Hello all! Last Monday we talked a little about getting started on your author website. We discussed picking your platform and looking into hosts, the difference between Wordpress.org and Wordpress.com (for a more detailed comparison, you can go here). Today I'm going to go over some of the essentials.
Before I started my website, I visited hundreds of author websites. Not just in the M/M Romance genre. I looked up authors from various genres, from the big names to brand new authors. I checked out their pages, made a list of what I thought were key elements. I also spotted a lot of things missing which were they implemented would make their sites much stronger. I also did a poll where I asked readers what they wanted from an author's website. Why? Because: Your website is not for you. It's for your readers. I think that's where some authors go wrong.
You author website is your hub. Your online home. It's where you give information and connect with readers. Everything you provide should be done so with the reader in mind. You'd be stunned by how many author sites I came across that didn't have a Books (or similarly titled) page. I heard you gasp from here. Your blog should also either have a Books page or a link to your Books page. You and your current readership might know what you've written, but what about new readers?
What should you put in your Books page? It's up to you how you lay it out, but whatever you do, make sure your information is easy to find and clear. "Books" is a listing in my menu. It's a dropdown menu. I have a "Book List" page with all my titles, grouped together by series. Each cover takes you to that book's page. In the dropdown menu, it's broken down into categories: "Series", "Novels", "Novellas", "Short" "Stories", and "Anthologies". Under the "Series" heading, you'll see the list of all my series, and each one will take you to a page with information on all the books in that series. Under "Novels", you get a menu with my novels by title. You don't need to have as many pages as I do. It's just to give you an idea of how I break things down. It gives readers a choice of how they can search for my books.
Key information you should have for each title:
- Book Cover.
- Book Details: Length, Publisher, Genre, ISBN #s
- Buy links (Remember you also have international readers, so don't always assume all your readers are from the US.)
- An excerpt or link to an excerpt on the publisher's website.
Have you had some good reviews or testimonials? Why not include them to let readers know how your book is being received.
Have you received any nominations or awards for your book? That's something to be proud of. Is it a best seller? Include badges with your books.
Do you have some fascinating research you came across while writing your book? Is there a story behind the story? Why not include a Behind-the Scenes, or Cut Scenes. Extras are little gifts for your readers. When I love a book, I want to read everything about it.
Another page that's essential is an "About" page or "Author" page. You want to tell readers a little bit about yourself. Have a fun Q&A or tell a little story about yourself. Let readers get to know you. Do you have an interesting hobby? Did you used to be in a rock band? Are you a goat herder by day?
I was (and still am) surprised by the number of author websites I came across that either didn't have a contact page or it was at the end of some extensive maze of links. I have a dedicated email address I give out to the public. If you don't want to sign up for another email address or give one out, you can add a contact form. In wordpress, Jetpack has a super easy Contact Form you can set up and you decide what the requirements are. Readers should have a way to get in touch. Fellow authors might want to get in touch, or award organizations, blogs, etc.
Social Media: Make sure your social media links are visible and in several places. Each reader will come to your website from a different place. They may go straight to your blog, to a certain book page, to your main page. Wherever they go, you want to make sure your social media links are available. Whether they're in the form of icons or links, you want them in as many places as possible. If they're in your footer, they'll appear on every page. In your sidebar-depending on how your site is set up, it might be the same. Add them to your contact page.
Those are the key pages every author website must have. Here's a list of additional pages you might want to consider:
Media: As an author, you're likely to get involved in the media, whether through guest posts, interviews, radio interviews, blog tours, etc. You want a place to put these so readers can check out these great events.
Press Kit: A press kit includes information about you and your books which can be used by others for media purposes. Bloggers, reviewers, anyone who posts media might need one of your book covers for a review, or your bio for a spotlight post on you. You want all that information to be readily available and easy to access. Usually online press kits include an author's bio, author's image, logo, banners, book covers, links to books, links or snippets of reviews, awards, testimonials. It's up to you how much to include, just make sure it's all neat and easy to access.
Work in Progress
Let readers know what you're working or what's coming soon. This is especially helpful if you're writing a series. Readers will want to know when the next book is coming out.
Many authors like to offer extra goodies, such as free reads. Maybe you're also an artist and draw pictures of your characters, or create crafts related to your books. Maybe you knit. Your extras page can include anything you like. Do you write a specific genre? Your extras can include interesting info on that genre. I write historicals set in the 1920s and 1930s, so as part of my extras, I've included a slang glossary. You can include character bios, family trees.
Do you attend conferences or conventions? Let your readers know where they can meet you. Book signings, appearances, meet and greets.
Do you have a newsletter? Where can readers sign up? Make it easy to find. Don't just stick it at the bottom of your website. I have my signup form in widgets on the bottom of my website, on the sidebar in my blog, and as a link in the menu. That way readers can find it easily whether they're on the main page or the blog.
It's been shown that websites with blog get more traffic. It's up to you whether you can commit to a blog. Blogging is tough, no doubt about it. You not only have to decide what kind of content you'll be blogging about, but who your audience is. You have to keep it going. Having a blog is a great way to interact with your readers or just let them follow you along your writer's journey.
Whatever extra pages you decide to have is up to you. It's important you make information clear and easy to find. Don't make visitor's to your site hunt for what they're looking for. Also very important: update! Even if you don't have the time to update often, don't let your website fall behind months or even years. When I come across an author whose site hasn't been updated in a year, I wonder if they're still writing or if they've moved websites.
Next Monday is the start of the Hell & High Water Blog Tour, so Building Your Author Website Part 3: Design will be posted early, on Sat the 28th.
I keep promising you those list of free online image editors, so here they are. Next installment, I'll tell you a little about using them to design your website.
photo credit: B.Garry
via photopin cc