Designing the best author website possible can be exhausting, and even a daunting task, especially if you’re never even thought about the logistics of owning a site. Well, don’t fear. While this is not an exhaustive list, it should give you an idea of what you’ll need to keep your readers happy.
18. A strong URL
This isn’t technically *on* your website, but it’s just as important. Lots of authors use their name, and that’s generally a good idea because, well, it’s you! Try and get the dot com version of that URL, and if that’s not available, try your country-specific TLD (top-level domain – .com, .net. .ca, etc). If you’re branding as a publisher than an author, or if you want to work under a different name, get that name instead–go for memorable above all else.
17. Accessible Links to Your Work (on the site)
Book pages, works-in-progress pages—make them easy for your audience to find! Link them in the navigation, in the sidebar, and at the end of your blog posts.
16. Links to Off-Site Work
Do you produce regular content for an established site? What if you co-host a podcast, or have a separate blog? You’re going to need a place these links! The about page or a dedicated sidebar are two fine examples of homes for your off-site content.
15. Links to Your Social Media Accounts
Your links or icons don’t have to be dominant in the design, but placing them in the footer, the sidebar, the contact page, and at the beginning/end of a blog post makes the links easily accessible.
14. Professional Headshot
An image communicates volumes. Investing in a professional headshot that communicates your brand is essential. If you can’t afford it right now, at the very least use a high quality image. There’s nothing worse than a small image stretched to its pixely limits!
13. Relevant Links to Similar Websites
I used to get a lot of emails from companies asking if they would like to exchange links. At first, I was eager to do this because Google ranks you according to how many other sites link to you. But then I was getting a lot of miscellaneous traffic that wasn’t reading my posts, and bouncing away as quickly as they came in. If you exchange links to other authors who have a similar target audience, their audience might check you out.
Aren’t other authors with the same target audience my competition, you might ask? Yes, technically. But people don’t just read one book in their favourite genre. They’ll read everything as long as it’s within their means to attain it. In the long run, helping your readers helps you.
12. Clear Navigation
There’s nothing more annoying than unintuitive navigation. Where do you want your audiences to go? Sometimes less is more in the menu. Ask yourself: what are the MOST important pages I can display as top-level menu items? Anything else can be placed in a sub-menu.
11. An Official Bio
Personally, I love adding and tweaking my bio. But some struggle with casting themselves in an authoritative light. Remember: you’re trying to sell yourself, and that’s okay. Show off your accomplishments with pride—and a bit of humor helps too.
10. Readable Fonts
I know you like that cursive font. I do too. It’s all over this site currently. In small doses, cursive and decorative fonts can be an awesome addition to any site or design. Overdoing it is easy—think of the pretty font as icing on the cake. If you have to ask, ‘Is this too much icing?’ It’s probably too much icing.
9. A Visible Contact Me Page
When I was a journalism student, there was nothing more annoying than trying to find someone’s contact information in a sea of links on a poorly designed page. The contact page should include a working email address that you check daily. If you are uncomfortable with putting your email address on your website, or if you’re afraid of getting spammed, insert a contact form instead.
8. Appearances/Events Page
If you’re like me, you travel and promote your books a lot. Putting information for your tour dates, book signings, and readings in one place makes it easy for your readers (and you!) to find. And yes—I do often refer to my OWN site to remember event dates!
Not physically going anywhere? That’s fine—any time you’re participating in an online tour or event, stick it on the page. If nothing else, it keeps YOU organized and lets your readers know you are actively promoting yourself.
7. Cover art—and related imagery
Showing off your cover is fun—and it’s one of the most immediately visual aspects of being an author. Spicing up your backgrounds (tastefully and within reason) with related imagery can also add visual flavour to your site. Example: is fire a dominant element on your cover? Think about how you can incorporate that into your design.
6. Contrasting Backgrounds
Okay, remember when I said it’s fun to use pretty images as your website background? Just make sure the content is still readable. Solid colour backings are your friend—as long as they appropriately contrast with the text colour, that is!
5. Social Proof
What does that mean? Testimonials—proof that people like what you create! The word “testimonials” has some scary sales vibes but it doesn’t have to be pushy. Posting social proof is as easy as quoting a reviewer on Amazon or Goodreads.
4. Excerpts from your Book
Let’s say your visitor likes the look of your site and wants to read some of your stuff. You should have a clear link near the top of the page that allows them to access your work. Excerpts are very important because it allows the reader to try before they buy. It’s like going to a bookstore–generally people read the back cover and a few pages of the book to see if it’s for them or not.
3. Links to Amazon, Indigo, or Wherever your Book is Sold
Maybe they’ve found your website and liked what they’ve read. Now it’s time to convert them to a paying customer. It’s a good idea to have a link at the bottom of the excerpt page that says, “if you liked this, you can get it here.”
2. Newsletter Signup
Email marketing is still one of the most effective methods of getting people to buy your book. Your email list is a direct line to your customers—a line they’ve given you permission to use. Ignore at your peril!
1. Content that Defines You as an Expert
Just because you publish fiction on your website, doesn’t mean people will find it. People use the internet to search for information. You want people to find your website because of the rich, detailed content about the area you specialize in. That’s why, in addition to excerpts from your books, you should have articles and blog posts that relate to the subject. It doesn’t matter if you write fiction or non-fiction. Fiction authors can find non-fiction hooks that relate to their work.
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