Designing a Good Author’s Website Can Be Tricky


For those of you who are unaware, Goodreads is a growing community of Readers and Writers. There are forums for every possible topic within Groups of every type. One of the awesome groups I’m a member of is called Book Trailers ™ & Author Web Sites. It provides tons of info and friends.

One of the interesting forum threads is Post your Book Video and get it rated while you rate others. This is a great place to see what types of trailers other authors are making as well as posting your own for comments or suggestions.

Another awesome forum is the Goodreads thread about What Makes a Great Author Web Site. There are a lot of discussions and suggestions but these two lists stood out as explicit and very helpful.

Kristin Blizzard said:

Personally, I believe there are many aspects to creating a sound website. Hopefully, writers at some point did create their marketing plan. I bring this to attention because of the information that it should contain. Before you sent query letters to agents or publishers, you should have started to collect what would become your selling points.

As you should have been asked by everyone, why is this book amazing? Is there something about the author that gives a different or special angle? What genre does you work fit into and exactly who is your targeted audience? The answers to the questions should lay out what kind of a website you should be aiming toward.

Dee brought a great point with determining what do you want to offer your readers. Do you want to offer them a link to purchase?

Bottom line, this is what I believe you really must tell them:

1. Your name silly. Be clear about it (you would think i would not have to say that huh lol)

2. Title (s)

3. ISBN!!!

4. Information about the titles

5. Depending on background, people might know about you

6. Optional link to purchase

7. Contact information – give them an email (most websites will include at least 1 free email I would never use your personal)

8. Color is good, not too much, you do not want to take away from your books.

9. If you have a good review, use it!

10. If you are appearing at signings, event, radio, tv, or even a scout meeting (kidding) let people know.

Paul Mitton had this to say:

1/ Easy to read (and by that I mean not dark backgrounds and white text – sorry, I know that describes many author websites, but it does present challenges to the visually impaired).

2/ Easy to navigate – identical links at top and bottom of the page, or at the side – not both.

3/ Each page should stick to the consistent theme (background, colour, style)

4/ Quick to load – don’t forget that many people still don’t have access to Broadband/DSL/cable

5/ Which means no big images on the pages. Use thumbnails and click to see a larger image

6/ No page should require horizontal scrolling; few pages should require vertical scrolling, so keep the text concise.

7/ Every page should be tested in a variety of browsers and at a variety of resolutions. If your website looks fine in Internet Explorer 6 and 7, Firefox 2 and 3, later versions of Opera and Safari, then you have covered 99 percent of the browsing audience. It should also be tested at resolutions of 800×600, 1024×768 and 1200×1024.

8/ Use CSS and JavaScript includes for ease of maintenance and to address the resolution issues.

9/ Validate every page using the W3C tools such as Bobby and Lint

10/ When using JavaScript includes, always include a no-script option. Why? Because most search engine spiders can’t follow page links that are held somewhere off the static page. The more other pages your page is linked to, even other pages on your site, the higher it features in search engine rankings. Use a text-only browser like Lynx to make sure that you can see lots of links on each page.

11/ Don’t embed music or sound on your pages. By all means put a clickable link to listen to something, but the last thing you want is for a potential buyer to wake the baby at 2 in the morning because they’ve surfed to your site and suddenly Celine Dion is blasting out loud enough to wake the dead!

12/ Never use scrolling or blinking text.

13/ Don’t have a Flash intro page with that hugely irritating ‘click here to enter the site…’ link. Why? Why not just enter the site straight away?

Now the marketing bits:

1/ I think that if you intend to have many books published, have one author site , not individual ones for each book. You are the brand!

2/ Yes, by all means have a blog. If you want people to post comments, you need to have some sort of membership and file locking system, which probably means you would need to be able to run and configure PHP or Perl Scripts and have a My SQL database system running on your web-server.

3/ Include a preview of your work(s) (but yes, check the contract with your publisher first.

4/ MOST IMPORTANT Include a link so people can purchase your book via Amazon, B & N etc. That is why you have the site in the first place, isn’t it?

5/ Do have book preview videos available on your site, also on You-tube, MySpace, Facebook, Bebo (depending on your target audience).

6/ Email – yes, is much more professional than – so own your own domain and have email re-directs to your private email address.

7/ Optimize your pages for search engines – use Google webmaster tools and create XML indexing pages.

Hopefully these lists will help anyone thinking about or in the beginning stages of setting up a new Author website.


6 responses »

  1. Telling others about your book before it comes out doesn’t hurt either. If you have a following of people who have read your works and you will want to keep them informed on the progress of your next book or published article, you need a place to stay in touch and goodreads or your own web page is good for that. People like to feel part of what you do and keeping them informed on something as slow as getting the next book out can be very important.

    • Thank you, Dr. Robert, for adding this. It is exactly right and exactly what I’m trying to accomplish.

  2. This is all very interesting stuff. I’ve been a reader at goodreads for a couple months now. I’m also a web designer and have had the good fortune of building some websites for authors from goodreads. Thanks for the info!

  3. Pingback: HigherEdJobs Author in Residence Program Designed to Help Job … | Educational Pennsylvania

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