Author websites and blogs: what are the must have’s?

So you’ve started an author blog or website. What should it look like? What material should you have on it? I’ve outlined some must have’s for author websites.

7 Things Your Author Website Needs:
1) List of your books & Where to buy your books

If visitors stumble upon or search for you, either way you want them to head to buy your books. A reverse chronological layout of your published books is best (depending on your website design). Clear links to Amazon.com and indie sellers is an easy way to display a call to action on your site. Don’t bury the links on subsequent pages, make sure they are easily accessible on the home page. And offer print as well as digital versions of the book.

2) Author bio

An author bio and picture must be available on your site. Many writers struggle with this. Too modest, too confident, too bland. Give it a punch with something fun about you, something that readers will remember, and something that makes you stand above the pack. You author image should be professional (but it doesn’t have to be professionally taken) and reflect the tone of your writing. Here is a great blog post from Rachelle Gardner about ‘How To Write A Terrific Author Bio.’

3) Clear links to social media accounts like Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook and more.

Part of being available to your readers online is creating a community around your writing and writerly persona. If you are in book promotion mode, and pre-sales buzz mode you need to be providing seamless links between these social media and online community websites. Encourage visitors to follow you on Twitter or like your author page on Facebook, give them a call to action and a reason for visiting.

4) Awards/Reviews section

If you do have awards and reviews this should clearly be displayed with one great review on the homepage (depending on website design) and subsequent reviews on your Awards and Reviews page. If you don’t have any yet, wait until you do to put this page up because an empty reviews page never inspires confidence.

5) Contact information: yourself, your agent and your publicist.

Always display contact information for you, your representation and media contact. You never know who will come upon your blog or site and what they’ll be looking for so keep your doors and opportunities open. Press kits and reading group guides can also be available here. A good way to stay available is having a feedback form so you are emailed directly when visitors have a comment or question. And a calendar of upcoming appearances also helps.

6) Copyright-free images

You don’t want anyone pirating your books, so why would you steal another artist’s work (i.e. photos)? Use your own photos, Creative Commons, or sign up for a stock photos site so they are royalty-free like Shutterstock or iStockphoto.

7) Clear message, personality and brand

So to me, this is the single most important part of author websites–well, tied with a clean layout. Your site or blog need to reflect the tone and genre of your work, needs to show some personality, and be consistent through all your online outlets. A great way to do this is through your recent book’s cover design or an author photo. Use this as the avatar across your platforms. Use consistent colours. If you are writing contemporary YA keep it fun with bright colours. If you are writing crime and thrillers use a darker, more gritty design. No matter what you have to know your message and what you’re trying to communicate to your visitors. Give them a space that reflects you, reflects your work, and is organized in a way that they can easily navigate and ultimately select a book to purchase.

Some of the best author websites, in my opinion:

Sarah Dessen

Isabel Allende

John Green

Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Emma Donoghue

Rachel Gibson

Q: What else do you like to see on an author website?

Image via stock.xchng

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14 thoughts on “Author websites and blogs: what are the must have’s?

  1. One question I have re: links to buy your books — How do you know how much to include?
    For example, if you only include a link to Amazon dot com, that makes things a bit more cumbersome for readers outside the U.S., who have to go through their local version of Amazon if there is one.
    And if you just pick one or two indie booksellers, the same problem applies (eg. there might be a local indie bookseller in a reader’s area that you as the author don’t know about).
    Is it OK/preferable then to include a link directly to your publisher’s website, so people can order directly from the publisher?
    Not trying to be anti-Amazon, just wondering where the middle-ground is between reader ordering convenience and best support for publisher/author.

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    • Hi David, great point. How do you accomplish meeting the needs of all your visitors? Focus on what your sales stats tell you is your primary market. I would link to Amazon in your home country, Kobo and other digital retailers, a big indie that ships nationally/internationally, and your publisher. It’s okay to link to a bunch, this gives more opportunity for your reader, but don’t go overboard.

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      • OK, that makes sense. I guess you could also go by what analytics tell you about where your site traffic is coming from — most visitors from where, and so judge what to link to. Thanks!

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  2. Great article. I would also add a newsletter sign up form, as sometimes when visiting author sites I am not ready to buy their books yet but want to keep them in mind, & if there’s no way to subscribe I might forget about them. It’s also a good way for the author to update their readers, as not all facebook posts & tweets will reach every follower.

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  3. Pingback: 7 Things Your Author Website or Blog Must Have | Thomas L. Scott

  4. Pingback: Platform Building Links | Carly Watters, Literary Agent

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