Nowadays, every author needs a website. Agents and publishers expect an author website before you ever contact them. And your website may well be a top way readers find you and your book. And, so, many of my clients find themselves asking me, “What do I need? Can you look at my author website and tell me what’s missing?” I’ve answered these questions so frequently lately, I figured it’s time for a post on the subject:
What to Put on an Author Website: 12 “Must Haves”
1. Your Name: Okay, obvious that your name should be on your page. Make it prominent. Generally, it’s best for your URL (the website address) to be your name. That way the website name will always be relevant, even if you start writing different types of books. If your name is just too common, you may need to get creative–add a middle initial, middle name, “MD,” or other qualifier.
2. Contact information: If you want lots of calls, make your phone number big and in the upper right corner above the banner, if you’re serious about phone calls. On the other hand, if you prefer to screen your phone interactions, use a “contact” button or tab on the navigation bar instead, and have the primary mode of contact be by e-mail.
3. An Inviting Photo of You: If you’re a nonfiction author, potential readers want to connect with you and get a sense of who you are, whether they trust you, and, if you are providing other services in addition to your books, whether they want to hire you. Your author photo says a good deal about the kind of person you are. Find a photographer who makes you feel comfortable. Just by relaxing, you take years off your projected age! Plus, you’ll feel more approachable. Your photo can be in the banner (an image at or near the top of the page that goes the width of the screen) or it can appear below the banner.
The Next 5 elements should all be part of the Navigation Bar–that collection of tabs or buttons that visitors can click on to get to another page–or to get a drop down menu with sub-categories:
4. About Tab: This gives visitors a sense of what you do and why they should explore some more. It can include separate drop down tabs for things such as your personal bio or company mission.
5. Services: If you offer services such as consulting, coaching, healing, teaching, this tab or drop down menu can provide the details. You can name the tab more specifically based upon the services you are offering, such as “Coaching,” “Editing” or “Book Writing Classes.”
6. Media or Press: This page should accomplish 3 things: a) Journalists or show producers should get a sense of your expertise, TV presence and/or how articulate you are, in order to help them decide to interview you or feature you in their article or on their show. b) Potential clients should get the sense that you are an expert in the area they are seeking help. c) Conference organizers and other people who hire speakers should also be impressed by your media credentials. d) If you are seeking to traditionally publish, this page should demonstrate to publishers that you have a “platform” to reach readers and that you will be an attractive candidate for media interviews (i.e. you are well spoken, entertaining and knowledgeable in interviews).
Include links to online media and videos. It’s also a good idea to include a press release visitors can download. Do make sure the press release is media-savvy and not just about your book. The book should be a credential, not the focus.
At the suggestion of my Virtual Assistant, Geri Lafferty, I added this media banner to my media page (it’s bigger in real life):
Logos can add instant pizazz.
7. Speaking: If you do any public speaking, a speaking tab will help conference organizers and others find the information easily. Include a bio, head shot, list of speaking subjects or titles, list of venues where you’ve spoken, and overall description of your style, skills and subjects. This is a great place to include testimonials.
8. Blog: If you don’t blog, consider blogging. Search engines like Google LOVE websites with relevant content and every time you blog you are adding relevant content to your website. Blogs also offer a way for prospective readers and clients to get to know you, a way for people to find you through social media and a way
Here are 3 more must haves to put on an author website:
9. Social Media Share buttons: Give people the opportunity to follow you on twitter, Google+ and pinterest, like your facebook page and find you on any social media that’s most relevant to your particular audience/market. Social media is rarely optional for authors anymore.
10. A Juicy Opt-in: “Opt-in” refers to the idea that you want visitors to opt-in to receiving e-mails from you. Sometimes a newsletter provides enough incentive for visitors to share their e-mail with you, but more often it’s not enough in these days of crowded inboxes. What can you provide visitors that will truly be of benefit and help visitors to your website solve an immediate problem or challenge they face? Your vehicle can be a tip list, special report, audio or e-book. More importantly, the benefits of the opt-in gift should be indicated in the name or a few short bullet points in the sign up box.
Your opt-in should generally be in the upper right corner of the page, but below the navigation bar. Most visitors who do not sign up for an opt-in gift will never return again, even if they bookmark your page and love it. On the other hand, your opt-in allows you to gather their e-mail address and permission to continue to contact them with relevant information. Now you can develop a relationship with this prospective customer over time. I tend to ask for first name and primary e-mail address. The more information you ask for, the less likely they are to sign up, so keep it simple.
11. Testimonials: I don’t know about you, but I don’t like having to “sell” anything. I love that people visit my home page, read the testimonials and often contact me already knowing I’m the book coach for them, because the testimonials gave them all they needed to know about the results my clients have gotten and the things they love about working with me.
12. Your Book: Be sure to prominently display an image of your book (or books) and link to buy! This helps brand you, provides credibility and sells more books, too!
There’s so much more one can say about designing an author website and what to put on an author website. The upshot, though is to answer these questions before you start:
1. Who are the different groups of people who will be visiting (potential book buyers/readers, potential clients, current clients, journalists, conference organizers, etc.)?
2. What is each of those constituents looking for?
3. What action would you like each of these groups to take?
4. What would make their experience ideal?
5. What is consistent with your brand (include colors, wording, images, etc.)?
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Anything I left out that you think is crucial? Any questions on this important subject? I’d love to hear from you–just share your comments or questions below.