Outbox Online https://www.outboxonline.com Wed, 23 May 2018 02:30:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to Choose the Best Author Website Design Company for You https://www.outboxonline.com/how-to-choose-the-best-author-website-design-company-for-you/ https://www.outboxonline.com/how-to-choose-the-best-author-website-design-company-for-you/#respond Wed, 09 May 2018 02:02:47 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=49968

It’s a big deal to find the right person to build the best author website design for you!  You’ve worked really hard on your book, and also on getting it to the point of release. And you’re all set to work hard marketing it once it’s available to the world. If making a living as
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It’s a big deal to find the right person to build the best author website design for you!  You’ve worked really hard on your book, and also on getting it to the point of release. And you’re all set to work hard marketing it once it’s available to the world.

If making a living as a writer is a goal, you certainly want to set yourself up for success.  Having a website that achieves all of your goals is a critical part of that success, and you want an author website designer you can easily work with who will help you get there.  So how do you know who the right author website designer is for you?  Here are some things to consider:

  1. You see sites you like in their portfolio.  This advice takes for granted that there are lots of examples of their work for you to look at!  If you’re having trouble finding examples of author and/or book websites they’ve worked on that’s not a good sign.  When you have the ability to see their work, make sure it includes the kind of websites you’d be happy with.  All web designers have slightly different styles, and you want one whose aesthetic is a good fit for you.
  2. They’re going to build you something sustainable.  If someone creates a website for you that is time consuming, complicated, or expensive to update (Or all three! Oh no!), you’re going to be unhappy.  Only those with a massive surplus of time and money can afford to create a site without a reasonable update path in mind.  You want to know that your web designer is affordably available to you after the site has been built in case you need them, but you also want to be able to make simple site updates yourself.  This is where the designer being in business for awhile can be an advantage — if someone has only being creating author websites for 6 months, who’s to say they’ll even still be around next year when your next book is released?  Also, if there’s an unreasonable (to you) amount of time before getting a response from the designer, and/or they don’t address your questions/concerns in the lead up to the project, that’s not a good sign for their responsiveness down the road.  Sustainability for your website should also consider things like what happens when your next book is released, or when you offer a new service — you don’t want to have to start again unless it’s the right thing to do.  Ideally your web designer is asking forward-thinking questions to ensure you’re not creating something that won’t be easy to adjust as your career progresses, but if they’re not, this is something you need to be aware of.
  3. They understand SEO & web marketing.  Your author website designer doesn’t need to offer the same services and expertise as a web marketing firm, but they do need to understand how your website will fit into an overall content marketing strategy, and be able to set your site up so that it’s as searchable as possible.  It’s rare that a website exists these days without being connected to a social media profile, so they need to understand not only what your options are for how to integrate your social platforms into your website, but also how your website might support your social campaigns.  Preferably, they should additionally be able to tell you which of your website content creation efforts are worth it.  You might have all kind of ideas about content you could create for your site, but why waste your limited time on creating content that won’t benefit you in the end?
  4. They’re easy for you to communicate with.  Even if your author web designer knows lots of jargon and can conversationally spar with the nerdiest among us, they should still be able to communicate with you, no matter your knowledge level.  They should be able to explain things in a way you can understand, and not make you feel stupid for asking.  You should also feel comfortable speaking up and providing input and direction.  Your web designer should be seeking your input and direction at all steps along the path of the project, so look for signs that that’s their approach, rather than delivering a finished product that you either don’t understand or don’t like.  It’s totally okay for them to be in a different time zone, or even a different country, as long as communication is quick and easy.
  5. They’ve worked with authors before.  Lots of people have the nephew or cousin or neighbor who dabbles in web design, and can throw together a website quickly for next-to-no-cost, but that’s unlikely to be the right person to entrust your author website to.  The lifecycle of a book, the concerns of authors, and knowledge of your target audience of readers, publishers, and press coverage for books are all things your author website designer should be familiar with.  They should be comfortable jumping on a call with your editor, publisher, or publicist to strategize and ensure all project elements are being considered.  You want someone who can guide you in the right direction, and can support their decisions about how the website should look and what kind of content it contains.

Using these guidelines will help you be able to find the right author website designer for you.

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Secrets of a Great Author Website: 3 Tips https://www.outboxonline.com/secrets-of-a-great-author-website/ https://www.outboxonline.com/secrets-of-a-great-author-website/#respond Tue, 01 May 2018 01:44:00 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=49875

There are three elements that some author websites use that make all the difference in their web presence.  It may be surprising to you that none of these secrets have to do with how the site looks, how fancy it is, what its budget is, or what platform it uses.  All of them have to
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There are three elements that some author websites use that make all the difference in their web presence.  It may be surprising to you that none of these secrets have to do with how the site looks, how fancy it is, what its budget is, or what platform it uses.  All of them have to do with the content itself and how you use it:

SEO for Authors1. Be discoverable through search.  Use consistent keywords throughout your site, social media accounts, and on Amazon & Goodreads.

Before you think about anything else (what the site looks like, for example) you need to think about how people will find you.  Search engines don’t “see” anything on your website — they’re just robots behind the scenes that look at the code & text that makes up your site, how it fits into your overall web presence, and figure out where to rank you for words and phrases that they think are important to you based on how you use them.

If a word or phrase is important to you, and you want people to find you for it, here are a few things you should do:

  • Create a dedicated page of your site for that word/phrase. Make it the title of the page (including using it in an h1 tag), and use it in the body text on the page more than once (including the first paragraph).
  • Make sure the images on the page reflect the word/phrase (in the image filenames, alt and title tags).
  • Link to your dedicated page (see above) from elsewhere (internal and external to your site) using that word/phrase.
  • If at all possible try to use a word or phrase that isn’t too generic:  trying to compete for the phrase, “romance novel” is much more difficult than trying to compete for the phrase, “historic new england romance novel”, for example.

Your most important word/phrase should be used consistently, as a brand, everywhere you appear online.  So use it in your social media profiles, use it on Amazon, and add it to your GoodReads profile.  To go back to our previous example, all your profiles might read: “Firstname Lastname, Author of Romance Novels Set in Historic New England”.

Surprisingly, few authors are doing this specific kind of branding, so it’s not difficult to stand out this way.  Also, for the journalists and bloggers putting together book lists for holidays (eg: Summer Reading Lists) you can call more attention to yourself as an author this way.  When journalists and bloggers are searching for who to include in their book lists they often want to distinguish their list by narrowing the focus — if they don’t already know about you and you’re a good fit for their list, make it easy for them to find you.

Building an Audience as an Author2. Engage with your audience.  Invite comments, answer questions, and share stories.

Sure, your website can be a static place where you put up some information about yourself and your books that you update periodically when a new book is released.  But you can also make your site a destination for your readers regardless of where you are in the book creation/release cycle. By doing this you’re creation a targeted, interested audience to whom you can announce news and information.

If you love sharing videos, then create a YouTube channel and share the videos on your site in a blog format and invite comments.  If you love getting feedback from your readers, then share short stories or have them vote on possible plot lines for your next project.  If you are constantly researching your topic and discovering new things, then share interesting resources that you come across and invite commentary.  Sure, you can do all of these things on a social platform, but then you’re not bringing people to your own website where they can discover lots more about you and your projects.

I suggest finding a way to use social platforms on your website where you can leverage work you’re already doing (like uploading a video to YouTube), but in a way that brings the audience to your site rather than only letting that content work for you elsewhere.  Let your community of readers be centralized around a site that you own and control, rather than somewhere else.

After all, you’re in charge of what your website looks like, its terms of use, and how long it sticks around.  But you’re not in charge of what other companies do with their platforms, so don’t risk your online presence by putting all your eggs in their baskets.

Sharing Resources on an Author Website3. Share something extra.  If your book is about a universe you’ve created, add something new. If your book is nonfiction, share new research or findings.

If a new reader finds you through search, that’s great, and basic content about your book will hopefully be interesting to them.  But what about an existing reader who wants to know what’s coming next?  Or a reader who wants to tell their friends about you?  Or a book club that wants to discuss your book?  Create a destination not only for new readers, but ideally to serve and build a community of readers.  If you create a space for your fans to interact with you and each other, that will benefit you much more over time. And providing supporting information to your work that promotes conversation among your audience is a reason for them to visit your site again and again. It also gives you a reason to create chatter about your work in a time between projects, when things my otherwise be slow.

A thriving online community is sustained by regular injections of new, relevant content, and especially content that gets them talking.  So think of creative ways you can do that for fiction and nonfiction alike.

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Remember, you can have a great website at any price point — whether you make it yourself or hire someone to help you — it’s what you do with it that matters!

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Website Design for Indie Authors https://www.outboxonline.com/website-design-for-indie-authors/ https://www.outboxonline.com/website-design-for-indie-authors/#respond Tue, 30 Jan 2018 15:47:14 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=48132

Sometimes you’ll hear people say things like, “the only legitimate way to be an author is to find a big publisher to get your book out there.”  This word, “legitimate,” has always been troubling to me.  It’s a bunch of baloney, most of the time.  Sure, the only legitimate way to be a physician is
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Sometimes you’ll hear people say things like, “the only legitimate way to be an author is to find a big publisher to get your book out there.”  This word, “legitimate,” has always been troubling to me.  It’s a bunch of baloney, most of the time.  Sure, the only legitimate way to be a physician is to go to medical school, but there are a whole host of professions where that kind of training and certification doesn’t apply and being an author is one of them.  You are a legitimate author as soon as you have written a book.  The only thing that distinguishes one author from another is how many people know about their work.

Large publishers have an advantage of a well-defined infrastructure, with a long reach designed to promote books, but as you’ve likely heard, they are no longer alone in that capacity.  Lots and lots of indie authors have found a variety of ways to get the word out about their work online. Maybe you’re aware of Joanna Penn, who is a prolific author and shares her amazing knowledge and resources on book promotion, self-publishing, and book marketing.  She’s just one great example of someone who created an extremely successful career for herself as an indie author of fiction & non-fiction alike.

So what does this mean if you’re an indie author looking for a website?  How do you capture the kind of success you’re looking for without a publisher in the wings?  Having worked on many indie author websites, here are my top tips:

  1. Define success incrementally, and celebrate all milestones.  Even large publishers take a phased approach when signing authors for a series; the first book is a test of the concept, and targets are set relatively low.  As an indie author, your first steps into publishing your work may not seem particularly exciting — perhaps your first book only gets into a few dozen hands.  But if your next book gets into a few hundred hands, then a few thousand, the trajectory is pretty spectacular.  If you set your goals too high, you’re bound to be disappointed, so I encourage my indie author website clients to look to metrics on their sites — like how many people sign up for their mailing list, read their blog, or download an excerpt — and watch how those metrics change over time.  For many people, initial book marketing efforts can seem like shouting into the void but with persistence and patience you will start to see changes for the better.  Becoming an indie author isn’t a quick way to wealth & riches — there are a lucky few (just like winning the lottery) who hit it big, but for most people, it’s lots of hard work over many years.  Celebrating smaller successes can help remind you that your efforts aren’t for naught.
  2. Don’t expect your website to do all the work for you.  Yes, it’s important to have a great on-brand website as an indie author. (An Amazon and/or Facebook author page is not enough — you can read more about that here.) After all, your website can be part of what separates you from the crowd, brings you a new audience, and helps them stay interested in your work.  By itself, however, it’s just like any tool: The magic is in what you do with it.  Even if you have an exquisitely beautiful website that has been optimized to the hilt for search engines, if people don’t know about it, it doesn’t matter.  The way people find out about your website is by marketing yourself, and by adding interesting content to your site over time. The wealth of content you add to your website draws people to it through search or by sharing it on social platforms.  Consider your site a repository for information about you and your work, and you want that repository to grow — maybe you write a blog, maybe you publish videos, maybe you write articles for other people that you link from your site but, no matter what, you want to be adding keyword-rich content to your site and pointing people to it over and over again.
  3. Treat your site like it represents a business, because it does.  Being an author is a long-held dream for many people, but even if you have a large publisher working with you on your book, you’re going to have to participate in lots of activities that aren’t anything like writing books.  These activities include marketing yourself & building an audience, just like any business.  While you can have an informal brand as an author, you should always take these efforts seriously.  Learn about your target audience: Where they hang out and how to reach them.  Make sure the content you include on your site is designed to reach that audience, and follow up with your analytics to see if your efforts are working.  Any business that’s run haphazardly is much less likely to succeed than one that is making strategic, informed decisions.
  4. Don’t cut corners.  This doesn’t mean you need to blow your budget!  I encourage folks with limited resources to simplify.  Rather than trying to do a bunch of different things poorly because you’ve seen some great ideas on other sites that you want to replicate, focus on your most important priorities and find ways to implement them simply. If you create an author website that has a bunch of bells and whistles but they don’t make sense for you and are executed poorly, not only will it be obvious to your site visitors, but it will do you a disservice by turning people off.  The same is true if you don’t fully understand something yet. For example, if you don’t have a plan for what you might do with a blog, even if you’ve heard it will help drive traffic to your website, don’t start one until you understand what your blog will be about and how (and when) you’ll use it.
  5. Set yourself up with a great web host. Price is most certainly a consideration when it comes to choosing a web host, but sometimes paying a little bit extra will have huge rewards.  A good web host is not only reliable, but also speedy and secure.  If you’re saving a few dollars a month by going with a less expensive option, but are losing out on site visitors — and therefore sales — because your site is slow (Google factors the speed of your site into search rankings!), or even worse, hacked, then you’re better off spending a little bit extra.  If your site will be built on WordPress, then choose a hosting plan designed for WordPress — it will be optimized for that platform to perform best.  If you need a recommendation for a great web host, I’ve provided a page of resources for websites here.

There are so many things to master as an indie publisher, and you can feel like you need to be great at everything before you even begin.  That’s not true!  Just don’t bite off more than you can chew.  Perhaps you need to give yourself more time to get everything ready.  Perhaps you need to simplify your initial plan.  Perhaps you need to better define your goals & priorities. Alternatively, maybe you need to add someone to your team to help you get where you need to go.  No matter what, getting started is always the best way forward!

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Small Business Website Design: Solopreneurs https://www.outboxonline.com/small-business-website-design-solopreneurs/ https://www.outboxonline.com/small-business-website-design-solopreneurs/#respond Tue, 23 Jan 2018 14:32:01 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=48131

I like the word Solopreneur. Obviously, it’s based on Entrepreneur, but the term distinguishes itself by suggesting that the subject works alone. True, not all entrepreneurs have employees but, increasingly, there’s a class of worker who not only doesn’t have employees, but doesn’t intend to have employees or to grow their business in a traditional sense. They’re
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I like the word Solopreneur. Obviously, it’s based on Entrepreneur, but the term distinguishes itself by suggesting that the subject works alone. True, not all entrepreneurs have employees but, increasingly, there’s a class of worker who not only doesn’t have employees, but doesn’t intend to have employees or to grow their business in a traditional sense. They’re happy flying solo, as experts in their chosen field, and can be hired as freelancers and sole proprietors to complete one or a series of tasks.

I would describe myself as a solopreneur; I run my business solo, doing everything from business development to outreach, client management, and design work (start-to-finish) myself. I love it. I’ve been asked many times why I haven’t brought on employees in the 10+ years I’ve been doing this, and it’s because, simply, I love doing everything myself, and that’s more important to me than growing my business in that way. I love knowing all the bits-and-pieces of my business up close, and having my fingers in multiple pies.  I like changing gears throughout the day because it means I’m never bored.

So, what does that mean when it comes to designing websites for solopreneurs? How do I take my own experience, and the experiences of my clients, and translate that into a website that helps meet their business goals?  There are a few things I consider essential when it comes to creating solopreneur websites:

  1. Make sure your expertise is clear.  People need to understand straightaway what you do.  And not in a vague way — you need to connect with actual potential clients by listing out specifics.  Here’s my intro, for example: “Designing & building great WordPress author websites for publishers, authors, and book promotion: Kate creates sites that are clean, easy-to-use and goal-oriented so that her clients have a successful platform to support what they love to do.” That’s a nice formula you can use for this: “I do _____, for _____, so that they can _____.”
  2. Give examples.  No matter what you do, whether it’s writing, photography, law, illustration, or something else, show examples of your work.  You don’t have to show everything you’ve ever done, of course, but pick out the best examples that back up what you do so that prospective clients can see for themselves.
  3. Back up your claims.  There’s little you can say for yourself that’s better than what happy clients will say for you.  Gather testimonials from your clients and use them on your website.  I recommend placing them contextually on your site, so that they are strategically placed next to examples of the kind of work they discuss.  For example, if someone’s given you a great testimonial about how easy you are to work with, put that on your About page.  If someone’s given you a testimonial about how what you delivered is world-class, then put that next to the description of your services.  When you work for yourself, building confidence in prospective clients about your skills is really important.
  4. Make your website work for you.  Maybe there are questions you get over-and-over again as part of running your business — consider putting those questions and their answers on your site, so you can direct people there.  If you can put your prices online, do so, so that you can rule in (or out!) prospective clients who would never be a good fit for you based on their budget.  Set up your site so that it’s working for you 24/7, saving you time and money.
  5. Make it super easy to get in touch.  If you want people to get in touch with you to kickstart the process of working together, don’t make them work for it.  Put your contact details — or provide links to your Contact page — throughout your website.  If there’s information you need from someone to kickstart your on-boarding process, ask for it on your Contact page, so you can jump right in with your initial communication.

The last thing I’ll add is to emphasize how important it is to work smart on your website project.  If you’ve got multiple plates spinning, you don’t have time to be inefficient when it comes to planning your site.  Keep things simple, and don’t get distracted by website elements that don’t help you meet your business goals & are difficult to maintain.  I tell clients all the time, “The more complicated you make something, the more complicated it’ll be.”  That applies not only for the creation of the site, but also the maintenance; you don’t have to sacrifice beauty or functionality with a simple website, you just have to be a bit more ruthless with what meets your criteria for being included.

As a solopreneur, your small business website is a mainstay of your business.  It will help you attract new clients and make it easier to interface with existing clients, so consider the 5 tips above when developing your strategy for success.

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Author Website Design: Creating Author Websites for Celebrities https://www.outboxonline.com/author-website-design-creating-author-websites-for-celebrities/ https://www.outboxonline.com/author-website-design-creating-author-websites-for-celebrities/#respond Tue, 16 Jan 2018 15:11:12 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=47786

Throughout my career I’ve been lucky enough to create author websites for some well-known folks. In some cases, I’ve worked directly with the celebrity author and, in other cases, I’ve created a site for a new book release or specific writing project via their publisher. Regardless of who I’m working with, there are some elements
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Throughout my career I’ve been lucky enough to create author websites for some well-known folks. In some cases, I’ve worked directly with the celebrity author and, in other cases, I’ve created a site for a new book release or specific writing project via their publisher. Regardless of who I’m working with, there are some elements that remain the same across all author website projects, but some things are different about working with celebrity authors that all authors can learn from:

  1. Like everyone else, their time is limited & valuable.  Just because someone may have a large budget doesn’t mean that they have lots of available time to go along with it.  Most successful authors have their fingers in lots of different pies, so during the time they make available to work on their website, communication needs to be focused, and oriented towards getting the most out of every conversation.  For the most part, they’re prepared with a list of their goals & priorities so that everyone is on the same page from the outset.
  2. They rely on experts to make recommendations & give advice.  Just because someone might be at the top of their game in their chosen field, doesn’t mean that they know everything about everything.  I’ve found that celebrities are most often the clients who identify that they’re *not* an expert in my field and rely on me to do my job well to make them look good.  You may not have the budget to hire an arsenal of experts to handle everything for you in a professional way, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t find experts within your budget to handle the things you know least about.
  3. They have lots of great photos.  If you took the same website design and used mediocre photos as opposed to great, professional photos, you would be astonished at the difference.  I’ve written before about the power of great headshots on author websites, and while you don’t have to be a celebrity to have great headshots, it does seem to come with the territory.  Beyond headshots, if there are photos of locations or objects that would help set the mood for your website project, make sure those are of good quality too.  There are some wonderful, free stock photo resources online (eg: pexels.com) these days so there’s no excuse any longer to use lackluster photos.
  4. They understand the power of social media. I’m sure you follow famous people on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.  I regularly spend time analyzing what makes some celebrity profiles stand out above the rest, and it often comes down to the power of storytelling.  Whether it’s with photos or text, they (generally) do a great job of sharing enough — but not too much — about themselves in the context of why they became a celebrity to begin with (humor, acting, writing, etc.).  You want to follow their feed not only so that you can see what they’re up to (Meeting other celebrities!), but also because it helps you feel as if you’re seeing behind the scenes.  It’s compelling to feel like you’re in on something other people might not know about, and it makes you want to tell your friends about it.  This is true even if you’re relatively unknown!
  5. They exploit their brand in a variety of ways.  If you take book marketing seriously, you know that once your book is written, a new kind of hard work begins: getting the word out about it.  Just as when a movie is released, its stars participate in an endless variety of interviews, panels, and talk shows about it, authors should be trying to get as much coverage of their book as possible.  If you’re just starting out, it might be by submitting it for reviews for debut books, or awards for new authors, or contacting bloggers for whom your book might be interesting to their audience.  If you’re more well known, then you might go on The Late Show to spar with Stephen Colbert about your project.  Regardless, there is more to the celebrity author than just their book.  There are often videos available of them talking about it, or audio excerpts, or podcast interviews, or t-shirts, or giveaways on Facebook. Even if all of those options aren’t available to you, for longevity in the marketplace, I encourage you to think creatively about how what you are marketing, as much (if not more than) your book, is your brand, and how you can share that with the world.

Example celebrity author websites:

Book Website Design for Zac Posen Author Website Design for Jenny Mollen Book Website Design for Bill Nye

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5 Tips for the Best Author Website Design https://www.outboxonline.com/5-tips-for-the-best-author-website-design/ https://www.outboxonline.com/5-tips-for-the-best-author-website-design/#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 15:10:55 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=47675

The best author website design is different for every author.  That’s a tricky way to open this blog post, right?  But even if each author’s webpage design should be tailored to their project & their audience, there are a handful of things that should be kept in mind for ALL author websites. HERE ARE 5
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The best author website design is different for every author.  That’s a tricky way to open this blog post, right?  But even if each author’s webpage design should be tailored to their project & their audience, there are a handful of things that should be kept in mind for ALL author websites.

HERE ARE 5 CRITICAL ELEMENTS:

1. Navigation should be easy.  While that should be simple to implement, it can be deceptively complicated in practice.  You want to make sure people have an easy time finding what they’re interested in on your website, but those people might be new potential readers, journalists, your existing audience, and more.  To figure out what “easy” navigation is for all of those people, put yourself in their shoes, and make sure they can quickly find what they’re looking for.

If you’re a fantasy author, for example, sure, it might be cute to call your bio page “The Saga,” but it’s unlikely someone would click on it if they’re looking for a quick way to learn more about you.  How do I know this?  For more than a decade, I’ve been analyzing the analytics from author websites, and pages that are clearly labeled by topic perform better than those that aren’t.  People are in a hurry all the time, for better or worse, so do your best to make their lives easier and name your page, “About the Author” (or something similar).  A good experience on your site is what you want visitors walking away remembering, not frustration.

Also, there’s no need to reinvent standard website navigation practices.  If your goal is to sell more books and grow your audience, focus on that rather than trying to change the way that people use the internet.  It all goes back to people being in a hurry and not having to really think to use your site (That becomes even more critical when things are super-condensed on a phone), not to mention that complicated navigation designs will also be more complicated to update, should you want to change your site pages in the future.

Here’s a side-by-side example of what I’m talking about.  The bottom unnecessarily reinvents the wheel and makes you have to stop & think, while the top keeps things simple & usable:

The Best Author Website Design: Navigation

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2. Make your calls-to-action super clear.  What does that mean?  Any time you’re asking a site visitor to do something, like sign up for a mailing list, subscribe to your blog, or buy your book, that’s a “call-to-action.”  Each page should have a primary (ie: most important) call-to-action, and if your page has multiple sections, each section should have its own, secondary, one. For example, if the Home page of your site features your book right up-front, then the primary call-to-action might be to purchase the book, or learn more about it.  If you have a smaller section further down on the Home page about you as the author, that might have a secondary call-to-action to learn more about you or to connect on Facebook.

Any time you’re asking someone to do something on the internet, you want not only to call people’s attention to it, but also to make it really easy. You want to use stronger colors and images, and compelling language, but not in a way that gets in the way of the goal.  Here’s an example: Let’s say you want someone to sign up for your mailing list because that’s the primary way you engage with your audience, which of the examples below do you find more compelling?:


The Best Author Websites: Calls to Action & Mailing List Signups

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3. Be noticeable.  Many people think that, to get noticed, you need to throw everything — including the kitchen sink — into a website design. They use strong colors, large text, and lots of images, and the end result is a confusing design without focus. You don’t have to sacrifice clean, simple design to get noticed.  You can use color, typography, photography, or illustrations strategically to leave an impression in someone’s mind.  Whatever design or style you use, however, make sure it fits with your brand.  If you’re super outgoing and have a writing style to match, make sure that shows in your visual design choices.  If you’re an introvert who wants people to never feel overwhelmed when they visit your site, then factor that into your design choices.

Both of the following author website designs were created to leave a lasting impression and extend the author’s brand in a clean way, but with very different styles:

Best Author Website Designs: Be Noticeable

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4. Connect the cover of your latest book visually to the overall site design.  You don’t need to redesign your entire website each time you release a new book unless you really want to.  With the right design, maybe you could just change a few settings and the buttons throughout your site change color, or your headline font changes to coordinate with the new cover.  Not only will this create a more cohesive design without having to start again, but it establishes that you’re engaged with your website enough to keep it as up-to-date as your books.

Here’s an example of a relatively simple overall design, but with elements that echo the most recently released book which are updated for each new release:

Best Author Websites

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5 . Enough content, but not too much.  You want your website, all pages of it, to have enough content to attract search engines (which means 300+ words per page), but not so much that people are overwhelmed.  It’s a fine line sometimes, and it’s different for each genre (each project, even) for which you’re designing.  Some genres lend themselves better to text-based-content than others.  There are lovely sites out there that use a photo landing page with little to no text on it.  They can be super gorgeous, and help you achieve point #3 above (“Be noticeable”), but they often work better for someone who doesn’t have to worry so much about searchability, because they already have a huge following.  The idea behind that kind of design can still be used without ignoring your word count, of course; maybe you have an intro section on a page of your site that’s a prominent photo with only a little text over it, and then there’s more content down below.  It gives the same level of visual impact, but doesn’t sacrifice your ability to be found via search engines.

Here’s an example of how you might fit it into an author webpage:

Best Author Web Design

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Here’s hoping these five lessons are helpful! If you’re looking for specific suggestions of what you might include in your author website, I’ve written a posts on What Content to Include in an Author Website, What Pages to Include in an Author Website, and What the Best Author Websites Have in Common as well.

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Author Websites: Don’t Bury the Lead https://www.outboxonline.com/author-websites-do-not-bury-the-lead/ https://www.outboxonline.com/author-websites-do-not-bury-the-lead/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 00:23:41 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=47083

I am an author website designer.  And I imagine like dentists notice people’s teeth, and cobblers notice their 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? 
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I am an author website designer.  And I imagine like dentists notice people’s teeth, and cobblers notice their 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.

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!

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Website Design for Writers: Creating a Great Author Website Before You’re Published? https://www.outboxonline.com/website-design-writers-creating-great-author-website-youre-published/ https://www.outboxonline.com/website-design-writers-creating-great-author-website-youre-published/#respond Wed, 22 Nov 2017 11:30:37 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=46768

More often than not, my author web design clients hire me when they have a book about to be published.  Sometimes it’s a first book, and sometimes they’re revamping their site after they have a few books under their belt … sometimes they’re self-published, and sometimes they have a publisher … but every so often
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More often than not, my author web design clients hire me when they have a book about to be published.  Sometimes it’s a first book, and sometimes they’re revamping their site after they have a few books under their belt … sometimes they’re self-published, and sometimes they have a publisher … but every so often I work on website design for writers before they’ve released a book at all.  My work in these cases is directed at helping them build their platform for a future self-publishing project, or because they want to attract a publisher or agent.

And there are lots of good reasons for this being a rare occurrence, most notably that until you have a published book (and even then!) you may not have the budget to hire someone to create an author website for you.  The issue that some writers run into, however, is that agents & publishers want to see proof of your platform as part of your pitch (woah, alliteration).  So, how do you establish that without a website showing you’re a writer with a following?  And do you really need a website to prove that?

Let’s first start by defining what I mean by a writer’s platform & following:

  • It’s your ability to sell books & influence an audience because of your work.
  • It’s your brand as an author — something well defined & easy to understand.
  • It’s organic & sustained growth of your social media following, your website visitors, your newsletter, or other channels.
  • It’s your ability to connect with (and reach) fans & be authentic.

And here are some ways you might do that (with, or without, a writer’s website):

  1. Start a newsletter.  Of course you’ll need a place for people to sign up for this (ie: a website or link from a social profile), but there are few better ways to connect with people & stay on their mind than by showing up with something entertaining/valuable in their inbox on a regular basis.  The key to a successful newsletter is the newsletter itself.  If you write something that people find valuable because it’s informative, or makes them laugh, or is otherwise a unique respite from a crazy world, they’re going to be willing to subscribe to it and share it with friends.  Growing your list takes time & perseverance, but pays off in the end when you’re ready to tell those people about your new book release.
  2. Start a blog / website.  Like a newsletter, you’re writing content that connects with your audience over time, but unlike a newsletter, your blog and website content is available on the internet and searchable all the time.  Personally, I like the one-two-punch of doing blog posts that people can subscribe to by email because you get the best of both worlds.  A blog/website can be very easy to set up, and can even be free with platforms like WordPress.com or Blogger.  If you’re not sure what you might blog about (and, surprisingly, many writers aren’t), I’ve written a bunch of ideas of blog posts for authors here and also (with examples) here.  And your writer website doesn’t have to be complicated — think of it as a home for your author brand online.  It should allow people to get to know you & your work, link them to ways they can participate (follow you on social media or subscribe), and allow people to get in touch with you.  Starting simple is always a good idea, and you can read suggestions for what you might include on your author website here.
  3. Write for other people.  If you’re just starting out, contact bloggers who you think might benefit from your content, or pitch outlets like Huffington Post with ideas for stories related to your genre.  Think about your writing not only as something that can exist on your own outlets, but throughout the internet showing proof of your verisimilitude.  It’s more important at this point to be prolific than proprietary.
  4. Social media.  A Facebook page and a Twitter profile are probably the most popular avenues for this, but Instagram & YouTube continue to gain momentum.  If you don’t already know the stories of Dog Rates or Humans of New York turning their social media success into book deals (and beyond), you should look them up! The key to success here, like with everything, is to become a reliable resource that people want to turn to again and again.  Simply advertising to people isn’t going to do that, but curating relevant content, sharing valuable information, and crafting posts your target audience enjoys will.  If you love what you’re sharing, it’s very likely your audience will too.
  5. Speaking / Media appearances.  You might be asking yourself, “well, Kate, if I was already making media appearances I wouldn’t need your advice about this!”  But you might not be thinking broadly enough … let’s say you’re an expert at yoga for people with mobility issues (currently on my mind because of a knee injury).  You’ve reached this point because you were/are a yoga instructor and realized lots of people need modified poses as they either recover from injury or live with a lifelong mobility issue.  Someone from your local paper / radio station / tv news hears about you or attends one of your classes, and is doing a story on staying fit in maturity and wants to use you as a source.  Now there’s a great clip of you talking about this online.  Someone else from a nearby city sees it and uses you as a source for their own work on their popular blog.  Now you’ve got a couple of great pieces you can reference in your own blog on this topic, exposing you to a much larger audience, bringing you closer to your dream of writing a book on this topic.

And you might choose more than one of these to tackle, which is great!

It’s important to realize that there is no magic formula for this — what’s right for you is a combination of where your audience is (you want to meet them there) and what you’re willing to actually do / have time for.  If someone tells you that you won’t be successful without a Twitter following, that’s a bunch of bologna.  If you have a massive following on Facebook, and that’s where your audience is, and you really hate using Twitter, definitely don’t force yourself to use Twitter just because someone tells you it’s a good idea.

Your author platform might have a website, or it might not, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that it really comes down to your ability to connect with your audience.  There are lots of ways to do that, so spend some time to figure out what works best for you and get started.  The best platforms start small and grow — don’t worry about getting all your ducks in a row, it’s more important to be done than to be perfect!

 

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What to Look for in a Web Host https://www.outboxonline.com/look-web-host/ https://www.outboxonline.com/look-web-host/#respond Wed, 08 Nov 2017 11:43:47 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=46224

I regularly have web design clients who either don’t yet have a web host, and need one, or have one they don’t like and want a new one. I make my recommendations available here on this Website Resources page.  It’s two companies, really, Bluehost and SiteGround. But I don’t get into very much about WHY
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I regularly have web design clients who either don’t yet have a web host, and need one, or have one they don’t like and want a new one. I make my recommendations available here on this Website Resources page.  It’s two companies, really, Bluehost and SiteGround. But I don’t get into very much about WHY I recommend those companies, so I thought I’d do that here.

If you don’t know what a web host is, or why you need one in addition to your domain name, I suggest you read this blog post that I wrote as an intro: Getting Your Domain Name(s) & Web Hosting Organized

I’ve worked on hundreds of websites over the years, and it’s always nice when things get off to a good start by being able to count on your web host to be there when and how you need them.  You’d be surprised by how many web hosting companies aren’t easily available to help, or provide woefully inadequate and ill-informed help, or who even intentionally mislead and blame their customers for issues that are undeniably the host’s fault.

It’s not the average website owner’s job to know all the things a web hosting company does & how they all work.  That’s why you hire a web hosting company.  And even though your web designer knows more, it’s not even their job to know all the things a web hosting company does & how they all work.  And I get it — there are lots and lots of things that can go wrong with a site.  And a platform like WordPress adds a layer of complexity with themes and plugins that can create issues, and it can be a grey area about who can and should help sort through a problem.  Your web designer should be able to solve many issues that have to do with WordPress updates, or plugin conflicts, and other compatibility issues.  But when all else fails, if your web host is unwilling to help if your site is down, or even point you in the right direction, what good are they?  Especially when there are companies out there who will have your back when you need help.

All that said, what are some things you should look for in a web hosting company? Here are some of the important ones:

  1. They support the kind of site you want to build.  If you’re gonna have a WordPress-based site, you want a solid WordPress Hosting Plan.  It will be optimized for speed and security for the WordPress platform, and you definitely want to take advantage of both.  It will also make it very easy to get WordPress installed & set up so that you can quickly get to building your site.  They may offer a cheaper web hosting plan that isn’t WordPress specific, but using it means your site will always sort-of limp along comparatively, and you’ll have to do extra leg work to get WordPress set up properly.  If you need to buy both a domain name & a web hosting plan at the same time, start with the best hosting plan and get your domain name in the same place for ease-of-use.  Often the domain name will be bundled for free.  Never choose your hosting plan based on the place you can buy the cheapest domain name.
  2. Their plans are optimized for speed.  Related to the above, the loading speed of your site will effect how you rank in search results, and is dependent on a number of factors, but most important among them is the server hardware your hosting plan uses, and how optimized it is (via caching, etc..) for your platform.  Often you’ll pay a bit more for more speed, and it’s almost always worth it.  If you’re not running a huge e-commerce site, you probably don’t need the super-ultimate option, but do look for an option that advertises and prioritizes speed.
  3. Their plans come with SSL.  In early 2017 Google decided that it would factor the security of your site into its search ranking — you’ve seen the kind of security they’re concerned with on the internet already when you visit a site and it says “secure” in your browser’s address bar and displays a little padlock, or the URL starts with “https://” (as opposed to just http://).  An SSL certificate is an add-on to a hosting plan that adds the “https://” to your URL and makes your browser show it as a secure site.  So even if you’re not gathering credit card information, having an SSL certificate is important these days.
  4. They answer the phone, and actually help you.  If you have a problem or a question, you want to talk with someone who will help you out.  You don’t want to be made to feel like an idiot, or to be blamed for your site’s issue, or railroaded into additional services you don’t need because you want your site fixed.  You just want them to help.  You also don’t want to have to wait for a million years, getting transferred from one person to the next.  If you can’t even easily find a phone number on a potential web host’s site, walk away.
  5. They support additional site needs.  You have a blog post that went viral & your traffic exploded?  Rather than bringing your site down entirely because your usage exceeds your plan, they contact you and help you figure out how to handle the additional traffic with a better plan. You need an email address with your domain name?  They can set that up and make it easy for you to add it to your email client of choice (eg: Gmail or Outlook).  You want to make sure there are regular backups being taken of your site in case something goes wrong or you get hacked?  That happens automatically and you can always access the backups if you need them.  You get the idea … identify what you need, and make sure your hosting plan supports what you’re looking to do.  Good hosting companies can handle all of it.

Keep in mind that you will read scurrilous things about every hosting company online.  And even the best companies aren’t perfect.  But if your website is the foundation of your business, don’t you want to invest in a company that has a good track record?

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Children’s Book Author Websites: Designing for Kids, but Not Really https://www.outboxonline.com/childrens-book-author-websites-designing-kids-not-really/ https://www.outboxonline.com/childrens-book-author-websites-designing-kids-not-really/#respond Thu, 02 Nov 2017 12:15:29 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=46204

I love working on children’s book author websites — often there are beautiful illustrations, a sense of humor, and great colors to work with. And while many aspects of creating a website for children’s books are similar to any author or book website, (like providing information about the book & authors, letting people purchase it
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I love working on children’s book author websites — often there are beautiful illustrations, a sense of humor, and great colors to work with. And while many aspects of creating a website for children’s books are similar to any author or book website, (like providing information about the book & authors, letting people purchase it easily, and introducing the authors) there’s another level at play…

Children's Book Website Design

Consider who you’re designing for.

The important thing to consider with children’s books, like with any book, is that you have to understand the target audience.  And it’s not really kids.  As an example: kids themselves aren’t going to do a Google search for, “great children’s books,” but you know who will?  People like educators, parents, librarians, publishers and retailers.

So while lots of thought goes into the design of the book itself to appeal to kids, a different kind of thought needs to go into the design of the corresponding website so that it gets into the right kids’ hands & appeals to a broader audience.

Children's Book Website Design

Don’t overegg the pudding.

Websites for children’s books take their visual cues from the books themselves, and often there are great images to work with.  Sometimes some subtle animation can work really well to bring that to life, but I’d advise against things like music that plays automatically upon opening the page or using “baby language” or other attempts to set a child-like tone.   Rather than enhancing the experience of, say, the librarian who is visiting your website, that kind of thing will just muddy the message, and get in the way of any helpful content you want them to take away to bring your book to more children.

If you have extras to offer, like quizzes or short stories or videos, those will likely appeal to kids & you should absolutely include them, but remember they’ll most often get into the hands of kids via an adult in their life.

Children's Book Website Design

Set yourself up for site visits.

If you want to do school or library visits, make it really easy for people to find out how to engage you.  Make it easy to contact you (or the appropriate party), provide information about where you’re willing to go, and what (if anything) you’ll need when you get there.  You’ll also want to include information about what you can speak about, and the value of your work.

Children's Book Website Design

So don’t throw the rules of good design out the window just because you’re designing a website for a children’s author, just figure out how to adapt the rules so that you’re positioning children’s books in the best light possible for the right people.

And remember, a 3-year-old child is very different than a 9-year-old child — so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.  You need to tailor the visual & content experience to the audience you’re trying to reach.  Make sure to enumerate the developmental benefits of your work, and how much fun it is to read.  A parent or educator will want to know why your book is different.  Or, if it follows in the footsteps of old favorites, why it will tick those same boxes.

And above all else, even with the focus on the audience and message, have fun.  Nobody wants a website for a children’s book to be a downer.  This doesn’t mean you have to forego elegance & clean design, but immersing yourself in fun is what children’s books are all about, and you want the websites that support them to provide that experience too.

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