There are lots of things to figure out when it comes to creating a website, such as what information is best to include & how to position yourself/your brand. In addition, you’ll need to figure out what your website should look like, aka: the aesthetic of the site. And it’s easy to become overwhelmed. After all, there are so many examples of successful aesthetic choices.
But when you’re an author it doesn’t have to be daunting because lots of the work that goes into figuring it out has already been done for your book jacket(s).
Consider that website aesthetics, like most aesthetic considerations, are really about eliciting emotion. So, take a look at your book jacket(s) and make a list of what they say about you and your work. Do they convey strength, or softness; familiarity, or mystery; are they referencing history, or something more contemporary… You’re looking to capture the atmosphere they create, along with any common themes like strong typography or use of photographs. If you realize that your brand isn’t adequately represented, don’t feel beholden to what is conveyed by the jacket(s). Identify what’s missing, and add that to the list of what to include when designing your site.
With the information you’ve captured, you’re well on your way to knowing how to coordinate your book jacket(s) with a website.
Generally, there are two approaches:
- When creating a site for an author with multiple books (not in a series), I recommend a somewhat neutral aesthetic and atmosphere that will work for all the books, but still conveys the overall brand successfully. Neutral color choices can still be aesthetically variable — you can have a neutral color palette that reads as strong, soft, welcoming, mysterious, etc…
- When creating a site for a particular book or series of books, I recommend an aesthetic that is an extension of the jacket, sometimes lifting jacket design elements directly, such as fonts, colors, graphics, or photos. The aesthetics of your site can also extend the universe of the book(s) beyond the page.
- If you plan to write multiple books, but are creating a website for the first one, consider that you may not want to design the site to strongly coordinate with your first book cover design, only to have to redesign the site when your next book comes out (or is reissued in paperback) because the jacket design is vastly different.
- Just like you want your book jacket design to make your book stand out on the shelf, you want your website to stand out on the web. And while you want your approach to the design of your site to be thoughtful and considered, don’t be afraid to be playful or bold with the design to bring your book to life for the site visitor. Also remember that while you want your website to be beautiful and memorable, you want people to come away from the site thinking great things about you and your book(s), not just about the website. So make sure you’re balancing the visual focus of the site so that your work is featured prominently.
- No matter what, be consistent. Together, your book jacket(s), your website, and all of your other marketing collateral help establish your brand. So make sure that in all the places that you’re marketing yourself and/or your books you’re leveraging brand recognition by coordinating design elements. For example, your Facebook page cover image is a great place to feature some design elements from your jacket and website so that people have instant brand recognition.
- And remember, coming up with an interesting and compelling look & feel for your website doesn’t have to compromise the way the website works. Most visitors will appreciate a website they can easily navigate.
A good website designer will guide you through all of these decisions, and will ensure that your site design resonates with your target audience without compromising on usability.
1. A website for an author of multiple non-fiction books: http://michaelklare.com
Some notes about this project:
- Michael Klare, a writer, professor, and expert in peace & world security, has written 4 successful non-fiction books on issues of global resources and security. In designing his website, I knew that the site must be a neutral backdrop for the variety of his book jacket designs, especially as they might change dramatically between the hardback and paperback releases.
- The topic of his books is heavy and dramatic, so to juxtapose that & make them seem approachable, I designed the site to be clean and light, but also with strong, earthy pops of color to bring it to life. I also selected a authoritative, crisp font, and used contrast to enhance the feeling of strength and authority.
- To create an interesting design element to set off the most recently published book, I selected a torn piece of paper — another earthy, neutral color, but also to convey Michael’s role in exposing this well-researched information as a writer and a teacher with a nod to pre-internet methods of communication (ie: writing on paper).
2. A website for an author of a series of fun, fictional stories set in India: http://www.betsywoodman.com
Some notes about this project:
- Betsy Woodman is an author writing a series of novels around a central character, Jana Bibi. This charming series is set in India, and is a fun, colorful adventure. In designing this website I not only used design elements and colors from the first book’s jacket, but also created a richer experience through the use of additional colors and more importantly, textures. By layering natural textures with hits of bright color, the site alludes to the colorful tapestry of life in India. There are multiple visual themes at play, but the site design isn’t chaotic or fussy.
- The audience for this book is primarily female, so the design is feminine, and pulls from the adventurous quality of the main character with its use of bold colors.
- Betsy also bring her own experiences of a childhood spent in India to her books, and shares her own experiences through stories and photos on her website, so the site is designed to be approachable and endearing, just like Betsy.
There is a common design element in these two designs, the torn piece of paper. I used these examples to show that even similar design elements can be used for very different effects in different projects.