mobile-friendly-author-website

Do You Have a Mobile Friendly Author Website?

mobile-friendly-author-websiteWhat makes a site mobile friendly? And what’s the problem if yours isn’t? How do you even know if your author website is mobile friendly? Today, we break down these questions and help you better understand the hows and whys of a mobile friendly author website.

What Does Mobile-Friendly Mean?

As its name implies, a mobile friendly website is one that is easy to use on the small screen of a mobile device. This can also be referred to as a website using responsive web design. In other words, a website that is only designed for a full-size desktop screen may be difficult to use on a smartphone. It may involve scrolling left/right to view the full page, or zooming in to read words. A mobile friendly site, which is built using responsive design software, is actually able to detect the size of the screen that you are viewing it on and adjust how the site appears accordingly so that it becomes more vertical than horizontal, compresses the navigation, and more.

How Do You Know If You Have a Mobile Friendly Author Website?

If your site was built in the last year or so, it’s very likely mobile friendly. But if it’s older than that, it could be hit or miss. Start by taking a look at your site on multiple devices. Visit it on a smartphone, a tablet and more. Does the design change based on the size of the device? Is it easy to use on a small screen? You should know pretty quickly.

How Does Not Having a Mobile-Friendly Author Website Cost You?

There are two big problems with having an author website today that’s not mobile friendly. One is fairly obvious. The other is not.

First, the obvious reason … you’re going to lose visitors. About 50% of web browsing in 2016 is done on mobile devices. That means that half the people who visit your website are likely to have a difficult or unsatisfying experience. Maybe they have to scroll to the right to view the full page. Maybe they have trouble using the navigation that was built for a desktop. Maybe they have to zoom in to read words. Not only is your site going to be difficult for them, but it’s also likely to appear out of date … after all, just about every site designed today is mobile-friendly. That’s not a good impression to leave with potential readers.

And now for the lesser-known problem with a site that’s not mobile friendly … Google is going to punish you for it. Google is well aware that larger percentages of people than ever are using mobile devices to browse the web. And what’s most important to Google? It’s that their users have a satisfying experience on whatever sites Google sends them to. So it’s in Google’s best interest to ensure that the sites they recommend are mobile-friendly.

As such, Google put together a page about the hows and whys of mobile-friendly sites. It even includes a test you can take to determine if your site meets Google’s mobile-friendly criteria. And if your site doesn’t pass their test for being mobile friendly? Well, then you very well may see a drop in your search engine rankings. In other words, Google will likely demote you on search result pages, below other sites that are mobile friendly. This can have a significant impact on your website traffic.

How Can You Make Your Site Mobile Friendly?

So now that you understand why it’s important to have a mobile friendly author website, how do you go about getting one? There are various ways you can do that — at varying costs, of course — but nearly all of them involve a redesign of the site. You can’t take the currently site that you have and simply make it mobile-friendly. It will need to be rebuilt from scratch with a code that is mobile-responsive.

There are free options, of course. WordPress offers a variety of templates that are mobile-friendly, and you can simply select one, migrate your content over, and get your new site up and running from there. If you’re willing to invest a little more, though, you can work with a design and development firm like Smart Author Sites to recreate the things you love about your current site in a mobile-friendly version. Plus, we offer expert advice on setting goals for your site, driving visitors there, and more.

Either way, if your site isn’t mobile friendly, you may be unknowingly costing yourself a lot of site traffic and a lot of readers. That’s a mistake most authors don’t want to make.

identifying your target reader

Identifying Your Target Reader: Tips for Authors

identifying your target readerIt’s true. Writing is a business. That’s especially the case in today’s world of sell-it-yourself self-publishing. So as a business person, you need to put on the thinking cap of a business executive. First task? Identifying your target reader.

Just as the people who founded Pepsi Cola, Hasbro or Amazon mapped out their business plans and identified who their customers would be, you — the author — need to do the same. After all, if you’re not keeping your readers (aka customers) in mind at each and every step of your journey, then you’re potentially costing yourself success.

How to Go About Identifying Your Target Reader

Start with your genre. Which type of user generally reads that type of book? Are they male or female? What’s the age range? Are they more likely to read a hard copy or an e-book?

Chris Jones, an award-winning writing coach, recommends in a HuffPost article that you actually, “create an avatar, a fictional character on paper based on who your ideal reader is” to help you to stay on target with your message and your marketing. Here are some questions he recommends you ask as you’re creating this persona:

  • What do they look like?
  • What are their book buying habits?
  • What do they most like to read about?
  • Where do they like to find information on their favorite authors within your genre?

The Realities of Identifying Your Target Reader

So how will identifying your target reader actually change what you’re doing as an author? Well, there are a few different ways your daily activities can — and should — be adjusted by your continual reminders about your target reader.

First, it can impact the actual writing of your story. For example, if you have identified that your target reader is older, you may decide that you want to be a little less gruesome in the way you tell the story of a character’s death. After all, a 60-year-old probably isn’t as enthralled by the blood and guts as a teenager would be. Or, conversely, if your story is geared towards 20-somethings, you may decide that you want to tweak the habits of one of your characters to make him or her more relatable to that generation. Similarly, if your book speaks to the less educated, you may want to write shorter sentences and paragraphs, while a more savvy audience may find that structure a bit patronizing. There are various ways — both big and small — that keeping your reader in mind can impact your writing.

Second, identifying your target reader can impact the whens and hows of publishing your book. I mentioned before that it’s important to think about how your readers will ingest your book. Will they be binge readers, in which case you may want to release all three books of your trilogy simultaneously? Will they be reading it as an e-book or a hard copy? Do you really need to publish it in both formats, or is it a better use of your time and money to focus on one? Is your reader more likely to read your book on the beach in the summer? If that’s the case, time your release accordingly.

Lastly — and possibly most importantly — identifying your target reader should be a crucial piece of your marketing efforts. After all, how are you going to get your book in the hands of the right people if you don’t know who they are, where they are, and how they’re investing their time?

For your online efforts, pick your website strategy and social networking channels accordingly. If your audience is a group of professionals, LinkedIn may very well be worth your time. If your book is aimed at teenagers, then Instagram or SnapChat might be a better use of it. Similarly, create an author website and blog that meet your readers’ needs and preferences. Would they prefer to read a humorous blog post each week? Or would a more static site that they can turn to for information at their leisure better serve them?

Your offline efforts can also be impacted by this. If you’re trying to reach suburban moms, speaking events at book clubs or libraries may be worth your time. That effort would be far less impactful with a younger audience. Once you’ve identified your target reader, think about how and where you can meet them where they are: nursing homes, community centers, schools, etc…

The Benefits of Identifying Your Target Reader

The benefits of all this should be obvious: increased book sales. By properly identifying your target readers and making sure that all aspects of your book efforts — from writing to publishing to marketing — are geared specifically towards them, you’re increasing the likelihood of them hearing about your book, buying your book, loving your book and telling their friends about your book. And that, folks, is how bestsellers are made.

making money as an author data

Making Money as an Author: A Mathematical Breakdown

Making money as an author is easier said than done. After all, what percentage of today’s authors actually make a profit from their writing? It’s miniscule. And yet, some would argue that it’s certainly possible. You just have to make the right business decisions.

As a baseball fan, I am very aware of the concept of “Moneyball.” There was even a movie made about it. That concept — which has to do with basically doing a mathematical analysis of a business and making decisions accordingly — can be applied to just about any industry. And now, it’s being applied to publishing.

See the chart below, which was put together by Andrew Rhomberg, the founder of Jellybooks, a reader analytics company based in London. The idea for his business is pretty simple, actually. Much like we have television ratings that let us know how many people watch a full TV show or fast forward through commercials, Jellybooks goes above and beyond just seeing who is downloading e-books. It is tracking how people are actually reading these e-books.

According to the NY Times, Jellybooks (with the readers’ consent, of course) tracks, “when people read and for how long, how far they get in a book and how quickly they read, among other details.” And for those of you who are familiar with the world of the web, Jellybooks uses words like “engagement” and “analytics” to explain their data. In other words, they’re bringing book reading into the 21st century. And this quick peek at their findings are pretty incredible.

making money as an author data

Source: Jellybooks

 

Key Takeaways From This Research

  • Among the readers who agreed to be a part of this study, they actually finished less than half of the books tested.
    • Only 5 percent of the books had a completion rate of over 75%.
    • Sixty percent of books fell into a range where between 25 and 50% of test readers finished them.
  • Those readers who didn’t complete the full book typically gave up in the early chapters (as the chart above suggests).
    • Women tended to stop reading after 50 to 100 pages, men after 30 to 50.
  • Different genres had different completion rates. For example, business books had surprisingly low completion rates.

Making Money as an Author Off This Research

So why does this research matter, you might ask? If you get someone to buy the book, why should you care if they finish it? Well, that’s what this study seeks to help explain. Here are a few reasons you should care. After all, your likelihood of making money as an author may depend on it

You could spend a boatload on book marketing, but the truth is that word of mouth — be it on social media, at work, or at a dinner party — is the strongest marketing tool out there for authors. In other words, there’s nothing that will help your book be successful more than a group of loyal readers who love the book and recommend it to their friends. And, as I’m sure you can figure out, a reader is pretty unlikely to recommend a book to a friend if he or she chose not to finish it. In other words, these statistics can clue you in as to both how good your book really is, and how likely it is to be recommended to other readers.

And publishers are listening. After all, that’s mainly who all this Jellybooks data is geared to. The professionals in the publishing industry are deciding which books to put marketing efforts into — or even which books to publish going forward — by analyzing this data.

Much like how moneyball is being applied to major league baseball today, publishers are now analyzing books by genre, the age group it appeals to, gender appeal and more. They are comparing those potential books to others that are similar in previous studies. If those had good completion rates, the publishers are more likely to put time and effort into similar books going forward. If not … well, you may not be in luck.

If you’re an author in today’s world of moneyball publishing, it would behoove you not to study up on this type of data. Understand completion rates, analytics and more. It may make the difference between becoming a bestselling author and a struggling writer.

 

Photo credit: clasesdeperiodismo via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

5 Author Must Reads: March in Review

Another month has come and gone. And in case you missed any of these author must reads, now is your time to catch up!

1. Ask the #IndieExperts: Book Trends and Marketing
Publishers Weekly
March 21, 2016

2. 5 Common Author Blog SEO Mistakes

Smart Author Sites
March 10, 2016

3. New Rules for Successful Authors in 2016
BookCoaching.com
March 9, 2016

4. How smart book marketing got me a second publishing contract
Build Book Buzz
March 9, 2016

5. 5 Powerful Ways Authors Can Boost Results on LinkedIn
Nonfiction Association
March 1, 2016

Happy April, everyone! Feel free to post your recommended articles in the comments section below!

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6 Steps to Building an Author Website

building-an-author-websiteThis seems like such a simple concept for a blog post. After all, I’ve been blogging about everything having to do with building an author website for more than five years now. It’s kind of shocking that I have never simply laid out all the steps to getting there, since I’ve covered such minutia surrounding it — everything from metadata to content partnerships, YouTube strategies and more.

Well, now it’s time. In the theme of simplicity, here are the steps to building an author website — from the day you decide to do it through the exciting site launch.

1. Purchase your domain name. 

Yes, you need to do this yourself. If you work with us, we are happy to walk you through it. We can also consult with you on the best domain name choices available. Here are some guidelines I’ve covered in previous posts.

2. Build your site map and strategy. 

I’m a little biased here, because this is where my heart lies. I work closely with each and every client to clearly map out a site map and site strategy. This includes deciding on your key actions (getting people to buy the book? encouraging newsletter sign-ups?), as well as what information should be front and center on your homepage, and what other content you want to include (book discussion guides? youtube videos? press kit?). It’s not always easy to figure out how to organize all of that content so that it’s easily found by readers, publishers and press. This is a key part of the process of building an author website, and I think it’s crucial that this step come before the design begins.

3. Kick off the design process. 

Now it’s time to design the site around that structure. When we are working with clients, this is when we start talking about the nitty gritty in site design — from layout preferences to color, fonts, photography and more. And if you’re working with a designer like us, it’s always helpful if you come prepared with a few other sites you’d like to model yours after — whether they belong to authors or anyone else. But even if you’re designing your own site off a template, this is where you make important decisions about how your site appears. It’s super important that it look professional and maintain the feel of your book cover and your genre.

4. Populate the pages with content. 

So the site has been designed. And you absolutely love it. Now it’s time to fill in the blanks. In other words, you now have a canvas to work with and it’s time to start doing what you are best at — writing. Create your tantalizing book blurb for the homepage. Craft the author bio. Start blogging. We provide clients with WordPress training at the beginning of this phase so that they can really feel like they own the site from this point forward, and can be comfortable adding or changing content — both before and after launch.

5. Get all your ducks in a row.

Now your site is populated. But do you have the link to buy the book working yet? How about your Facebook and Twitter accounts? Are they synched up with the site? Have you tested your contact form to make sure the email is coming through? Consider this your final dress rehearsal. Walk through each and every page on the site, click on every single link, and make sure it’s all functioning exactly as you want it to. Then…

6. Launch and promote! 

That’s right. This is when it all becomes very real. When we are working with clients, this is the final send-off. We then move the site from our private domain (where it wasn’t available to the public) to the final domain name the client has purchased. Finally, we submit the site to all the search engines (so that it can start appearing when people search for the author name, book title, and any other keyword we’ve optimized for) and also direct the client to start promoting it through social channels, email, etc…

Voila! That’s really it. Six simple steps. In reality, one or more of these may be a little more complicated than they sound, but I hope that breaking them down into buckets may help simplify the process — whether you’re working with us, another firm, or going it on your own. Here’s to building a great author website!

how-do-i-get-my-book-out-there

How Do I Get My Book Out There? Tips from the Experts

how-do-i-get-my-book-out-thereThis is the question just about every self-published author is asking. And so are many authors who went through publishing houses, too. “How do I get my book out there?”

In other words, authors are asking what they can do to get readers to take a chance on their work. What strategies or techniques will get the average reader to dedicate some time (and hopefully money) into reading your first book. Because if you’re confident in your work, you know that once they read the first book, they will be a fan for life.

Someone posed just this question to a team of successful authors and publishing experts at Publishers Weekly. Here are some suggestions, as proposed by the panelists.

1. Write more books!

Bestselling author Bella Andre recommends that you get started writing your second, third, and even fourth book before your first is a hit. “Once you have a four to five books out, and especially if they are in a connected world/series, then you are best able to begin promoting your books to readers,” she adds.

2. Become a good marketing copywriter.

Another bestselling author, Hugh Howey, says that a good writer should be able to write more than just a good book. He recommends that you hone your writing skills so that you can seamlessly craft interesting blog posts, book teasers, social networking posts and more. “Can you sell your book in a single sentence? If not, keep working on that sentence.”

3. Consider a giveaway or promotion.

The great publishing vet Jane Friedman shared her top recommendation: free stuff! As she put it, “The number one tool for any new or unknown indie author is the giveaway, whether that’s through Amazon, your own site, or a marketing service like BookBub.” And she’s right. I mean, who doesn’t want something for free? Joanna Penn, bestselling author and blogger, agrees. “Having a book for free is the very best way to get people to try your work. I have my first in series free on all e-book stores and I give away a novella on my site to entice people to sign up for my email list. You can also do giveaways on Goodreads and other sites.” Bella Andre chimes in here as well, suggesting, “You can try a temporary sale on the first book.”

4. Own a space in your genre.

Figure out exactly what type of book you have written. Then market accordingly. Jane Friedman notes that it’s especially important to make sure your website is properly updated with the right keywords for your book. “Ensure your book’s metadata is accurate and specific (your categories, tags, and description) — to make sure readers who are searching for your work’s themes, settings, or characters will be more likely find it.” Joanna Penn also recommends that you reach out to other book bloggers or reviewers in your genre to build relationships.

5. Make the right investments.

Sure, some things cost money. But many of them are worth it. Bella Andre points out that you can buy some online ads at a reasonable cost to increase the visibility of your books. Similarly, she talks about the importance of a really nice, professional-looking cover. I couldn’t agree more that getting a good book cover designer is definitely worth the investment. And, in my humble opinion, the same goes for working with a good author website development firm.

So if you’re asking the question, “How do I get my book out there?,” these five ideas will hopefully serve as a really good starting point.

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5 Common Author Blog SEO Mistakes

author-blog-seoI just got off the phone with a marketing consultant who helps self-published authors promote themselves. We spent a long time talking about author blog SEO … and I was really surprised just how little even professionals understand about the dos and don’ts of search engine optimization.

With that in mind, here are five common mistakes I see/hear about from authors…

1. Optimizing for too many keywords.

How many keywords was your most recent blog post optimized for? Five? Ten? The truth is, each post should have one primary keyword. The days of entering 10 keywords in the traditional meta keyword field and thinking that your post is optimized are long gone. Nowadays, it takes far more work than that to get your post to show up on a search result page. Pick your primary keyword and then optimize your entire post for it. Speaking of which…

2. Not using headlines, URLs, images or h2/h3 tags.

Yup, these are the places that really matter. The primary keyword you select should be worked into your blog headline, your URL, your intro paragraph and in h2/h3 tags (subheads). See how the words “author blog SEO” appear in all those places here? This post is properly optimized. Unless you work your keyword into each one of those places, you’re not doing your post justice.

2. Optimizing for keywords that are too general.

Let’s say you wrote a book about the history of baseball. Common sense would say that your blog post should be optimized for the keyword term “baseball,” right? Wrong. There are probably hundreds of thousands of blog posts out there optimized for the word “baseball,” and the chances that you could compete with them is minimal. After all, ESPN has kind of mastered this stuff. So you need to get more specific in your keyword choices. For example, “Babe Ruth,” “1919 World Series” and “the origin of baseball” are keywords that are far more attainable. It’s a much better use of your time to focus on those. So how do you find those keywords?

3. Not doing author blog SEO keyword research.

I’m a big fan of the Google keyword tool to analyze keywords; it tells you how many people are searching for each one, and how much competition there is. But even if you don’t have this service, you can simply go to Google and start typing keywords into the search box. See how Google is actually finishing your search for you? Take a look at the keywords Google is filling in. This is a good starting point for determining what people are actually searching for. Identify those keywords first, and then optimize your post accordingly.

5. Reusing the same keyword in multiple posts.

Is there such a thing as too much of a good thing? In terms of keywords, yes. If you already have a blog post optimized for, say, “the best author blogs,” and then you create a second blog post with the same keyword, what’s the result? Well, according to the experts, it in no way makes your site any more of a destination for that search term. Instead, it basically just sets you up to compete with yourself. It’s recommended that you have one destination (or in this case, blog post) for each specific keyword, and that you’re better off optimizing future posts for a variation of that keyword.

Now, SEO is an ever-changing field. What I’m telling you today may or may not still be applicable five years from now. But these are some good guidelines to start following to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck in terms of SEO for your blog. If you’re looking for more advice on building your author website, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

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February Author Round-Up: 5 Things You Might Have Missed

A new month is here already. Here’s an author round up of five things you might have missed in the month of February … and that we think are definitely worth going back to author-round-up-calendarread!

1. Marketing Your Books Through Current Events
Smart Author Sites
February 11, 2016

2. 7 Proven Ways to Use Content Curation to Become a Recognized Authority in Your Industry
Donna Gunter, LinkedIn
February 17, 2016

3. 10 rock-solid reasons why authors should build an email list
Joan Stewart, Build Book Buzz
February 17, 2016

4. Good Marketing. Poor Author Website Design. Does It Matter?
Smart Author Sites
February 18, 2016

5. The Self-Publishers Guide to Marketing Author Blogs
Publishers Weekly
February 19, 2016

If you stumbled across any other good articles in February that you’d like to share with other authors, please do so!

author apps icon

The Latest Trend: Author Apps?

author apps iconYou know you need an author website. That’s what just about every successful author has nowadays. But what about an author app? Do you need one, and what should it do?

It’s a little early to answer the question about whether or not authors are benefiting from their author apps, but what we can do is take a look at author apps that have been created to date and what purpose each one serves. If you feel like one of these ideas is worth investigating for you or your books, consider consulting with an app development firm to figure out if this makes sense for you.

Here are examples of some custom author apps I’ve found so far. Each of these are uniquely built to meet the needs of an individual author and his or her readers.

  • As author of a fan fiction series, Anna Todd, has teamed up with a California-based app development firm to create an app for her After series. As it is described on HollywoodReporter.com, “The app will give fans of the After novel franchise an opportunity to collaborate with Todd on ideas for her upcoming books, including new characters and cover art. They will also be able to participate in creative contests and receive exclusive advice from Todd about how to self-publish their own work.”
  • Author Peter May created an app to support his Lewis Trilogy crime series. According to his website, the app contains, “interactive map of the islands and locations featured in the books, with photographs; audio guide to pronunciation of Gaelic words; excerpts from the 3 books in The Lewis Trilogy: The Blackhouse, The Lewis Man, The Chessmen; the background to the books; and author Peter May’s own research video of the islands.”
  • Bestselling cooking author, Mark Bittman, has created various apps that include his recipes, cooking tips and more.
  • The famous James Patterson has his own series of apps now, too. My favorite is simply known as the James Patterson app and includes, “Everything from the world’s #1 bestselling author—now in an app!”
  • Stephan Pastis, author of a syndicated comic strip, Pearls Before Swine, released an app that includes, “250 of the best Pearls Before Swine strips in full color, handpicked by Stephan; 125 integrated audio commentaries; 22 integrated videos; 12 animated strips; a window into Stephan’s creative process, inspiration for the characters and strips, and life; an interactive tour of Stephan’s studio and writing room; functionality to tag favorites and share through social media; search and bookmarking tools.” He even created a video to promote the app!

There are also companies (I have no affiliation with or knowledge of them) that help authors create templated apps — much like other web development firms help authors create websites off templates. These are obviously much less expensive than custom apps, but have limitations. Examples include:

Have you seen any author apps that you love? Have you built your own author app? Share your thoughts on this below!

beverly-ovalle-author-website-design

Good Marketing. Poor Author Website Design. Does It Matter?

beverly-ovalle-author-website-designI stumbled across an article today from a local newspaper published in Wisconsin. It’s a personal profile on a local author, Beverly Ovalle.

If you’re interested in reading the full story, you can find it here. But, in short, it talks about how she became an author, the books that she’s written that are selling well on Amazon, and the various marketing efforts she’s using to promote her books, including Facebook and Twitter. She also joined the Romance Writers of America and the Wisconsin Writers Association and ROMVETS, a group of women veterans who write romances. She even entered one of her books in a contest (which it didn’t win).

There’s nothing about her story that’s shocking or exceptional. She’s an average person who tried her hand at writing, invested some time and energy in promoting her books and did pretty well.

Just the fact that I found this article means that she was able to pitch her story to the local paper and get it picked up. This is some great publicity for her! So she’s really doing something right.

But as I dug into her efforts, one thing caught my eye … and not in a good way: her website.

What’s Wrong With Her Author Website Design?

When I clicked through to her site, my first reaction was that it looked … well … amateurish. Here it is. Take a look for yourself: www.beverlyovalle.com.

It’s not awful, but it didn’t exactly blow my socks off either. My first guess was that she had designed it herself. And as I scrolled to the bottom, I found that I was pretty much correct. Right where the credit to the design team usually goes, it says it was “proudly created with Wix.com.”

For those of you who don’t know, Wix is a free website design service. It allows you to pick a website template and then customize it to your needs. The templates themselves aren’t bad. The problem is usually the customization.

In this particular case, Beverly decided that she was going to make the website look exciting and splashy. She wanted to add boxes that feature news, have words/image moving around, etc… None of these are bad things in and of themselves. It’s just that when the things that you’re adding are self-made — not made by a professional designer — they can fall flat. That was my reaction when I saw Beverly’s site.

When you work with a professional design team, (like us — the perfect time for a plug) you get a full package of design services. We start by helping you choose a template, and then we work with you to customize it to your needs. If you want splashy, you’ll get splashy. And you’ll get it with the professionalism of a true designer. You’ll also get lots of expert advice on what works and what doesn’t for other authors. We’re not afraid to push back on an idea if we think it won’t convey what you want it to convey. That’s the personalized service you get with a professional author website design firm, and not with a free service like Wix.

So here’s my question for you …

Does It Really Matter?

Clearly, Beverly is doing a lot of things right. She’s selling copies of her book. She’s active on social media. She got the local paper to cover her story. So her website is less than ideal in terms of its design and functionality. Does that matter? Is that hindering her success?

Ultimately, that’s for each and every author to decide for him or herself. Some might argue that getting a professionally designed website is a waste of money. I can’t argue that’s wrong. But I can tell you this. If I looked at Beverly’s site and thought it was missing something, then what reaction would agents have when they take a look? What about publishers? How about readers? You know what they say about first impressions.

What do you think? Is having a professionally designed author website important? Share your thoughts below!