Back in 2012, I wrote an article for this site titled, “Author & Book Websites: What to Include?” Lots of things have changed with the internet with respect to author websites over the last six years, so I thought it was time to revisit the topic! What do you include in an author website these days? And how is it different than what I wrote about many years ago?
As an author website designer, I routinely create the following types of sites for authors:
- For an author of multiple books, I create an author portfolio website that features not only their newest release, but also previous releases. The books may be a series, or not.
- For an author of a single book with plans to create additional books in the future, I create an author site that showcases their current book and is set up to add additional books in the future. Again, the books may be a series, or not.
- For an author of a book that is part of a larger body of work (eg: a professor, or speaker, or service-provider) I create a site that showcases their expertise, and their book as part of that.
- For a showcase book, either for a celebrity author or as a stand-alone project, I create a book website that helps promote that book.
Each type of site has its own strategy, whether I’m working directly with the author or the publisher, but they also share many commonalities. Before we jump into specifics, however, let’s talk about what I consider to be the biggest things to have changed with regards to author websites in recent years:
- Website technology has changed. More people are viewing websites on a mobile device, and that means your author website needs to be responsive. You may have heard the adage “mobile first” — that means that, when thinking about your site, you need to first design with that experience in mind. Larger displays give you more flexibility to create an immersive experience relevant to your book(s) — and the design should reflect that — but it needs to work equally well for smaller devices.
- Site visitors are more savvy. It used to be the case that you had to consider things like website visitors not understanding how to scroll down, but with the dawn of mobile, that’s no longer a concern. Beyond that, people are more experienced with signing up for mailing lists, subscribing to blogs, and how they share their information online in general.
- Publishers expect authors to understand the internet. I used to have author clients who literally said things like, “I don’t actually use the internet all that much, but I was told I need a website.” These days, authors not only need to understand the internet in general (How it connects people with content & the value of a web presence), but also know what it means to create an author platform with a robust following. You also need to have a strong social media presence, on whatever platform works best for you, and integrate that into your website.
- Transparency is more important than ever. For better or worse, our lives are increasingly tethered to each other through the internet. We use it constantly to communicate with each other, share our experiences, perform our jobs, and so on… This means there are increasing numbers of people who expect to be able to get to know you through your author website. This is done in a variety of ways, including the visual design, the language you use, the photos you share, and the stories you tell. This isn’t to say that you need to give away your deepest, darkest secrets to your readership, but you do need to be able to meet them on a human level.
- Community interaction is a must. There are so many ways to go about this, whether it’s a blog, Facebook group, email newsletter, Instagram stories, or even video content… but gone are the days of just putting up a simple site with your book cover and some text on it and calling it a day. You need a strategy in place for how you’ll keep in touch with an existing and potential audience over time, how you’ll keep them engaged, and encourage them to share with their friends.
What does that mean for your author website? What kind of content do you need to include to help your author site be a success? Here are my recommendations:
- An introduction. Whether you’ve written only one book or multiple, without an introduction, you’re missing an opportunity to connect with (and remain connected with) readers. Consider using a great photo of yourself and telling people what kind of author you are. As the first thing people will see, they’ll immediately understand who you are and what you do. Here’s an example: “Firstname Lastname is a historian who specializes in early 20th century farm life in North America by bringing American Gothic to life.” Or, perhaps: “Firstname Lastname writes intergalactic romance novels where no galaxy is large enough to contain the passions of her heroine.”
- Your featured project. This is where you’ll share your just-released book (or upcoming book). If it’s part of a series, make sure to mention that and let people know what number it is in the series. You’ll share a shot of the book cover, the title, a great blurb/quote about the book, some short description text, plus links where people can buy it.
- Your other work. If you’ve written other books, you’ll want to include those. If you’re a consultant or offer a service (such as speaking), you’ll share information about that. You’re sharing your expertise and successes here, so include your best testimonial excerpts along with it too.
- Information about you. This is your About or Bio info, and should include a bit of a story about why you do what you do, and what you love about it.
- News and/or events. If you make appearances, list those; if you won an award, share that; if your next book has a release date, let people know — you get the idea. If you have a blog, you might share this information that way, but it needs to live somewhere on your website.
- Contact information. If someone wants to interview you or offer you an opportunity, make sure it’s easy for them! Remember, an email address is only one way people might reach you — they can also use your social media profile.
- A way to connect. This can be a blog, embedded social media content, or a newsletter, but you should have some way for your readers to keep up-to-date with what you’re doing. This can also be a place they can ask questions, share their enthusiasm for your work, and feel connected to the community of your readers.
You can achieve this on an author website with multiple pages, or on a single page — what strategy is right for you will depend on your project. Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list as your project might have other components worthy of sharing, but it’s enough to get you started!