A professional website is essential for any creative. Yet, authors often seem to miss the mark, placing it at the bottom of their infinitely long to-do list. But make no mistake: an absent or lackluster website won’t cut it. Every time you fail to impress a new visitor, you lose way more than just one new fan or industry contact. You lose all of the people that might have told about you and your books as well.
The first step to building an impressive author website is understanding its true value. Let’s take a deeper look!
Effective writing means putting yourself in your reader’s perspective, tightly guiding their experience from one sentence to the next, one chapter to the next. An effective web presence is exactly the same. True, your readers will bring their own expectations about you and your work. Still, it’s ultimately up to you whether those expectations are met, surpassed… or shattered to bits.
Your author website is a promise about what readers will find in your books. It should magnify your most exciting qualities, focusing readers on what you do best without distraction or compromise.
So let’s make the journey through a visitor’s eyes. It starts like this:
- Somebody hears about you, either from a friend, from a colleague, or through one of your social media feeds.
- That someone types your pen-name into a search engine.
- Then one of four things happen…
If you don’t exist online, you might as well not exist at all. That’s the way it is in this day and age. The chances of that visitor looking you up ever again are slim. If you don’t get them on your list, get them to sign up for your feeds, or get them to buy a book, it’s over. Only a website can do all three of those things.
You need to care about being seen, or no one else will.
Links to retailers, social media, forums, and review blogs are all great. They help build your overall online presence. But when it comes down to it, you have no control over any of them. Facebook or Amazon, or Goodreads can change their rules at a moment’s notice. It’s their platform, their visitors, their game.
Sure, it’s possible to build an audience on a third-party platform and often to great effect, but if you don’t move that audience into your own space, you risk being a victim of platform drift. How many people devoted all their waking hours to building a fandom on MySpace or LiveJournal? And where are those audiences now?
Those social media profiles clogging up the top search results aren’t doing you any favors. And think about this: the major platforms have entire teams dedicated to Search Engine Optimization. That should tell you just how valuable that real estate is, and why you want to make sure the canonical resource on you is, well, you!
Good luck getting a reader to return to a website that’s slow, dated, or a bloated mess. Kiss that “bookmark” goodbye. Here’s a list of common missteps:
- Your website takes forever to load: You just gave your visitors a chance to move on without even seeing your content. With attention span being what it is, they don’t have a lot of patience, to begin with. You better deliver the goods fast!
- Your design is an assault on the human eye: Picking the right colors, backgrounds, and fonts are trickier than you think, and it requires careful consideration. Of course, you want your website to represent your personal brand, but remember that your visitors are coming for information. You have to aim both for style and clarity. More than that, your visitors will be using different screen sizes, and you have to account for all of them.
- Nothing works: Don’t try your visitors’ patience. Does your navigation menu lead to the most essential pages on your site? Do all of your links point to places that actually exist? Does your contact form actually deliver messages to your inbox? Is there an easy way to sign up for news updates or your blog feed? Sometimes things break, but either you’re on top of fixing them, or you risk coming across as unprofessional and inattentive to your fans.
- Your content is ancient: Your visitors are hungry for the latest information about you and your books. Suppose your content hasn’t been updated in months. In that case, they’ll assume you’ve lost interest, they won’t browse for long, and probably forget all about you as soon as they open a new page.
Your author website shows up at the very top of the search results. Great! Your visitor will be delighted to find you so easily. If it loads at lightspeed, double points! No one likes to wait. And if a bold, clean design guides the visitors’ eyes to the essential content, you win the day! Above all, a good book is a pleasure to read, so that’s also what your website experience must promise.
Your website is a powerful touchstone for your brand. At its best, it reminds readers of the experience your books offer with every color, every font, every image, and most importantly, with every word. A great website can convert strangers into superfans while you sleep. It can host a blossoming fanbase that’s free to interact with one another, even while you’re off writing the next book. So invite them in, make the experience a pleasure, and they’ll remember.
Let’s be real here: If you have to decide between writing the next book or devoting almost as much time to making a killer website—write the next book. There’s nothing that’ll make or break your career like publishing great work.
That said, a great author website is a stepping stone when building a strong, memorable, and lasting online presence. And that presence becomes more and more important as you reach more and more readers. It’s never too early to start nurturing it!
The key to avoiding future website headaches is to hit the right keys from the beginning. And we can help. Keep your eyes peeled—here at SiteArcade, we’re developing the ultimate platform for author websites. We focus solely on authors because we want to make sure it’ll be absolutely tailored to your needs—zero frustration, fluff, or time wasted.
If you’re interested in being notified as soon as we launch, sign up below. And if you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, we deliver free tips, tricks, and resources directly to your inbox, with a minimum of noise. Our goal is to take as much off your plate as we can. After all, a writer’s time is better spent writing!