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:
- About the author
- Press kit
- 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.