Archive for websites for authors

Websites 101: What the Unpublished Author Needs

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Updated October 2014

Of everything in your branding arsenal, your website is the one that gets the most attention.  As a business, a website offers a public face, a representative that connects and engages customers.  For an author, whether published or aspiring, those customers range from readers to agents to editors to other writers.

Today’s post is going to center on the website for the aspiring author (the unpublished writer working his or her way to publication.)  The Unpublished Writer’s Website is a topic of controversy, apparently.  As I did a little snooping around the web, I uncovered very different opinions.  Some highly recommend having one, others tell you to focus only on your writing and forget about a website for now.  And other opinions weigh somewhere in between.  The truth?

They are all correct.

Do You Need One?

Deciding if you need a website at this stage depends on one thing:  where you are in your career.  Where you are determines when a website is best.  If you’re unpublished and actively ready to pursue a career, find an agent, build your following, then a website is a good bet.  The timing of this depends on you.

If you have not finished at least one book, your focus is better spent on writing.  A website is about branding yourself, building an audience, getting your name out there and as an author, the BEST thing you can do for your brand is know it, understand it and be ready to articulate it.  That’s tough to do unless you’ve finished a book, unless you understand how to position yourself.  Unless you know your own writing.  Let’s say your work in progress ends up darker and grittier in tone than you expected, but you created a blog/website that is full of humor, snark —the brands are very different.   Your website is a tool.  If you create a site too early in the game, it might not reflect you or your writing in the best light —and at this stage, your website audience would be potential agents, editors.  If you feel like having a website right now is best for you, keep it very simple, keep it professional and keep in mind WHO will be visiting your site.   If you want a website at this stage, make it as simple as possible.  But for networking and connection at this stage of the game, you could easily stick to social media channels to build your audience while you’re honing your craft.

The best thing you could do at this stage of your career is focus on becoming the best writer you can be.  Write your first “The End” and then when you’re polishing and shining your book, take a look at what kind of online presence you want.  Times have changed and many agents/editors are looking to see your marketing capabilities when they review you.  You don’t need to have a website to get the agent you want.  A reputable agent or editor will take you and your book on because they love your work but it could help tip the scales in your favor if they are on the fence.  When I talked to one of my clients, Kathleen Bittner Roth, about why she chose to have a website at this stage of her career, she told me, “All you have to do is read a few agent blogs and you’ll get the picture in a hurry—if they are interested in you, they will check you out. I am a firm believer that when you want something, you must act “as if” from the beginning.”

And that thought is echoed in some of the agent comments I’ve read. On the Pubrants blog, Kristin Nelson discussed a conversation she had with an editor about whether they visit unpublished author websites: “For both of us, the answer was ‘yes.’ When reviewing sample pages where we like the writing, we’ll often give the writer website a glance and see what’s there. I don’t bother if the sample pages haven’t caught my interest.”

So while it’s not necessary to have a website to gain the interest of an agent, be aware that they will look.  If you’re going to have one, make sure it is the best it can be.  That doesn’t have to mean professionally designed, but it does need to be professional, with good, informative content.

Who Is Your Target Audience?

You’ve heard the saying “Content is king.”   In order to make your content relevant, however, you need to understand who you are marketing to.  If your reasons for wanting a website span the four questions then your target audience breaks down into two main focus groups:

  • Agents/Editors
  • Other Writers & Publishing World Contacts

Most people visit websites with a “what’s in this for me?” mentality.  This mentality is a staple in the Features vs. Benefits aspect of marketing.  For every feature a product offers, it’s the benefit to a customer that sells it.  For example:  McDonald’s advertises a playground for kids and a happy meal with healthy options like apples and milk. Those are features of the store.  The benefit is a quick, cost-effective meal that provides good nourishment and safe entertainment to keep kids occupied.

The benefits sell to parents because it meets two of their most important needs: good food and an entertained child in a safe environment.

When you are considering what to include on a website, you need to think about what your audience needs:

If agents and editors are viewing your website, they are already interested in your work.  They are looking to see what else you offer and a little more about you.  Your website, for this audience, serves as an online resume.  Ultimately, they want confirmation of what they already think about you and your writing, your style (which often means not having something on your site that proves that opinion wrong).

Other writers and authors are looking for someone to connect with.  They are also looking to network and learn more about you.  They are visiting because they’ve already begun to form an opinion about you and they want to connect further.

When it comes to your website, you are leading out of the gate – they already want more or they wouldn’t be there in the first place.  Now is the time to show off your best side.

What to Put on Your Website

The most basic element for a good website is function.  At its core focus, a website is a tool to inspire a specific action on the part of the viewer.  If you’re published, that action is easy: you want the visitor to click and buy your book.

As an unpublished writer, the action you are hoping to inspire is a little more vague: you are trying to instill a perception, an impression of you that stays when the visitor leaves your site. If you read last month’s post on brand, you’ll remember this phrase: Your Brand is Your Promise.  It is also their Perception.

It’s an important element of brand that is often overlooked.  A brand is not only set in your efforts, it is set in someone else’s opinion about what you’ve offered.  This extends to your website – the final judge is the person viewing.   Everything you include, from the design to the content, can help steer their perception of you.

Design

On the Pubrants blog (http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2008/03/talking-websites.html ), Kristin Nelson says, “Don’t have a website/blog unless it can be a professional one. The homemade sites look it and just make me cringe. It won’t keep me from asking for your full (or if I like the novel, offering representation) but it’s not putting your best foot forward and that’s never a benefit.”

I’m going to qualify Ms. Nelson’s statement (and hope she doesn’t mind).  When she says professional, I don’t believe she means it has to be designed by a professional.  It has to be professional.

What does that mean?  To me, the best litmus test you can give your website design is whether or not you would print it out and hand it to that agent or editor in person as a representation of you.  Would you be confident that you’ve handed them something that will steer their perception of you in a positive light?

When asked why she chose to have her site professionally made, aspiring author Kathleen Bittner Roth told me, “My response goes right back to acting “as if”. I have been a successful, self-made business woman and I learned way back that putting anything other than your best foot forward is going to cost you in the end. So, for me, a professionally designed website is cost effective in the long run and a wise business decision. Every writer has a dream of who he or she is (not wants to be, but is)  and I believe a person’s website is the perfect opportunity to present a visual representation of this dream—a good website is a multi-layered symbol of what and who you are as a writer.”

Kathleen touches on one element that can be vitally important in connecting with other writers or showing a good side to an agent or editor.  Sometimes, having a website changes your perception, and that cannot be undervalued.  You are your best advocate, so if having a website gives you more confidence and belief in your abilities, it’s worth it.

If a professionally designed website isn’t in your current budget, there are a number of templates and easy-to-create options out there that will give you a functioning, professional and simple website.  Keep it simple if you’re building it yourself.  If you want to leave it to the pros, visit other writer and author websites and look for the ones you like.  There will usually be a designer’s link somewhere on the site, and you can see their portfolio and style and pricing.  I recommend researching at least a few before deciding.

Focus & Content

The other aspect is the focus of your site and what content to include.  This brings up the question about blogs: should you have one?

If building a platform and networking with other writers and authors is part of your focus, then a blog is a great opportunity to do just that.  One example of a successful, well-focused blog is The Lovestruck Novice (http://thelovestrucknovice.blogspot.com/), started by aspiring author Sarah Simas.  When I asked her why she decided to start the blog, she told me, “I wanted to create a site other aspiring authors could swing by and get in the mix with published authors. In the interest of making the blog unique, I decided I’d “grill” my author guests with questions on writing and the publishing industry in a fun, high energy, and entertaining way.”

Her blog is a mix of her own entertaining posts on her writing and life, interviews with authors and with other “novices” to watch.   Focus and content wise, Sarah has done a wonderful job of creating an environment for her audience and establishing her own personality.  Building a platform was a part of her goals, and she’s doing just that.

However, a blog like Sarah’s takes a lot of work.  She posts three days a week and spends from 3 ½ hours up each week writing, posting and promoting.  Making a successful blog takes time and effort.  This type of commitment may not be what you’re looking for at this point, in which case a blog is probably not what you want on your site.

So sans blog, what other options do you have for content?

There is a world of options when it comes to relevant content to put on your website.  Remember the audience and their goals:  form an impression and connect with you.

Start with the basics:

About You – Your site should include a few paragraphs about you, how you started writing, and what you write.  If you include a photo on this page, it should be a professional, nice one.  Again, professional doesn’t imply you paid to have it taken. It means you look professional in it.

Work/Books/WIPs –Your website should give a snapshot of what you’re working on.  Include working titles, genre, word count.  Whether or not you include blurbs and summaries of your WIPs is up to your comfort zone (and for a look at both sides of this, see this post (http://jeannieruesch.com/wordpress/?p=2940).  List content finals or wins.  List any articles you’ve published or other related work.

Contact Information – Be sure that there is an easy way to contact you on your site.  Include an email address or a contact form.  And if you’re active on social networks (and you should be), include links to those as well – and include them prominently.  These are actionable links by your visitors and ways you can connect more personally with them.  Make it easy for someone to find you.

And make your site personal by adding other content:

With a focus on your writing, you could embellish your sites with facts, tidbits or interesting stories.

  • Include fun research facts you’ve discovered.  Chances are if you found it different or interesting, someone else will too.
  • Make playlists of songs that inspired you while writing or that match the tone and emotion of your stories, like you’ll find on Adrienne’s site (http://adriennegiordano.com/bookshelf/).
  • Pick out elements that are highlighted in your book – recipes, pets, causes, an historical era, whatever you can pull from your site, and build a page or section of your site around that.

And before you say, “I don’t know what would be interesting enough…”—think again.  Yes, you do.  Do you write sassy, strong heroines?  Make a section of your site about strong women you admire. Do you write alpha males? Focus a section of your site on alpha males in the world – perhaps with a focus on the careers of your characters.  Dig into your stories and find what makes them unique, find what inspires you within them and build that into your website.  It offers even more compelling ways to connect with you as a writer.

And don’t underestimate connecting as a person.  Even two people who have nothing in common can talk for hours about a favorite TV show or movie.  Put some personal touches on the site:

  • Try a list of your favorite things: books, music, television shows, and movies.  When considering “favorites” to include, look for things that connect people, rather than separate them.  Unless it’s part of your platform, staying away from politics and religion is always a good idea.
  • Include links.  It’s wonderful for both networking with others and your search engine results.  Offering a links page to helpful resources, other authors, chapters, research sites, or whatever else you want to focus on offers a chance for those websites to link back.
  • Do you have a hobby or additional job that would provide useful information to other writers? By all means, create a page to share your expertise and knowledge.

Ultimately, think outside of the box.  Kathleen Bittner Roth did that by adding an “Unbook trailer” to her site (http://kathleenbittnerroth.com/).  Without a book or need for a book trailer, she found a unique and entertaining way to add content to her site.

To summarize, for the unpublished author, your website is a place to build a bridge between you and your target audience.  For agents and editors, it means presenting yourself professionally.  For other writers and connections within the publishing world, it means offering a common ground.  If you keep that in mind, you can’t go wrong.

Websites 101: What the Published Author Needs

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Welcome back to the Websites 101 series.  If you’re just checking in, we’ve been discussing websites at every stage of a writer’s career.  We started with the Unpublished Author’s Website, continued with The About-to-be or Newly Published Author and now, our series wraps up this week with a final look at the Established Author’s Website.

What’s the next level you can take your website to once your author bookshelf has books stacked and your readership base is growing?   You have a website that’s been focused on your author brand,  you offer updates and new information often, but you want more interactivity, you want to reward your readers with a deeper connection to you and your work.  How do you do that?

Now is the best time to truly shift the focus of your website.  In other stages of your career, your website was a place to show yourself  to other writers, agents, editors, reviewers and while some of that may still be true, your ultimate goal should be enhancing the reader’s experience: immersing them in your world(s) and offering more connection to you, the author.

The Basic Needs

Before the bells and whistles, you have to make sure you’ve got the basics in order. Basic needs for an established author’s website are mostly in line with everything else we’ve discussed – a solid design that enhances and evokes your brand, a clean navigation and easy-to-use site.  As you gain a larger readership and write more books, there are a few added basics that every site should have:

A simple, printable book list.

This doesn’t need to be fancy, but it should list all the books you’ve written.  If you’ve written series or connected books, they should be listed in order.

A coming soon page.

This is across the board for any author, but as an established author, it’s imperative.  Your readers will come to your site looking to find out when your next book is out.  As soon as you know, let them know.  Provide details on release dates, blurbs, cover, and whenever possible, a sample of the first chapter.

An easy way to contact you.

An established author is going to have fans write to them or want to connect somehow.  Have a contact page that gives all the options you offer.  A contact form, an email address, a mailing address (PO Box, please), any and all social media connections you have.  Everywhere you want a reader to contact you, list those options.

Bells & Whistles

You may ask why you need to enhance your reader’s experience through your website.  Aren’t the books enough? Or your Facebook page or twitter, or your blog?

Yes and no.  Some readers won’t ever visit your Facebook page, your twitter account, or your blog.   But your website is the one place everyone will come when they want more: more of your books, more information, more connection to you.

We’re writers, but we’re also readers. If you’ve ever met one of your favorite authors, then you know that in some ways, to a reader, an author can be like a celebrity.  Readers feel connected from your books, and just like we’re all curious about what our favorite celebs are up to, we like to know about our favorite authors.  That connection helps to build a reader’s loyalty, their trust.   And offering more for them on your website shows the reader that you value them – that you realize that your career wouldn’t be what it is without them.

So, what sorts of bells and whistles can you add to enhance their experience?  We’ll study some examples of bestselling authors and what they share with their readers:

Epilogues, Deleted Scenes & Other Short Stories

Giving more of your stories is a great way to draw your readers to your site and keep them immersed in the world you created.  One fabulous example of this is Julia Quinn’s 2nd Epilogues for her Bridgerton series.  Her tagline for these is terrific: “Because happily ever after is a whole lot of fun.”   The offer the “story after the story” for one of my most beloved series.

Another author who has done this is Susan Elizabeth Phillips, who offers an epilogue to Heaven, Texas.

You can also choose other routes, such as deleted scenes.  Caridad Pineiro offers deleted scenes from a number of her books, as well as free reads.

Readers love more of their favorite stories.  It’s why series, especially in romance, are so successful.  When we fall in love with the characters, we want to keep reading about them.  These are great options to give a little more to your readers.

Micro sites

A micro site is a glimpse into the world of your books.  One example is Brenda Novak’s LAST STAND series.  She has a micro site available from her website (it requires flash to see) that showcases this series – the lead heroines, cases, chapters, and all wrapped in the design idea of the “offices” of the Last Stand – which works with her series premise.

If you have connected books or long-standing series, a micro site dedicated to your book’s world and characters is a great way to get your readers that much more involved.

More Information About The Author

Readers love to get to know their favorite authors.  There are a ton of different ways you can do this.   One I think is particularly enjoyable is on Lisa Gardner’s website.  She has a video called “A Day Living with Lisa Gardner.”  The video is funny, in tone with her books, and a great way to make readers laugh.

Other options, outside of the traditional “About me” paragraphs can be quirky Q&A.  Kristin Hannah does this on her website, and it’s different and fun.  (And she apparently hates onion rings.)

Get Behind The Scenes

Readers love to delve into the world of how you created their favorite books.   Look for ways to bring out special details that aren’t anywhere else – more than just settings, character bios.  Look for unique tidbits.

One of my favorite authors, Karen Rose, offers trivia on how she created her books: http://www.karenrosebooks.com/krose-trivia.htm .  It’s a great insight into how some of my favorite characters and stories came about.  I love reading these, as a writer and reader – it’s fun to see where she gets her ideas and how my favorite books come to life.

One of the best workshops I attended at the National RWA Conference was on how a cover was created. It was run by the amazing Kate Duffy, and she walked us through the variations of a romance novel cover – we saw the different versions, the changes and why they were made. It was fascinating.   While you may not be able to offer something like this to your reader, there are other details you can offer.  Things that you changed along the way and why.

And as someone who always watches the “How it was made” section on DVD movie releases, I love knowing what’s behind the scenes.   I love seeing the special effects in movies, and readers love knowing what went into making a book.

Fan Clubs

Fan clubs can be a tricky thing.  They can be called a number of things: fan club, registered readers group, etc, but it boils down to your loyal fans looking for a deeper connection with you.

On Eloisa James’ website, her “registered readers get: a whole level of eloisajames.com available only to registered readers. On these pages you will find short stories, extra chapters to Eloisa’s books, special bulletins from Eloisa, photos and other exclusive items.”  As well as advance notice of news and books.  Her website also has an “easter egg” hunt ongoing, and registered readers get hints on the game.  Her fan club is a place to play and get the inside scoop.

This level of connection has to be unique, because these days, readers can connect with you in a variety of ways: facebook, twitter, other social media.  What you offer in an exclusive group is essentially a bargain: I’ll give you, the reader, special access in exchange for your email address and agreement to send you updates.  It’s the author’s way of remaining connected to the reader and rewarding loyal readers with ways to make them feel special.

Interactive Additions

One good way to get readers active on your website is a forum or message board.  However, use caution with this because boards can take time to build, and if they aren’t kept up with fresh content, can quickly become stale.

I love the concept that Eloisa James & Julia Quinn joined their forums together into one.  It’s a great way to connect with readers of the same genre and build a stronger base for activity on the board.

Taking Your World Into Theirs

The next step would be to provide options that bring your written world off your website and into the everyday world of your readers.   There are a few ways to do that, from simple and inexpensive to luxurious and interactive.

Bling

Bling is always good for giving goodies to your readers.  This can be a variety of things from buddy icons, wallpapers, to downloadable/printable bookmarks and more.  Buddy icons can be used on message boards, forums.  Wallpapers can grace your reader’s computer

Games & More

Another option is to look into 3D games such as Second Life, and build a world that your reader can navigate through in 3D with their own avatar

Or look at creating a game about your books.  At the “Nora” level, taking the next step involved actually creating a game based on the world and characters in her Bride Quartet series, where you can “be” a character and truly interact with her world on your own time, away from her website.

Other options include apps for phones and more.  These get expensive of course, so choose what fits within your budget and always, what enhances your brand.

It Has to Work.

There are no limits to how interactive you can get with your readers.  But something to keep in mind with the addition of new perks, new games, new information, more details and more interactivity, is the most basic needs of a website: Keep it simple.

Your navigation needs to expand and grow with your new features, but overall you want to be sure your readers can find things without much effort.  Brenda Novak says, “I think the key to having a good web site is making the information quick and easy to obtain, while making the site as interactive as possible, with content that constantly changes. As the site grows, so does the amount of content, and it’s imperative that it be organized in an intuitive way so that it doesn’t frustrate the visitor. Otherwise, it becomes a waste of time and effort.”

Frustrating the visitor can be easier than you might think, especially when your website is full of information.  Your main navigation should have easy, recognizable headers such as “about”, “Books”, “extras”, “Contact”, “Links”, etc…  Look across most author websites and you’ll see the same navigation titles.   Don’t get cute here, don’t try to think up something original – this isn’t the place for it.   The more content you offer, the simpler your navigation needs to be.

So load up on the added features, get interactive with your readers but remember to keep your website simple, focused and professional.

Originally published at Romance University.org – Be sure to visit to read the comments for more indepth Q&A.

Websites 101: What the Newly Published Author Needs

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

The title of this blog is a little misleading.  In fact, this article will target a slightly different demographic.  The focus of this blog is on the Contracted-and-soon-to-be-published-for-the-first-time Author. (Way too long to fit in the subject line…)

So here’s the first bit of news, which might be startling wake up call to those of you who fit into either of the above categories.  If you are newly published, which means your book is already on a shelf somewhere (virtual or real), and you don’t have a website?  You’re behind the curve.  In fact, you might be approaching D status on the Marketing Report Card.  A new author’s website provides a multitude of functions – ones that include helping you to gain readers, reviews, attract attention and more.  As an Author (with a capital A, cue the drum roll), your audience is wider, more varied and has different needs.  Therefore, your website now has a checklist of elements it should provide.

If you don’t have a website and you have a book out, then print this article out, find a website designer you love, and get ready for the sprint of your life.  You need to catch up.   If you are an author with the contract under your belt and a “release date” looming in your future, you are right on track.

Do You Need A Website?

Yes.

It may seem blunt and unnecessarily scare tactic-y, but the truth is that for an author in today’s world, a website is your best marketing line of defense.  It is an absolute necessity.

And for an author with a release date on the horizon, the website isn’t going to be the only marketing consideration you have, but in all likelihood, it will be the one that everything feeds.  Think of ads you see in magazines, on book review websites, bookmarks, business cards – everything lists a website address.  A website is the place where most everyone will come to find you when they want more information.

You need to provide that information in a timely, professional manner.  According to Kristin Nelson, of Nelson Literary Agency, “that website should be up and running when the catalog copy is being done for your book.  Why? Because your publisher is going to be sending out ARCs to reviewers and to other terrific people who have the power to give you a plug, and it’s at that moment in time when they might want to find information about you and the book quickly and easily.”

Which leads to one other point of distinction: Easily.  At this point, you need to have a domain name secured with your author name.  JaneAuthor.com if it’s available or if not, some of the variations I’ve seen are:  janeauthorbooks.com or authorjanesmith.com.  A domain name is a small yearly expense and it’s very simple to set your domain name to forward to any other location.  There is no good reason not to have one of your own.

Mostly, an author at this stage needs to create a professional appearance, top to bottom.   Think of how much attention you have paid to your appearance on a first date. That first impression is important and you need just the right “outfit” to achieve just the right look.  If you present yourself as professional, then people will think of you as such.  If you present something half-hearted, people may assume you feel the same about your career.

Who Is Your Target Audience?

Before looking at what to put on your website, we need to focus on who will be viewing it and what their specific needs are.  In our previous post, we discussed how an unpublished writer’s audience is more inclined toward attracting an agent/editor and building a network of connections with other writers.  A new author has a bigger audience to provide for.  Not only are you trying to attract readers, but you’re trying to establish yourself as a professional in the marketplace among other professionals who have the power to help propel your career.

Your website might be visited by book reviewers, librarians, book buyers, and big name authors as well as readers.   In all cases, two things are true.  These visitors want to delve deeper into the book and they want to know more about you.

Your readers are going to want to feel connected to you and your work.  Whether they’ve read the book already or they are considering buying it, your website can give a nudge into buying this book or remembering you when the next one comes out.  It’s possible that they’ve seen mention of the book somewhere else – an ad, a book review, a comment on a website or social network, or a recommendation.  They are now coming to you to convince them the book is worth their time and money. Ultimately, they are looking for someone they can trust.

How do you build someone’s trust through a website?  Present the authentic you, keep any promises you make and respect the relationship.  Remember that your website, for a reader, is about building upon the relationship you’ve started with your book.  Your work is your shining glory – everything stems from it.  But a relationship is often nurtured by the little things, the small details.  And especially when there might be months to wait in between your first and your second book, your website can maintain that bridge.

Industry professionals are going to want to trust in you, as well.  They want to know that they are putting their name to someone who is professional, serious about their career and knows what it takes to stay in the business.  Every review a book reviewer puts their name on builds upon their reputation.  Same goes for other authors.  When someone is giving their name to further your career, the way you show respect and consideration for that is to present yourself in a way that enhances their trust.

What to Put On Your Website?

So with the audience firmly in mind, what should your website look like at this stage?  We break that down into Design and Focus/Content.

DESIGN

As I mentioned in our last post on websites, I believe the best litmus test you can give your website design is whether or not you would print it out and hand it to someone in person as a representation of you.  Would you be confident that you’ve handed them something that will steer their perception of you in a positive light?

It’s easy to be lax when it comes to what you put on the web, because you aren’t face-to-face with the person viewing it.  But if you had to hand them a printed version of your site and watch and receive their response in that moment, would it change how you look at what you’ve got?  Imagine the best-selling author in your genre who you’d love to get a quote from.  Would you immediately start to think of excuses for why your site looks as it does? Or could you give a big smile and say, “This is the extension of me and my work that I want you to put your name on with a stamp of approval.”

That’s what your website is – an extension of you.  And because authors put reviews and quotes on their marketing material, you are asking for Mr. Big Author’s stamp of approval on you, the Author, and all that encompasses you.  That includes your website design.  Be 100% confident that it represents your brand as a writer well.  Dress your site for the job you want: Successful.

FOCUS & CONTENT

As an about-to-be/newly published author, your website audience is looking for more information to establish their opinion of you and your work.  To meet the barest of basics, you should always have:

A Front Page that provides basic information about your upcoming book.  People should be able to type in your domain name and get immediate facts: what you write, when your book comes out, and where to find it.  They want to know what to expect and when, as quickly as possible.

  • A Bio – A few paragraphs and a photo of you.  People want to see who you are.  This photo should be professional and simple.
  • Book page – Your book’s page should include a summary of the book (back cover/jacket copy), a cover image, excerpt if possible, and links when available on where to buy the book.
  • Coming Soon Page – Have a page that gives details about what’s next from you.   Both readers and industry professionals will appreciate knowing that you’re building a career, not just a one-hit wonder.
  • Contact information.  An email address and/or a contact form where someone can get reach you.
  • Events & News.  If you are planning a book tour in bookstores, any booksignings, conferences or blog tours, be sure to put that information on your site.  Include dates, links and any relevant information.
  • A Way To Capture the Connection.  Don’t let a visitor walk away from your website, waving their hand as they turn their back and saying, “I’ll call you sometime.”  Nail down the next date now by giving them options to let you connect to them:
    • Social Media Links:  Your links to Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks that you actively maintain should be accessible easily.  Preferably on the home page.
    • Newsletter Subscription:  If you have a newsletter, offer an easy-to-find place to subscribe to it.

Beyond the basics, there are plenty of “Added Features” you can adopt. Think of the extras sort of the way you would a DVD release of a movie.  You get the movie and you get more– behind the scenes information, deleted scenes, the ‘making of’ features, and whatever else enhances the viewer’s experience.  That is the goal for everything beyond the basics on your site:  Enhance your website visitor’s experience.

I did some searching on author websites, looking for interesting, unique ideas, here are some websites that get an A for fresh website content.

Character Quotes

Janet Evanovich’s site – the header contains quotes from the characters in her books.    I LOVE this idea – and for a new author trying to establish a name, what better way to give glimpses of your style?   Where you put this on your site depends on a number of factors – genre, style, site design – but it’s a wonderful way to intrigue a viewer into wanting more.

Deleted Scenes

Every book has them and sometimes, they are scenes you loved, found interesting but ultimately cut from the book.  So share them!  Pick one or two, make sure they shine and add them to your website.  Therese Walsh, author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy, does just this.  A word of caution though:  Choose carefully so your scene doesn’t provide spoilers or ruin something in the reading of the book.

Research Notes

Therese Walsh also provides research articles to share how she researched aspects of her books.  Once readers have delved into a world of a book and loved it, they want more.  Personally, I love the way she’s laid out her pages here and shares photos and words, including quotes from people she spoke to.

Research here, for me, is different than offering a “research for writers” page.  Because here you are trying to instill the same sense of magic and personal voice in the aspects you included in your book.  Did you learn something that fascinated you?  Share the fascination as well as the fact.

Sneak Peeks

You have a Coming Soon page that talks about what is ahead from you.  Include a sneak peek of your work – maybe a few lines, or a character article about your favorite character.

Author Christyne Butler (http://www.christynebutler.com) has a Coming Soon section on her bookshelf that gives all the facts about her upcoming books – as well as includes a picture of the hero and heroine, in her mind’s eye, of each book.   I love this – it’s a bit of whimsy and always fun to connect a book that’s not yet out with a recognizable face.  When the book comes out, the images are removed and replaced with the cover.  But for something that is months out, it’s a great way to instill some interest.

Brand-Specific Interactive Extras

Depending on your brand and the tone of your book, look for fun, interactive extras you can include on your website.  Angie Fox (http://www.angiefox.com), author of The Accidental Demon-Slayer (and others), has a quiz on her website that asks what your ‘biker bitch name” would be.   This fits perfectly with her voice and tone, and it’s fun for the reader.   (Mine is Spaghetti Neck Stella Fast Pants, if you were curious…)

These are just a few of the extra ways you can enhance your visitor’s experience.  And don’t forget the ones we mentioned for unpublished writers, because those will work as well:

  • A music soundtrack for your book
  • Favorite Things Lists
  • Links
  • Highlighted elements of your books – recipes, causes, an historical era, whatever you can pull from your book and share in a way that furthers your voice and style.

I’d like to add one note about pulling elements from your books.  Be sure it’s something this section fits YOU, the author, as well.  For instance, I’m not a fan of cooking.  Most anyone who has read my blog posts knows this.  So if I included a Recipes section on my author website – unless they existed of “Get in Car. Drive to Chili’s.” – it would seem disingenuous.

Everything you put on your website should have a purpose.  And when you’re considering what to include, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it enhance the visitor’s experience and connection with me?
  • Does it further my brand?
  • Does it feel genuine?

And since I haven’t said it yet…congratulations on your new or upcoming book!

Website Content: What To Include?

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

There is a world of options when it comes to relevant content to put on your website.  Remember the audience and their goals:  form an impression and connect with you.

Start with the basics:

About You – Your site should include a few paragraphs about you, how you started writing, and what you write.  If you include a photo on this page, it should be a professional, nice one.  Again, professional doesn’t imply you paid to have it taken. It means you look professional in it.

Work/Books/WIPs –Your website should give a snapshot of what you’re working on.  Include working titles, genre, word count.  Whether or not you include blurbs and summaries of your WIPs is up to your comfort zone (and for a look at both sides of this, see this post (http://jeannieruesch.com/wordpress/?p=2940).  List content finals or wins.  List any articles you’ve published or other related work.

Contact Information – Be sure that there is an easy way to contact you on your site.  Include an email address or a contact form.  And if you’re active on social networks, include links to those as well – and include them prominently.  These are actionable links by your visitors and ways you can connect more personally with them.  Make it easy for someone to find you.

And make your site personal by adding other content:

With a focus on your writing, you could embellish your sites with facts, tidbits or interesting stories.

  • Include fun research facts you’ve discovered.  Chances are if you found it different or interesting, someone else will too.
  • Make playlists of songs that inspired you while writing or that match the tone and emotion of your stories, like you’ll find on Adrienne’s site (http://adriennegiordano.com/bookshelf/).
  • Pick out elements that are highlighted in your book – recipes, pets, causes, an historical era, whatever you can pull from your site, and build a page or section of your site around that.

And before you say, “I don’t know what would be interesting enough…”—think again.  Yes, you do.  Do you write sassy, strong heroines?  Make a section of your site about strong women you admire. Do you write alpha males? Focus a section of your site on alpha males in the world – perhaps with a focus on the careers of your characters.  Dig into your stories and find what makes them unique, find what inspires you within them and build that into your website.  It offers even more compelling ways to connect with you as a writer.

And don’t underestimate connecting as a person.  Even two people who have nothing in common can talk for hours about a favorite TV show or movie.  Put some personal touches on the site:

  • Try a list of your favorite things: books, music, television shows, and movies.  When considering “favorites” to include, look for things that connect people, rather than separate them.  Unless it’s part of your platform, staying away from politics and religion is always a good idea.
  • Include links.  It’s wonderful for both networking with others and your search engine results.  Offering a links page to helpful resources, other authors, chapters, research sites, or whatever else you want to focus on offers a chance for those websites to link back.
  • Do you have a hobby or additional job that would provide useful information to other writers? By all means, create a page to share your expertise and knowledge.

Ultimately, think outside of the box.  Kathleen Bittner Roth did that by adding an “Unbook trailer” to her site (http://kathleenbittnerroth.com/).  Without a book or need for a book trailer, she found a unique and entertaining way to add content to her site.

To summarize, for the unpublished author, your website is a place to build a bridge between you and your target audience.  For agents and editors, it means presenting yourself professionally.  For other writers and connections within the publishing world, it means offering a common ground.  If you keep that in mind, you can’t go wrong.