So far we’ve discussed the steps you need to get your site started, from the purpose of the site to selecting web hosting. Now we’re down to the meat-and-potatoes of the job: what should your site include?
I’m not going to talk about design. Chances are, you have an idea of what you want your site to look like, or you’ve already decided you’ll have a professional design it/customize a WordPress theme for you. However, the content of your site is completely up to you.
In Part One, we discussed that an author site should do the following things:
1) Give the reader a feel for who you are, not just as an author, but a person.
2) Allow the reader to take something away besides a sales pitch.
3) Act as a jumping off point for all your marketing.
Let’s take this step by step and talk about the items that you can include to accomplish each of these goals:
Inject Your Personality
The design of your site should reflect your personality, the tone of your books, and your writing style. Rom-com writers might have a more whimsical, feminine design. Mystery writers might have a sleeker, darker look. My writing style is clean and straight-forward, and my personal style is contemporary and un-frilly. My website design communicates that. And fortunately, so does my book cover!
Finding the right tone for your site can be tricky, and much of it will depend on the tone and genre of your writing. If you write chick lit or humorous romance, you’ll probably want a chattier tone and lighter topics. If you write serious, issue-drive contemporary, maybe your material will be more heartfelt or include information on topics relevant to those issues.
I’ve tried to strike a balance with my site. Because I have a marketing background, I write this Monday column specifically aimed towards writers. Wednesdays are geared towards female readers, and they strike a more personal note, often on topics that are particularly meaningful to me right now. Fridays are reserved for general fiction-related topics, from book reviews and recommendations to guest posts by other authors. Those too are meant for readers rather than writers.
The number one mistake writers make with their author sites are gearing all their blog posts towards writers. While we often relate best to other writers (and spend much of our online social media time interacting with them) they’re not going to be your main audience. So while it’s fine to provide information related to writing, only a small portion of your site should be devoted to that topic.
Provide More Than A Sales Pitch
It’s fine to put information about your book on your site… and let’s face it, that’s the reason why you have the site. But a sales pitch should be ancillary, not the main purpose of every page. I’m a firm believer in making it easy for people to find your book and buy it… but letting them make that choice.
So that begs the question: what should your site include?
These would be the core, static pages of your site. These should include your bio, information pages about your books, and contact information. These pages will not change very often, unless you add new material to your bio or new books to your catalog. These are a great place to inject your own personality and give readers a taste of your writing style. I personally have two bios on my page: one official one and one longer, non-official “unboring” one. One of my favorite examples of a personality laden bio is Libba Bray‘s, and incidentally, the writer from whom I stole the idea of the two bio format. I’ll warn sensitive readers that hers includes some language and a rather, ahem, irreverent take on religion. However, by the time you’ve finished reading it, you’ll know without a doubt whether you want to read her books or not. And that is what an effective informational page does for you.
Perhaps you have additional information for your books (maps, character lists, study questions) you’d like to provide your readers. Or perhaps you’ve created pages that detail the setting or the inspiration of your book. Just like it’s become standard for DVDs to provide Extended Features, it’s always nice to give readers a way to stay in your story a bit longer and as a bridge to the next book in your series, if applicable.
This is where you have the opportunity to create fresh material to engage readers (and search engines!) Google, for example, gives better rankings to sites whose material is updated regularly. The important part of this equation is that the blog must be relevant. It’s fine to have your daily blog detailing the funny bits of your life, but unless that somehow ties into the genre, tone, or readership of your books (for example, chick lit or rom-com), it probably doesn’t belong on your author site. Not everyone needs to blog, but if you can commit to being consistent, it provides another avenue to interact with readers.
Act as Author Central
If you’re using WordPress, the good news is that you have a lot of options for integrating all your other “satellite” sites. Plug-ins can provide links to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, etc. in your sidebars. Widgets can serve your latest tweets or Facebook posts. Utilize your book pages as a way to bring together all the different media you use to publicize your work, whether it’s music playlists, Pinterest boards, an online scrapbook, or travel blog.
If you haven’t expanded beyond Facebook and your author site, now is a great time to jump into the water of other social media… and tie it back to your newly designed site.
Remember, unlike all the other sites that might bring readers to your page, this is your home on the web, the place where you’ve staked your claim. Make it unique, make it fresh, and make it reflect who you are, and visitors will return again and again.