Sunday Musings #17 – how to build a great author website (2)

Posted on Mar 26, 2017 in Blog, Sunday Musings | No Comments

Hey guys,

After part 1 on author websites, we know what we want to achieve with our author website, and what our technical options are. But that’s only part of the story to create the maximum visibility for your product – your books. In part 2 of this post we’ll look at designing your website before we’ll finish with the top 7 things you should do right now to improve your author website!

Designing your website

Besides the technicalities of HOW to build your author website, you also need to decide WHAT you want to build, i.e., you have to think about your website design, especially if you’re building it yourself with WordPress or one of the website builders.

The first thing I’d do is research: how do your favorite author’s websites look? What do you like about them, and what do you think could be improved? Just google “author websites” and you will find countless lists and comparisons. Interestingly, I found many self-published authors doing a really great job while some bigger names’ sites were still stuck in the 2000’s…

Author Website 2

When you’ve found some inspiration, you should write up what parts you want on your website: a bookshelf for your covers, a blog, a newsletter signup page, an about page, and whatever else you can think of. I also like to draw my designs on paper, including the menus and the paths the user takes through the website.

Finally, when you’re ready to create your design, you should choose a template that delivers your requirements. I’ll only talk about WordPress here as I know it the best. There are endless themes for you to choose from, many of them specialized for author or book websites. Here are some ways to find one that will fit you:

  • Google search. “wordpress author website theme” or “wordpress book theme” will yield a bunch of lists and comparisons that you can take a look at.
  • theme directory. Here you can find thousands of free and commercial themes, with links to their creators’ websites.
  • Theme marketplaces. On sites like ThemeForest or Mojo Marketplace, you can search themes, compare customer ratings and purchase the themes directly.

I want to shortly touch on two very important subjects that I think you should consider carefully when designing your website: the presentation of your books, and how to get readers to sign up to your newsletter.

Presentation of your books

Your book covers are the eye candy you want to get in front of your reader right away (we’ve talked about how to get a great book cover in Sunday Musings #9). So how can you present them well?

There are two things to consider: an overview and a book detail page.

One way to give your reader an overview of your work is to just show their covers on your homepage and allow the reader to get to the details by clicking on a cover.
author website anyta
This way, you can present many of your covers to the reader at once, but it might be a bit overwhelming so a filter (by series, or trope) is a nice addition.

If you have a lot of series, you can also show one cover (or a group of covers, like in a box set) to represent the series. This optimizes usage of screen space. The detail pages of each book in the series should then also have navigation elements to easily get to the other books.

As for the detail page, you want to give the reader an overview of the book (blurb and tagline), show off the image in a larger version, and give incentives to buy the book: advance praise, editorial reviews, or any additional content. Last not least: make it easy to buy the book with links to the online stores, and also link to sites where you would like readers to review your book such as Goodreads.
Author website detail page

Pro tip: use a Universal Book Link through a service like Books2Read or BookLinker that allows you to use just one link to point readers to all stores your book is available in instead of managing multiple links on your book detail page.

Newsletter tie in

I’ve said before that I consider getting your readers to sign up for your newsletter the most important function of the author website, so make sure your readers can find your newsletter! You should feature the sign up form (or a link to a separate page) prominently, for example in the sidebar, and also consider having a pop up that is shown to your visitors after a certain time. There are many WordPress plugins to create a nice popup, I’m using WordPress PopUp (which recently renamed to Hustle).
Author website newsletter popup

More about your author newsletter in a future Musing!

Advanced tips & tricks for your author website

Now we’re getting a tad more technical, but don’t worry – just a few more pointers that I found to make managing my website much easier. Again, let me know what you’re missing here and I’ll ad it to the list!

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Basically: optimize your website so that it will show up on Google for search terms relevant to you. There are a lot of small tweaks, but the best thing you can do is to provide great content. If you write blog posts about topics relevant to your readers, it will help your site to rank for these topics. For more involved optimization, I use the WordPress plugin Yoast SEO which will let you know where your articles can be improved, or how they look best in the summary of the Google search. If you want to learn more, there are some awesome courses on the basics of SEO, for example on Udemy.
  • Check your website’s speed. If your site is slow to load, visitors will loose patience and leave. Half a second can make all the difference here. Additionally, Google is using your page speed in their ranking algorithm – if your site is slow and offers a poor experience to visitors, Google will rank it lower. Thankfully, they also offer a neat tool in the form of PageSpeed Insights that will tell you where you can improve.
  • Optimize images. PageSpeed Insights often points out that images could be optimized. Now I always make sure to reduce the size of my jpg or png images before uploading them via TinyPNG. Dead simple, great results – and damn that panda is cute!

7 things you should do right now for your author website!

I hope this two part post is a good starting point for you to think about your author website, and how to improve it for maximum impact. Before I close the session, I want to give you the 7 things you should do right now to improve your author website.

  1. Define your website’s goals.
  2. Integrate newsletter signup.
  3. Have an easy-to-find overview of all your books or series.
  4. Have a detail page for each book that makes it easy to buy them.
  5. Check your page speed.
  6. Optimize the size of your images.
  7. Check the mobile responsiveness of your website.

Have fun tweaking your author website, and let me know how these tips worked for you!

Writing tip of the week

This week, I give you Jen Robinson‘s “Quick Thought on the Importance of Voice“. In this post, she talks about how voice is one of the biggest factors that keep her reading (or not), and shows three examples of children’s books where the characters’ voice kept her engaged. A quick and thought provoking read, and one that can be applied to other fiction as well.

Fiction read of the week

Carry On” by Rainbow Rowell is a sweet, YA fantasy with a touching gay romance subplot. I found the writing engaging and the emotional impact of her scenes really well done. Definitely recommend this one.

Bits & pieces

I’m so excited that my latest gay romance, “True Colors“, was released March 14th and is now available as ebook and paperback! I hope you’ll enjoy Marco & Oskar’s story.

In Musings news, we’re going to take a break until the end of April – a big trip to the motherland is happening very soon! If I’m still able to after 32+ hours of flying with two kids, I’ll post a few pictures here…

When we return, the book marketing series continues with a closer look at author newsletters, and how you can use them to maximum effect.
Until then, happy writing & publishing!

Books and resources mentioned in this bulletin:

  • My new gay romance True Colors is out now!
  • You can get a free e-book by signing up for my newsletter
  • Disclaimer: All links to books in this article are affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price if you make a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost for you if you purchase the books via these links!

Session #16 – your author website (1) (book marketing series)
Session #18 – Newsletters, your marketing superpower (book marketing series)

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