3 Steps to Building an Author Web Site
Guest Blogger: Kelli Standish
Note from Janet: One of my clients asked me what were key elements for her to have on her author website. She has a book releasing in May, and she wants to provide a stellar spot for readers to visit online. I paused when I read her email because I realized I could get my client headed to the right path, but I didn’t think I was expert enough to make certain I was directing her investment to the absolutely best course.
That’s when I turned to Kelli Standish, president of Pulse Point Design and web designer extraordinaire, to lend us her expertise for a blog post. She, who is the essence of kindness, has laid out for us what an author should have on his or her website.
She won’t be able to respond to our comments (she is up to her elbows in projects), but if something comes up that stymies me, I’ll see if she’s available to provide us with an answer.
So, here we go, with pointers from Kelli:
Most writers get into the business of weaving words because they love WORDS and the power of a well-told tale. Not because they love self-promotion, web development, digital engagement, target demographic analysis, search engine optimization, or online strategy.
And then there are the logistical challenges of a putting together a web site: Where do you begin? What should you include? What if you don’t know code? What if you don’t know what to say?
Hive-inducing, all of it.
Let’s divide this task into three doable pieces:
Step 1: Buy your domain
Your name is your digital property, so buy your domain even if you don’t yet have a contract, or a web site. On average, you should pay no more than $15/year for a domain. You can find a list of several domain registrars here: http://lifehacker.com/5683682/five-best-domain-name-registrars (Note: I don’t recommend GoDaddy for domains, because they charge extra to keep your registration data private.)
Step 2: Develop your content
For a pre-pubbed or recently contracted author, I recommend these pages to start:
Welcome – When creating this text, remember that welcoming a visitor to your web site is a little like greeting someone when they enter your home for the first time. Say hi, introduce yourself, offer some refreshment, and invite them on a tour of your house.
A good welcome should also contain search-engine specific keywords (use terms you’d like to be found for in Google, etc.), and it needs to:
- Drive Action – Include hooks in the text, links that go to other pages, motivators and calls to action that draw visitors in.
- Convey Voice –Write a welcome that gives visitors a taste of your uniqueness and personality.
- Focus Outward – Make the text about what you can do for your visitors, not about what visitors can do for you.
- Entice Returns – Offer a clear invitation to come back, with the promise of fresh content, recurring contests, updated news, etc. Then keep that promise.
Bio – Include a clear, quality author photo. Make sure the photo is current and professional.
What to avoid: photos in which your face is obstructed by a hat or sunglasses, weird sideways profile angles, photos in which you share the image with the half-cut-off face of an ex-boyfriend, glamor shots from 15 years ago, bathrobe photos, swimsuit photos, and drunken selfies–and yes, I’ve seen ALL of these on author sites.
Include a brief bio (try for 300 words or less) that highlights your background, education, memberships or associations, and any skills or qualities that set you apart. This doesn’t have to sound self-aggrandizing. Make it personable by concluding your text with something fun, like this author did:
“My passions include theater, classic film, Ioan Gruffudd, costume design, and the preservation of apostrophes in their natural habitat.”
Do not include: the town where you live, your home address, names of any school-age children, or a detailed list of mental or physical health issues, moral failures, or marital history (unless you are the rare exception in which the last three are a key part of your writing platform).
Books/Writing – If you’re pre-pubbed, include a brief list of works in progress. If you’re agented, include your agent’s name, agency title, and a link to the agency web site. Books & Such writer Cynthia Herron does a nice job with this on her site: http://authorcynthiaherron.com/writing
You can also use this page to list links to any important articles you’ve had published online.
If you’re newly-contracted, include Coming Soon information for your book. This can be anything from the story summary, date of publication, and publishing house name, to a photo of you signing your first contract, a sign-up form so readers can be notified when the book releases, or a teaser Pinterest board. Even if you don’t have cover art yet, you can still begin to build anticipation.
If your book is already available for pre-order, add links to the book on the major online booksellers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook, Indiebound) and add a Google maps link to allow readers to locate a local brick & mortar bookstore.
Contact – This page should give site visitors a few smart, easy ways to connect with you. Again, do not include your home address or home phone number here! Do include:
- Links to your key social profiles–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, or wherever you’re most active.
- A newsletter sign-up form—Yes, even if you don’t yet have a contract. Books & Such writer Amanda Dykes provides a great example of serving subscribers and building trust equity pre-publication. http://amandadykes.com/newsletter-subscription/
- A contact form –I recommend you use a form, because a direct e-mail link will allow spam bots to harvest your address and send you all kinds of offers to enlarge body parts you don’t even have. You’ve got enough to deal with, without extra body parts or tsunamis of spam.
Don’t forget to have a savvy writing friend proofread your content before you post it online. You’d be amazed how many typos, grammatical errors, and faux pas can be prevented by a second set of eyes.
Step 3: Setting up your site
In the past few years, the advent of easy site builders with quality templates has made this part of the process much simpler for authors.
There’s so much I could say about this step, more than I have room for here, but I can at least get you started with the links below. Each of these online site builders offers straightforward options for building a site yourself, without requiring too much technical savvy:
Wix – http://www.wix.com/
Weebly – http://www.weebly.com/
Blogger – http://www.blogger.com
WordPress – http://wordpress.com/
A few final comments:
Author and quadriplegic Christopher Reeve once said, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Like every other obstacle you’ve conquered in this writing journey, you can do this, too. Just take it step-by-step.
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