Last week, I explained the bare minimums of creating a brand for yourself as an author. I mentioned how logos and color schemes are vital starters, but you’ve got to take them into every aspect of how you interact with the public. I made it clear that while the brand must eventually be comprehensive – covering everything from the clothes you wear to the look of your covers, and even infiltrating specific words and how you use them in public – it doesn’t have to start out all-encompassing.

In today’s post, we’ll take a look at the most basic ways your brand must be executed as a self-published author today. There are a million ways to make a brand work for you, but these are square one. Self-published authors and avid readers of all-things-indie primarily exist in a digital space. So you can imagine that the first two ways you should apply your brand are two of the first nigh ubiquitous ways the web is used: websites and email.

Web Spinning

Let me say it plainly: you need a website. Pure and simple, no two ways about it. More to the point, you need a website that’s on-brand. Just like the brand, while there are a million things websites can do, you really only need it to do a small number of those things.

A barebones author website that does everything you need it to do will have the following:

  • About the Author complete with links to your Facebook page and Twitter handle
  • Book(s) synopsis/description page with covers and links to all the stores where a reader can find your work
  • Contact page. This is arguably the single most important page on your website. Make sure it not only has a field to send a message, but a signup field to capture emails for your newsletter and new-release announcements. This is GOLD.

That’s it. Three pages. Blogs, analytics, forums, Twitter widgets, and a hundred other things are nice or fun, but they aren’t necessary. If you’re just starting out, resist the urge to overcomplicate things.

This simplicity will also keep the cost down. But even so, you should expect a similar range as your branding, $500-$2500 (with one of our own Partners coming in just under $800 as of this post’s writing). I will renew the same caveats about cut-rate deals I gave in the last post about graphic designers to include web designers.

Monkeying with Email

The last thing your basic marketing plan needs is a way to make use of the email addresses your site captures. You’re going to use these periodic contacts (but not too often!) to remind people–people who liked your work enough to visit your website and signup–that you exist. You’ll do this with:

  • Free short stories or novellas (for preference, these will tie into your most popular series)
  • Contest announcements
  • Personal appearance announcements, both online or in person
  • Whatever else you think will be interesting or valuable and will remind your fans that you’re still alive while you work on the next novel

If you aren’t sure how to manage this, check out Mail Chimp. Mail Chimp has a good, easy-to-use service that will let you manage up to 2,000 subscribers for free. If you get more fans than that, it’s definitely worth it to invest actual money into their service or research another paid option.

Okay, Then What?

“But, Josh,” you’re screaming at your screen, “that can’t be all you have to say about marketing! Isn’t it your jam? What about banner ads? Facebook boosts? Google AdWords? Blog tours?”

We’ll get to it. All of it. I promise. Eventually. We’ve only got so many words per post and I’m not a wizard. I have to try some of these things out for myself before I can advise you on them. Marketing is a deep, deep well, but you can trust that this post is a great first sip.

That wraps up our Costs of Self-Publishing 101! I’ve given some advice, some suggestions, and outright told you when not to trust some guy on the internet for help. I hope you’re coming out of this series a little more business savvy than you went in. And if you think I’m just plain full of it about any of the above, say so in the comments. Let the discussion continue, and we’ll see you next tim