This is the second in a series of posts about author websites. If you have never had a website before, you may want to read Author websites – the basics first.
Before you or your web designer start to create your site, you need to plan what will be in it. The bare minimum is
- A page about you
- A page about your books.
- Contact details, either on a separate page or as a clickable link on the other pages.
Of course, we’re talking about web pages here which can be as long or as short as you like. In theory, you could put the whole of War and Peace on one page, but no one would be likely to read it.
You may also like to have
- A blog
- Information about speaking events
- Extra book pages if you’ve written several books or write in different genres
- Sample chapters
- Information about the topics you write about. This is especially useful if you write non-fiction as it can help establish you as an expert in your field.
So let’s look at all of those in more detail.
The “About Me” section
Don’t be surprised if you find this section the hardest one to write. Most people find it difficult to write about themselves. Remember that you don’t have to reveal more about yourself than you feel comfortable with. You can leave out any personal details you don’t want to share and it’s best not to include your date of birth, your mother’s maiden name or any other information you use for security purposes.
As with all writing, you need to consider who you are writing the “about me” section for. Is it aimed at readers, editors or potential reviewers and, if you write for children, is it for them or for adults?
Since you are not restricted by space, you can write different versions for different site visitors. On www.dianakimpton.co.uk, I’ve included a piece about how I became a writer which is mainly aimed at adults and a FAQ (frequently asked questions) section which includes the information that interests my youngest readers. (Have you got a pet? Are you famous? etc.)
The book page or pages
How you organise your books will depend on how many you have written and whether you always write in the same genre. If you’ve only published a couple of novels so far, you may want to give them a page each. If you’ve written seven but they are all about the same detective, you may prefer to put them altogether. Similarly, you may like to group all your non fiction books together or divide them by topic.
If you’re not sure what to do, take a look at some other authors’ sites for inspiration.
Sample chapters are long so it’s best not to include them on the actual book pages. Instead provide a link in the entry for the relevant book that takes people to a separate page or to a pdf file. Pages like this are called child pages and are not listed on the main list of navigation links.
It’s a good idea to provide some way for site visitors to get in touch with you or you’ll miss out on fan mail and other potentially exciting messages. The simplest way to make yourself contactable is to provide an email address. If you make this clickable, it will open a new message already addressed to you in the user’s email software. But spammers love to harvest this sort of address so it’s worth using some code to disguise it. Your web designer should be able to do this or, If you’re building your site yourself, a Google search will help you find some suitable code or WordPress plug-ins to do it for you.
An alternative contact method is to provide a reply form. This has the advantage of working even if the reader is using a tablet or phone without any email software. However, you need to be careful not to just click ‘”reply” when you are answering messages as that won’t use the address supplied by the user.
Whichever method you use, you might like to use a different email address on your website from the one you normally use. Then, if it does get picked up by spammers, you can easily cancel that address and set up another.
Information about speaking events
If you boost your writing income by giving talks and workshops, it’s sensible to include a page about those. You can give an idea of what happens at your events and what target audience they suit. You can also include some testimonials and photos, but please help keep children safe online by not posting pictures of them without the permission of their parents or guardians.
Despite the advice commonly given to authors, you don’t have to have a blog. If you blog unwillingly, you probably won’t do it well and, if you don’t do it well, people won’t read it and you’ll have wasted your time. In fact, even if you make a great job of your blog, there is still no guarantee that you’ll get many readers.
If you do decide to have a blog on your author website, make it relevant to your readers. Write about what you do and the topics you write about. If you want to blog about something completely different (crochet, raising chickens etc), it’s better to have a separate blog and link it to and from your author site.
If you do decide to blog, either separately or on your author website, don’t believe people who tell you that you must do so everyday. It’s perfectly acceptable to write less frequently – weekly, fortnightly or even monthly. You don’t even have to blog at regular intervals unless you want to.
Information about the topics you write about
If you write non-fiction, it’s a good idea to include some information about the topics you write about. These could be articles written by you, fun facts or background details – in short, anything your readers might want to know and which might attract them to the site. This type of information is also likely to attract the attention of search engines.
As an example of what can be done, take a look at theodorstorm.co.uk. This was created by an author who translates the works of this celebrated German author. Rather than creating a site about himself, he created a resource site for people interested in Theodor Storm and, in the process, established himself as an expert. If you specialise in one particular topic, you might like to do something similar.
If you found this article helpful, you may enjoy these other articles about author websites:
- Author websites – the basics
- 10 mistakes to avoid on your author website
- Search engine optimisation – is it worth paying for?
- How to build traffic to your author website