Too often a website is an afterthought for authors. Your passion is writing. Your drive is finishing that book. Once you have the solid product in hand, there are agents and publishers and bookstores (oh my!) to deal with.
While you may have a website, and you may even have decent features, understanding why you have the components you do and how they should be utilized on a regular basis can really help drive your success to the next level.
For first-time authors, a website is crucial for showing that you have a presence, but long-time writers have just as much to lose by letting their site go untouched and unpolished.
Below are the five features your website should have, plus a bonus feature you can add to up the "wow" factor.
Does this feel obvious? It should, but there are a shocking number of authors who don’t have all their books readily available on their site and don’t include all the trimmings necessary to make this feature impactful.
You should be showcasing every single title you have ever released. You never know where your fans are coming from, and they should be able to see all your work in one place.
A book cover alone is not enough, though. With every book cover you display on your site, you should also include:
The last one there is the element most often forgotten. If readers have made it to your site and are reading about your books, but don’t have an easy way to go and purchase your work, you are severing big opportunities for a sale.
I am a huge believer that every author should have a blog no matter what kind of writer they are. The pluses of having a blog outnumber almost every other marketing endeavor at an author’s disposal, but beyond those benefits, having a blog also does a lot for your website.
Yes, a blog can be a whole website. Yes, a website can exist without a blog. I feel about that the same way I feel about bagels. Yes, I can eat this round hunk of bread without any toppings, but why would I want to when I can add a cream cheese schmear?
Bare-bones websites are boring. They are factual, light on personality, and usually designed around sales and selling. That’s not your brand. That’s not who you are. Those are just facts about you.
When you get someone onto your website, you want to maximize their time there--for your sake and theirs.
Your blog can introduce people to you, get them more interested in what you do, and keep them on your site longer. All good things for turning gazers into readers and readers into raving fans.
3. Social Media Buttons
This is going to be short and sweet. If you have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, an Instagram profile, or any other social media platform, make sure you link to it from your website.
Odds are people won’t return to your homepage over and over again (though they will return to a kickass blog!), so you need a different way to connect with people who are interested in you.
Give your website visitors an easy way to follow you and a more mainstream avenue for staying in touch consistently.
4. E-mail Sign-Up Form
I will grant you the fact that kicking off an e-mail newsletter is not a walk in the park. It can be slow going to gain followers, it can be difficult to choose an e-mail delivery system, and maintaining a regular newsletter schedule is no small feat.
All that said, the effort is worth the return. And if you have started a newsletter (or are already using e-mail to communicate with fans, but don’t have an e-mail platform) you need to have a way to collect e-mails on your website.
There are a lot of shiny and new social media platforms, and there is a ton of talk about how to get in touch and grab attention, but year after year, e-mail remains the supreme platform in the land. It is the most direct line to your readers. It is the most likely form of communication to be seen. It is voluntary to receive your messaging. There are few things that can do quite as much for you as robust e-mail marketing will.
So if you are already engaging fans this way or are considering starting to engage fans on e-mail, a sign-up form in plain sight is a must-have for your website.
5. About Page
The about page is too often ignored because people view their entire author website as “about” territory. Usually there is some basic bio information, a couple of personal tidbits, and (if readers are lucky) a contact form.
While this can work for the sake of filling the page, it really doesn’t do everything an about page can do.
First, consider who all could be coming to your about page and why they would be there:
If there is any place on your website to really drive the facts home, it’s on your about page. Take advantage of this real estate and address or direct everyone who could be seeking more information as best you can.
This is not only a bonus for this article but also a bonus for your website. The above five features are items every website should have. A bonus is something I strongly recommend every author have on his or her site.
A bonus can be anything from a novella to a special video to a manifesto dedicated to your warrior cry as a writer.
This awesome addition makes you the end-all and be-all in the eyes of your readers. The bonus can also incentivize people to sign up for your e-mail newsletter, follow you on Facebook, or check back into your site with regularity.
Think of this sort of opportunity:
“Sign up for my e-newsletter and receive a free copy of my exclusive e-book.”
Not only are you building your subscriber list, you’re also giving a valuable freebie away that your readers won’t soon forget.
Your website can be (and has to be) so much more than something you do because you feel you have to. A website is beachfront property for your readers to view what you’re all about and who you really are. Don’t put a run-down shack on it.