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Site for sore eyes - 15 tips for a successful author website

When you become an author you’ll find you need a base of operations, a single place where your fans can come to you, find information, get in contact, buy your books. This place needs to be your website, but where do you start, what do you need? Here’s 15 tips to make your website worth visiting.

You can do all these things yourself, but if you’re not feeling up to the job it will be worth getting in touch with a web designer who can do all the heavy lifting, leaving you to do the day to day content.

It’s important to get your author website right, it’ll be your hub, where you first put information out there and where readers and publishers alike will come to get information from you. There are a few things that you need to have right to make sure people come back again and again.

1Domain name

Buy a domain name. They’re cheap, and easy to get hold of. There’s often a few voucher codes or special offers floating about that will bring the price down, but most addresses cost the same as a big mug of coffee.

The name itself will ideally be your own author name but don’t worry if someone has already snagged it. You can tweak the domain name to be anything you like, so could add ‘books’ or ‘author’ on the end of the address to get a unique URL.

Remember, you don’t have to use a .com TLD (Top Level Domain) you have the options of using .net or country specific TLDs like .co.uk. You could even get creative and look at what TLDs are available, using them as part of your address. For instance, if your name is Dave Davies, you could buy a Spanish TLD (.es) and your website could be davedavi.es

You’re the one going to be promoting the website address, so it could be anything you like, but think hard about it as you’ll have to commit to that address once people start visiting. You can’t chop and change without it being a problem.

2Clean looking design

Now you’ve got your address, you need to start thinking about design.

You need it to be clean and fuss free. This doesn’t mean it can’t look attractive, or that you can’t style it to a certain theme, but most successful sites today are tidy with plenty of space. If you fill every available spot with links, banners, and other such stuff, your visitors will bounce as soon as they’ve landed.

3Ensure it works for everyone

The site needs to work well on mobile and tablet devices as well as desktops and laptops. In the old days of web design this used to mean having two versions one of which would load accordingly. Nowadays, it’s all about responsive design.

Responsive design means that you don’t actually have to have two or more versions of your site, but one that will adjust sizes and positions depending on what someone is using to visit the site. For instance, if you have a site with two columns it might be difficult to read on a phone, so the second column should sneak underneath your main column making all the content scrollable, and the text will change size to be more legible.

Mobile devices and tablets are fast becoming the number one tool used to view websites as people consume content from wherever they are whenever they want. You need to make sure the site works for them.

4Manage your own content

When it comes to software to actually run your site, you will probably be best off with a content management system (CMS). Whilst this might sound a bit jargony, don’t worry. A CMS is meant to make your life easier. Once your site is all designed and set-up a CMS allows you simply to upload your content and hit submit. The system will then worry about design, where to put images, what colour scheme to use, etc, things you shouldn’t have to think about when uploading a blog post.

You don’t want to have to rely on a website developer every time you want to add a new bit of content.

Popular CMS platforms are Wordpress, Joomla, or Drupal. All of which offer different ways of doing things under the hood, but essentially deliver the same site experience for visitors. The simplest CMS for people new to website development would be Wordpress, which will allow you to have a very basic website up and running in an hour.

5Make it personal

Now you want to start thinking about content. First up, this is your site, it’s promoting you as an author, it’s not a corporate site seeing services, so remember to keep it personal.

Make sure you keep the tone personal in both content and individual articles, use I instead of we, and use tidbits of information that give an insight into your day to day life, or your processes, use it in such a way that you would imagine writing for a friend.

Use good photos of yourself. Not too casual, no one wants to see you in your pyjamas, and not too formal, but a good mix of the two. Pick the best one and use it everywhere, Facebook, Twitter, guest blogs, Amazon author pages, inside your books. This way your readers will be able to recognise at a glance anything associated with you, it’ll become your brand.

Include a biography page. Most visitors will visit your site for more information about you as a person, so give them what they want. Don’t be afraid to share personal information, your readers want to get to know you. Explain how you became a writer and what inspired you.

6Events

If you’re going to be attending events, maybe as a speaker, or at a conference, or even a book signing or public reading, you want to let your fans know when and where they can meet you. Even if you’re not on the bill, and are just attending as a regular person, let your readers know.

If you intend to do some public speaking, it may be worth setting up a YouTube channel and posting videos of you in action to this page, updating it with past events as you go. It would be like an advert for your talents, and lead to more opportunities.

7Blog

Every man and his dog seems to have a blog these days, and the reason is because people read them. A site with a blog is likely to get more hits than one without because it will be dated often with relevant content, and there’s nothing that search engines enjoy more than relevant content.

You could treat your blog like a diary, posting your daily or weekly thoughts on what’s happening in your life. You could simply update it with industry news, or update about any book you’re writing. You could mix it up and have various topics on which you blog about. The key is to blog at frequent intervals so that people know when to expect to read something. If you keep to a schedule then your visitors are more likely to come back regularly, looking for new content.

8Engagement

It’s no good just putting your site out there and leaving your visitors to it, you need to engage them. You can do this by responding directly to comments they’ve made on your articles, or you could invite them to suggest blog post topics, or having a Q&A session.

You want people to read your content, but you also want them to know you’re a real person, and this can be achieved by responding like a real person.

9Contact and Social links

As an addendum to engaging your fans, you should have a page that clearly details how they can get in contact with you.

You could have a contact form so that visitors can submit things, or simply display your email address for them to email you directly. You will also want to link to all your social media profiles, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, so that your readers can contact you via the appropriate social networks.

You should make sure that you have sharing links embedded all over your pages too, so that your visitors can easily hit the appropriate buttons to share your content. Keep an eye on how well your content performs across social media, and then respond accordingly.

10Collect emails

It’s very easy to set up an email marketing account these days, allowing you to send news and offers to your fans at the click of a button. However, you’ll need to collect their email addresses first. Most email software will have a little bit of code that you can simply paste into your pages to capture their details.

Don’t worry if you won’t have anything to email people right away, it’s important to have the addresses as a resource waiting to be used rather than waiting until you have the news and no one to send it to. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

11Exclusive content

Something you could tell your email subscribers about would be exclusive content that’s only available via your website. This could take the form of samples of an upcoming book, short stories and poems, or invitations for Q&A sessions. Give your visitors a reason to keep coming back.

12Reviews and testimonials

Existing fans should already be showering you with praise, so you will want to promote that ensuring that new fans can see how well you’re enjoyed. Create a page that lists all your best reviews, and testimonials about your work. You could also highlight any awards you may have won.

Show yourself off, don’t see it as blowing your own trumpet, let visitors know how good you are at writing.

13List your books

This isn’t down the list because it’s not as important as the rest, but because it’s somewhat obvious. List your books. Have a page that lists all your work, and then when clicked on will take you to a page with further details. Most importantly, include links to retailers such as Amazon so that your readers are easily able to actually buy your books.

Also have links to encourage your readers to easily review your stories. As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, reviews, good or bad, can mean better exposure, so try and link to as many review opportunities as you can without becoming annoying.

14Book recommendations

Your readers love your work and respect what you have to say, so why not offer out some book recommendations from authors that aren’t you. Chances are if it’s something that you enjoy your readers will enjoy it too. It helps with your credibility, and fans will appreciate you even more.

It might be good to network with other authors that you enjoy and recommend each other’s work, benefitting from their exposure as they would yours.

15Press page / Media kit

Have a press page. This will give you a place to put your press releases as well as linking to appropriate articles, but also a place to link your media kit.

You’ll need a media kit to accompany your releases to give a bit more background info, to sell you as an individual to the media, giving bite-sized information that they can use in appropriate articles. Journalists need to be able to find information quickly, else they will ditch you for something else, this is the place they’ll look.

Although this is a list of things that should really be on your website, the way you dhow things is not set in stone and everyone does things a bit differently.

Have a look at what other authors are doing, from the big sellers down to fellow self-pubbers. Have a think about what suits you and your message best, and get to it.

Let us know what you think about self-publishing below, and be sure to sign up to our newsletter which includes tips and tricks, and special offers for our services, including author websites and media kits.

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