Marketing Through an Author Website

For some reason, most author websites are awful. This is probably because authors don’t have the time, money, or inclination to put a lot of effort into a good website design. Unfortunately, many (if not all) agents suggest that authors, aspiring or not, should have a website. But what are you supposed to put up there, anyway?

Content for your Author Website

There are five main sections every author website should probably have, if you include the (always optional) blog:

  1. About the author
  2. Blog
  3. Writing
  4. Press kit
  5. Contact the author

Your author biography should include the generics such as the school you went to, some of your interests that make you interesting as a writer (I do t’ai chi and yoga before/after writing sessions, for example), and a short paragraph about your current work. This is a good place to announce you’re seeking representation, as well.

Each book you’ve written should have a press release that summarizes the book and gives reasons why someone should buy it. Everything in the press kit should have a PDF/downloadable version so reporters can print a copy for later use.

In your writing section, each book should have a cover picture and the back cover blurb. An excerpt is always nice, but check your contract first to make sure you’re allowed to do that. Additional content such as your favorite sentence, the backstory behind writing the book, a list of research references, etc., are all great to include on your website.

Make sure you have a way for your readers to contact you. If an agent stumbles across your website/blog and decides they like what they see, you’ll never know about it without providing a contact form, at the very least.

Designing your Author Website

Keep in mind that other people have to look at your website, so while your favorite colors may be pink and green, do not, I repeat, do not, put pink text on a green background, or vice versa.

All text should be a dark color on a suitably white-ish background. It is what we’re used to reading, and anything else causes headaches. The point of your website is to maintain interest, and you can’t maintain interest if you’re giving your audience headaches.

Keep your genre in mind when picking your color scheme/design. If you’re romance, you might want to stick with the warmer colors such as tan, pink, red, purple, etc. If you’re science fiction, the cool colors such as blue, white, green, and black evoke technology. These rules can be broken, but let the professional break the rules for you. You don’t know the rules, most likely, so you won’t know the correct ones to break.

Use images to spice up the design, but again, make sure your images correlate to your genre/theme. It’s beyond confusing when a science fiction author has puppies all over her website. Unless it turns out her science fiction books are about an alien race of puppies sent to take over the earth, a là Kal-el from Krypton.

Keep your content fresh either by having a blog, or by updating your website with mini-articles, poems, short stories, your art projects, etc. If you decide to have a blog, try to have a unique theme. I don’t need more competition when it comes to writing blogs. (I’m joking, I’m joking. Not really, though.)

If possible, have an XML sitemap so search engines know how to find and index your content. You may need to get a professional’s help with that one, but Google provides a free service.

And since I know you must be a little curious, I’ve finally updated my website, complete with press kit, updated author bio, contact form, and additions to the writing section which now includes poetry, some of my old short stories, and my guest article for Graham Carter. Yes, I did design and code the entire thing by hand. Feel free to critique me; I’m always looking for ways to improve.

If you’d like a website of your own but don’t know how to begin, send me a line. For more information about navigation, specifically, read the AuthorMBA’s blog post on the subject.

18 thoughts on “Marketing Through an Author Website

  1. If only most kept to this… I can't tell you how many cyan-text-on-black webpages have left me looking for a fast escape. 🙂 Very good tips, all around.

    On another note, I'm looking over my site again and making some changes. I think I'll take most of your advice about centering the page, moving the corner curve, and adding the floral design in other places… I'll see if I can't persuade you to look it over when I finish. Possibly help me out with a bit of code, as I'm fairly sure my css page would make a proper developer twitch.

    Your webpage is lovely; very professional!

    Like

  2. If only most kept to this… I can’t tell you how many cyan-text-on-black webpages have left me looking for a fast escape. 🙂 Very good tips, all around.

    On another note, I’m looking over my site again and making some changes. I think I’ll take most of your advice about centering the page, moving the corner curve, and adding the floral design in other places… I’ll see if I can’t persuade you to look it over when I finish. Possibly help me out with a bit of code, as I’m fairly sure my css page would make a proper developer twitch.

    Your webpage is lovely; very professional!

    Like

  3. This is an awesome blog post, Belinda. Coincidentally I'm working on a new website right now. I'm wanting to use Black as a primary color focus. Currently the template I've got (which can be edited) is a black background, with white/gray text. I'm concerned obviously about readability there. Some darker backgrounds like dark tan with burgundy text often are very easy on the eyes, but white/gray on a black background probably ain't gonna work.

    So should I make the part where the text is something like a light gray or something with black text? Because while I want my site pretty I also want people to stay long enough to read it. Otherwise it defeats it's entire purpose.

    Also LMAO @ the sci fi puppies.

    Like

  4. This is an awesome blog post, Belinda. Coincidentally I’m working on a new website right now. I’m wanting to use Black as a primary color focus. Currently the template I’ve got (which can be edited) is a black background, with white/gray text. I’m concerned obviously about readability there. Some darker backgrounds like dark tan with burgundy text often are very easy on the eyes, but white/gray on a black background probably ain’t gonna work.

    So should I make the part where the text is something like a light gray or something with black text? Because while I want my site pretty I also want people to stay long enough to read it. Otherwise it defeats it’s entire purpose.

    Also LMAO @ the sci fi puppies.

    Like

  5. Eliza – I'd love to look over your website again. Just let me know when I should look, haha. I can also help you with the CSS if you want, that's not a problem at all. And thank you! It took me a week or so to really get my website how I wanted, but I'm pretty pleased. The nice thing about it is that I've got a good structure now, so I can change background images as I want to completely change the look.

    Zoe – My suggestion is that you can have black as the background, but try to have the main content in some sort of black-text-on-white-ish block. I know this is a bit vague, since I don't know what the template is or how you can alter it. Let me know when you get something up. Then, if you like, I can offer a critique for you. I did the same for Eliza, and she doesn't seem insulted. 🙂

    Like

  6. Eliza – I’d love to look over your website again. Just let me know when I should look, haha. I can also help you with the CSS if you want, that’s not a problem at all. And thank you! It took me a week or so to really get my website how I wanted, but I’m pretty pleased. The nice thing about it is that I’ve got a good structure now, so I can change background images as I want to completely change the look.

    Zoe – My suggestion is that you can have black as the background, but try to have the main content in some sort of black-text-on-white-ish block. I know this is a bit vague, since I don’t know what the template is or how you can alter it. Let me know when you get something up. Then, if you like, I can offer a critique for you. I did the same for Eliza, and she doesn’t seem insulted. 🙂

    Like

  7. That sounds Awesome, Belinda, thank you! I had been thinking of doing the black background and then the block of main text down the center part of the template I thought I'd pull out another lighter color from the banner for that background. A light green, light blue, or light gray (unobtrusive and not bright or garish or hard on the eyes. Like if it was light green it wouldn't be light neon green, it would be a light more muted green color.), then using a dark colored text, black if it would work on top of that, and not a giant font, but one large enough to be comfy on the eyes.

    When I get the dummy all worked up I'll send you a link before it goes live.

    Like

  8. That sounds Awesome, Belinda, thank you! I had been thinking of doing the black background and then the block of main text down the center part of the template I thought I’d pull out another lighter color from the banner for that background. A light green, light blue, or light gray (unobtrusive and not bright or garish or hard on the eyes. Like if it was light green it wouldn’t be light neon green, it would be a light more muted green color.), then using a dark colored text, black if it would work on top of that, and not a giant font, but one large enough to be comfy on the eyes.

    When I get the dummy all worked up I’ll send you a link before it goes live.

    Like

  9. No problem! I think your color scheme sounds pretty good, but of course it all depends on the how they are used together.

    I look forward to seeing your dummy website layout. 🙂

    Like

  10. No problem! I think your color scheme sounds pretty good, but of course it all depends on the how they are used together.

    I look forward to seeing your dummy website layout. 🙂

    Like

  11. Hey Belinda!

    I've got my new website up (http://elizawyatt.net)– I gave up on designing it myself and tweaked a template until I liked it, so there are only a few issues I'm still having.

    Most notably, IE6 doesn't like my content div. It's been shoving it down and under my links. If you have any suggestions, shoot me an email. 🙂

    Thanks!

    Like

  12. Hey Belinda!

    I’ve got my new website up (http://elizawyatt.net)– I gave up on designing it myself and tweaked a template until I liked it, so there are only a few issues I’m still having.

    Most notably, IE6 doesn’t like my content div. It’s been shoving it down and under my links. If you have any suggestions, shoot me an email. 🙂

    Thanks!

    Like

  13. Best you could make changes to the webpage subject title

    Marketing Through an Author Website @ Belinda Kroll, Quirky Historical Fiction to more generic for your blog post you write. I enjoyed the the writing still.

    Like

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