As you work to create your online platform to grow your author business, a functional author website is absolutely essential. But what your website includes depends largely on what you do — if you are a freelance article writer, for instance, your website should have a very different look and feel than a romance novelist’s page. Even so, there are some elements that are common to all functional author websites. Let’s take a look at some of the essentials in detail.
1. Bio and Professional Picture
People connect with people. That’s why it’s so incredibly critical to have a bio page and a good author picture to accompany it. (TIP: Use your photo for your social media outlets as well, and for the same reason.) And considering that, as an author, you are now a brand, being image conscious isn’t a negative thing. You want to give readers a reason to respect you as a professional and want to read your books, or want to hire you for their next project. It’s part of the know-like-trust marketing axis that I talk about all the time — readers can’t really get to know you if you’re just a blank page.
Investing in professional photos is something I believe strongly in, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to get them done. If you’re tight on funds, ask your friends and family and see if anyone has any training in photography. They might be willing to do a shoot for you, and you’ll get quality pictures that will tide you over until you can afford a credentialed professional.
2. Your Publishing Credits
The second most important purpose of your author website, just behind introducing yourself to the world, is introducing your work. This is your opportunity to showcase what you do. No matter what kind of writing you do, you need to put it on a pedestal. If you have books available for sale, it’s ideal if you can run a store from your website, but if not, at the very least include links so that people can buy if they like what they see. (TIP: Make sure your links open in a new window. You never want to drive someone away from your page.)
If you are a freelance writer, you can use this page as your catch-all for clips. Editors want to know where you’ve been published before they give you an assignment. Instead of attaching documents (which some editors really don’t want to see), you can include a link to your clips page and indicate that they can find samples of your work there. (TIP: Make sure to check the links on your page regularly to make sure that they still send people to the right places!)
If you are a copywriter or offer copywriting services, make sure you include a list of some of your best clients. If you really want to be impressive with this, use their logo images. For a great example of how this can be used to great effect, check out Joshua Boswell’s copywriting services page here. That graphic of the logos of the companies he’s worked with indicates in a powerful, visual way that he’s an expert in his field.
I go back and forth just a bit on whether this is completely essential. For some authors, blogging just isn’t their thing. It takes work to maintain regularly, and it can be a source of frustration. If that’s the case, you might start by just creating a strong presence that is predominantly static — something you update when you have new clips, or when you’ve just released a new book.
But here’s why you might want to consider developing a love affair with blogging. Content marketing — no matter your industry — is a huge way to land new business. Consider it as yet another way to showcase who you are and what you do — your areas of expertise, your writing experience and proficiency, and your passions and interests. All of these provide potential hooks for readers and clients, who, again, are looking for a reason to get to know you, to trust you, and to purchase from you. Your blog also offers an opportunity for you to incentivize people to register for your email list. If they like your content sufficiently to want to engage with you in their inbox, that’s a huge step forward for you.
Content marketing isn’t an overnight success strategy. But businesses who build a content marketing plank into their overall marketing strategy do see results. (TIP: Think outside the box a bit as you consider what you might blog about — figure out what you have to offer that’s unique, and play it up.)
4. Contact Page
You need to have a way for people to get in touch with you at the very least. As you build your profile and your platform grows, you may want to expand this page to include a basic media kit. If you offer any kind of services, the contact page is an absolute must — and, in fact, you should include “contact us” calls-to-action on your services page(s) as well.
5. Email Sign-Up and Social Follow Buttons
I group these together because they are ways to continue to engage with your newfound audience. Make sure you have a way for people to sign up for your email list, and offer an incentive — a free short story, a free recording of you reading the first three chapters of your book… anything that’s relevant to your brand. Building an email list is probably the single most important thing you can do for your marketing, but it takes time and consistent effort to help it grow.
Social media is a given now — you just can’t escape it. This doesn’t mean you have to have a presence on every conceivable social media platform, however. Choose the ones that you most enjoy using — for me, that’s Twitter and Pinterest, with Facebook in third. If you aren’t on Google+ or Instagram — or don’t update them regularly — I wouldn’t include the follow buttons for those platforms.
Finally, your website should probably include an RSS feed burner button as well. Some people like to have your content delivered to them so that they don’t have to navigate to your page to see what’s new. Make it easy for them to keep tabs on what you’re up to.
As you tweak and finesse your author website, keep these few things in mind too:
- Web pages are never, ever “finished.” Ever. So don’t think that you’ll get to a point where you’re not fussing with something to improve it. It’s always a WIP…which is actually very freeing! No need to get it absolutely perfect the first time.
- Keep an eye on other authors’ websites and blogs, and make a note if you see a feature you particularly love. Then you can work on building something similar into your own site.
- Everything you put out there with your name on it is now part of your brand. Keep your target audience in mind as you write and design your pages.
I’ve just completed a bit of a site renovation at skvalenzuela.com — and it’s still in progress! I’d love to have you stop by and see what’s new!