Every business has a website, no matter how small their business is.
And being an author is no exception.
Whether you want to remain anonymous under a pen name or want the world to know who you are, a website is essential in creating that online presence in the digital space.
A website helps build credibility and show that you’re taking this author business seriously. Besides including information about you and your books, it’s also a point of contact so your fans and readers all over the world can chat with you.
Check out the essentials of every successful author website!
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Before we jump into the must-haves, let me just briefly explain how easy it is to get your own author website.
If you’re just starting out or if writing is just a hobby, you can create a free website at WordPress or Blogger. But note that your domain will become authorname.wordpress.com or authorname.blogspot.com.
However, if you’re taking this writing seriously and are aspiring to be an author, then treat your website seriously too. You only need 3 things to get a professional website:
This first step is the most important. You’ll want to have a great domain name for your author website. A name that sounds professional like you own a business, rather than a subdomain as if you’re housed under WordPress or Blogger.
In fact, you can get a domain like nicolecw.com at less than $10/year through domain registrars like Namecheap. Plus, you get free-for-life WhoisGuard privacy protection (hides your contact details so you remain anonymous).
Next, you need to get web hosting. Web hosting provides the technologies and services to keep your site running.
You can buy both domain and hosting from the same domain registrar or web hosting company. But I highly recommend that you buy them from different providers. This way, you won’t get both your domain and hosting compromised at the same time.
My site is currently hosted with SiteGround (I actually did quite a lot of research before deciding on them). What I love about SiteGround is their customer service. They answer your questions within minutes. Not to mention their 99.9% uptime, free SSL certificate (that allows my site to change from http to https) and Cloudflare CDN (which makes my site load faster).
Lastly, your website needs to look pretty… and functional. Just ensure that it has all the features you need like eCommerce integrations if you intend to sell books from your site. Also, try to get a responsive design that automatically adjusts the layout and content for different screen sizes (desktop, tablet and mobile).
You can use one of the free WordPress themes or get an affordable theme from Creative Market. Or you can also use a theme that includes a visual builder (allowing you to drag and drop each element) like Elegant Themes’ Divi.
Check out my step-by-step guide for more details about creating your WordPress website!
If your readers make an effort to visit your website, it means they want to know more about you.
So help them get to know you!
You definitely need an About page on your website. This is where you let readers know about you. Also, do decide on how much you want to reveal about yourself.
- Who are you
- Where are you from
- What you love & hate
- Your author journey
- Your accomplishments or achievements
For instance, I share more personal information on my About page. Including how I’m weak in English and how I started off writing fanfiction first. Besides the short biography, I also included visual elements like things I love and my author journey timeline.
It’s up to you whether you want to write in 1st or 3rd person. There’s no right or wrong answer. I write in both on my About page.
- 1st person (“I”): closes the distance between you & your fans but might be too intimate
- 3rd person (“He”/”She”): professional but widens the distance between you & your fans
You can also include links to your various social media profiles as well as your author profile on Amazon and Goodreads.
Lastly, you can consider adding a call-to-action (where you specifically tell your audience what you want them to do). This could be signing up for your newsletter or liking your Facebook page etc.
As an author, you should obviously showcase everything you’ve written. Both fiction and non-fiction, from novels to self-help books.
The overall books page can list all your books (organized by category, series etc.). Perhaps, including a short blurb so readers can click the book for more information.
You will also need to have individual book pages that contain the full blurb. I usually just use the same blurb that’s written for Amazon. Bear in mind that this blurb is like a product description so ensure that it entices people into buying your book!
Do check out my article for tips on how to write a fiction book blurb~
On top of pointing readers to the various retailers that your books are sold at, you can include a link to your online store if you sell books directly. This will give readers more choices (plus the chance to support you directly).
There’s another page you can consider creating… a landing page. A landing page is a page designed to convert visitors into leads.
For instance, you could use it to collect email addresses of interested readers and then send them an email once your book is published. This can help create pre-launch buzz and boost your pre-order sales. Or if you run a marketing campaign (eg. Facebook ads), you can also send the target audience to this page.
Bonus Tip: Use Universal Link For Amazon
Cause Amazon has country-specific sites, it’s better to include one link that redirects people to their respective country site based on their location. You can create this universal link with BookLinker or smartURL.
Next, you want to create a Contact page so readers can get in touch with you. You can include various ways that they can reach you:
- Email Address
- Phone Number
- Physical Address
All the above will add credibility and make your business look legitimate.
However, if you’re a self-published author like me who didn’t register a company, you probably only have a home or personal phone number and a home address.
Well, you don’t have to reveal those.
In fact, you can replace your physical home address with a post office box. By renting a PO box, your fans can still send you letters while not knowing exactly where you live. Plus, you can use this address for your newsletter (where the CAN-SPAM Act requires that all commercial emails include an unsubscribe link and a legitimate physical address).
You can also stay anonymous by putting a contact form on the page. All messages will then be sent to your inbox which you can filter and decide whether to reply.
In addition to a newsletter signup button, you need to have a Newsletter page.
You can’t be directing readers to your website which has your newsletter signup button. No, you can’t send them to your home page or books page. Although all pages of your site will have a newsletter signup button, visitors are likely to be distracted because there are many things going on in those pages.
What you need is a page with the specific goal of increasing newsletter subscriptions. You can point readers to this Newsletter page either in your book’s front or back matter (or both!) so they can subscribe to your newsletter.
Newsletter is crucial to authors as well as any other businesses. It’s part of email marketing where you send messages to your subscribers’ inbox and from there, build trust and nurture relationships.
Newsletter is important due to ownership.
Let’s say you’ve spent so much time and effort to build SEO (search engine optimization) for your site such that your website appears on the first page of search results. But one day, Google decides to change the algorithm and hence, your site’s ranking dropped (and no longer appears on the first page).
The same applies to Facebook. If Facebook decides to change their algorithm, there’s no guarantee that your business page posts will be served high up in your fans’ news feed (or even served at all), especially now that Facebook places priority on content by friends and family.
In other words, you’re renting space from Google and Facebook. You’re subjected to their rules and changes.
On the other hand, you own your newsletter subscribers. When subscribers give your their email address, they’re providing you with their precious contact information so you can directly keep in touch with them.
They are your subscribers. Your email list. Your customers.
5. Street Team
Visitors to your site are like acquaintances who don’t really know you but are somewhat interested to know more about you. Newsletter subscribers are like friends who want to be up-to-date about everything that happens to you.
You’re missing one last group of people… your family.
And your family is none other than your street team.
A street team is a group of fans that promote a brand and its products. In this case, you need a street team that promotes you, the author and your books.
Bear in mind that a street team is motivated by their love for an author and his or her work. Hence, you shouldn’t be forcing them to join. They need to join your street team of their own free will.
Some avid fans might have reached out to you, either sending you a message on Instagram or emailing you, about their intention to help you. Or some of them might rave about how much they enjoyed your books.
And the right reply would be to send them to your street team registration page. This is where you tell them the rules upfront, set expectations and reach an agreement.
For example, you could list down
- Eligibility Requirements: reviewed at least one of your books, followed you on social networks
- Benefits: receive Advance Review Copies (ARCs) & Beta Reader Copies, sneak peeks
- Responsibilities: post reviews after reading ARCs, give honest feedback about the book/blurb/cover
The possibilities are endless. You can
- ask your street team for opinions about your manuscripts or future book ideas
- encourage them to post photos of your books
- ask them to spread the word about your books to family, friends and other book lovers
- encourage them to write review blog posts (which you can then share to your social networks)
- get them to help you promote giveaways & contests
Do you see how valuable they are?
Therefore, you must form a strong bond with them. The key is treating them like family. Let them be the first to know about insider news. You can stay in touch via email and private message. Or you can create a secret Facebook or Goodreads group.
Your author website will need a News page.
So how does the news here differ from the news you share with your street team?
News on your site is public news. News that you want everyone to know. Examples include
- Hot new releases
- Book signing events
News you share with your street team is private news. They’re exclusive insider information that is confidential and not to be shared with anyone else.
For instance, you might share concepts your book cover designer has sent you or your manuscripts and drafts. Notice how they’re all works in progress? These are some information you might not want to disclose to the public. Instead, you’ll only let them see the final version of your book covers and published book.
Bonus Tip: Show Your Schedule
In addition to the public news that you share on your News page, you can also include a calendar plugin or widget on your website that lists your upcoming events. This will keep people informed about your activities.
Depending if you have time and are interested, you can also include a blog on your website.
Blog is different from news.
News includes updates about you, the author and your books.
On the contrary, a blog revolves around specific topics. You could post articles about industry trends or topics related to your niche. This is where you showcase your wealth of knowledge and position yourself as a thought leader.
Take me for instance, I blog about entrepreneurship, marketing and self-publishing. Other common blog topics for authors would be writing, editing, publishing etc. If you’re unsure what to blog about, check out this article for some blog topic ideas for authors.
Remember, a blog is a promise. It’s a long-term commitment where you post articles on a regular basis. Thus, think twice before starting a blog.
There are many authors that only have news on their site. Without any blog. Because they feel that the time would be better spent on writing their next book. Which I totally agree.
I blog because I need a break from writing fiction (it’s mentally exhausting). Plus, I want to share what I know with fellow authors and entrepreneurs.
So, do consider your situation. Whether you have the time, whether you’re interested in blogging, whether you can stay committed in the long run.
Bonus Tip: News Is News, Blog Is Blog
If you intend to blog, do consider keeping your news and blog sections separate. Don’t combine them together.
People who visit your news page are probably your fans who want to be updated about you and your books while people who visit your blog probably wants to know more about the topics or industry. They are two different audiences.
8. Status Update & Book Progress
Another must-have is status update and book progress.
Some author websites display a book progress bar which reveals whether a book is in the writing, editing or formatting stage. Or there may be a page that lists down the various books that an author is currently working on.
The point is to keep people in the loop about your writing progress. This is especially important because a book takes months or even years from production to completion. Even though you write every day, your readers can’t see that. The least you could do is post an update every now and then about your progress.
Remember, this is also a chance to get your readers excited about your upcoming book. In fact, you can place a call-to-action near this status update and book progress, where readers can sign up to receive an email alert when the book is launched.
I don’t have a status bar on my site but I do post my writing progress on Instagram from time to time~
Now It’s Your Turn
What other elements do you think an author website should have? Do you have any tips about building or designing an author website?
For more book publishing and marketing tips, consider joining classes like How To Write And Publish An eBook and Sell Your First 1000 Books. Or watch streaming broadcasts of free online classes at CreativeLive! You can also join online courses at Udemy~