Whether you’ve got an ancient website from the stone age or no author website yet at all, this will help you plan your next move in building a new website as an author.
We’ve given best sellers and Grammy award winners a place to shine online and we’d love to help you do the same. To help you in your journey towards the perfect shiny new site let’s go over all the essentials of what you need to know in creating a fan-tastic new author website.
Does an author need a website?
Let’s first address the elephant in the room.
Do you really need a website as an author?
Can’t you just run Amazon ads, Facebook ads with a Facebook page, build out a good presence on Bookbub, Reedsy, and other author forums and platforms?
Well, you could…
But why would you want to neglect an opportunity to create a place on the internet that belongs to no one but you?
A personal website is a place to expand your author brand. It’s a place where you can engage with your audience in your own personal way. You can create an experience for your readers, old and new, that helps them get your message as a writer that much more clearly with your own site.
Your own website also gives you a lot more credibility as an author. Fans, publishers, and agents can get more of a feel of what you’re all about.
Unlike on other platforms, the design and functionality of your author website are limited only by your skills, budget, and imagination.
An author website can also be a fantastic marketing tool in helping you with your author funnel so you can sell more books with less effort and build a loyal following that give you more reviews and referrals.
What should you put on your author website?
There are no hard and fast rules for websites, but there are guidelines that will make your website a better experience for your visitors and help you get the most out of it in general.
Know the “rules” so you can know when to break them.
Your website needs to be easy to navigate. The menu page headings need to make sense. Don’t go too creative with how your pages or organized or labeled. The internet is a fast-paced game. Lack of clarity equals confusion. Confusion equals more visitors hitting the back button and going somewhere else.
Think of the last time you arrived at a website that had buttons and menus all over the place. What was your first impression? How long did you stick around?
The whole point of your author site is to give a deeper insight into your work. Make sure you have dedicated pages for each of your books and each of your book series. This will help you come up in the right google searches when fans are looking for a specific book or series.
I generally recommend to authors we work with to put their books front-and-center on their home page, with opportunities to link to them in more detailed dedicated book and series pages.
Your Author Bio / About Page
Yes, you should let the world know about you. You don’t have to write your bio like a resume. Pick out quirky aspects of your life to highlight that gives a good flavor of who you are.
Your about page should not be the first thing on the menu. Most people first get to know you through your books. Then at a later stage as they get to know your voice through your writing they get more interested in the mind behind them.
Just like with any artwork, who the artist is can add a huge amount of value to the artwork itself. Having a great story to tell about yourself can actually make your work feel that much more special to your audience because they identify with your story more closely.
Help them understand why you write, not just what you’ve done.
Whether you want folks to contact you directly on email or leave a message on a contact form or even contact you via an agent, it’s important to have a channel to get in touch with you.
If you don’t do this you’ll miss opportunities for all sorts of things, simply because you couldn’t be reached.
No author lives in a vacuum (although some I know almost seem to think they do). Give people an opportunity to make a connection. You can dedicate a separate email address for this that you only check periodically if you have a lot of fans that want to chat and you don’t want it to clog up your regular email.
While not absolutely necessary, fan resource pages give visitors a reason to keep coming back to your site. They can contain just about anything relevant to your books
Fiction authors can have maps, character art and bios, glossaries and lore about spells and world histories and cultures. You can create fan contests with short stories or artwork. The imagination is really your only limitation (and making sure you’re making something readers and fans actually want.)
If you write non-fiction create resources that are aligned with your field of expertise that you cover in your work. Try to make your resources really high quality. These days you can download just about any free checklist or template, and there are usually some quite good ones available for nothing. Make sure your resources are something a little unique and of professional quality.
An important part of a fan resource page for any writer is that it aligns with your work or general theme somehow. It’s an opportunity for engagement and shows you really care about your audience.
Also not a complete necessity, but an amazing opportunity to continually engage with your audience and bring them more into your world.
For a non-fiction writer, I’d have to say, you should definitely have a blog. Most of all of the traffic online comes from search engines (mostly Google) and a blog helps you get found much more easily. Make sure you learn a bit about SEO (optimizing your content for Google) so that you stand a better chance of getting search traffic.
If you write fiction a blog can give a behind the scenes look at your creative process. It can also be your general sounding board as an author in which you can learn a lot from your audience.
Did they enjoy the way your series ended? Is your new book cover art working? Bringing your fans into your journey more makes them invested in your future. You have to be a little more exposed and transparent but it can really create a following for you.
If you’re not sure what to write about here are the types of blog posts that engage readers.
If you go this route make sure you keep at it for long enough. It can take time to get an engaged following (as in months or even years).
Opt-In (sign up form)
You want your website to do more than just show off your work. It should also help sell your work.
Creating a great give-away in return for subscribing to your list is about the oldest (and most workable) trick in the internet marketing book. A great strategy is simply giving away your first few chapters. Make sure you also create an email follow-up sequence that reminds subscribers to get the entire book and sends them a link to buy.
Make sure your opt-in forms are really obvious and attractive. It’s worth experimenting a bit with different wording and images to get a higher opt-in rate. Small changes can make a huge difference.
Wherever possible you want to customize your form to the page it’s on. For example, if a visitor is on a page about series X, Offer the first chapters of series X Book 1. Then on the series Y page giveaway chapters of that series’ first book. Doing this will dramatically increase the number of signups you get.
Almost as important as an opt-in is what you send subscribers once they join. You should make an email sequence that is in line with your books’ core message. Along this sequence, you definitely want to include many opportunities to buy your book.
You don’t have to be pushy, just say if they enjoyed the first few chapters (or whatever you’ve given them) they can learn more or carry on reading here: [link to buy].
If you’re trying to get bookings or speaking gigs you could send subscribers to a video of a past event on their email sequence.
Whatever you do, make sure this email journey is closely aligned with your work and your goals for what you want your audience to do.
Links to Socials
Not everyone is going to come back to your website, but they may spend a lot of time on a social platform you’re already on. Hooking up all your social channels to your website allows visitors to follow you on your channels more easily.
Don’t put all your social links too high up on the page though and don’t make them stand out too much. You want visitors to rather opt-in and join your mailing list so you know who they are and can speak to them directly. Socials should be there to find, but not in your face.
Social media is becoming less and less of a good way to reach an audience for free so it’s not worth concentrating on as heavily as in the past. At the same time, it would be a wasted opportunity to ignore it completely.
How do you create a great author website?
There are, of course, 2 basic approaches to creating your author website:
- Doing it completely on your own
- Getting help from someone who knows what they’re doing like a website designer or agency
Both have their merits and disadvantages. We’ll go over them briefly.
Fully Do-It-Yourself Author Website
I would only suggest creating your own author website if:
- you actually know a thing or two about design and typography (use of type in design)
- are quite technically minded and computer savvy
- are absolutely strapped for cash and aren’t ready to invest in a good designer yet
A website is a complicated animal. There’s hosting (the actual, always-on computer network that’ll store your website and serve it to the internet), different platforms and builders, SEO (getting found on Google), etc., etc. If you go this route, be prepared to learn a lot if you want to have a decent website. Also, be prepared to spend some time on it getting it right.
If you want to go this route, I’d recommend building your site in WordPress because it gives you a good balance between easy to use and able to update later. It is more technical than Wix, Squarespace, or similar platforms, but it’s definitely worth it in the end.
Concentrate on choosing a good theme or template that already has all of the functions you need on your website and customize it from there.
Get a great author website designer or agency on your team
You’ve become an author by putting in the hours, learning all about what makes a good, enjoyable read, and writing many thousands of words.
Getting a professional designer or agency to build your author website means you can spend your time doing what you do best, while the designer puts their hard-earned knowledge to work for you. You can also build the style and functionality you want into your website much more quickly by simply guiding someone who already knows what they’re doing.
They can also apply their knowledge of what they know has worked on other author websites. Use this to your advantage. Let them give you guidance so you get it right the first time.
I’d suggest using a designer that specializes in author website design services. That way they’ll understand exactly what you need, and should have, much more fully.
Brand new author websites VS established authors needing an update or an extra website
There are three real reasons to get a new author website:
- You could be a brand new author, without a website, looking to expand your online presence by carving out yourownname.com on the internet.
- You’re an established author looking to take your existing website to the next level with a beautiful upgraded website.
- You already have an author website and are looking to build another website dedicated to a different brand under your author platform banner.
Brand new author websites
Keep it Simple
As a new author, I’d very much recommend sticking to guidelines on the What should you put on your author website? section earlier. Yes, you do want your style to be unique and aesthetic. What you don’t want is something so wild and different that visitors don’t understand what’s going on when they arrive.
Your Domain Name
This is the yourname.com address that users type in to get to your site. If you have a unique name that isn’t also owned by someone else famous, simply use yourname.com as your website address.
If you happen to have a name that’s already taken by someone else with a following, you can go the route of yournamebooks.com or yournameauthor.com
I would actually recommend getting a pen name that is completely unique in this case. I know it’s a little unconventional, but in the long run, people are going to find you more easily if you don’t continually get confused with someone else who is far more well known.
You can also play with your initials like RL Stine or HS Paisley have done which creates a unique identity in themselves.
Focus on your books
Make sure your site centers around your work, not you. It should tell your story as well, for sure, but this shouldn’t be the focus. As your books get more noticed you will become more recognized as an author. Focussing too much on you stops this process from happening.
On the other hand, there are authors who have an incredible personal story. You’ve conquered some near-death experiences and achieved the impossible at great risk, saved a community by challenging the corrupt establishment…
Whatever it is, in the case where your personal story really is incredibly strong and something your audience rallies around, you can use this as a more central part of your author site.
You can use the same kind of test you use for your own work… Would someone actually want to read this? And, if you’re still not sure, ask for some objective opinions from others.
Create an author funnel
As a new author, you probably want to concentrate heavily on your author funnel. This is the journey a website visitor takes involving the steps from never heard of you, all the way to loyal fan who recommends you to others.
It comes from the term sales funnel which is one of the oldest formal concepts in marketing originating way back in 1898.
As far as your website is concerned, your author funnel is generally something like this…
- Arrives on website and finds great engaging content
- Is attracted to interesting offer to get free content
- “Pays” for free content with email address
- Devours free content and loves it
- Is sent follow up emails directing to buy a book or series
- Buys book or series
- Is sent follow up emails with latest releases and blog articles
- Becomes a loyal fan over time and buy new releases and recommends you to others
Create this journey for your website visitor intentionally. Don’t just leave it to chance. The more attention and care you put into this the more sales you’ll have over time as a result.
Creating several different types of opt-in offers for different pages on your website that are tailored to each page’s content can help get a higher opt-in rate.
Also, make sure to experiment with your offers, images, and wording in your opt-in once your website is getting traffic and track what’s working and what isn’t.
Established author website upgrades
As an established author, you can take a bit of a different approach.
You already have a wealth of information to draw on to understand what has worked or hasn’t worked in your current website, and what’s more…
You can ask your audience…
- What would they like to see more of?
- What do they love about your current website?
- What do they feel is completely lacking?
You don’t need to completely follow their advice but you’ll usually get some great ideas if you do this. You’ll also end up making decisions based on the opinions of those that matter most.
Since you’re probably past the point of building your own website, I would suggest working with a professional designer to advise you and take your site to the next level.
As specialists in author websites, we’d be happy to help:
Building another newly branded author website under your expanding author platform.
Ok, let’s say you’re really building momentum, and maybe your current site is already heavily focussed on a certain series or genre. There comes a time when it makes sense to build a new website that is more closely branded to what you’re doing next.
As a horror author whose now writing non-fiction on environmental sustainability it’s just going to make sense having a different website for your two very different audiences. The chances of a reader being interested in both aren’t very high, and even if they are, the message on either is confusing when mixed.
You can and should link both sites together in a way that makes sense.
You should also realize that you’re going to have to build up fresh links to this new website in just the same way you did with your first site.
- Add the site to all your profiles
- Create a buzz around it in interviews and guest posts
- If it makes sense, go through your current site and find places to appropriately link to it
- List it in any appropriate directories etc.
You can also build websites around extra related services you offer related to your books that would make more sense as stand-alone sites.
Again, if you need a hand with this new site, give us a shout.
Inspiration for your New Author Website
Two great resources to inspire you
To help you get ideas for your new author website we’ve created the most extensive single-page resource on the internet on author website inspiration.
We’ve also created a similar resource specifically for fantasy authors.
Getting started with your new author website
We wrote this article because we love the author and artist community. I am a writer and artist who’s been building websites for years. I’m also highly qualified in SEO (how to get traffic through google search).
My boutique web design studio and I are here for you if you need us. You can leave us a website inquiry or schedule a free call.
Have your say, make my day
If there’s one thing I love more than readers enjoying my blog posts… It’s readers contributing to my blog posts.
- What concerns or issues do you have in creating your new author website?
- Is there anything important on the subject you feel I missed out that you’d really like to know?
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