By Guest Blogger, Renee Giroux, Stimulating Conversation
When a website is done correctly it serves it’s owner and readers well. When it is done badly, the results are punishing! There is a whole website dedicated to the area of bad websites, called
WebsitesThatSuck. I should qualify and say that the site does not have to be gorgeous, or flashy, or even clever. All of those things are really nice, but most of all your website needs to have the basic information and structure for media and readers to use your site effectively.
Essential anatomy of an author’s website is:
1. Your name (author’s name) generally used as a logo on all pages. Your name should also be your domain name. This helps with Branding and SEO. Sometimes, when your name is not available you can use something like www.johnsmithauthor.com or www.johnsmithwrites.com. You get the idea. Try not to be too clever. Generally people searching for you will use logic over wit.
2. Navigation is the most essential piece of the website design. Navigation should be straight forward, and easy to understand. You may be very funny or clever, but save that for your content, interviews, and books. People need to clearly, easily, and logically find their way around your site. The navigation needs to begin above the fold, and should not be difficult to locate. Websites that Suck coined the term Mystery Meat Navigation. If you are in any way not clear on navigation, or are just curious if your site uses Mystery Meat Navigation, check out the site.
3. Your Book. I know that seems like an obvious statement, but honestly you would be surprised. You should have an image of your book, and at least one way to buy your book. A ton of online retailers make it very simple. There are even IndieBound booksellers happy to provide you with that service, if you are wanting to promote independent booksellers.
4. About You. People want to know about you. You should have a bio. That is an essential part of your marketing plan anyway, so go ahead reuse that essay you already wrote. Here is where you can be clever and fun. Your readers want to know about you and your personality.
5. Your Image. I am a huge advocate for a professional photo, not a snapshot of you in your kitchen, but a well thought out picture. I have met many authors who either write under a pen name, or who otherwise would rather not have their photo posted for the world. I understand. I have seen many clever alternatives to the photo. One of my favorites is a sketch drawing. A stylized photo would work. Keep in mind, if a major press outlet was doing a story on you, what image would you want them to use to represent you. Having your image on your website, even if only on the media page, helps media outlets promote you.
6. Contact information. Again, I know that this seems obvious, and every website handles contact info a little differently. You can make a contact form easily, even in the free templates, but it is also just fine to have a narrative page. Some authors list the different contact names and info for themselves, their assistant, their agent, their PR rep, and their publisher. If you are not comfortable with listing your email with a ‘mail to’ link attached, then spell it out. (i.e.: renee AT stimulating DASH conversation DOT com. Regardless of how to you present the information, always include your contact information.
7. A link to your publisher. Even if you are self published, people should be able to access that information from your website.
8. A Media Page. You may just be starting out, and not yet have tons of interviews or press to include, but please, expect that you will and leave a place for it on your website. The media page can include links to all your media coverage, information for media to use for interviews, Virtual press kits, your press releases, or optional images if you have them. Anything you would like Oprah’s or Terry Gross’ staff to know when they are researching you for your interview.
9. A Site Map is usually included with most DIY services. Any professional site is going to have the site map done for you, so don’t stress over it too much, but understand that the search engines use the site map, hence it’s importance.
10. Title Tags and Metadata are technical terms for the small details that you don’t realize we use. Title tags, for example, are the titles on the page at the very top of the browser window. For sites that don’t have title tags, generic information renders where the title should be. Another example of metadata populates the small paragraph you read when looking at search engine results. These details seem small, but when they are not included they make a site look unprofessional, and more importantly, they make it very difficult for your site to be found by search engines, and in turn readers and media. Wiki explains, but technically. If you have questions about your site’s metadata, feel free to ask, we can help you identify it, and edit it if needed.
I want to emphasize that regardless of whether you create your own website from a template, use a free blogging platform, a professional web developer, or your brother-in-law, please think through the needs of your site before starting. Try to step back and see your site through the users point of view. Expect press and readers to visit your site to get more information about you.
BONUS INFO on Author Profiles
Now that your website is live it’s time to get your profile on every FREE site for authors. Your name, brand and profile need to appear in all the places where writers and readers gather. The other important factor is that all of these important sites provide your site with a link back, from a high ranking book website. That is one of the basics of gaining high SEO ranking.
The following sites offer authors a FREE service, so take advantage. Get your name out there!
Amazon’s Author Central: Amazon loves books, and books begin with authors. As an author, you are part of a special community at Amazon. At Author Central, you have the opportunity to share the most up-to-date information about yourself and your work with your readers -you can view and edit your bibliography, add a photo and biography to a personal profile, and use a blog to connect with readers.
If you’re an author with a book listed in our catalog, you are eligible to join Author Central. You can use your Amazon.com customer account to get started (or create a new one if needed).
BookTour: Events in BookTour’s database are sent to online calendars and our partner book-friendly sites. Adding your events to BookTour is the quickest way to get them seen by thousands of potential new readers.
Filedby.com: Any author with a book published in the U.S. or Canada can join for free, manage and enhance their pages, promote their books, check for accuracy, provide corrections and much more. The company was started to provide every author with the tools to market successfully on the web.
Goodreads Author Program: Much like MySpace Bands pages, the Goodreads Authors program is a completely free feature designed to help authors reach their target audience — passionate readers. This is the perfect place for new and established authors to promote their books.
The Authors Program is designed for people with published books, or who are in the process of publishing a book. It’s best if your work is on a bookseller’s site like Amazon, but we will accept any author who has published a book. This includes authors from other countries as well as authors who are self-published (such as through Ebooks or services like Lulu). If your book is self-published and is not yet in the Goodreads database, you may manually add it. If you are a writer but have not yet published a book, you may want to check out the writing section of your profile where you can post your writing for others to read and review.
Authors Den: The largest most vibrant free online literary community of authors and readers! Visited by 1,400,000+ readers/mo. Authors: participate and you will reach many readers. Share your bio, books, blog, events, stories, articles, poetry and drive traffic to your other websites.
Librarything: LibraryThing is a great place for authors to connect on a personal level with their readers. If you’re also a LibraryThing member, then become an official LibraryThing Author, and showcase some of your personal books for interested readers. Sign up to participate in an Author Chat.
Use LibraryThing Local to your advantage. Add readings and upcoming talks to the “Events” section on your author page, so readers know where to find you.
Linkedin: is an interconnected network of experienced professionals from around the world, representing 170 industries and 200 countries. You can find, be introduced to, and collaborate with qualified professionals that you need to work with to accomplish your goals.
I can’t say enough about LinkedIn, here are several articles and posts explaining why authors should be here:
Shelfari: introduces readers to our global community of book lovers and encourages them to share their literary inclinations and passions with peers, friends, and total strangers (for now).
Shelfari is a gathering place for authors, aspiring authors, publishers, and readers, and has many tools and features to help these groups connect with each other in a fun and engaging way. Our mission is to enhance the experience of reading by connecting readers in meaningful conversations about the published word.
Requires you create a “profile” and then request to link your profile with your author page you may have to request that your book be added to their datadase. Their Author Unbound Program allows any member to edit or add to the author’s page.
Barnes & Noble: Meet the Writers: If you’d like to be considered for Meet the Writers, send an email to email@example.com
A Directory of Authors on Twitter: Authors request their twitter account be added.
BookBuzzr: A portable author website in the form of an embeddable book-widget that’s shareable across multiple social networks. And with book-pages that look and act like pages from a real book. This is a nifty, free widget to add more flair to your virtual presence.
BookTour.com will allow you post your events, and email readers when you are visting their area. You can also post your author profile for free.
Storycasting.com: is a site for members to “cast” their dream cast for their favorite books. <25-30% of readers already do this casting thing in some way, and so all we’re doing is webenabling an existing casual hobby. Even if the author isn’t one of these ‘casual caster’ types, they should know that a significant portion of their readers are, and so it’s worth it, in terms of the reader/author connection, to post a cast of their own and send their fans. It’s a hook, and if you don’t use an available hook (especially when it’s free), you’re just missing out.
- It’s a great source of information to blog about. They can blog about their cast, they can make a blog contest using Storycasting, they can later blog about all their fans’ casts, etc.
- Storycasting.com is starting to engage with the publishers, by this winter you’re going to see publishers using their publicity engine to send readers to the site as part of their launch and genre push.
- Storycasting should be on the list of things every fiction author and publisher does as part of their book promotion process.
Interested authors may email: Holly,author support intern, who will get them and their books set up on the site, and get them an author account so they can cast. Needed are: author, title, synopsis, and cover-art; Storycasting.com can get all that from their website, or from Amazon.
If they don’t have a website or aren’t on Amazon, they need to send that directly (please limit synopsis to ~85 words). Either way, Storycasting.com will put the books in, with the links to Amazon, and a link to their website or blog.