As an author, one of the best book marketing tools you can have is your author website. This is where new readers find your work, and where fans go to keep their interest up until you publish a new book. Professional looking sites don't have to cost thousands of dollars; you can find DIY sites with drag-and-drop programs that help you make a site that you're proud of. What is important is the design and content on your site. Include all the information a reader is looking for and you'll keep them coming back month after month. Skip out on some of these basics and it doesn't matter how many clever design details you include, you'll never turn casual readers into constant fans.
Nuts and Bolts
Before you even decide what content to publish, you have to create the design itself. This is the foundation on which you'll build your website home. Add these good support details and you can take your site in any direction you wish.
- Self Hosting No, it's not free, but a blog you host yourself is worth not risking it disappearing at someone else's whim. Shop around at the hundreds of different self-hosting sites for a deal you like
- Your Domain Always get your own domain, and make it a very easy one for readers to remember. JaneDoe.com, JohnDoeAuthor.com, or something easily remembered like that.
- Design New and fresh trendy designs tend to be the ones that look dated the quickest. When it comes to your basic website design, go for clean lines and a classic look.
- Versatility You want to be able to add a blog, sales pages, links to social media, and comments, at the very least. A static site is a boring site
- Ease of Use The best looking site in the world is no good if you can't go in and change it easily on a moment's notice. Try out each program by building a small free sample site. Use what's the most user-friendly for you.
The tabs or links at the top of your home page will lead curious readers to other parts of your site. Make sure you've included the most important pages for selling your books and keeping readers coming back.
- Biography This About the Author page is how your readers get to know you. If they connect with you as a person, they're more likely to buy and promote your books
- Contact Information Readers will want to email you with questions, comments, and suggestions. Make it easy for them to do so.
- Email Signup Make it simple for readers to sign up for your email newsletters. Don't have an email list? Go start one today.
- Social Media Facebook, Twitter and the like are all ways for readers to stay up-to-date with you and your books. Make it one-click simple for them to find you on social media sites
- Sales Page The whole idea behind an author site is to sell more books. Dedicate a page to doing just that, with ways for readers to click directly onto each book's sales page
If you want to keep your site fresh and up-to-date, you should include a blog. Post twice a week or once a month, but stick to basic blogging rules.
- Constant Make a schedule and stick to it, no matter what. Write some blog posts ahead of time as insurance against life getting in the way of your posting schedule
- Topic Your blog is the way readers get to know you as a person. You aren't trying to entice a group of other authors to read your blog. Write about your interests, not about the writing process. Love coffee? Knit? Crazy about collies? Make each blog post about that, but stick to only one topic. You don't want to seem unfocused
- Content Keep your content relevant and current. Write holiday-related posts, include current events if they impact you, let readers know this isn't just generic copy
- Typeface This may seem basic, but choose a typeface and stick with it for every single post. Don't go all festive and decorative over the holidays or on your birthday. You'll end up looking like a grade-school newspaper page
- Comments Allow comments on your blog posts, but monitor them daily. Delete the ones that are inappropriate, and answer everyone else. Readers are thrilled when their favorite author writes a note to them, even five or six words
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the method by which you entice Google into giving your site a better ranking. Better rank= more people finding your page, and more new readers for your books.
- Keywords Chose one or two short phrases that relate to your site, and concentrate on them as keywords. For instance, if you write gardening books, you might choose container gardening and frugal gardening as your keyword phrases. The goal is for Google to show your page among the first ones when people search for these phrases
- Title Use one of your keyword phrases in the title of each of your pages. For instance: Jane Doe, Frugal Gardening Expert
- Content Use one keyword phrase two or three times on each page, but only when it fits naturally into the information
- Spelling Mistakes Misspelled words will never count toward your ranking. Google doesn't know what you meant to say. Proofread everything extremely carefully
- Content What you say on a page is more important than how many times you include the keywords. Fit them in naturally, but concentrate on interesting writing
You can have the best author site in the world, but it doesn't do you any good if no one finds it. Use every resource you have to get the word out about your website.
- Back Matter Add a paragraph about your website and a link in the back matter of every book you publish
- Branding Use the same header and typeface in all your communications. Keep the same look on your Twitter page, your Facebook page, your email headers, and anywhere else you come in contact with readers
- Social Media As the premier way for authors to come in contact with new readers, social media is crucial. Make your presence here big, but constant
- Topic Forums If you write gardening books, post regularly on gardening forums. The same goes for vampire novels, children's books, and puppy training manuals. Readers who are familiar with you are more likely to pick up your books
- Email Signature Add a link to your website to your email signature. You may be writing to your electric company, but the person answering emails there might be a romance novel fan. Never pass up a chance to spread the word
Keep the Faith and May the Froce be with You!