I’ve been building author websites for nearly a decade now. I’ve seen the best — and the worst — of websites for authors. With that in mind, here are 15 things you need to know about what to do (and what not to do) when you’re building yourself an author website.
- Having an author website can help you get published. The larger the following you have before reaching out to a publisher, the more likely that publisher is going to invest time and money in you.
- Author websites MUST be mobile-friendly. It’s 2014, and every author website needs to be visible on mobile devices, including both tablets/iPads and smartphones/iPhones.
- The best thing an author can do on his or her website is blog, blog, blog. The worst thing an author can do is build a blog and then not keep it current. After all, if an author isn’t paying attention to the site, why should a visitor?
- The design of an author website should convey the genre of the book(s). For example, a romance author should have a website that’s romantic in nature; it shouldn’t be so cookie-cutter that it looks similar to that of a children’s book author or a nonfiction author.
- An author website is part of an author’s brand. Before building an author website, you need to have a very clear idea of your overall brand and message. And that message should clearly come across when someone arrives on the site, in the form of a tagline or something similar.
- The average amount of time someone spends on a website? Three seconds. Make sure your author website is strong enough to take advantage of those three seconds and really grab a reader’s attention.
- Too many authors forget to collect email addresses. There is no good reason an author shouldn’t use his or her website to build an email list. Even if there isn’t going to be a traditional newsletter, that email list can turn out to be invaluable when there’s a new book to announce.
- Book authors aren’t always copywriters. Writing the text for an author website is a very different beast from writing a book. If you have a history of writing marketing copy, great. If not, then have someone who does work with you on writing the copy for your website.
- Be wary of too much design. The design of a website is important. Too much design can make the site hard to use or unfriendly to the search engines. Trust the experts to find the right balance between design and functionality.
- Author websites can interact well with social media. Some people might tell you that if you have a Facebook presence, you don’t need a website … or vice versa. Don’t believe them. Use your website to build followers on social media (by embedding links and widgets). Then use social media to drive traffic to your website, where you can really sell your brand.
- Building an author website doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get traffic to it. You know that saying, “If you build it, they will come?” Not true for author websites. Building a website is the first step. Getting traffic there is a whole other ballgame.
- An author needs to decide early on: is it a book website or an author website? Is the goal of the site to sell the current book? Or is it to build a following for the author? Ensuring that the brand and the message is clear from the beginning is essential.
- Every page needs a “buy the book” link. How is that website ultimately going to pay for itself? By selling books, of course. With that in mind, don’t make it difficult for people to buy your book from the site. Include “buy the book” links everywhere the book cover appears.
- When it comes to SEO, time is your best friend. A new author website isn’t going to show up on Google search results right away. It can take weeks for it to appear at all. And then, it can take months (as well as some SEO strategies) to start climbing up the search results ladder. Patience is key.
- Author websites need to address all audiences. It’s not just readers that visit these sites. There are agents, publishers, media, book club organizers, etc… who may wind up there. Make sure they each can find exactly what they’re looking for quickly and easily.
Whew! Those are my 15 quick tips on websites for authors. If you have any of your own recommendations to add, please do!