Henry David Thoreau quote - Library Way - NY City

Henry David Thoreau Quote (From Kathleen Conklin on Flickr)

Website content with images is more interesting & engaging + more likely to be shared. It’s so simple! Just put images with your content! Right?

But what if you’re an author — authors often have lots of words, but not many pictures — it’s the nature of the gig. What do you do then?

Like with everything, first think about who you’re targeting.

No matter whether you’re a historical romance novelist, a non-fiction author focused on motivation, or a science-fiction author writing dramas in outer space, there’s a great deal you can learn about your readership. Where do they hang out online? What kinds of stuff do they buy? What kind of events do they attend? If you don’t know the answers, ask around, do a little Googling, hire someone to help you figure it out — however you choose to find out, the more you know about them the more you can tailor your images (and other content) to appeal to them.

The idea here is to use images to help break up the text on your site and balance the design so that your website is presented in digestible chunks rather than a whole bunch of text all at once.

Put on your creative thinking cap, and get beyond the cover of your book. Here are 5 ways to creatively use images on your author website:

  1. On the home page: This is the easiest one because it’s where you want to feature your book cover(s). Whether you’re featuring your latest release, or have a series you want to promote, your book artwork should be the prime visual content on your Home page — let it take up a bunch of space, no need to have a dinky little cover image. And think about making it actually *look like a book* — this can be with a 3d cover shot, or shown on an iPad or Kindle, either way it lets people know immediately that your site is about a book without having to think about it. Beyond that, consider what kind of books you write — if you’re a non-fiction author who does appearances, then having a featured headshot is a great addition to the Home page (or even your site header). If you’re a romance novelist and your books are set in a particular location, a photo or artwork of that location would be great. If you’re a sci-fi author writing about outer space then photos of the solar system would be great. In all cases your Home page shouldn’t have a whole bunch of text anyway, but the rest of the pages of your site might…
  2. On your bio page: You want to use a great headshot here, but if you reference important milestones in the text, consider also including photos of those, or photos of you doing a reading or speaking engagement, or photos of your childhood (if relevant), or photos of you with fans of your work — you get the idea.
  3. In your blog: Every blog post you write should have at least one image associated with it. And which image you choose will very much depend on what you write about (see here for topic ideas for author blogs), but it can be a photo from an event, the cover of your book(s), photos of your fans dressed up as characters from your book(s), or anything relevant you might find as a purchased or public use stock image (see here and here for a great rundown on using creative commons images & other great topics for authors). But also consider using things like an author photo in the header or footer of each post, or other images (like book covers with links to purchase) in the blog sidebar.
  4. On your events/news page: Here’s your opportunity to place photos of you doing signings, readings, conferences, interviews, etc… When you do these kinds of events either bring along a way to take photos yourself, or find photos taken by others & ask permission to use them. Also consider if you link to an interview or article about your or your book(s) on another site, the logo of that site is a great image to add alongside the text and link. If you want people to book you for future events, it’s a missed opportunity to not show great photos of past events.
  5. In the site design in general: My advice to most authors, especially authors of multiple books, is to create a site design that is unique & memorable, but not something that will overpower your books or be incompatible with future projects. But the more immersive you want the site’s visual experience to be, the more images you might want to use — these can be background images, header & footer images, photos of you integrated into the design of the header, etc… Often, author photos integrated into the site design itself make the most sense when the author is either quite famous, or is selling themselves as an expert via their book, so they’ll do speaking engagements or classes. Otherwise, images that support that content of your book are the way to go — these might be location-specific (such as a skyline, or seascape), or tone-specific (such as an old-fashioned engraving, or botanical illustration), or character-specific (such as a photo of teenagers, or a police officer).

In all cases you want to make sure you have permission to use the images on your website — either by purchasing a license, taking/creating them yourself, asking permission, or using something freely available. With that said, using images on your site will help make it more enjoyable to read, use & share, and is one of the easier ways to add value to your author website. And those advantages will undoubtably help you with your overall goal of your author blog: to grow & maintain an audience for your projects.