It’s safe to say not all author websites are created equally, but some must-haves for author websites can’t afford to be ignored. As a whole, the elusive group of creatures known as authors tend not to be the most technically-minded folks on the planet. They’d rather be making up stories, daydreaming, or drinking coffee or booze than tending to their author website. Not to mention it can be quite the hassle to find time to tweak one’s website in the middle of tending to all of life’s incessant demands. Yet, it’s hard to escape the crucial role a website plays to any author’s career.

This year, I will be covering blogging tips for authors, target readers, local marketing, and marketing audiobooks. Feel free to explore Word Bank’s archive of marketing posts. In particular, you might find the more technically minded Author Website Checklist of interest.

Must-Haves for Author Websites

Chances are (unless you’re an SEO expert), your author website isn’t going to drum up a huge amount of traffic that will result in many visitors buying your book. However, an author website is essential for growing your platform and for connecting with readers who want to know more about you and your work. Think of an author website as an online calling card. It’s your point of contact with the world. As such, it’s in your best interest to make sure the site provides a great user experience.

Most Recent Book Featured on Landing Page

The benefit of a static landing page over a list of blog posts or an about page means you can feature your latest book cover, a blurb, and brief biographical info. Is your call to action clear? You want to to entice visitors to either buy your most recent release or perhaps download its opening chapters for free. If you’ve written a series, consider offering the first title for free. This is a way to capture email addresses so you can stay connected with your fans.

Genre-Specific Site Design

Customize your site to align with the your genre so visitors can surmise this at a glance. If you wave the I-write-in-five-genres proudly, a top-notch website is the least of your worries. Use complementary colors along with easy to read and sizable font faces. Take advantage of white space and images, but avoid busy animation, image sliders, or audio. You site needs to load fast, or else you run the risk of visitors clicking away.

Email List Sign-up Form(s)

Beyond setting up hosting and choosing a website template, sign-up forms for free downloads in conjunction with newsletter or post delivery via email are a must. See this post for newsletter tips. It’s best to use a service like MailChimp to capture email addresses because you will have access to stats on opens and clicks, not to mention the ability to segment your audience for various messages.

Bio/About Page, Contact Form, Social Media

Consider going with a shorter user-friendly bio that can be digested at a glance, followed by a more detailed version. Contact forms are generally more inviting than listing your email address, so get comfortable using them. And for the love of all that is social media, have you made it easy to share your posts once read and to follow you on various social media platforms? Does your Twitter handle show when a post is shared?

To Blog or Not to Blog?

Only maintain a blog if doing so doesn’t get in the way of your “real” writing. Interacting with potential readers can be a great way to build community, but it’s also time consuming. A quarterly or monthly newsletter is a must to stay connected with fans, but a blog is an author’s personal choice. Regularly published posts do help keep a website continually discoverable by search engines, but you’re more likely to find readers via other marketing means.

picture of book and seedling from iStock

Books, Products, Services, and Testimonials

Make sure to provide a page that features all of your books. Kudos to you if you’ve set up your own online bookstore, but at the very least, include links to the retailers that sell your titles. Also include a web page focused on any products or services you provide. If you get decent traffic, it might serve you to look into starting an affiliate storefront. Testimonials and reviews can either be placed on an appropriate page or given a page of their own.

Author Media Kit

Make it as easy as possible for reviewers, interviewers, etc. to find and use your author photo, book covers, and book-related information such as appearances. Consider including a table of contents to ease navigation. There’s no need to place your bio, etc. in two places. Merely include a link to the associated page. None of this vital information should have to be hunted for. Creating the ultimate author media kit is time well spent.   

Respond to Readers

Take the time to get back to readers who write to you. Whether it’s a shoutout on Twitter, a blog comment, or an email, make it a priority to connect to let that fan know you have read their message. This is a must until you’re so inundated with fan mail that it would be impossible to respond individually to each one. Chances are you are a ways off from that!

Avoid Turning the Site into a Huge Sales Pitch

Please, whatever you do, don’t constantly remind readers to buy your book or to please post a review. This is extremely cheesy and spammy and wears thin very quickly. On the other hand, do whatever you can to make your book appealing to readers in other ways. If you do blog, consider writing about subjects related to your book whether its fiction or nonfiction. Be helpful and authentic. That will help sell your book.

Extras!

This might include things like free short stories, book-related pictures or illustrations, or videos. Always try to add the most value possible to keep your readers coming back for more. Such freebie may be posted on your website or perhaps only made available as a download or as exclusive newsletter content. 

What else might you add to the list of must-haves for author websites? Are there any author websites you’ve visited that you feel are particularly well done? Consider sharing in the comments below.

Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2018. Posts may contain affiliate links. Image Credit: Book and Seedling.

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