Building your author website? Here are 10 things you’ll want to include.
1. Email Signup Capability
Your author website should have three goals:
- Get potential readers to buy your books.
- Get potential readers to try your books, thereby becoming fans who might later buy your books.
- Collect readers and prospective readers’ contact information so that you can communicate with them in an ongoing way.
How to Do It: If you’re tech-inclined, you could install a popup on your website to collect email signups and integrate them with your list in Mailchimp, AWeber or similar tools. But you don’t have to get that fancy. Most email marketing programs have a simple signup link you can add or embed somewhere on your website. If you can, add a captcha to avoid spambot signups.
2. Free Download of an Old Book
Decrease the risk to readers giving their time and money to an unknown author by offering a free download of an older book–ideally your best one–in exchange for their email address.
Giving your best work away for free might seem counterintuitive but it’s a great way to 1) reassure buyers your books are high-quality, 2) get the right people to tell their tribe about your book and 3) gain the ability to communicate with prospective readers in hopes you can convert them to buyers of your book.
How to Do It: If your website is on WordPress, there are lots of plugins that facilitate digital downloads. Or, simply upload the free download file to your website’s media folder, then include a link to that file in the automated email that sends when someone opts in to your email list.
3. Sample Chapter(s) of Your New Book
Looking to connect with potential readers for your next book? Do what bestselling authors do at the end of their books to build an audience for their next bestseller. Release a sample chapter to create anticipation (and generate pre-orders) for your book.
How to Do It: Sample chapters are easy to create if you’re using Pressbooks.com to write and format your book. Log in to your Pressbooks dashboard, go to Text / Organize, select only the chapters you wish to include and then export a PDF. The file will contain just the chapter(s) you specified.
4. Ways to Buy Your Books
You don’t need ecommerce capability on your site, but make sure to link out to all your books, both current and upcoming, in stores. Notice I said books, plural. The most successful indie authors publish quickly and repeatedly. This creates multiple revenue streams and opportunities to connect with readers and build a fan base.
How to Do It: Upload thumbnails of your covers and link to the books in Amazon and/or other bookstores.
5. Proof of Quality
Readers aren’t just investing a few bucks downloading your book, they’re making a decision whether to invest their valuable time in reading it. If your books have won awards, be sure to mention those. You can also add a page of reader testimonials (used with permission).
How to Do It: No technical skill involved here. Reach out to your superfans (not friends and family, but legit fans of your work). Ask if they’ll provide a brief testimonial quote about your books for your website that you can attribute to them. Style these in block quotes for extra impact.
6. News of Upcoming Events
Will you be signing books soon? Appearing on a panel of local authors? List upcoming events on your website so readers and fans can come connect with you in person, one of the best ways to create affinity and engagement.
How to Do It: It’s easy to link to each of your events with full information elsewhere. Eventbrite and Facebook both have events functionality you can use to post full information about your event and collect signups.
7. Blog Functionality, & Content
Your website should have blog functionality, as fresh content is one of the things that will help its discoverability. But be strategic about how you use it. Don’t write about things that are personal and off-topic, unless they’re germane to the brand you’ve built for yourself as an author. (You can write about those things on your personal–not professional–handles directed to your personal network.)
Just as important, don’t post only when you have a new book to announce. Try to write a high-quality post once a week or at minimum, once a month. Topics could include aspects of making of your book or the research you did to write it. Point to interesting press done about you, videos of you speaking or being interviewed. This then becomes the basis of content that you can repurpose for your newsletter and send out on your social handles.
How to Do It: Break up a post on the research you did for the book into 10 quote or image posts on Facebook and Twitter. In your monthly newsletter, link to each of your four weekly posts with a blurb, and add links to your upcoming events (signings, webinars, etc.) for the next month, as well as links to buy your book.
8. Professional Author Bio
Note that I said professional author bio. It’s good to humanize this a little, but you don’t have to overshare about your kids and cats (unless they’re relevant to the books you write). If you have another professional bio from your day job, remember that this one should be rewritten, to include only the relevant expertise from other parts of your life.
How to Do It: This one’s all in the writing. Think about the audiences who might read it–from readers to prospective agents and people considering you for speaking engagements.
9. SEO-friendly Headlines, Headings and URLs
If you’re a writer accustomed to writing for print, you’ll want to become familiar with basic principles of SEO, particularly as they pertain to content you create for the web. Abstract, non-literal and clever turns of phrase work great for headlines and subheads in print, but not on the web, where searchability is key. Images should be properly titled and alt tagged. And don’t forget to include enticing metadescriptions–these will show up to humans on social and influence whether or not they click and read your content.
How to Do It: Moz, HubSpot and Yoast all have blogs rich in resources on this topic where you can study up. You might also benefit from a website plugin such as Yoast or The SEO Framework that will help you gauge the quality of your content (in search engines’ eyes, that is).
10. Links to Your Professional Social Handles, Contact Information
Emphasis on professional. Friends may tire of self-promotional posts about your professional life and fans may tune out if you give them TMI about what’s going on with you on a micro level. That means you’ll want to send different types of content when interacting with your “real” friends vs. fans and readers, and you’ll need a separate platform for your author brand.
How to Do It: Create a reader-facing author “page” rather than using your personal Facebook. Consider creating an “authoryourname” handle on Twitter. And don’t forget to set up a LinkedIn company page for your publishing imprint.
Want more tips on marketing your book? Check out The Pressbooks Guide to Self-Publishing.
Elizabeth Mays is the director of marketing and operations for Pressbooks.com.