth in terms of a brand and logos, and all that kind of stuff. This is where you want to showcase all of that on your website.

One of the things I was going to say about the mailing list thing as well and the website, if you've currently got a website, this is just a little tip really, get somebody in your family or a friend to sit at the computer and look at your website with you and get them to tell you what they see.

What do they think you are expecting them to do? Watch where they go and what they read, and how the process works for signing up for the mailing list, because they will highlight some of the stress points and pain points that you probably don't realise yourself. Even if it's been designed by somebody else, just to make sure that process is really as clear as you think it is.

What do you expect is going to happen? Do I have to tick this button? Do I have to fill in my name? Do I just leave my email? What are the questions that they might come up with? So, just as an exercise, if you've got a website and you're not quite sure how it's working, get somebody to work it with you.

James Blatch: We should say that in the digital world, you do need to be aware of these resistance moments, these bump moments, because it's a numbers game online. A hundred thousand people. It's a big numbers game. And in bookshops, it's small. A hundred people come into your bookshop every day. Of those a hundred people, quite a high proportion are going to buy because that's why they went in. The digital world is not like that.

A hundred thousand people might visit a website every hour and a tiny percentage, less than 5%, 5% is very good, less than 1% very often with big companies, are going to carry out a transaction. If you have a resistance in the way, if you've got an extra step they need to take, like they have to go to the next page to put their email address in, that immediately reduces that percentage. It can halve it. So, it is being aware of that smooth path. It's a kind of new way of working, but it's something that people do have to think about.

Stuart Grant: Yeah, it really is something I recommend everybody should do. And it's always good to look at your stuff again. As you did with your cover, you suddenly go, "Oh, hold on a minute. Is this exactly what I thought it was doing?" And as you said last week in the podcast, you realised actually there was another genre field over here that reflected your cover better. So, you went with that.

We talked about the email list. And again, that is the thing that I'm talking about really as much as anything. Getting that flow to work and making sure the book goes where you think it's going to go and all the rest of it. And also shouting about websites. It's really important that you actually tell people where it is. Back matter, that is critical.

You've got to have that thing at the back, or the front, of your book that says, "Go to my website and sign up for my freebie." All of that stuff is really important. And then make sure that your website's up to date enough, and modern and contemporary to reflect the world today. Some author websites I've seen could really do with a refresh. They really look like they were built a long time ago. And it isn't that difficult and it's quite easy to make them more contemporary.

James Blatch: I love my website, Stuart. I've told you that before. I think it looks gorgeous and it looks even better now with the new cover artwork from Stuart and the new cover.

What tips would you give somebody then setting out to design their website themselves if they were going to use Squarespace, or Wix, or one of these modular sites?

Stuart Grant: Make sure you've got your ducks in a row, as it were. Start by collecting the stuff you need.

You need an author bio, a well written author bio as we mentioned earlier. Don't just have one line. Be confident. Shout about it. This is your chance to proclaim yourself.

Book covers, great book covers.

You want a facility to sign up for your mailing list. So, you need to look at an option, whether that's inside something like Wix, or aside from that, like MailChimp or MailerLite.

Think about whether you want a blog. There's the whole debate about, "Should I spend my time writing a blog, or should I spend my time writing books that make me money?" I'd suggest the latter, but lots of authors love writing a blog. So, go for it.

You want to make sure you've got a good and easy to use contact page that people can actually message you. I know Mark was asked a hundred times or more, "What order should I read your books in?" Lots of people asking that question.

When you start getting those questions, then you can start to put that on your website. I suggest you read them in this order, or whatever it might be.

A media page. If you've ever appeared on a podcast, things like that, or any audio you've got, chuck those on. If you haven't ever been on a podcast, write to somebody and ask them if you can come on it, and then stick it on your website. Tell them that you're going to put it on your website. And then potentially a nice idea that I've used a few times is to have a PDF for book clubs.

So, you create a talking points book club... I've never been in a book club, so I'm not entirely sure how they work, but I know a lot of people are. And you can provide a book club with a talking point sheet for your book. So, you can say, "Hey, if you're in a book club, why don't you read my book? And you could use this as a way of discussing the book." So, that's the sort of thing you could give away as well, as well as maybe a first chapter, or a prequel, or whatever.

So, in essence, you're looking at an author bio, the book covers, the mailing list, a blog, a contact page, and that's pretty much all you really ultimately need to make your start and claim that space.

James Blatch: Okay. So, everything like that should be available to an author starting out. It's just a case of being prepared.

Stuart Grant: Exactly. Yeah. And it's all online.

James Blatch: Do you get a bit of paper and sketch out what the pages are going to look like before you go in? I'd think that would be a helpful thing to do.

Stuart Grant: No, I'm very instinctive about it. Well, I start with a blank page and the first thing I do is upload the book cover. And then I take inspiration from that ultimately. Colours, font, everything comes from that first book cover. And in an instance like yours, you've changed the book cover, but that's fine because we've got the structure, we've got the style, we know the kind of thing we're looking for. So, it was just a case of swapping them out.

And actually yours and Mark's site are good examples of double use on the book cover. How many authors don't do this? Use the beautiful book cover that you've paid for as a backdrop. It looks stunning on both the sites. And I think Mark's actually got a distinct... It is very much like his book covers, but not actually a book cover.

But the idea of getting your designer to do you something that will work on the webpage, which again, just ties in your brand, ties in your author profile altogether. It looks beautiful. I often ask authors for a copy of their cover without the text.

James Blatch: Yeah. Let's talk about authors working with somebody like yourself, or...

What are the options if you don't want to do it yourself?

Stuart Grant: Obviously, there's things like Reedsy, which is a fantastic service. I'm very privileged to be on there. I think Ricardo has mentioned before that they only accept about 1% of applicants to their programme. So, that's great to be one of those. And so it's something like that, which is a marketplace where you can find somebody to do the work for you.

If Ricardo's listening, one thing that authors do ask me all the time is for a project manager section. All right? If you can project manage somebody's entire launch and career, there's people crying out for that. But anyway, there's Reedsy. Obviously, you can look on places like Fiverr. You can get a really good website on Fiverr.

You can obviously approach people directly if you know who they are. Just do a search for author websites. You're probably likely to find a couple of providers that way. There's people in the SPF community. You know Kevin Partner. Loads of other people making websites as well inside the community that I'm sure people can reach out to. Recommendations is always a good thing. I would always look at reviews and recommendations.

James Blatch: Yeah. And look at the work they've done.

Stuart Grant: Yeah, absolutely. Double check that what they're saying is true. But yeah, there's loads of places you can find somebody.

Or as we alluded to, you can do it yourself. Wix enables you to do that, as does Squarespace and other programmes that are out there. There's quite a few come through. And it's a much faster process now. We are all a little bit more tech savvy. We all know what we've seen online.

I think that the design can be slightly altered as well. Websites have moved from lots and lots of menus at the top where people have to click around and I get fed up with that. I don't know about you. But if you're looking at a website and you've got to click three times to get to a page, it's so annoying. So, a lot of the websites I design are actually just one page, because people are used to scrolling with their thumb. They're used to that Facebook presentation.

A lot of the stuff I do is broken down into sections and people scroll up and down to find the information, but it is all or mostly on one page. Obviously, I've just done an author who had 26 books, so that's not so possible. You've got to separate those out a bit. In three different genres as well, I hasten to add, which makes it a much bigger project. But if you've got a couple of books and you can make a nice, simple one page website where people, as you said, can sign up your mailing list, job done.

James Blatch: And you mentioned mobile, which we haven't mentioned so far. But you are very likely to design your website on a desktop, or a laptop, but ultimately, probably most views are going to come on mobile.

It's critical, isn't it, that it scales I think is the right word, it works on mobile.

Stuart Grant: Absolutely. Most... Well, I'd say all programmes where you can create a website now, they have to have mobile optimization as standard. For example, on Wix, you can toggle between the website view and the mobile view, and you can adjust them accordingly. And it is a bit of a nightmare and there is no exact science because for desktops and for mobiles, you're talking about trying to create something, one thing, that fits on a gazillion different devices.

Can you imagine how many mobile phones, iPads, God knows what there is in the world, and you've got to try and fit a website onto all of them beautifully. And thank God that these kind of softwares now help you to do that much easier. And you are right. It is absolutely fundamental that your website works on mobile. You've got to double check that.

James Blatch: What are the reasons it wouldn't work? As you say, Wix does this for you. It does the scaling. But if you put in a picture at the wrong dimensions, or something, is that the sort of reason why it would suddenly not work on mobile? Is that what you're checking for?

Stuart Grant: Yes, an alignment. You're just trying to make sure. I always try and centre align everything on a mobile view just because the difference between an iPad of 12 inches, or whatever, down to a mobile of only four or five is huge. So, if you are putting stuff in the middle of the screen, you are probably giving yourself a better chance of being seen across all those devices. So, yes, it is a difficult...

Well, it's not difficult, but you've got to think about the kind of devices that your website's going to be seen on and make sure that it does actually work. Always test on your own mobile and other people's. And sometimes there can be a difference between an Apple and an Android, or whatever. But as I say, life is made much simpler by these products that now help you to design your website on both mobile and desktop.

James Blatch: Yes. Yeah. And test, test, test I think. Send it. Don't just test it yourself. Send it to your friends.

Stuart Grant: Exactly.

James Blatch: We did that, didn't we, with an SPF once? We were getting close to publishing something. Everyone we barely know gets a copy, gets a link, and has to feedback.

Okay, so let's talk about cost. When we talk about doing it yourself, or coming to someone like you, or whatever, what can people expect to pay? What should they be budgeting for?

Stuart Grant: It varies quite a lot. I think there's stories of people paying £10,000, £20,000 for a website. There's absolutely no reason to pay that unless you have that sort of money and choose to. I think the starting price for a built for you website is probably in the region of around $500. Something like that. Maybe £500 actually, which is slightly more.

I think anywhere between $500 and a thousand dollars is where most of the web designers are sat probably. Maybe more actually. But hopefully, it's not bank breaking stuff. You are talking about giving it over to someone and they come back with you with the whole thing. It's completely done, all set up. To actually use one of the website builders like Wix, or Squarespace, you usually pay a monthly hosting fee, which is not much more than probably a hundred dollars a year, something like that. And that's still taken care of. You don't have to worry about that.

So, you still then have to pay someone to build it for you if you want to. But to do it yourself is $20. It's $10 a month if you're just paying for the hosting. That's it for one or two of these different programmes like Squarespace or Wix.

And there's resources out there. As an example, Wix and Squarespace, if you search on Google how to add an image to my website, you are likely to get 200 responses that will tell you how to do it. You are not ever going to be stuck without an answer. It's just a matter of trying to find it.

James Blatch: Hilariously, as we're talking and I brought up my website, I'm now in Wix and editing it. You know I always do little small tweaks, which you notice every now and again. But honestly, if you are interested in doing yourself, I do find Wix a very easy, convenient platform to work with. They're getting foolproof.

In the early days of Squarespace, I remember it was you almost needed to be a website designer to use the service and then it very quickly adapted itself. And now I reckon people who've never done this before in their life would make a good fist of creating a nice looking website using Wix or Squarespace themselves.

Stuart Grant: Absolutely. It's all one click stuff as well. It integrates with Google with one click. You can set up your email list inside with one click. It's all there done for you. And these programmes are very sophisticated and much more robust I suppose than they were previously.

James Blatch: I suppose one of the other things we should talk about, which is what I'm doing at the moment, is keeping it up to date. I think this is something you talked about at the beginning, thinking of it like an animal, an organic thing, because it is easy to forget it once you've done it.

Stuart Grant: Oh, absolutely. A lot of authors do. It doesn't take a lot to update it. Often, even if it's just adding a little update about your life, or if it's just writing a new blog post, or updating the book covers, or whatever it might be. I'd encourage everyone that's got a website, revisit it, go back to it, have a look, make sure it makes sense, look on different devices, make sure it's doing what you think it does and presenting your books in the way that you think it is.

Because yeah, it's so easy to shelve it and forget it, and not do anything with it, but it is the only way really, well, not the only way, but it's the main way you're going to get people onto your website. You want it to be sexy. You want it to be something that people love to look at and engage with.

James Blatch: Yeah. And you're missing an opportunity.

Stuart Grant: Yeah.

James Blatch: This is money left on the table. It's those margins that can make the difference between a profitable month or a non-profitable month. I know it sounds like a pain, doesn't it? It's one more thing to look after. Actually, it takes seconds to update.

Stuart Grant: Yeah. Or you can pay someone at a relatively low cost usually to update it for you. Just keep it updated, or whatever. And the days of having to actually go in and update the software have long gone, because they do all that for you. You're not actually updating anything like that. You're just updating the content itself. But do as you've said there. It is yours, it's important, and shout about it.

For example, on my Zoom here, when I'm normally on a call, it would say @StuartGrantUK, because that's one of my email addresses and website addresses. And you should be putting that stuff everywhere you can think of on your Facebook cover, put your web address. On your email signature, put your web address. How many of you send emails every day, but don't actually have your website address on the bottom?

James Blatch: Yeah.

Stuart Grant: All these little places can really contribute to people visiting and taking action on your site. There's a great programme actually with AppSumo, who are... They're like a rabbit hole of tech. I love it. But I think they've got a deal on at the moment for $9 for a signature builder.

James Blatch: Right.

Stuart Grant: So, if you haven't got one, $9 will get you one off of AppSumo. And that's the sort of place where you should be putting your web address to use it to its full capacity.

James Blatch: Going back to the pricing and the importance of keeping your website up to date, a good idea when you contract somebody like yourself, or find somebody on Reedsy, is to do a deal where there's a retainer maybe for the year. So, it's there on hand without you having to think, "Oh, God, I can't afford to get my website updated this month."

Stuart Grant: Exactly.

James Blatch: You've already paid a couple hundred pounds a year, whatever it is, for them to make a few minor changes each year.

Stuart Grant: Yeah. This is where I've been called out actually, because most of my work so far, and I'm heading onto about a hundred author websites now, so I've done a fair few.

James Blatch: Wow.

Stuart Grant: But I don't have that retainer scenario. I get asked nearly every time now, "Can I sign up for a support package?" So, that is something that I've got to invest in and that I've got to look at, because you're right. People are busy. They want somebody else to look after it.

James Blatch: Yeah. Well, your job now is to go to jamesblatch.com and try and work out what I've just changed during the course of this interview just to show how easy it is.

Stuart Grant: Have you broken it? That's the question.

James Blatch: I don't think I have. Well, though it's not beyond the possibility. I'm checking it out now and it looks good. I'm quite pleased with my changes. We'll see if you notice them.

Stuart Grant: I shall review and report back.

James Blatch: Yeah. Well, everyone can go on and have a look. No, honestly, I think it's a website worth looking at.

Can you give us a couple of others that you've done, other authors that you are happy for... For privacy reasons, I don't want you to disclose anything you don't want to, but are there author websites that you've built that people can go have a look at?

Stuart Grant: Oh, you've caught me on the hot there. CC Gilman is one of the latest ones that I've done, which I love. So, they're a duo from Scotland who are writing together crime fiction. What else? Goodness me.

James Blatch: CC Gilman. Where would you find that?

Stuart Grant: Oh, sorry. ccgilmartin.com. That's why you caught me on the hop.

James Blatch: CC Gilmartin.

Stuart Grant: I can't even remember the name. ccgilmartin.com. So, again, you can see on that website-

James Blatch: Oh, yeah.

Stuart Grant: ... straight away there's movement, there's energy.

James Blatch: Yes, lovely.

Stuart Grant: Storm clouds. It draws you in to look at what's going on the website. It's not just a flat offering and I've tried to use that technique for a lot of the sites I've built. Let me see here.

James Blatch: Yeah, that's a great website. Great covers.

Stuart Grant: Scott Estrella. Great guy actually as well, Scott Estrella. Which is E-S-T-R-E-L-L-A.com. Again, you've got a lot of movement, got cogs in the background going around. It was a very themed book and it's brilliant. I loved it. And it's great to work in on different kind of themes and styles as well.

James Blatch: Oh, yeah. So, scottestrella.com. Yeah, that looks great.

Stuart Grant: Yes.

James Blatch: Great. I know there are lots of others. And well, the important thing, Stuart, is where can people find you?

Stuart Grant: Well, either through Reedsy. That's a great platform to find freelancers and service providers. So, you can just find me at Reedsy. If you do a search for website, I'll come up. I think I'm actually the second highest rated website designer now with 42 five star reviews.

James Blatch: I expect nothing less.

Stuart Grant: Which is brilliant. So, some of them like me. All of them like me. And I'm chasing one. Yeah, she's on 43. I'm on 42. I'm coming for you.

James Blatch: We'll send the boys around.

Stuart Grant: Or I can take you through my CRM, my own system, which is digitalauthorstoolkit.com. So, digitalauthorstoolkit.com, which is primed for a rebrand because that's way too much of a mouthful. And there will be hopefully some other news about that as well coming. Obviously I'm going to be at the SPF live, which I can't wait for and I'm really excited to be there.

Hopefully, I can talk to some people in person. But yeah, if anyone wants to reach out with any questions, or anything like that, either on the SPF community, or digitalauthorstoolkit.com, or Reedsy, or wherever, I'm around. You'll probably find me if you look hard enough, or not even that hard. @StuartGrantUK everywhere.

James Blatch: Okay, brilliant. Stuart, thank you very much indeed for spending the time with us. Thank you for filling us in a little bit on the importance and the wheres and whyfors of websites. And I think the fact that I've been editing mine during this interview and it looks good, I'll tell you, is testament to the fact that this is something that is very doable.

I would always personally employ someone like you to do it, because I think that's your job, your expertise, but the idea that I can go in without having to bother you, or very quickly and think I just want to slightly different tagline and do that, that just goes to show there's a medium between the two of outsourcing and doing it yourself.

Stuart Grant: Yeah, there'll always be things. That as I've worked on a hundred sites on wix now, there'll always be things I know that you don't.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Stuart Grant: And that's why you might use somebody like me.

James Blatch: There's a lot Stuart that you know that I don't.

Stuart Grant: Oh, yeah, that goes without saying but specifically about Wix.

James Blatch: Yes. Good.

Stuart Grant: So, yeah, that's why you would use somebody who's experienced in that field probably.

James Blatch: Brilliant. Okay. Stuart, thank you so much.

Stuart Grant: My pleasure. Thanks again for having me.

James Blatch: There you go, Stuart Grant. We should say Stuart's been a part of the SPF team for a few years, for years, so a pillar of the community.

Mark Dawson: He has, yeah. He's been valuable member of the team and also works with us on Hello Books as well. Stuart is a good guy. Met him actually very early on. He took the 101 course and I remember we went to London to do some testimonies. And Stuart was one of the first people to do that and that must be five years ago now.

James Blatch: In his Bloomsbury studio.

Mark Dawson: Yes, that's right. Yeah. He's been around ever since then. So, a valuable member of the team. We're all big Stuart fans.

James Blatch: They were great, those videos. So, the white background, they were quite funny with Sheena and...

Mark Dawson: That's right.

James Blatch: I got lots of people. Sasha. Was Sasha there?

Mark Dawson: Steven Moore. Yes.

James Blatch: Steven Moore, yes.

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: Yeah, yeah. Really fun. Early days of SPF. We've come a long way since then.

Mark Dawson: We have come a long way. Absolutely.

James Blatch: Okay, right. So, that is it. Thank you very much indeed, Stuart, who will have the privilege of doing some work in the background for this podcast that he's on, because that's what he does every week. He's part of our team here. Thank you to the rest of the team as well. And thank you, Mark, for being here. All that remains for me to say... Is it this a goodbye from him?

Mark Dawson: And before I say that, if you want to speak to Stuart, he'll be at the live show. So, if you want to come on and get a ticket, Stuart is actually one of the sponsors and he will have a booth. If you want to talk about websites, it's a good chance to do it. Tickets are at selfpublishingformula.com/spslive.

James Blatch: I hope we've got some left by the time this podcast goes out.

Mark Dawson: Possibly, yeah, because we've a month ago when this one goes out for the actual event in five weeks or so. So, yeah, get a ticket as soon as you can if you want to come. So, yes, I'll say it's a goodbye from him and a goodbye from me. See you next time.

James Blatch: Yeah, goodbye.

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