As an author website designer I’ve been lucky enough to work with a bunch of memoirists on their author websites. I really enjoy these projects because these authors often bring the powerful combination of an amazing story to tell along with the thrill of finally reaching the point of being able to share it with the world. Bringing this kind of project into being takes bravery, and it can be emotional for the author. When that’s the case, part of my job is to not only be sensitive to the story, but also to help them focus their emotion into reaching the people who will get the most out of their story.
Some memoirists consider who they’re writing for from the very beginning, and others feel compelled to tell their story and then look to match it up with an audience once it exists. Either way you approach it, it’s critical to identify who these people are who will want to read your book. When I’m in the research and planning phase with a new author website client and ask the question, “Who is the audience for your story?” and the answer they give me is, “Everyone!”, I know we need to dig in a little deeper. Of course every author wants their story to apply to every reader, but when it comes time to market your book, and building your author website as part of that, that approach is not sufficient. Your author website, and your author marketing strategy in general, needs to connect with readers very quickly — through the visual design, through the language that you use, and through how you brand yourself as the person behind the story. And it’s much easier to do that when your target is more specific. I’d go so far as to say that you simply can’t appeal to everyone and find success in this field. This doesn’t mean that people won’t read your book who are outside of your target market, it just means that the decisions you make about how to market your book (including what the book website looks like) are based on something more specific. The advantage of that approach is in narrowing down the options from a seemingly infinite number of choices to a handful that make sense for your story and will most appeal to the folks likely to read it. It also means that you’re in less danger of approaching your book marketing with “a little bit of this, and a little bit of that” which is a recipe for a muddled end result.
Looking to others for inspiration in how to go about marketing your memoir is extremely helpful, but make sure you don’t fall into the trap of adapting one idea from one person, and another idea from another, or even lifting a strategy entirely, and expecting it all to work out for you. Every project is unique, and unless you were directly involved in that person’s project, you’ll never know all the reasons they made the decisions that they did. Instead, if you expect that you share a target audience with an author you find inspirational, look at how they approach those folks — what visual cues they use, what kind of language they use (and its tone), and also, what they leave out — then really think about what actually applies to you to form your own well-considered strategy.
Memoirs reach back into the past, so common visual themes that apply to that time period are a natural fit, but so are concepts like “humor” and/or “resilience” and/or “beauty” and/or “femininity” and/or “strength” — these less specific themes give you lots of options when it comes to crafting an author website design for a memoir, so your creativity can be boundless. After all, despite your story taking place during a specific time frame, the point in writing it is that you hope it resonates with people now and across time. If you have photos you can share, I encourage you to do it to bring your story to life — this helps potential readers, and also people who have already read your book, connect with you further. Consider that your story is, of course, about you, but you only have to share what you’re comfortable with. Don’t feel compelled to bare yourself to the world just because others have done that with success — if that approach isn’t right for you, don’t try to force it. Memoir writers often go on to write other books (even more memoirs!), so keep your goal of not only increasing the reach of this particular memoir mind, but also developing and supporting an audience for yourself as a writer with your choices. It’s not always the right choice to make decisions solely based on a single book if you’ll be sacrificing your larger career in the process (even if you don’t know what shape it might take yet).
Author website design for memoirists offers up lots of opportunities to create a unique experience for your site visitors — an experience that will stay with them for a long time, or be a good companion to them on their own journey through life. The kind of connection you create with these folks is the key to your success.