By Sandra Poirier Smith, president of Smith Publicity
As book publicists, we see huge value in an author’s website/blog. It serves as central hub where media, reviewers, and fans go to learn more about an author, his or her book, expertise, events, social media presence, etc. and hopefully becomes a place where viewers will be inspired to return and build a long term relationship.
Here are some items we recommend authors include on their website. Of course, each website should be customized to the book, topic, and author’s personality.
- Make it easy for people to purchase the book. Display your book cover on the home page and offer retail links to make it easy for people to order through the store of their choice (Amazon, B&N, etc.). Ideally the book cover, with buying links, should be on every page, even if small. Offer all the versions of the book available—hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook etc.
- Have an About the Book page, which may include:
o table of contents (for non-fiction)
o sample chapter(s)
o book synopsis
- Offer contact information about how to buy books in bulk.
- About the Author is an essential page featuring a bio (often people have short and long bios available) and if the author is available for speaking engagements (and who to contact!).
- If you are pursuing media attention, have a Media page offering press releases, author photo, and book covers available for downloads (high resolution for print media and low resolution for online media). Add media contact email or telephone number (can be your own). If you are working with a publicist, add the publicist’s contact information. Once media placements happen, add media inks and logo images. This is a good time to update your bio to showcase credibility with “as seen on” or “featured in.” Tip: We suggest making your own copies of media exposure (PDF or recording an interview on your own), as links sometimes expire and authors lose examples of valuable media coverage.
- Highly recommend! Communicate with readers and fans, ask visitors to sign up for a newsletter or to subscribe to your blog. Asking for first name and email address is enough—you don’t want to scare people off by collecting too much information. An email list is an author’s most valuable marketing asset, making it easy to communicate with interested people about new books. Many authors share advance reader copies with long time fans (and ask for honest feedback/reviews). Use services such as iContact or MailChimp to help manage your lists.
- Backstory. If you would like, share interesting reasons you choose to become a writer, your inspirations, any charitable connections, fun research or travel related to the book, trivia, relevant news links, etc.
- If you are selling the book yourself, give readers an incentive to buy from you, perhaps offering an autographed copy, a white paper, free ebook download of an older title..
- If applicable, have a Speaking/Events page. Offer yourself as a speaker, detail the topics you can discuss, and who to contact for bookings. Add your speaking engagement calendar if it makes sense.
- Have your Social Media Icons on every page to encourage people to connect on platforms of their choice.
- Have a Contact page to make it easy for people to reach you
- Research or hire search engine optimization service (SEO) to discover topics related to the book and to help people find you when they are browsing the Internet.
- Website name: some authors use both their name and book title as their website name, but point both websites to one as the “official” page.
As the basic framework for the website takes shape, here are tips on creating content for a book focused website:
- If you are hiring an expert to design your website, ideally find a website designer who has worked with authors/experts. Ask for samples. Ask how the creative process works and the fees for updates/maintenance/training for you to update on your own.
- Show your creativity and personality! The tone and overall design of your website sets the stage for what you want people to know about you. Think about what you want to be known for. Think about your target audience and what will appeal to them.
- Update your website. This does not have to be a full time job, however, remove old dates and event announcements. For example, if your book is announced as “coming soon” and the publication date was last month, the website does not look fresh. If you are blogging, blog in a regular pattern. Add photos from events, add links to relevant news stories, etc.
- Keep text and long sentences to a minimum. This can be hard for some writers. Readers are put off by excessive text. The goal is to showcase your personality, author brand, share interesting information ,and entice readers to want to buy your book. Does your reader know, within a few seconds, what you write and what you are about? If not, focus text, graphics, and overall design to this end.
- Clean websites—free from ads, junk, and third party pop-ups—look more professional and credible. Less is more. Leave lots of white space.
- Visit some of your favorite author’s pages to see what you like and don’t like—and what basic information appears to be standard across all genres.
- Do not oversell. Ever. People on your website know you are selling a book (or series, and perhaps other tie in products or services). Whether on your website, blog posts, email newsletter or social media platforms, lead with content, information, education, news, etc., not with the book(s) you are trying to sell. The goal is to develop long term relationships with viewers and readers.