The Best Author Websites Have These Features
Own Your Internet Space
Being an author without a website dedicated to you and your books(s) keeps readers from further exploring your work, and takes away a great opportunity to build your platform and brand. Carving out digital space that belongs solely to you puts you in control of your online presence, which continues to be increasingly important in the rapidly changing book marketplace.
Social media and third-party retailers are valuable ways to make your book visible online, but Facebook, for example, changes its algorithms on a regular basis, which can result in unexpected changes to your book page and how you interact with your friends and fans. Amazon also often changes how your book is searched for and shown to potential buyers. Your very own author website is the one place you can always count on to connect with your readers on your own terms.
There are many different ways to structure an author website. How you choose to lay yours out is up to you, and will depend on what you want to include and how often you’ll be adding additional content. Blog or no blog? One book or more? Endorsements or reader reviews listed? Background info about you? (Yes!) Deciding on these factors beforehand will guide your website creation process, giving you a more cohesive strategy.
Here's a good start to a great strategy:
No matter what other pages and components you have on your site, you'll always need a homepage. What you choose to include on it will vary depending on how many books you have and what genre they are.
If you're in the one-book category and your book is fiction, you may want to include your cover image and synopsis on your homepage. With nonfiction, you may want to expand on the synopsis to include passages from your author bio that establish your expertise.
Think of your homepage like you think about the cover of your book: Make the most valuable information easy to find and aesthetically pleasing. You have a short amount of time to capture potential readers' interest.
If you have more than one book, your homepage will likely be more complex, and could feature multiple book covers, upcoming releases, current news, and events.
To avoid overwhelming your online visitors, this is where you want to go back to thinking of your homepage the way you think about the cover of your book:
What will hook your visitors to stick around a little longer? Rather than trying to get them to consume all the information on your site, choose one page to visit or one action to take, and push them in that direction. Maybe it's a push to check out your latest release, read your most popular blog posts, or sign up for your newsletter.
About the Book(s)
If you only plan on writing one book, featuring its synopsis on your homepage is perfectly acceptable. But if you've published or plan to publish multiple books, you’ll want a page dedicated to each book, plus one aggregate page where they're all listed together.
Each book page should have the basics: the cover image, the synopsis, and links for purchase.
You’ll also want to add any reviews or endorsements you have secured. If you have a self-hosted WordPress site, you can even find plugins for authors, such as MyBookTable or Novelist, to help you display book information.
About the Author
Readers want to see whose voice and ideas they'll be absorbing as they read your book. Even if you're writing under a pen name, you should still have a section about you on your website. This biographical information can be fictionalized or otherwise altered to protect your real identity. If your bio is reasonably short, and you only have one book, you may want to include it on your homepage.
If your bio and platform directly relate to the subject matter of your book, you'll want to include more information about yourself and why you're an expert on this particular subject. Your bio isn't the place to be humble. After all, authors of competing titles will proudly announce their expertise all over the Internet.
For an example of a great author bio, check out J.F.Penn's about the author page to see how it provides a deeper look into who J.F.Penn is.
People love to connect a face to a name, so including an author photo is a must. If you have a pen name, choose an avatar to represent you. Some guidelines to keep in mind:
- Keep it real—your photo should be current
- Keep it consistent—the general vibe of the photo should correspond to your genre
- Keep it simple—the background and your clothing choice shouldn’t be distracting
- Keep it professional—the photo must be high quality
For more tips on what to avoid, read about the mistakes you're making with your author photos.
Reviews and Coverage
In addition to book sales, securing endorsements, reader reviews, and media coverage are often the marketing goals authors have when publishing. Reviews can potentially fit in several places on your author website, depending on your preference—the book page, the homepage, the sidebar, or even a separate page titled "What Everyone Is Saying."
If you have one or two really good reviews, you could even stick them on your homepage for front-and-center visibility. If you have several books, you might also choose to add the reviews to the corresponding book page.
If you obtain media reviews, publication announcements, radio or TV interviews, or online writeups, you could also have a separate page devoted to these stories with links to the original source. This page is often called "In the Media." If you or your publicist are going to be pitching your book to the media, you may even want to include a media kit on your website. Media kits usually contain your book's cover, your author photo, and a sample chapter (or the full manuscript). Include a press release and sell sheet, if you have one.
Buy the Book
Your website should definitely have links to purchase your book(s); if not, you're missing out on valuable sales opportunities. Purchase links are a must for your website. When you drive people to your website, give them an easy-to-find place where they can buy your book, whether it's on the individual book page, a section on the homepage, or both.
You can even take this a step further with affiliate links. Third-party retailers, like Amazon, allow you to enroll in affiliate programs, meaning anytime someone purchases a book from your special link, you earn a small commission—giving you more money per book sale than royalties alone.
If blogging is something that appeals to you, definitely include a blog on your website—don't host it somewhere else. Posting new content on a regular basis is a great way to drive traffic to your website, especially if you share your posts on social media, too. As of now, there's even a way for your blog to get fed into your Amazon author page.
If you're a nonfiction author, blogging is the perfect complement to your book, allowing you to establish yourself as an authority on your book's subject matter. Once your blog readers realize how valuable your content is, they'll be eager to purchase your book.
Fiction authors might have a tougher time finding the right blogging niche, but delving deeper into key characters or settings is one possibility. No matter which angle you choose, remember that it's about building connections with your readers and driving traffic to your site. Accomplish those, and blogging will help build your platform.
What's worse than not having a blog on your site? Having a blog with no recent posts. You either have to keep it up or take it off. If readers come to your site and click on your blog page only to find two posts from three years ago, they'll likely be turned off and leave your website.
When people read (and love) your book, some may want to reach out to you. That's why you should always have a page on your site that tells readers how they can contact you. (Bonus points if you include this information in your book, too.)
Whether it's a form readers fill out with questions or comments that you receive via email or links to your social media profiles, make it easy for them to connect with you.
Be a good host to your author website visitors like you would for visitors to your home. How can you make them feel welcome? How can you entertain them? How can you get them to want to come back?