Most websites (not just author websites) are poorly thought out, badly designed, and don’t think about the main purpose of the site – making the visitor happy.
For some reason, people see their website as a virtual soapbox to stand on and talk all about me, me, me.
Yet the brutal reality is that if you don’t tell your website visitors “what’s in it for them” in the first few seconds, or give them a compelling reason to stay, they will simply leave.
Then you’ve lost them, probably forever.
It’s hard enough to get visitors in the first place, so when you do have them, you need to make sure that you extract the maximum value from that interaction.
Your job is to put yourself in the shoes of your visitors, think about why they’re here, what do they want, and how can I give it to them?
Your website’s job is to deliver that message in a clear and meaningful way, and most importantly, to get them to take some form of action.
There are several critical things you need to make sure your author website is doing to achieve this outcome.
We’ll look at the main 7 below, along with a bonus – an exciting new idea that’s perfect for authors.
So what should an author website include?
Create Your Author Brand
The first thing that people will (almost instantly) be struck by is how your website looks, so it must look and feel professional, and fit the genre that you write for.
People are highly critical online and will make up their minds very quickly, usually within 2 to 5 seconds. You can almost imagine them having a “yes/no” switch in their heads.
If your author website doesn’t match their expectations or seems at odds with what they expected to see, then you’ll hit their “no” button, and they’ll leave.
It really is as simple as that, and since your website is there to sell books or build a following, it’s a situation you want to, and can, avoid.
It’s no good to save a few hundred on the website design if it costs you thousands in lost sales.
So How Do You Create An Author Brand On A Website?
Apart from the aesthetics of the graphics, layout, and design of your author website, there are a couple of basic errors you can easily avoid:
Make sure you have a “real” domain name.
I fully understand and appreciate that authors want to keep costs to a minimum when it comes to a website, it’s expensive enough already, especially if you’re self-publishing.
However, if you choose to use a “free” website and end up with a website address like: yournameauthor.wordpress.com, how professional does that look to visitors?
Especially potential publishers, editors, or agents, let alone potential fans and book buyers?
You might not appreciate the impact it has psychologically, and it can help to think in extremes to visualise the impact it will have, so…
…imagine you need to find a heart surgeon, and you discover one with the website address of: drsmithheartsurgeon.wordpress.com – would you put your life in their hands?
Does that “free” website address inspire confidence in the person or their work?
Why can’t they afford a “real” website? You see what I mean. It’s off-putting.
So even if you decide to build your own author website make sure you use yourname.com, or yournameauthor.co.uk, something that does not smack of “cheap.”
That impression will transfer to your writing as well.
Don’t Just Use A Standard Template Or WordPress Theme
Please bear in mind that free WordPress themes or even paid themes, or other templates on other platforms are designed to be as “general” as possible.
This is because they want the template to be used by as many people, companies, and businesses in as many industries as possible.
How can a general layout being used by a welding company possibly also be suitable for an author selling romance novels?
Well, the simple answer is you could use it, but it won’t work well for the welding company or the romance author.
Often these themes or templates have pre-defined sections and layouts, and you end up jamming content into them just to fill the space, rather than thinking about the visitor, and the flow or journey you want them to take through your site.
If you choose to have a professionally designed custom author website, you can control this flow and invite visitors to take the actions you want them to, when you want them to.
The last thing you want is to have an author website that looks like a free blog from 1999, or to look just like the hundreds of others they’ve already seen using the same template.
You need to and must stand out from your competitors.
Have A Mailing List Or Newsletter Sign Up Form
This really is just basic marketing, and it’s an important part of your marketing toolkit.
If you have people who love your writing, have bought your books, or are interested in the genre, then collecting their details is a “no brainer.”
A mailing list or newsletter is the perfect way to gather their contact details.
It’s just common sense that if someone has bought your book, loved it, and has signed up to your newsletter, then they’ll be highly likely to buy your next book if you can only let them know about it.
If you don’t have their details you have to rely on paid ads on Google, Facebook, etc, and hope that the money you spend results in some sales.
It can be very expensive, especially if you don’t fully understand what you’re doing.
How much easier, cheaper, and more likely is it that people who love your work will buy again if you email them?
There are many ways you can encourage people to sign up for your newsletter, maybe a free short story, a free first chapter of a book, or even a free eBook (if you have a series).
I know one author who gave away his first ebook, and subsequently sold a great many of the rest of the series afterwards.
Sometimes it’s about getting people to take the first step, and there’s no better way to do that than a no-risk proposition where your visitors get to try first and buy later.
Once you have your mailing list you can offer pre-sales, competitions, giveaways, etc to keep people engaged.
List Your Books & Include Links To Buy Your Books
It goes without saying that you need a bibliography of your work, and a page for each of your books.
Make sure that your book cover is boldly displayed on each of these pages, and that the style of each “book page” matches the style and genre of each book.
In this way, you can emphasise the genre, focus on the specifics of each title, give more detail about the content, and, of course, have links to where each book can be bought, or where reviews can be found.
Reviews are extremely important, we’ll come onto that shortly.
Include A Contact Form & Other Contact Options
Making sure people can easily get in touch with you is vitally important, and this isn’t just people who want to buy your book, what if it’s a potential publisher, an agent, or a journalist?
Most websites today simply have a contact form, but you need to bear in mind that people have different preferences in the ways they like to communicate with other people.
On top of that remember that some people may find you on a desktop, some on a tablet, and others on mobile, so they may, depending on how they find you, prefer a different way to get in touch.
It’s completely understandable that you might not want to give out your phone number, but giving people the options of a contact form, email address, social media accounts, etc, gives them a multitude of ways to get in touch.
Basically, remember that you shouldn’t try to force people to use option A or option B, give them option A, option B, and as many others as you are comfortable with.
Of course, if you have an agent or publisher, you might be able to send all enquiries through them.
If you don’t, then the last thing you want to do is lose contacts or opportunities because your contact methods were too narrow.
Proudly Display Testimonials & Reviews Of Your Books
We’re all used to seeing very heavily “salesy” websites and advertisements that try to convince you to buy X, Y, or Z by telling you they’re the best things since sliced bread.
People have become so immune to them that they pay little attention to them anymore.
You might find it hard to believe, but according to Forbes most Americans are exposed to between 4000 to 10,000 advertisements per day!
Is there any wonder advertising or promoting your book is so tough?
It’s always been known that the best form of advertising is a word-of-mouth recommendation.
That is to say, when someone you know or trust recommends a company, product, person , or service that they were happy with, you’re more likely to choose them as well.
That isn’t surprising, is it?
If other fans of Sci-fi, romance, etc, liked it, then they probably will too.
Your Author Appearances & Events
It’s a great idea to promote events and other appearances you’ll be making, it gives your fans and followers a chance to come and meet you and helps you to expand your connections with your readers.
The thing with the internet is that it makes everyone almost a digital persona, it’s just not the same as meeting a real person in real life.
When you have people who love your work, then there’s no better way to build upon, and cement that relationship than by meeting in person.
Your Author Bio
Your author bio is of course important, it’s necessary that people can understand who you are, what you do, and why they should buy your books.
Tell them about your books and genre, your background, and any other relevant information.
A good idea can be to have a media toolkit on your bio page, with different sized images of you as well as ways to contact you, key details about your books, and links to articles about you and your books.
Exciting New Bonus Topic – Video Interaction
I have to say that I’m really excited about this last item, it’s very new but is showing incredible success in increasing enquiries and conversions across many different industries.
I think it is absolutely perfect for authors!
I’m sure you’ve visited zillions of websites, and to a large degree, they’re all the same.
You have a static page, with static words, maybe a contact form, and maybe a newsletter sign up.
It’s just how websites are, but really, from a human perspective, they are quite impersonal.
Sometimes there might, in the lower right-hand corner, be a “chat bot.”
You already know in advance that in reality there’s no one there.
Maybe they might have some pre-defined, semi-human type interaction, but many of them ask you to leave your name and email and they’ll get back to you.
Then you’ll get spammed to oblivion with emails and they’ll never leave you alone.
The result is that to avoid the inevitable outcome, no one bothers to interact with it.
You want to avoid this at all costs. What you want to do is to extract the maximum benefit from every visitor to your author website.
So how about when they visit your website, instead of a chat bot, or a form, they see a small (muted) thumbnail video of you, the author, talking, with a “click here” or “listen” message?
When they click the thumbnail a video with sound pops up, and you personally can greet them to your website!
You could have a different video on each page, one for each book where you can entice them with the storyline, a video on your events page telling them about upcoming events, inviting them to attend and how you look forward to meeting them.
Or even telling them what they’ll receive when they sign up to your newsletter.
The possibilities are endless, and the increase in user interaction is incredible.
Rather than just being a page of words or forms, it creates a real human interaction, a real person speaking to a real person, creating a bond between people.
I’ve spoken to numerous web designers and developers across various industries who have implemented this self-same type of video interaction, and the resounding conclusion is that it increases engagement, sales, and interaction by huge numbers.
The great thing is that you can keep updating your videos as things change, meaning that your current, new message is always front and center on your author website, speaking directly to your fans and followers.
Right now, if you have a WordPress website, you can sign up for a 3rd party service that costs $24 per month to add this video functionality to your author website.
We think that’s far too expensive, so at Quillsolo.com we’ve been working on creating the same effect included in your web design costs when we build your website.
In other words, it will cost you $ZERO per month to do the same thing.
It’s almost ready, we’ll release it within the next 3 weeks, and you’ll be able to see it in action soon.
Stay tuned for the release, and to see what it can do for you.