Tuesday, July 14, 2009

12 Things Every Author Website Needs

Every author needs a website. I think an author should have a website before he has a blog. My argument is that the author website provides a single location for people to go when they want information about the author, while a blog is constantly changing and information that was on it one day may not be visible the next. So we need both, but blogs are such time hogs that once we start blogging, it may be difficult to justify spending the time developing a website. If you’re sold on an author website, here are Twelve things that every author website needs. These may be on separate pages, linked from the home page or you can combine them and even include some on the home page, if that is what you want.

1. About Me
You don’t have to call it About Me, but every author website needs a section dedicated to telling visitors who this person is.

  • Tell us why we should listen to you.

  • Tell us something personal.

  • Tell it as a story, not a list of events.

  • Give us information that isn’t available from other sources.

2. Contact
Provide an e-mail address, at the least. It is probably best not to give out your home address. A PO box is better, if you want to give a mailing address, but there really isn’t any reason why people who need to mail something can’t e-mail first to ask for a snail mail address.

3. News
This section is where you tell us what you’ve been doing. Speaking engagements, book deals, book signings, guest blog posts. If it is happening and it is related to your writing, tell us about it.

4. Blog
A blog can be part of a larger website, part of a blog service or stand alone. It doesn’t really matter, but whatever method you choose, you need a link to the blog from your website.

5. Author Photo
People want to know what you look like. It shouldn’t dominate the page, but a nice photo will help.

6. Press Kit
Provide everything that a member of the press might need if he writes about you or interviews you.

  • High resolution author photo (300dpi minimum)

  • Photos of book covers (300dpi minimum)

  • Author credits, background, life story. (different from in About Me)

  • Suggested Interview Questions

  • Book Summaries (but don’t give away the ending)

7. Book Info
This only applies to authors with published books, but people coming to your site may be looking for other books you’ve written. Make sure you have a list of every book you have.

8. Link to Purchase
This also only applies to people with books in print, but make sure your users are only a few clicks away from a purchase. Either provide a link to the book’s product page at an online bookstore, or provide some form of shopping cart capability on your site. A purchase is much more likely if the customer doesn’t have to go hunting for the book.

9. RSS Feed
Incorporate some form of RSS feed into your site. When you update the site with news items or whatever, inform readers through the RSS feed. Some people say RSS is being replaced by Facebook and Twitter, but I still use RSS extensively, even when the person also informs me of posts via the other sources.

10. Home Link
Every page on your site should have a navigation system that lists the major items. One of these things should be a link to the home page. This can help with search engine ranking, but it also makes it easier for readers to get where they want to be.

11. Newsletter (Optional)
Some people like newsletters. If you’ve got one, you should provide a link to a page where readers can subscribe and find older versions of the newsletter. If you are going to do a newsletter, you should automate the subscribe/unsubscribe process, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time maintaining the list.

12. What I Can Do For You
Above the fold on the home page, aim for providing information about you as an author and your website can do for those who visit. Often, that is book information, but it could be other stuff as well. Don’t completely fill the space with a picture of yourself and the title of your website. This goes for blogs too. The site visitor may want to know what you look like, but he is there for another reason. Focus on those other reasons in the prime real estate.