How to Build an Author Website: Are you doing it right?

When I decided to run the Social Media Monday series, one of the most difficult things for me was figuring out where to even begin. Social media (in case you haven’t noticed) is huge. The platforms, communities, groups, hangouts, and places to see and be seen are endless. Even if you pare it down to just a few as I’ve personally done, there’s still an enormous amount to learn…and to do. But no matter how many platforms you ultimately decide you want to be on, there’s one key thing you need to remember: they all lead back to one place—your website.

Whether you’re just starting out as a writer or you’re an international best seller, it’s critical that you have a place on the web you can call your own (Don’t believe me? Check out this post by book blogger Sharon Stogner of I Smell Sheep). And published or not, you need to have it sooner rather than later. Does it need to be fancy? No. Expensive? Not at all. There are dozens of website builders out there that are easy enough to use for even the least technically inclined among us, many of them free.

Once you’ve decided whether you’ll do it yourself or hire a website designer, here are some tips on how to build an author website that will help you claim your place on the Internet:

  1. DO keep it relevant. Anyone landing on your page should be able to tell at a glance what you’re all about. Choose colors and fonts that reflect your genre (pink may not speak well to horror, for instance). If you have books published, put the covers (at least your latest) on the front page above the fold; this means the cover(s) should be visible without the reader having to scroll down to see them. Two sites that do this well belong to Shayla Black and Vanessa Kelly.
  2. DO make it readable. Avoid clutter such as super-busy background patterns that make it hard to read the text, or too many things going on in your side bar. Likewise, limit your color template to just a few colors and leave lots of white space on the page (this means no big, long blocks of text). When it comes to holding a reader’s attention (as vs. driving them away screaming), less really is more. Also: white text on a dark background may look cool, but it’s very hard for many people to read. If you want a dark background, use an overlay such as Kelley Armstrong has done.
  3.  DON’T use Flash (the animated stuff you see on some sites). It’s slow to load on some connections and many readers won’t wait. It also doesn’t load properly on many mobile devices, which are becoming increasingly popular.
  4. DON’T use music or sound effects that launch automatically. If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to open such a site pre-coffee with your speakers on full blast, I won’t have to explain why. If you haven’t, just trust me on this.
  5. DO include a bio or About Me page. Readers want to know about the person behind the site, and behind the books. You don’t need to tell your life story (remember, no big long blocks of text!), but do include at least a few personal things such as hobbies, what makes you an expert in what you’re writing, etc. Some writers also include a downloadable press kit as an added feature.
  6. DO provide contact information. Please, please, please put this right up on your menu as a separate item. Readers shouldn’t have to go digging for the information! If you want to include your contact information on your About Me page, that’s fine, but do still give it a separate place on the menu. If you have an agent or publicist, the contact page is a good place to put their information as well.
  7. DO include Social Media links: If you’re on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Goodreads, etc., make it easy for your readers to find and connect with you by providing visible buttons they can click on (mine are in the top right hand corner of all the pages on my site, in case you’re looking for them).
  8. DO include BUY LINKS: This seems like a no-brainer, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone to an author’s site where I’ve had to either hunt for buying information or haven’t been able to find it at all. Buy links need to be easy to find and prominent (you should include them wherever you display a book’s cover or information), or else you risk losing readers. Marketing hint: if you’re using buttons, consider making them red. According to Precision Intermedia’s Psychology of Color, “If you want to draw attention, use red. It is often where the eye looks first. Red is the color of energy. It’s associated with movement and excitement. It’s […] perfect to get people excited.”  (For a great infographic on the psychology of color, check out Kissmetric’s How Do Colors Affect Purchases?)
  9. And finally, DO optimize your website for mobile users. The number of people accessing the Internet via their smartphones is growing by the day, and there is nothing more frustrating than having to zoom in and out of a website in search of something. Do your site a favour by eliminating that annoyance–and do yourself a favour by not losing potential readers to it!

Try to think of your website as somewhat organic. It will most likely grow and change with your career over time. My own site is now in its third iteration and I still try to take an occasional—and objective—look at it to see if there’s something I’ve overlooked or that I can improve on. I’m currently having buy buttons added to the home page beneath each book cover, for instance, and I recently moved the “Subscribe to this Blog” button from the bottom of the page to the side bar and made it red to draw attention (hint, hint 😉 ).

So…questions? Comments? Have I missed something you think is a ‘must-have’ on an author’s web site? Share in the comments below!


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2 responses to “How to Build an Author Website: Are you doing it right?”

  1. rhondadenisejohnson Avatar

    This is good stuff. You might want to add a picture of your book covers and a brief description of the books. A picture of the author will go a long way, as well.

    1. Linda Avatar
      Linda

      Excellent suggestions, Rhonda! I’d considered those givens, but you’re absolutely right…they should have been included. I’ll update the post in my spare (!) time. 😉 Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! 🙂

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