Interestingly enough, I “met” today’s guest blogger, Pauline Wiles, when she commented on one of the blog posts here. In her comment, Pauline included a link to an article on her own site that I found helpful, so I asked her to share some of her wisdom in a guest post for us. Pauline creates simple, stylish websites for writers and authors. Learn more and get your free website starter kit on her site at https://www.paulinewiles.com/ .
Author website must-haves
By Pauline Wiles
As a writer, you might presume that creating your website should be easy.
In fact, finding the perfect words for your online home can often be challenging. Moreover, design decisions and technology choices can be downright overwhelming.
It doesn’t have to be hard, though, especially if you start slowly. It’s all about knowing what you can and can’t live without in an author website.
7 key elements
Here are seven author website essentials.
1. Clean design
Modern websites are lean and clutter-free. I can generally spot an older site solely from extraneous information clamoring for my attention. Keep your words concise. Limit decorative elements, choosing “white space” instead.
If you’re sprucing up your current site, your sidebar and footer are prime areas for purging clutter.
With website traffic coming increasingly through mobile devices, clean design is vital. And don’t forget to make sure your site looks great on a phone.
2. Book information
As a rule of thumb, the more books you’ve published, the less information your website needs for each title.
For your debut release, you’ll be proud and excited. With only one book to showcase, you might feature:
- A description
- Several “buy” links
- ISBN number
- Book club questions
However, if you have, say, eight books in the same genre, prune this to each book’s:
- Single purchase link
- One-sentence teaser
Recommend a reading order for your books if appropriate, but don’t overload fans with details.
3. Clear calls to action
Don’t give your audience a dozen options. A highly effective website prioritizes the ideal single next step that you’d like your visitor to take. That’s your “call to action.”
In addition, research shows that visitors are more likely to see and click on buttons, versus underlined text links. So, pick a clear “call to action” for each page, and create a button in an eye-catching color.
Calls to action include buying your book or subscribing to email updates.
4. High-quality author photo
Unless you’re desperate to retain privacy, you’ll form a closer reader relationship if you show your face on your website.
Just as you wouldn’t attend a party without sprucing up, your author photo should reveal you at your best. Use one that’s recent and good quality. Don’t use a hasty selfie, or a poorly cropped picture.
A professional author photo truly is a worthwhile expense.
5. Recent content
If you care about your readers, demonstrate it by keeping the content on your website fresh. This doesn’t mean you must publish weekly articles (see below), but check that your copyright year is current and “news” is still applicable.
Remove dead social media links.
If I see a Google+ link on a website, I know it probably shelters other cobwebs, too.
6. Mailing list invitation
If you don’t yet have an author website, I encourage you to publish a few simple pages initially, without getting bogged down in extras. Setting up a mailing list should follow as soon as you’re able.
If you’re daunted by the idea of a newsletter, it’s fine to gather email addresses before you plan to send regular updates. At a minimum, you’ll have permission to notify readers of your next release.
You’ll need to offer something to encourage site visitors to provide their email address. This “lead magnet” can be a free sample of your work or another reader resource.
But don’t let a lack of this type of gift prevent you from setting up your list. If necessary, it can come later.
7. Contact information
Many authors favor a contact form, but a simple email address on your website is adequate.
Journalists typically prefer this more direct method, and if you hope to be interviewed on current topics, you should consider including your phone number, too.
If you do opt for a form, check it regularly to make sure it still works.
A few author website non-essentials
You have limited time and energy for your marketing efforts. Especially at first, you can get away without these:
- Press/media kit: Unless you’re pitching to mainstream outlets, emailing relevant information will suffice.
- Long bio: Today’s website visitors typically scan your content, so a few engaging sentences are better than reams of text.
- Blog: Especially if your site is new, or if you’re not seeing results from blogging, focus instead on submitting guest articles to other sites with complementary audiences.
Aim for simplicity
The most effective author websites are constructed deliberately and thoughtfully.
Rather than treat your website as a repository of all your writerly interests, aim instead for strictly curated pages.
Whether you already have an author website or are starting from scratch, the best philosophy is less is more. By keeping it simple, your website is easier to construct, and to maintain. And, you’ll minimize typos and broken links while increasing the likelihood that your visitor will take action.
Not only will you make it easier on yourself, but clear, concise content is the ultimate compliment to your reader.
What’s your biggest frustration with your author website? Please tell us in a comment.
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