Your author website can be a key resource for your fans. Use these design, content, and discoverability tips to refresh your site.
Give your site a pleasing look
A reader will make assumptions about what you write based on the look of your website, just as a book is judged by its cover. The first step is research. Look at the websites of authors in your genre as well as sites not related to books, and note what you like—and what you don’t—about each one.
In general, you want a clean look; we recommend a minimalist design that keeps the focus on you and your books. For example, David Bell’s website features the author’s name at the top and a large space in the center to feature his most recent book.
Test your site on different platforms. It needs to look great when viewed on a computer and also on tablets and phones. Website-building programs such as Squarespace and Wix integrate mobile templates into their designs. But if you’re working with a designer, make sure you require that the site be optimized for tablet and mobile experience.
As always, talk to your marketing team before you build. They’ll help you with assets and act as a sounding board to ensure that your website has a similar look and feel to your books.
Make it easy to find information
Look at your website from the reader’s perspective. Find out exactly how many clicks it takes to:
- Find a buy link for your latest book.
- Find your author bio.
- Find a link to contact you or your agent.
How many clicks did it take? If you got turned around on your own site, or if it took three or more clicks to get to any of the above, your reader is also going to be lost and confused. While each site is different, a good starting point is a navigation feature that includes: About the Author, Books, and Contact.
Give your site the right content
As with all good writing, you need less than you think you do. Your website should include:
- Who I am and what I write (About the Author).
Your author bio is important because fans are on your website to learn about you. While you’re welcome to elaborate, you can simply use the author bio that’s associated with your most recent book.
- Book details and where you can buy them (Books).
Include the book description and the jacket photo for each of your books. You can use the marketing copy for your published and upcoming works. Make it easy for readers to purchase your books by including buy links. Remember, there are a lot of retailers out there, so add multiple links. You never know which retailers your readers prefer.
- How to contact me (Contact).
List your contact details along with your social media information. Make it easy for your readers to follow you. If you’re collecting names for a newsletter or special fan promotions, this is a great place to invite fans to join your list.
- Additional content.
Some authors choose to push their social media feeds onto their website, while others prefer an on-site blog. As with all fan outreach properties, make sure your blog or feed is refreshed, updated, and easy to share. Your blog provider most likely includes links to share the blog posts on social media, but for an advanced trick, use clicktotweet.com to generate a “Click to Tweet this Quote” link.
Make it easy for readers to find your website
Open a new browser in incognito/private mode and Google yourself. Where on the list does your website come up, compared to your social media accounts, news stories, or information about other people who share your name? You want your website to be high on that list, as it’s meant to be a key resource for your readers.
Here are some best practices to help your website surface in search:
- Incorporate key phrases into the text on your site
Ask your marketer what keywords and phrases they use to differentiate your book. Utilize those terms throughout your site to increase the impact of your efforts.
If your website builder allows it, add your keywords and phrases into your meta description. (Here are instructions for how to do that in Squarespace and Wix.) If you maintain a blog, try to fit these keywords into post tags, links, and descriptions as well.
- Link to your website as often as you can
Make sure the correct, updated website link appears on all your social media accounts, as well as on Goodreads, your Amazon Author Page, and your author page at penguinrandomhouse.com. If you participate in online interviews, make sure the blogger links to your website. The more quality links that drive traffic to the site, the better.
- Update your site at least every six months
Keeping your site fresh not only helps your fans, it also helps your search ranking. Google and other engines return to index your site when you add new content. The more often these bots scan your site, the more often your search ranking gets rearranged—usually for the better.
(Search rankings/SEO is a topic in itself. For more tips, check out this News for Authors story.)
Websites are like plants: tend to them regularly in order to make them thrive. With some care and the right attention to design, content, and discoverability, your site will help your fans get excited about your books.
Still hungry for more? Watch our Author Webinar on website maintenance tips.
Brandi Larsen is the Digital Publishing Director for Penguin Publishing Group at Penguin Random House.