March 26, 2013
Every writer needs a website. This is non-negotiable, and especially critical for indie authors. Even if you don’t have web design expertise (or a publishing house willing to build a snazzy site for you), you can create an attractive, effective site in a weekend for less than $20.
Choosing a Domain
A .com address is best. It’s the oldest and most common top level domain; most people assume that a website is a .com. You can purchase one for less than $12 a year from somewhere like Godaddy.com.
Try to get yourname.com or as close as possible. If your name (or pen name) is already taken, you may have to get slightly creative. Example: belindawilliamsbooks.com.
WordPress/Blogger or Self-Hosted?
I started off as girlnone.wordpress.com. Then I shelled out $18 for a custom URL and became girlnone.com. Then I got tired of ads and a lack of custom plugins and switched over to self-hosting with Bluehost using the wordpress.org platform. There are tons of articles weighing the pros and cons of self-hosting, and I won’t try to replicate them here.
If you’re not particularly tech savvy, your best bet is going through wordpress.com and adding on a custom domain. You can still make your site look like website rather than a blog (check out YA author Brenna Yovanoff’s wordpress-hosted site), remain plugged into a network of other bloggers, and allow wordpress to do all the heavy lifting.
Elements of a Great Author Site
The Bare Minimum:
- A list of your books (including reading order, if you write series) and links to buy them on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
- Your picture and a short biography
- Other ways to connect with you (Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, etc)
- A regularly updated blog that gives readers a glimpse of your everyday life and creative process without verging into TMI. Nobody wants to peek behind the curtain only to learn about the Great and Powerful Oz’s bunions.
- A digital press kit with high-resolution images of your book covers and author photo, a sell sheet for each of your books, sample interview questions, reading guides, etc.
- Contests, giveaways, or free content for fans such as advance chapters or short stories.
Keep it simple yet aesthetically pleasing.
Fit in with your genre. If you write sexy urban fantasy or erudite historical thrillers, then your site shouldn’t look like a Lisa Frank Trapper-Keeper.
Integrate design elements or color palettes from your most popular book or series.
The navigation should be easy to find (a bar at the top of the page, for example) and intuitive to use.
Feature your books prominently; don’t make visitors dig.
Amateurish design. If your site looks like a relic from the mid-90s, it’s probably time to redesign your site. If you don’t know how, hire someone to do it for you. Check out this gallery of terrible fantasy author websites.
Too many bells and whistles. Flash animation looks cool, but it can also take a long time to load or fail to display at all. The longer visitors have to wait for something load, the more likely it is they’ll simply leave.
Don’t add sounds, music, or videos that auto-play. People hate that.
Excessive self-promotion turns people off. You should offer value to your visitors–insight into your life, news about upcoming events, freebies related to your books, or information related to the subjects you write about. If all you’re saying is BUY MY BOOK IT’S AWESOME BUY IT NOW!, you’re more likely to lose readers than gain them.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Author Websites
You can find more information about the author and the original post on Erin Elizabeth Long’s website.