Tips on Making an Author Website That You Must Know
If you want to be a published author in the Digital Age then it is paramount that you make yourself an Author’s Website. Before we dive into how to get you started with the website, let’s understand why it’s so necessary. Your website is your introduction to the target audience and the world. This is where they discover you or promote you. An author’s website allows you to build a fan base or quick access for your readers to get in touch with you. Hence, for all the above-stated reasons a website is pivotal for your career as an author. Through the course of this blog, we will navigate through different tips that will optimise your website visibility.
Setting up your website
i) Domain Name
In order to set up your website, you need to get a registered domain name for your website. A domain name essentially refers to a URL of your website that people can type into their browsers to find you. In most cases the platform where one can make their websites allows the user to register a domain name through them. Additionally, one can also do the same through a third party in the likes of Google Domains, GoDaddy.com or Name.com. It’s crucial to keep in mind that your domain name is your first step to branding your website. It should be simple, short and crisp. The name should be easy for readers to remember so that they can look you up later.
ii) Choose a Platform
There are different platforms where you can set up your site. Platforms like Wix and WordPress allow a user to create their own website with efficiency. It’s important for you as an author to choose your platform. Similarly, you can decide to DIY it or get professional help. Money spent on a good website is a great investment. However, if you are just starting out and are low on funds, you could completely take matters into your own hands. There are several tutorials available on YouTube and on the above-mentioned platforms to help you navigate better.
Layout of your website
While deciding on the layout of the website it is important to understand what you want to communicate with your visitors. Your website layout essentially acts as the design template that catches a viewer’s attention in areas that require focus. There are certain mandates such as your name, title and book information that should be highlighted in the website irrespective of its genre.
i) Keeping the focus on the author (Author heavy website layout)
If you check out Guy Kawasaki‘s website then the first thing that will hit you is the amount of information provided on Kawasaki. The first page of the website describes in detail Kawasaki as an Evangelist, Author, and Speaker. In such websites, the focus is more on the author and his accomplishments than the books. The website is very text-heavy and provides the visitor with every piece of information on Kawasaki.
This layout is ideal for you if you are already accomplished and have various interests apart from books. Showing your readers things pertaining to your individuality and professional accomplishments will help to build credibility. This is also suitable for you if you are someone who is branching out in other creative stuff like podcasts, audiobooks, webinars, writing classes etc.
ii) Keeping the website minimalistic to ensure higher traction (Minimalistic website layout)
If ‘less is more’ had a face it would be Roxane Gay‘s website. Gay sticks to minimalism and quirk with her website. The first page only has her name ‘Roxane Gay’ in bold letters with a second line that reads ‘one n.’ These kinds of minimalistic quirky details automatically catch a reader’s attention. The website is more focused on Gay’s writing material and books. The website displays Gay’s published books and when one clicks on them it provides a more elaborate summary along with buying options.
Such a layout helps a visitor navigate through your website at their own pace and choice. The viewer feels more in control and thus, aesthetically pleased by what they are seeing. Gay’s picture is at the end of the ‘About’ section. If you are someone who loves minimalism and the tone of your book matches that scheme then this is the perfect layout for you. This is also idle for authors who are just starting out and want to keep their website focused on their work.
iii) Keeping in mind your author brand (Branding layout)
An author website is ideally an extension of the author’s work. Your website should echo the mood and tone of your book if you want to create an impact. It is crucial to remember that everything in your website, from colour theme to font design, should be in alignment with your style of writing. If you are an author who writes murder mystery, choosing bright colours like yellow or keeping your website very rosy would take away from the mystery element of your writer’s personality.
It is imperative to understand that through your website you are establishing your brand. Hence, the website should instantly give a visitor the look and feel of your work the moment they click in. It’s okay to be experimental with your website, however, it is not recommended to have polar opposite character elements for the website and your writing materials.
While working on your website or other social media pages it is paramount to create a compelling author’s bio. A reader needs to get acquainted with the writer before reading their work. This also helps in bringing in credibility. If you are a non-fiction writer it is recommended to mention your field of study or accomplishments. A fiction writer too can and should mention their accomplishments alongside their passion. Ideally, an author bio should be what you would want your readers to know about you that would get them interested in your work.
The author image you chose is of prime importance. When people can put a face to the name they tend to remember you better. All the above-mentioned author websites feature author pictures. This also helps in cultivating recognition amongst your audience. Your website would be a Segway for your audience to follow you on social media and therefore, putting your face out there is advisable. However, this is not a hard-and-fast rule. If you are not comfortable with your identity being revealed, you could use a pen name and an imaginary bio under that pen name.
In case you do decide to keep an author’s picture on your website, it could be useful to observe the following checklist:-
i) Use a picture that is clicked (or at least looks like it is) by a professional photographer. This essentially means that one should use high-resolution images instead of a regular filtered image clicked on your cell phone.
ii) Make sure there is no one except you in the picture unless it’s relevant to include another person for your brand value. It is advisable to not put a group image as it diverts attention and defeats the purpose of the picture.
iii) A high-resolution image with good lighting is helpful to gain your visitor’s attention. The image should be clear and aesthetically pleasing in order to be imprinted in the minds of the audience.
iv) Similar to the layout, one’s author image should go with their genre. If you are an author who writes self-help books, putting a picture of yourself that is dark and serious won’t help your case. It may create a gap between a person’s impression of your work and you. The mood and tone of your image should be in alignment with the rest of your website.
Must-have features on the website
i) Link all your work
An author’s website is about you and is there to facilitate your work. The main objective of the website is to essentially bring focus to your books and to build an audience. It’s imperative to link all your work. A reader should be able to find what they are looking for and much more. Make sure all the platforms where one can buy your book is linked properly on your website.
ii) Exploring other platforms for more traction
Similarly, along the same lines, make sure to venture into other modes of writing. A regular blog can prove to be very useful for a website. The idea behind the same is that not every person who visits your website will be familiar with your work. At the same time, this particular audience may not even have time to invest in a book right away. In such a case, blogs familiarize a visitor with your style of writing. If they enjoy it and follow it over a period of time eventually they will invest in your book as well.
iii) Starting clubs and support groups
Additionally, creating your own book club or discussion support group within the website can cater to a stronger sense of community. This will also bring in an audience who are not actively seeking out your book but may be looking for other avenues for literature. The intent behind diversifying should be to bring in different types of audience and redirect them to your book and other writing materials in order to establish yourself as an author. If you have expanded into other mediums such as podcasts then you must link the same in your website.
iv) Creating an online community & increasing engagement on the site.
To create a community of loyal fans, you need to build that relationship with your readers. Your website must facilitate the community-building aspect of your growth. It is highly advisable to adopt different methods to promote your work within your website. For example, if you are starting out, sending the first chapter of your book as a free sample to every reader who visits your website could help with impactful branding. This also builds credibility since such a gesture is seen as promising amongst the readers.
Another example of a strategy to maximize engagement is to host small competitions or giveaways. You could probably conduct one of those writing activities with prompts from your book. One could also market their book by encouraging readers to write an alternate ending or creating a parallel novel universe that’s related to your own work. To keep the audience engaged one can either give recognition or shout-outs to extraordinary submissions or send them a free signed copy of your book. The motive behind such activities should be to keep your website relevant at all times amongst the visitors. You could also work with different platforms such as Amazon and give your readers exclusive discounts.
v) Adding a review page
It is important to note that your website may look incomplete without a review page. A review page is essentially a space dedicated to featuring articles, blogs, reviews, and mentions about your work. This space should contain every piece of attention that you or your work has received. A review page brings the author credibility and helps encourage the visitor on the website to invest time in your work.
Collect Visitor Information
To build a following, one must keep their readers interested. Your website should ask for visitors’ email address. This would help you to communicate with your potential audience. Having a mailing list will enable you to engage your audience better. One could send regular newsletters. This will also help you with getting more readers by providing them with exclusive samples of our writing. Similarly, having small surveys or fun quizzes is a smart way of studying your audience. The more you interact with your readers the more you understand them.
Your website must become the middle ground where you and your readers come together for your work. A mailing list will also help you with understanding your potential buyers. Majority of the websites ask their visitors to sign up and hence, it could be frustrating for the reader. This is where you come up with creative ways to get them to sign up. Think outside the box! Barter system, where you promise free stuff in exchange for sign-ups, has worked effectively in the past.
Last but not the least…
Once you have set up your website, hit live. It’s highly advisable to consult professional designers to ensure a smooth user experience. While promoting your work is paramount, it’s important to note that one should not flood a visitor with links and books on your website. Instead, everything should be laid out under proper categories and should be user friendly. A person who visits your website should not feel bombarded with information. Rather, they should be able to navigate through the website with ease. You need to actively promote your website everywhere. Everywhere! This should be the one-stop destination of all your work and social media handles. Similar to your book, one must trust their aesthetics and stay genuine to their work.
Do not copy another artist’s website. Plagiarism is not appreciated anywhere. Another thing that’s very important to keep in mind while you’re already live is to make sure your website is constantly updated and relevant. Checking for bugs and user feedback should be a priority. Like everything else in life, your website should also grow and evolve along with you. At the end of the day, it’s your shot at introducing yourself as an author to the world.