Essential Elements in an Author’s Website
We are writers. We love to create stories out of words and share them with others. It is the aspect of our hobby or, in some cases, career that we get excited about. Yet there is a necessity that beckons to us all eventually: the need to build or strengthen our Author Platform. I know, some of you just cringed as you read that. Perhaps you, like me, have been avoiding that area of your writing career. You might have some semblance already started, such as a Facebook Author Page or a Twitter Account. Those are important, but today I want to talk about your website.
You don’t have one? There is assignment number one: make one. If you already have one, there are some things that you need to check through in order to ensure your website provides an easy and enjoyable experience. After all, if they are checking out your website you have an audience that is one step closer to buying your book. If things aren’t easy for them, you might find that you will lose that reader before they ever get a chance to read your work. While building my own author website, here are four things that I have learned through my own investigation of websites and research on what should go into an author’s website.
1. Let the reader know who you are and what you write
This shouldn’t just be hidden under an “About Me” tab on the website, even though you should have that as well. You are marketing yourself, so that should be at the forefront of your website in some fashion. Consider having your homepage lead off with the same author blurb you would include inside of a book, and having your “About Me” page a place where the reader can go to get a more in-depth look at who you are as an author. Additionally, you should let your reader know what it is that you write, either listed as part of that short bio (i.e. “author of science fiction and fantasy”) or through the design of the website. If you are a sci-fi writer, you can design your website with a sci-fi theme. If you are a multi-genre author, even on a minor basis (for instance, I primarily write fantasy but I have also dabbled in sci-fi), it may be best to have a neutral theme on the website. After all, some readers might discover you first through that dabbling genre and you would want to encourage readers to experience everything you write, not just one area of it.
As a short aside, unless you plan on only writing in one genre, with every story and book taking place in the same setting, your website should be named after, and center around, you as an author rather than your fictional world. Even if your current works all center in that same universe and genre, you may have to restructure everything later on if you decide to branch into new territory, potentially losing the readers who are already used to finding you through that previous website. Making yourself the brand, rather than the books as the brand, will ensure you can keep the same website, etc. for the length of your career.
2. Make it easy for the reader to find out what books you have available and where they can buy a copy
In today’s e-Commerce world, it is essential to have links to where your reader can buy your books. Nothing could be more frustrating to a reader than not being able to buy your book. The ideal, of course, would be that they could buy the book directly on your website. But even providing helpful links to all locations where it can be purchased (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, the publisher’s website, etc.) will allow your reader to be able to click once to go to a page where they can obtain your book in the format they prefer. Yes, you should have a link to both Paperback and eBook copies on each location where both formats are available. Bonus points if you indicate the current pricing listed on each location so that your reader can find the best value. Don’t make your reader have to work hard to be able to read your books. The easier it is to find what you’ve written, and where to purchase a copy, the better.
3. Keep current content cycling onto the website
I found that I was committing this sin today. I was updating my website and found I had a listing for a book that didn’t have a firm title, and just mentioned coming November 2016. Well, the book has been released and has a title. But anyone who went to that page prior to today may have left without being able to buy that book. Not only does this tie in with the second thing on this list, but it also is a trust-building aspect. If your website is 3-6-9-12 months out of date somewhere, they may question how active you still are as a writer and if your work is still worth pursuing. Make sure your information is not only current, but also provide new content. This doesn’t have to be in the form of a regular blog post, although those can certainly help. But perhaps a monthly, or bi-monthly, progress update on what you are working on and when they can expect to see something new. A website that has recent content shows that you are still an active author.
4. Give them an easy way to connect with you and entice them to stay connected.
Your readers shouldn’t have to struggle to find the page where they can connect with you, whether via email, social media, or any other avenue. Have at least one primary method, such as a newsletter or email, that appears on a sidebar or footer for every page and have your full range of contact info on the main page and your “About Me” page. Just like the philosophy behind making it easy to buy your books, you want to apply that to your interactions. Make sure that you monitor those places on a regular basis, too, so that you can respond to messages from someone who is interested in your writing. One positive interaction could earn you a devoted reader for a lifetime, so responding in a reasonable amount of time could pay dividends. Yet they won’t be able to reach you if they can’t find out how.
People get desensitized to clutter, even digital clutter. We’ve all signed up for emails or liked pages that, after a while, we stopped paying attention to. Those things stopped adding value to us, as a consumer, so we started to ignore them and then, ultimately, unsubscribed. Depending on the platform, you may need to send regular updates (such as on social media) or just occasional ones (such as emails). But give them something that is exclusive, whether it is fun and genuine interaction on a Facebook fan page or exclusive content via newsletters. Having a way to be connected with your readership is a great way to alert them when something new comes out, when your writing is available at a bargain price, and to simply keep them engaged in between books. If you readers don’t see the value, they won’t stay on that list for very long and you’ve gone from having a captive audience to a lost audience.An #author website is essential to #marketing you & your #books. @AuthorDWiley… Click To Tweet
So there you have it, four things I’ve been working toward applying to my own author’s website. What are some of the things you’ve discovered in creating your website? Any other tips you’d pass along to a website rookie to help them get started?