Welcome to part 2 of our guide to planning and creating your author website!
One of the most glorious things about having your own website—aside from the tremendous sense of accomplishment, marketing opportunities, and a chance to sell your books and keep 100 percent of your royalties—is the very simple and very powerful fact that your website is (at least for now) the only place where you have full control of the content, visuals, branding, and more.
In part 1 of our guide, we talked about the benefits of having an author website, what it should do, and how to begin to set it up. In this second part, we’re going to discuss content and the most important things you should include on your site.
A few things before you get started:
Keep it simple. Some authors can get carried away with cramming as many things onto their site as possible. Keep in mind that when people visit a site, sometimes they are only there for a few seconds. Having a clean, simple site will make it easy for visitors to focus on your key offerings. So think about the most important messages you have for your readers. Ideally, you want to encourage them to sign up for your newsletter, follow you on social media, read your blog, and of course, buy your book.
Stay on brand. Rather than trying to match your site’s look to the look of your current book, choose one font and two complementary colors for your overall author brand, which should match the tone and mood of the genre you write in. The trick to creating effective branding is to decide what emotions and messages you want your work to convey and then to use only language and graphics that reinforce that communication.
Be professional and genuine. Just as your visual branding reflects professionalism, so should your language. Try to stick with your own voice as much as possible and focus on your messaging: buy my books, read my blog, follow me on social media, etc. Avoid any language that is overly self-congratulatory (let your work speak for itself), aggressive, or self-deprecating.
Consider incorporating SEO. Search engine optimization is an important part of directing traffic to your site from search engines. It’s effective and fairly simple to do. Not sure where to start? Check out some simple SEO for Beginners sites to get started.
Setting Up Your Pages
1) Your Home Page
By far the most important page of your website, your home page should be simple and easy to navigate, and allow your readers to find the most important things they need without having to click or scroll down. It should feature:
- Your name: Make sure there’s no doubt that they have reached your page. Some authors may choose to include a short line about themselves such as “bestselling author of [TITLE]” or “award-winning fantasy author” or something similar. Keep it short, and try to avoid having your name take up too much real estate.
- Menu bar: The menu bar should be easy to see and use, and allow visitors to quickly browse through your pages.
- Your most recent book: This is an opportunity to sell visitors a copy of your latest book. Ensure that the cover is displayed clearly, along with the title, any blurbs or accolades (“bestselling” or “featured in [publication]”), and a “buy now” or “pre-order” button. Is your book on sale on your site or are you running a promotion? That’s worth mentioning too. Some authors create a visual that invites readers into the book and pair it with a short, catchy description.
- Social links: Make sure it’s easy for visitors to follow you on any of your social media platforms. Most site templates will allow you to include these in your menu bar or in the page footer.
- Newsletter sign-up: Newsletters are a great way to stay in touch with your readers and to let them know about updates and any new books or promotions you have going on. Readers are unlikely to return to your site regularly (unless they are addicted to your blog), so a newsletter is a fantastic means of reminding them to visit again.
TIP: Many website templates offer the potential of a rotating graphic at the top of your site. Take advantage of this and highlight your top priorities, such as your latest book, any contests or promotions you’re running, news/updates, or an invitation to engage on social media.
2) Your Bibliography
Depending on how many books you’ve written or have for sale, you may want to tailor how you present your books:
- If you have just one book: Consider creating a specific landing page (a separate page that is designed just for that book) that expands on whatever you’ve highlighted on the home page: any additional accolades, review blurbs, or key sales points. It should also include the book’s front cover and complete book description, as it appears on the back cover or jacket flap. And, as always, ensure that you have a “buy now” or “pre-order” button. (It’s also wise to include a full list of retailers who are selling your book. Readers can be selective depending on what platform they’re using to read, and other readers may prefer to support indie bookstores rather than big box retail/online vendors.)
- If you have a few books: You can create a landing page for each book or list them all on one page. Make sure each appears in order from newest to oldest publication date. For each title, include an image of the front cover, a book description (either the full description or an abridged version), and a “buy now” button. If you have review blurbs, include your favorite one or two.
- If you have a series: Authors often like to keep their series separate from stand-alone titles or from other series they’ve written. You may choose to include your series titles on a single bibliography page, or you can create a series-specific landing page that includes sales materials and is branded specifically for the series.
To generate excitement, consider offering your visitors something for free. Invite them to get to know your book or series by linking to an excerpt or a short download. If you’re feeling really creative, you can design a fun quiz or other game that’s a chance to win prizes, like perhaps a copy of your latest book.
TIP:Have a book trailer or an animated cover? This is a great place to feature it!
3) About the Author
One of the most important parts of your page, this is a chance for readers to find out a little more about you. You’ll want to provide a bio that is timely, accurate, well written, and interesting to read. It’s wonderful to offer some colorful details that give a glimpse into your personality, but don’t feel like you need to divulge anything you’d prefer to keep private.
Consider including an author photo. An engaging author photo on your bio page is a great way to add a little more of a personal touch.
TIP: Keep an eye on length here: If your bio is too short, readers won’t feel like they know anything about your journey (and worse, any members of the press looking for information will come up short). If it’s too long, readers may get bored. Aim for a bio that is roughly 250–500 words.
4) Your Blog
Looking to engage your readers a little more? Think about creating a blog, where you can share all manner of things with your audience, such as your writing process, how your book is coming along, excerpts, personal stories, news, and more. It’s also a unique opportunity to invite readers along on your journey; it allows them to get involved by offering you feedback through the comments section (if you want it) and lends itself to opportunities to interact, like letting readers vote on character names.
A blog counts as original content, which means it can be featured on your social media posts and used to get readers to sign up for the newsletter and to remind them about any book promotions or appearances. The caveat? Any content posted on your blog counts as being “published.” This means if you post an original short story on your blog, some editors might not be as inclined to publish it in print. So if you have any intentions of selling your blog content, keep that in mind.
5) Events & Appearances
Not necessarily a must-have, and certainly not applicable to all authors, adding an “events” page is most effective if you are actively on a book tour, making appearances at major events, attending book fairs, and doing readings. Including an events page allows readers to look for opportunities to meet you or hear you read your work. However, if you’re not active, an empty events page can look a little sad, so skip this if you’re not making appearances right now.
6) Press & Media
As I mentioned briefly above, readers might not be the only people coming to your site. If all goes well, you may have members of the press or even reviewers stopping by your site to find out more information about you. In some cases, they’ll be looking for things like a full biography, press releases, how to contact you for interviews, positive reviews from other sources, and high-resolution images of your book covers and your very best, most-professional-looking author photo. Make life as easy on them as possible by providing one page with everything they need to write about you.
Sometimes readers want to be able to email you with feedback, praise, or even criticism. Maybe they want to invite you to their school, book club, or local writers’ group. Whatever the case may be, you’ll want anyone who visits your site to be able to contact you. However, you also don’t want to post your personal email address, which can not only be picked up by spammers but may create a safety issue in the wrong hands. This is where a contact form comes in handy, and you can decide who to respond to without compromising your email address or personal safety.
Need Some Inspiration?
Much like your book, your author website is like your own little part of the universe that is just about you. Here, you have full control over what your readers, fans, and visitors see. You can draw inspiration from the things in your life, which keeps your website true to who you are. And ultimately, isn’t that what we all hope for? To give our readers a chance to discover who we are.
As we wrap up our Author Website Adventure, we’re ending with a couple of great blogs and articles I’ve found that highlight author websites that really work. Check out how bestselling authors interact with readers, and how self-published authors engage with visitors. Hopefully you’ll find a few tips and tricks … and a whole lot of inspiration!
Hannah Guy lives in Toronto and is a professional writer and copywriter who specializes in books, books, and more books. Follow her on Twitter at @hannorg.