We have some bad news. Even if you have the world’s greatest social media interactions and thousands of newsletter subscribers, you’re still missing a key marketing component: the author website.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a killer Facebook page or YouTube channel can take the place of an author website. Having a dedicated URL means something to readers and publishers.
- You’re the real deal and that you’re here for the long haul
- There is an ever-ready source of information about you and your books
- There is a reliable way to contact you
- Your content and style can be previewed before someone buys your book
So what should your author site look like? What content is most important? We’re glad you asked! Kimberly Grabas authored the post 11 Author Website Must Have Elements, which we suggest for anyone beginning to build their site.
This week we are excerpting Ms. Grabas’ first 5 essential author website elements here:
1. Designing Your Author Website: Ensure a Good First Impression
Your author website is an essential piece to the successful book marketing puzzle, but as always, first impressions matter. It is tempting to just get something up quickly, that requires little cost, and get back to the joyful torture of writing your novel.
However, while it’s certainly possible to set up your website quickly and with relatively little expense, it is extremely important to remember that your website represents who you are and what you have to offer.
A website will help to increase not only your book’s visibility across the internet, but yours as well. In many cases, it may be your future fans first impression of you–especially if you have not yet published. Make sure that your site reinforces the image you wish to portray.
With your author brand in mind, ask yourself the following questions about your current or new author website:
- Will people know what I write within seconds?
- Does the voice, tone, attitude and mood of the site resonate with my ideal reader?
- Will they understand the page they are on and what it’s about?
- Will they know what to do next?
- Does the site appear credible?
- Is it clear why they should buy my book or subscribe to free updates?
- What does the site provide the reader?
Just like it’s important to have fresh eyes editing your novel, ask others for their answers to the above questions and get their opinions on the first impressions your site gives rise to. You might be surprised at their answers!
As you design your site, keep both aesthetics and functionality in mind. You don’t need to run out and hire a $12,000 designer to have a professional looking site, but do keep the following in mind:
- Your site should look clean and uncluttered. Less is more, especially in your sidebar. And white space is your friend.
- Your site is polished, legible (go for clear, not clever) and spell checked. Choose larger font sizes and colors that are easy to read. Light fonts on dark backgrounds or minimal contrast between font color and backgrounds are difficult to read.
- Keep navigation easy and clear, so your readers can find the important stuff.
- Use color to draw attention to select elements. For example, pick one color to be your “action” color. Whenever you want a reader to take action by clicking a link or subscribing, ensure you use that color only for the link or button, and no where else.
- Avoid a chaotic mix of colors. Instead pick two to four colors for your design template and don’t try to make everything stand out–then nothing will.
- Avoid anything unnecessary like Flash (Apple currently doesn’t support Flash), animated backgrounds or music. If your site takes a long time to load, or doesn’t work on a mobile device (iPad), you will lose a large number of visitors to your site.
- Keep elements consistent from page to page.
- Is your site branded for longevity? Is it book/genre specific or limiting, given your future writing plans? You do not want to rebrand or redesign the next time you publish.
- Remember, your site has to be compatible with different browsers and devices, so check how things look on multiple browsers, tablets and phones.
- Create content that is useful, engaging and well organized. Your posts and copy must be easy to scan. (Ugh, I know! As a fellow writer who bleeds over every word, I feel your pain!) People read differently online, so use bulleted lists, section headers and short paragraphs to convey your message, and learn the importance of writing a magnetic headline.
2. About/Bio Page
About pages are among the most frequently visited pages on the internet. Your readers want to know more about you, and this is the place to tell them.
Even as a visitor is delving into what you’re all about, what they are really thinking is WIIFM? (What’s in it for me?) Keep this in mind as you incorporate some of these ideas into your about page:
- Consider having a professional headshot and short blurb from your homepage with a link to your About page for more information.
- Break your About page into sections. Derek Halpern of Social Triggers does a great job of this. Here is what he recommends:
1. Start with a persuasive headline, that lets your visitor know what they can expect.
2. Reassure your readers that they are in the right place and tell them what your site will give them.
3. Strengthen your credibility with some testimonials, reader quotes or other forms of social proof (more on this below).
4. Tell your personal story. Frame your content around what led you to writing, why you write the kind of books you do, what you love about it. Make sure your personality shines through! You can also include your writing credentials and professional associations.
5. If a visitor gets to this point in your about page, you’ve got them interested. Ask them to join your email list, and provide a link to your books, services or other products.
Here are more ideas:
- What do you want to know about your favourite author? Include that.
- Keep your About page and Bio up to date.
- Link to your Media Kit/Press page if you have one.
- Be personal, but be careful not to over share; stay professional.
- For more tips on creating a fantastic about page, check out this post from WriteToDone or get some ideas from these great examples of About pages from Smashing Magazine.
3. Contact Information
It’s surprising how difficult authors will make it for their readers (media, agents, publishers…) to contact them. There might be a tiny email address buried at the bottom of their website or noted on some obscure page deep within their blog. DO NOT make your visitors hunt for your contact information!
If your goal is to engage with your readers online, don’t play hard to get.
Make it as easy as possible for someone to get a hold of you. Here’s what to do:
- Have a contact tab in your top main menu that leads to a page with your preferred ways to be contacted. Don’t list every possible way you can be found, just the best ways. If you use a contact form, make sure it’s simple and you’re only asking for the info you require to get back to that person. If you note your email address, use yourname[dot]com to avoid spam harvesters.
- You can also encourage your readers to get in touch with you via the social platform(s) you are most active on.
- Provide multiple ways for people to contact, follow and Like you. It’s not your readers’ job to find you. It’s your job to be where your readers are.
4. Email Sign Up/Updates
It is never too early to start collecting email subscribers. Early sign ups are the most likely to be your biggest fans and most ardent supporters. These are the people that will forward your new releases and insider updates to their friends, evangelize you on Twitter, attend your events or push up your sales rank on Amazon when they hurry to get your new book.
I highly recommend using Aweber to manage your email list. Using a high quality, industry leader for your email list management is important to ensure your emails get to your fans and not their spam boxes. It’s easy to use, with tons of step by step videos, and very helpful customer service if you get stuck. And putting your form on your site is as easy as copying and pasting.
A few additional tips:
- Don’t panic! You do not have to produce a newsletter every week. Catherine Ryan Howard at Catherine, Caffeinated makes a point of letting you know up front that “nothing much happens… an email about once a month will cover it…” Just keep in mind that you should not be ‘selling’ something every time (and the only time) you contact your subscribers.
- Just an email address, or first name and email address is enough info. You don’t want to scare people off by asking for more.
- Your email optin box should be bigger and bolder than other elements on the page, but don’t overdo it.
- Make all links and buttons your ‘action’ color (as above). And make sure your links and buttons look clickable.
- Consider including a signup incentive, like a promo code for your latest book, a bonus chapter, a sneak preview of your next book, or a free chapter from a different character’s POV.
Social proof, testimonials and positive quotes from fans and reviewers can go a long way in increasing your credibility and authority with visitors to your author website.
Place real, short and powerful testimonials on your site. Include positive reviews, quotes from fan mail, notable media coverage, and if you have a significant following on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Wattpad and so on, note it.
Great locations for your fan testimonials are your About page, Homepage and on your sidebar, just under your email sign up form.
Come back next week for the remainder of this comprehensive list of must-have author website elements.
Keep in mind that Certa Publishing is here to help, no matter where you are in the process of building your author site. We can recommend who to partner with for website design or simply look over the one you’ve already built. We’d love to hear from you!