Your author website is the only marketing platform you can completely control. It is the online home for your books and the way that many readers will discover more about you. In this article, Fauzia Burke shares the important elements for your author website, and also the mistakes to avoid.
It's indisputable: all authors and small publishers need a mobile-friendly, professional-looking author website. It is, by far, the most important element of your book marketing strategy.
Although a lot has changed when it comes to creating a website, some things remain fundamental. This article covers the author website basics you should consider as you are getting started or redesigning your site.
For starters, you have complete control over the content of your website, and you can put just about anything and everything on it. Many people jump into the process of hiring a web developer before thinking about the purpose of their site.
You'll want to include your author bio and book information.
- What else?
- Excerpts and book reviews?
- Audio and video?
Is your purpose to communicate with readers? If so, you should consider a mailing list with a sign-up form on your site. You should also connect it to your social networking accounts like Facebook and Twitter.
You’ll want a contact form. Do you plan to blog regularly? How do you want to sell books: with links to online retailers or sell directly on your site using eCommerce?
Thinking about the purpose of your site will help you plan a site that serves your author goals and needs for the long term. It will also help guide you in your discussions with potential website developers.
Don’t assume your developer will know what you need, or know anything about book marketing in general, and books in particular. I’ve seen too many websites over the years where the developer was more interested in showing oﬀ his or her skills, with little consideration as to the eﬀectiveness, organization, or ease-of-use of the website.
[Note from Joanna: You don't need a developer either. Here is my tutorial about how to set up your author website in less than 30 minutes.]
Your author website is your primary online presence, your brand, your “home” and your author platform.
This is where people will come to ﬁnd out more about you and your books, which gives you an excellent opportunity to present yourself and your books in the best way and to brand yourself.
You can do it somewhat on Facebook and other social media sites, but your website is the only place you have a complete design and editorial control, so go for it!
When visitors arrive on your author website what is the message they get? Can they immediately ascertain who you are and what you write about? That ﬁrst impression has to be good and accurate or you’ll have a lot of visitors leave quickly.
What’s in a (Domain) Name?
“What domain name should I choose for my author website?” I get this question from authors all the time. So, here are some guidelines and tips.
You need to decide on your domain name before you launch your author website, and you should probably decide before you develop your website because it could impact the design if it becomes the title, or name, of your site.
Ideally, your domain name should be yourname.com. If you have multiple books, this should be a no-brainer. You wouldn’t get a domain name for just one of your books if you have an author website with multiple books.
What if you already have a website using the domain name of one of your books? Now might be the time to consolidate under one website using your name. Your name is generally more searchable and by putting all your books on one site, you allow readers looking for one book, in particular, to naturally discover your other works.
If you are a ﬁrst time author with one book, it should still be yourname.com. First of all, your author site is about you. It’s your home base and should be used for branding yourself.
Second, what happens when you write your second book? Another domain name and another website? Of course not. And what happens if you branch out and start doing other activities, like consulting or editing, etc.?
Since that is your business, the site should be in your name. All under one umbrella. That’s tough to do if your domain name is the name of one of your books.
There are some circumstances where you might use a book title or series. If it’s completely stand-alone and the title or series is the brand, and it’s not about you, then you might want to do that. An obvious example would be the Harry Potter series.
What if your name is taken? In many cases, it will be. My site, FauziaBurke.com, was not taken. But there are other options if it is. You can use fauziaburkeauthor.com, fauziaburkebooks.com, or fauzia-burke.com. In some cases, if all your preferred options are taken, you could consider fauziaburke.net. But think of “.com” as Main Street — it’s the preferred location.
What Should I Put on My Author Website?
Content: Although you can put anything you want on your website, some authors have taken it too far. Now I often see websites loaded with all the content in the world and often they are poorly organized. Most visitors spend 30seconds – 4 minutes on your site. You need to make sure that you communicate the most important information as clearly as possible.
[Note from Joanna: There is a difference between an author website with just your books and a website that drives an online business. This site, TheCreativePenn.com has over a decade of content and drives my non-fiction business, but if you check out my fiction site, www.JFPenn.com, you will see it is quite basic.]
On your author website, you can put your author bio, photos, audio, and video, book information, excerpts, reading guides, your blog, media coverage, contact information, event schedule, and more — even your cat photos! Just make sure it is well organized and prioritized for the visitor.
Organization: A well-organized menu helps — don’t have too many main menu buttons, and instead have drop-down menus, or sub-menus, with the additional information.
With menus and sub-menus, or layers, your visitors can drill down as deep as they want, or just skim the surface. So, have no more than about eight menu buttons, and then have submenus or links on the main pages to the more detailed content. I am not a fan of the long scrolling home page with a ton of content.
Mailing List: Start collecting email addresses even if you are not sure what you’ll do with them. When you decide you want to do a newsletter, you’ll be thankful you did.
Use a service like MailChimp or Constant Contact. They give you the form to put on your author website and the signups go directly into your email list.
[Note from Joanna: I use and recommend ConvertKit. Here's my tutorial on how to set up an email list.]
Blog: To blog or not to blog? Most marketers will say it can only help, especially for non-fiction authors.
- Write on topics related to your books, or on topics in which you are knowledgeable.
- Try relating them to current news events and use relevant keywords to try to improve your organic search volume.
- Announce posts on social media to drive traﬃc back to your website.
- Blog at least twice a month so you appear active.
Contact Form: You should encourage readers to contact you. Few authors will get too many messages, and the upside is interacting with your readers and possible opportunities.
Use a form that hides your email address, so it doesn’t get “harvested” by spammers. Be sure not to ask for too much information, because the more you ask for, the fewer people will contact you. There is no need to know their phone number or address in the initial contact.
Social Links: Add “Follow Me” buttons for Facebook, Twitter, or whatever social media profiles you use. You can also have your feeds display on your author website with recent posts, also encouraging people to follow you.
The more followers the better because whenever you post a new book or blog to your website, you can announce it to your followers to drive traﬃc back to your site.
Book Giveaways: This can be a good way to generate traffic, get readers interested in your books, and get people to sign up for your mailing list. You can also use your mailing list to announce the giveaway.
As you can see, there are numerous types of content you can add to your website and many ways you can use it in your marketing efforts. Your website is not just a handful of static pages…it’s an interactive branding and powerful marketing tool. Make the most of it!
Have you got an author website that is set up to make it easy for readers to navigate and connect with you? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
Fauzia Burke, author of Online Marketing for Busy Authors, is the founder and president of FSB Associates, an online book publicity firm, co-founder of Pub Site, a platform for building author websites, and a consultant and coach for authors who need help navigating the book marketing and publicity landscape.
Before starting FSB, she worked for book publishers, Henry Holt and John Wiley. Fauzia has promoted books by authors such as Alan Alda, Arianna Huffington, Deepak Chopra, Melissa Francis, S. C. Gwynne, Mika Brzezinski, Charles Spencer and many more. She is based in San Diego, California.