I love talking about author websites and platforms. Maybe it’s because of my day job, or perhaps it’s because I basically live on the internet (I’m betting it’s a bit of both). Regardless, now more than ever it’s important to create an author website and maintain an active platform. Why? Because a lot of marketing has fallen into the author’s hands.
Yes, if you go down the traditional route of publishing you’ll likely get some marketing backing from your publishing house. And that’s fantastic, but in today’s digital world, having an author website isn’t just a nice benefit—it’s a must.
Think of it this way: if you don’t have a current author website, what will potential readers find when they search for you? Don’t you want to be the authority when they enter your name in Google? Or do you want them to stumble on someone else’s site that may or may not have up-to-date information about the exciting writerly things happening in your life?
5 things to include in your author website
You have to direct readers somewhere in our digital-first world, so take charge of your online identity by creating an author website that you maintain and control. Here are a few key things to include.
News and interviews.
If you’re not sure where to start, then keep reading. I’ll explain each item in depth below.
1. About page
Every author website needs an About page. After all, you’re branding yourself! Depending on where you’re at in your writing journey, your About page might include different things. But here’s a short list of what you should consider incorporating:
- Your full name (or pen name). Again, fairly self-explanatory. Typically, bios are written in the third-person.
- The type of novels you write. Be clear and concise about what you write. You don’t want your audience mistaking your work for something it isn’t.
- Any experience or awards. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished so far! And, list any writing-related organizations you might be a part of.
- Fun information. This is a great way to humanize yourself and give your readers a chance to resonate with you on a different level.
- A headshot. So they know what you look like!
If you’re represented by an agent, include that information. If you have a book out with a publishing house, include that information. Otherwise, keep it lighthearted and fun—your readers likely won’t get the chance to meet you in person, so let your personality shine through!
2. A blog
I highly, highly recommend adding a blog to your author website (if you don’t already have one). I know it’s difficult to carve out time to write posts. We’re already expected to crank out novels on the fly, not to mention all the other day-to-day responsibilities we have (you know, jobs, families, pets, etc.).
But if you can manage to find some extra time in your schedule, a blog is a fantastic way to market yourself online.
Content marketing is king. Meaning, if you’re able to create a robust, well-established presence with actionable advice, stories, tips, etc. that other writers can connect with and learn from, then you will stand out in a crowded sea of online possibilities.
Plus, from a search engine optimization (SEO) standpoint, blogs are highly beneficial in demonstrating that your site is relevant and active (something that helps with search rankings), and if you incorporate the right keywords, your organic traffic (that is, people who might type in “how to build an author website”) will likely increase.
Being a thought leader will help you get more eyes on your website, and invariably you’ll have a larger, more dedicated following when it comes time to start promoting your book.
It’s not enough to simply write a blog post, though. Just like you’ll have to promote your author platform, you’ll want to promote your articles. Share them on social, make sure they’re optimized with relevant keywords, and plan ahead. If you can post at least two articles a month, roughly about 600 words in length, you’ll start to carve out a nice little space for your author website on the internet.
A quick tip: Create an editorial calendar and plan out your topics in advance. Whenever you have time, work on an article. You can schedule them to run in a platform like WordPress as you seem fit. For example, I’m drafting this article roughly a month before I plan to publish it.
3. Newsletter signup
Newsletter signups are fascinating to me. We live in a unique industry where the majority of our writerly communications happen via Twitter and other social platforms, so I was surprised to find that newsletters are a staple for author websites.
Generally speaking, it makes sense—email marketing is four times more effective than other digital marketing platforms, making it’s ROI impossible to ignore. So while it’s important to be active on social media and network whenever possible, it’s also important to start building your email list now. That way, when it comes time to do more than just update your following with a newsletter—say, announce a big book sale and drive more purchases—then you’re in luck.
A quick tip: Make sure your newsletter signup form is GDPR compliant. Check out this article for more information on what that means.
4. Contact page
Your contact page is your hardest working employee. It’s true, even if you’re not actually employing anyone as an author. It’s always there. It’s always available. And it makes it easy for people to get in touch with you. Guest posting opportunities? Interviews? General questions? These are all possible inquiries that could come through your contact form, and they provide valuable insight. If you don’t want to post your personal information, that’s fine — just make sure you at least have a contact form and easily accessible links to your social profiles so your audience has multiple options for engaging with you.
5. News and interviews
If you don’t have the time to write blog posts of your own, then at least include a section on your site directing people to find up-to-date interviews and news-related information about you. Remember, you’re in the business of promoting yourself. Make sure you’re providing reliable information so potential readers won’t have to turn elsewhere and possibly be misinformed.
Other things to consider
First and foremost, you always want to think about your audience. Who are you marketing to? Who do you want to read your books? In this case, casting a wide net does little in the way of favors. Think about your ideal reader, and then make sure you’re creating web content that’s reflective of your market.
Most of all, just have fun with it! Include images and a logo that speaks to your brand, and consider guest posting on other authors’ sites to increase your authority and get yourself some juicy backlinks.
A quick note about website platforms
When it comes to building an author website, time and money will likely be your biggest factors. If you have the time to learn a new platform or already consider yourself technically savvy, then I’d recommend using a platform like WordPress. It’s free (though you’ll have to host the site somewhere), and there are thousands of themes, plugins and widgets to truly customize the look and feel of your site.
However, the learning curve is steep, so if time isn’t on your side, then you’d be perfectly fine with creating a DIY website through a drag-and-drop builder. In many cases, you could have a site built in less than a day, and they’re easy to maintain. However, customization is limited to the pre-set styles of the builder.
The other option is to pay someone to design your website for you. As a fellow creative, I see the merit in this; however, the cost varies widely, and usually updates or changes are included (unless you sign up for a maintenance service through that web professional).
No matter what option you choose, if you incorporate the five key tips detailed above, you’ll be well on your way to creating a fantastic author website!