I’ve written before about the kind of content I suggest you include on your author website, but I recently realized some time has passed, so I thought it was time to revisit this critical topic. While my recommendations in that article still apply, I have some additional and updated thoughts about must-have author website content to help you get started on your author website journey.
Here is some updated must-have content for any author website design:
1. A clear and concise message: The website should clearly communicate who the author is, what they write, and why readers should be interested in their work. I like to use a formula to do this: I write _____, for _____, so that they can _____. An example for a science writer might be, “I write about epidemiology for the general public so that they can stay up-to-date on how modern diseases affect their health.” Or, for a children’s book author, “I write funny and educational books for kids so that they can learn about their world in an engaging way.” All website visitors want to know how what they’re looking at will benefit them. And the answer can be anything from education, to entertainment, to time-savings, to personal enrichment, and beyond. You can convey this not only in how you introduce yourself, but also in the design of your site.
2. A professional and attractive design: The website design should be visually appealing, easy to navigate, and optimized for mobile devices. This doesn’t mean it needs to be complicated, and often simplicity is best. An investment in the design of your site shows a level of dedication and professionalism that reflect your author brand and style, making the website memorable.
3. Easy navigation: The website should have a clear navigation menu that allows visitors to easily find the information they are looking for. You don’t want your website visitors to feel like they don’t know how to explore your site, or to have to think about what they’re doing. You want to make it simple and obvious how to get around so that you don’t risk losing them. And this needs to be true across all devices. Not only do you want a usable navigation menu, but you also want to include links within sections of content to internal website pages as appropriate.
4. A blog: A blog can be a powerful tool for engaging readers and building a community around an author’s work. Some authors feel strongly that a blog is unnecessary, but there’s no better way to organically build a repository of keyword-rich content on your own website to make it easy for people to not only find you, but also for them to have a reason to stick around. Authors can write not only about their books, but also the things that influence them as a writer, their experiences with readers, and other authors and books they enjoy.
5. A mailing list signup form: The website should include a signup form for the author’s mailing list, allowing readers to stay up-to-date on their latest news and releases. Ideally, the mailing list signup is connected to the blog so that subscribers will automatically receive future blog posts in their inbox. Beyond those posts, dedicated emails can be written at any time. It’s certainly nice to try to stick to a publication schedule so your subscribers know what to expect, but even if you can’t it’s not a reason to abandon a mailing list. Having a list of folks who are interested in what you’re up to is invaluable as you move into new projects in the future.
6. Social media integration: The website should include links to the author’s social media accounts, making it easy for readers to follow and engage with them. Beyond links, social media feeds can be easily embedded in a website. Not because people would be expected to come to the website to see it each time, but because if they don’t yet follow you on social media and find themselves on your website it’s an easy way to see what you share and follow you without leaving your site. The best social media platform to choose is the one that you most enjoy using and where your readers are likely to hang out. If you want some ideas on how you might use Instagram as an author, you can explore those here.
7. Book descriptions and purchase links: The website should showcase the author’s books, including descriptions and links to purchase them. This might sound obvious, but if you want people to find you and your website when they search for your book titles or your genre, you must include information about your books (ideally, a dedicated page) including their genre and a description that includes the kinds of words that not only describe the book, but are words people might search for where your book would be a good search result. Purchase links should point to popular retailers where your book is available. Common retailers include Amazon, B&N, Bookshop.org, BAM!, Powell’s, Target and Walmart.
8. Author bio and photo: The website should include an author bio and photo, providing readers with a personal connection to the author. Here is a great opportunity to make a connection with an existing or potential reader. Don’t waste it! I’ve written before specifically on what to include on your author website’s bio page, and I’d summarize by saying you can approach it as story-telling, using your own voice, and you don’t need to sacrifice professionalism to do it successfully. Think about the kinds of things you might want to know about the people you admire, like what led them to the kind of work that they do and what they love about it, and consider sharing that kind of enthusiasm as you write about yourself. And invest in a photo (or series) that you not only love, but reflect who you are as an author.
Remember that you don’t have to start with everything on this list before you launch your author website. You can start with the basics and add over time as your schedule, budget, or skill set allows. Websites are living documents that are a reflection of your author brand, so as it grows, they can grow with you.
Creating a professional and effective author website is a critical way to build an online presence and connect with readers.
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If you’re interested in diving into more details about this topic (and many others!), check out my Author Website Planning Kit which details out everything you need to know to build your own author website.
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