With all of the online resources available to help authors connect with readers, is it really necessary to have an author website? Yes. Because it’s one of the first places readers will go to find you, a website is the foundation of your marketing platform. Your website is your home base; it’s an online portfolio showcasing your work. And, by connecting your website with social media like Facebook and Twitter, it allows you to coordinate your other marketing efforts.
Before creating an author website, go on a reconnaissance mission. Find best-selling authors in your genre and look at their websites. Note the information each author includes and the look of the site. In addition to thinking about genre, consider your target audience. If you are targeting romance readers, your site should look vastly different than if you are targeting fans of horror. Not only will this be reflected in the look for your site, it will affect how you present yourself as an author.
Regardless of design, the basic content for an author website is the same, and includes four key elements:
Bio. Every author site needs to include a biography and author photo. This may be placed on the home page or on an About Me page. Your bio may be the most important aspect of your site because you’re not just selling books—you are selling yourself. (And by selling yourself, I mean your author persona, not your immortal soul.) If you are writing non-fiction as an expert in your field, your bio should include your educational background and professional credentials. If you write humor, your bio can be quirky. Present yourself in a professional manner and create a connection with your readers.
You could also include a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about your life, your books, and your writing process. This could be posted on your bio page or separately, on a page for extra features.
Books. Maybe you’ve written only one book so far, but with luck, you’ll soon have additional titles to list on your site. Maybe your books will be written for different audiences, some for children and some for adults, for example. Even if you write different kinds of books, you are the common thread. Consider a website design with your author persona as the focus rather than your books. Having a designated page for your books that is not the home page gives you flexibility as your list of publications grows.
Besides including your books’ covers and descriptions, your books page is also a great place to include buy links, review blurbs, and excerpts. You could include your book trailers here, or put them on an extra features page.
News. You’ll need a page to keep readers updated about book news and upcoming events. If you will be embarking on a book tour, I recommend having an events page to list details for your appearances (time, date, and venue information) and also promoting events on your news page (inviting readers to attend and then posting photos and event highlights later). You might also use the news page to blog about writing or to discuss books you’ve read and recommend.
Contact. Every author site should include information about how to connect with the author, such as how reviewers can contact you to request review copies. It’s helpful to include a downloadable press kit with a brief author bio and information about your books. This might also be a place to inform readers about how to connect with you on social media, inviting them to like your Facebook author page or follow you on Twitter. Alternatively, you could include social media information on a sidebar.
Extras. Once your website essentials are in place, consider adding extra features to attract readers. This can be anything from your writing playlist to discussion questions for book clubs. If you’ve done a blog tour for your book, consider posting highlights, such as an interview or guest post. Draw inspiration from your favorite authors, but make your site your own.
There are a number of resources for creating an author website. You can work with a designer or create a site yourself using templates from Blogger or WordPress—it depends on your comfort level using technology, your budget, your goals for your site, and the amount of time you have available to spend on it.
Because I had prior experience with website design and a limited budget, I chose WordPress for my author site (MelissaEskueOusley.com). I pay a small annual fee for the domain name and I used a free template that matched the dark feel of my young adult fantasy books. I like the flexibility in creating pages and customizing the look, and the dashboard has helpful stats on website traffic. You may find that something like this meets your needs, or you may want to work with a different program. Research what works best for you and create a site that will showcase your work.
If you’ve already got an author website, share about your experience. What program are you using, and what do you like about it? What advice do you have?