Building your author website? Incorporate these six elements in your design to ensure its success.
For all authors, new and experienced, a website is the most important element of a book marketing strategy. It is imperative that your website is mobile-friendly and professional-looking but also has relevant, well-organized content. I have developed over 200 websites, and although a lot has changed over the past 20 years when it comes to website development, particularly with the introduction of DIY platforms, some things remain fundamental.
When developing a website, you have complete control over the content. A website is a great place to include basic information such as your author bio and book description, but you also have the ability to add any content you like. In order to create a website that fits your needs, it is important to think about its purpose. Do you want to sell books? Maintain a blog? Communicate with readers? Here I have outlined six elements of a successful author website: the author bio, book page, mailing list sign up, blog, media page, and contact information.
Every author should provide a short and long bio on their website. The long bio should go on your About the Author page and you can include as much information as you would like. The short bio can go on the homepage with a "read more" link to the full bio. I think of the short bio as something media can just pick up and run, so make sure it is written in the third person. The longer bio can be for your readers and should be more in-depth and personal.
Each book should have its own page on your author website. A book page should include a long description, the title, subtitle, publisher, book cover, and series and series number, if applicable. You can include information like the pub date, binding, ISBN, and page count, plus content like video and audio if you have it. This page is also a place for you to offer an excerpt for viewing or downloading, and include book reviews as they come in.
Make sure to have links to retailers where your book is available for sale or pre-order. In the U.S., the main retailers to include are Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Books-A-Million, and Apple iBooks. For Canada, Indigo and Kobo are the key retailers. For other countries, ask local authors or publishers.
If you have multiple books, you can list all of your books on one page and then include links to the individual book pages using a "read more" button.
Mailing List Sign Up
Using a service such as MailChimp or Constant Contact, you can easily start collecting email addresses from your website. These platforms give you a form that you can include on your website. The signups from this form go directly into your email list. Even if you are unsure of what to do with these email addresses, you should be collecting them. If you decide to do a newsletter in the future, or a book announcement, you will be glad you have them.
You should decide whether you want to include a blog on your author website. Most marketers say that it will only help. If you choose to blog, here are some tips to creating successful blogs:
- Write What You Know. Write on topics related to your book, or on topics on which you are knowledgeable.
- Be Relevant. Try relating your blog to a current news event, or use keywords that could improve your organic search volume.
- Create Traffic. Announce posts on social media to drive viewers to your website.
- Stay Active. Blog at least once every 2 weeks if possible.
A media page offers information specifically for the media. This is a page to include your author photo and book covers that can be downloaded. You may also want to include links to your online coverage or press material. Make sure to include a link to your contact page so that media can easily reach out to you if interested.
Encourage readers to contact you by making it easy. This will allow you to interact with your readers and even though most authors don’t get too many messages, it will open you up to possible opportunities. Just be sure not to ask for too much information in your contact form; the more you ask for, the fewer people will contact you. There is no need to ask for a phone number or mailing address in an initial contact form. Make sure to use a contact form that hides your email address to avoid your email getting picked up by spammers.
It is essential for authors to have effective websites. And while it can feel overwhelming to get started, if you begin with these six core elements, you’ll have the content to make your website successful. Once you have the six elements of a successful author website nailed, you can always add and enhance the content on your site. By adding frequent updates and new content, you give your fans a reason to return to your website.
The key with content is to organize it well so that the website does not become overwhelming. A good way to do this is to organize your menu so that there are not too many main menu buttons. Rather, have drop-down menus or sub menus with additional information. By using menus and sub-menus, or layers, your visitors can skim the surface or easily access more information. It is important to use a platform that scales with you so you don’t need to redesign a site if you have a new book. Even if you are launching a site for one book, plan for growth.
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