I am an author website designer.  And I imagine like dentists notice people’s teeth, and cobblers notice people’s shoes, I notice people’s websites, especially author websites.  And something that stands out to me more than it should is that people bury the lead on their sites ALL THE TIME.

What do I mean by this?  I mean that I visit websites all the time & have no idea what the site owner does.  The site owner might be an individual or a business, but if it’s not obvious what they do, and therefore what their website is for, I’m not gonna stick around to try to find out, no matter how cool it might look.

This isn’t street performing, where you can expect people to sidle up and hang around while you theatrically set your stage in anticipation … this is the internet, and there are a million other sites someone could be spending their time on, especially if they’re searching for something. That’s some tough love, but important to keep in mind if you want to improve your chances of success. So if you’re working on your author website, make sure people know not only that you’re an author, but also what kind of author, immediately.

Here are some ideas on how you might do that:

  1. Make your book image look like a book.  It’s very easy to take your book cover image and turn it into something that looks like a 3d book (www.adazing.com/cover-mocks), and what that means is that your site visitors immediately know what you’re offering without having to think about it.
  2. Tell them.  Seriously.  If you have have an author site, or even a single-book website, introduce yourself right up front.  And you can be creative about how you do that.  Do you have a great blurb that says something like, “This person is an amazing mystery novelist…” or, “Nobody writes mystery books like this person!” — that’s introducing you just as well as a sentence that says, “I am a writer of mystery novels,” so put it right up front.  I get push back on this all the time because authors want to use captivating descriptive language to get people’s attention rather than being direct, but that will only get you so far if people don’t know what you do.  And most people start out by skimming a site, not reading it, so put important words like author, writer, novelist, etc.. right up front.  And don’t be afraid to be redundant on different pages of your site.  Site visitors aren’t gonna throw their hands up in disgust and leave your site if you mention you’re an author on every page.
  3. Make your book(s) the central feature.  It’s very important to market yourself using things like a blog, and/or a mailing list, and/or social media — these are the tools that will help you build & retain an audience.  But don’t let them overshadow the reason your audience is there,  and why you want them to return again & again, which is your writing.  I’m sure you’ve visited sites where an email signup pops up before you’ve even had a chance to know what you’re looking at, or where there are a list of articles that might be interesting, but you searched for “historical romance books” and you’re not sure why you’re seeing a bunch of random blog posts when you clicked on the link, or where someone’s Twitter feed is the first thing you see and it’s full of responses to Tweets where you don’t know what they’re talking about.  Help your site visitors out by guiding them in the right direction & think critically about their initial experience with your site if they’ve never heard of you before.

Author websites can act as your business card on the internet, and like a business card, should make it really obvious who you are & what you do.  There are no bonus points for mystery!