The Essential Content for Author Websites
By Sandra Poirier Smith, president of Smith Publicity
In today’s book publicity landscape, having the right author website content is a requirement for success. As book marketers, we see massive value in an author’s website and blog. The site serves as a hub of information for media, reviewers, and fans. Together with the connected blog, the content on author websites gives people access to a bio, images, excerpts from his or her book, areas of expertise, event calendar, social media links, etc. When well designed and built out with the right content, websites inspire viewers to return and become fans.
Our book PR pros at Smith Publicity recommend author websites include several must-haves — of course, each site should be customized to the book(s), 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 bookseller of their choice (Amazon, B&N, etc.). Ideally, the book cover, with buying links, should be on every page, even if small. Offer all versions of the book that are 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 for scheduling).
- If you are pursuing media coverage, have a Media page offering press releases, an 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 links and logo images. Also, update your bio to showcase credibility with “as seen on” or “featured in.” Tip: We suggest making your copies of media exposure (.pdf files or recording an interview on your own), as links sometimes expire, and authors lose examples of valuable media coverage.
- Communicate with readers and fans (highly recommended!); 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 away by requesting 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 compelling 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 a 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 names, but point both websites to one as the “official” page.
Author Website Content Creation and Updates are Crucial
- If you are hiring an expert to design your author website, ideally find a designer who has experience working 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 set 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. It does not have to be a full-time job; however, you should 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. It can be hard for some writers. Readers can be put off by excessive text. The goal is to showcase your personality, author brand, share new 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 necessary 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 author 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.