In short, an effective author website is one that drives sales.
This means that your website should not only allow your visitors to buy your book on the website, but it should give visitors all the information they need about you, your message, and your book to make their decision to buy it.
Your website does not need to be fancy and have all the latest visual effects and graphics to do the job, but the following tips highlight the key components and preferred web design tools most commonly used in best practices for building effective websites.
Tips for choosing to publish an author website or book website
An author website highlights the credibility and unique experiences of the book author instead of focusing on a particular title. Some of the benefits of publishing an author website includes:
- the ability to list multiple titles on the same website without needing to drastically revamp the website design,
- you can naturally offer your message-related products and services all on the same site, and
- your primary domain can include your name-instead of an individual book title-to make it easier for your followers to find you.
A book website focuses on creating context for your book’s message. Some of the benefits of publishing a book website include:
- being able to showcase only one product (or product series) in a clear call-to-action,
- your site content can be specifically geared toward a book-related niche, and
- you can create a link wheel to any other sites you own for different products/services in case your visitors are truly interested in learning about what else you have to offer.
When you promote your book, if you are primarily interested in promoting your credentials and unique experiences, you may prefer to create an author website. This is a popular choice among non-fiction authors-especially among non-fiction authors who are experts and/or business owners. It’s not uncommon for authors who have an author website to also have a book website to point visitors to when they have multiple titles instead of using the author website as a stand-alone.
If you are more interested in promoting the benefits of your message, then you may want to publish a book website. This is a popular choice among fiction authors and non-fiction authors who address extremely popular how-to topics that people are likely to remember and research on the Internet.
Tips for planning your author or book website
- Choose a domain name that includes your name for an author website, but a book website should have two domains: one that features your name and the other should feature the book title. Your website is the centerpiece of your platform, so make sure that the .com website address you attach to your website includes your name. If your name is already taken, get as close to your name as possible by adding your middle name or some other distinguishing characteristic. Find out if your domain is available by searching for the domain you want at domize.com, but wait until you are ready to buy your hosting to buy the domain-most hosting companies will give you a free domain name for one year. You can have more than one domain for the same website, and in many cases that is a wise decision. Even if you are building an author website, you can buy a second domain that features your book title and points to the same website.
- Choose a mailing list incentive juicy enough to encourage each website visitor to join your mailing list-even if they don’t buy your book. Other than driving immediate sales, the most important thing your website can do for you is to create a list of people who love your message. A mailing list incentive can be a 3-part instructional video series that features you sharing some of your best problem-solving tips that are shared via an autoresponder with Mailchimp (they are hands down the best mailing list provider to work with). It can be a report, e-book, sample book chapter, a resource list, or any other information that your website visitors would consider to be valuable information. For more ideas and incentive samples, read this post by Your Writer Platform.
- Use Mailchimp as your mailing list service provider. You will see advertisements for Aweber, Constant Contact and several other mailing list service providers, but Mailchimp is simply the best.
- Choose the webpages you want your website visitors to have access to. Some of the most common web pages recommended by the OutThink web design team include: Home, About, Books, and Contact. A few additional pages to consider include: Events, Blog and Resources. For more insight on what is typically included on each of these pages, read their blog. Michael Hyatt recommends adding a Speaking page or Media Kit page. Click here to see an example.
- Draft the information you want to include on each of your webpages. In their post “How to Build the Ultimate Author Website in 1 Hour,” OutThink highlights the type of information that is included on each of the recommended webpages in tip #2. Web designer Kate McMillan offers many of the same tips in a post of her own, but the four sample author websites she offers are great for browsing and picking up ideas on what you would like to include on your own website. Author Carol Topp’s website TaxesforWriters.com is a great example of a book website, and when you allow your mouse to hover over the “About” button at the top of the page, you will see a link to her other websites. Before you draft your “About” page, I highly recommend that you read Joel Friedlander’s warning to authors.
- Find sample author websites that have the look or content that you like. When you are ready to sit down with your website designer to build your site-or when you are ready to build it on your own-you will be grateful to have a few visual samples to aid your creative process and make it easier for your final product to actually look like the website you envisioned during your planning stage.
Tips for hiring a web designer to build your website
- Look for a web designer who uses WordPress. WordPress websites can be easily customized to meet any design or function you need. This means that if you invest $500+ into building a blog-based website today that also features an e-commerce store to sell your book-related products, you can easily modify it later to create custom client portals for your growing business or turn it into a membership site where customers pay to gain access to exclusive information or resources. There are a lot of resources (free and low-cost) that teach you how to manage it on your own without learning coding or you can always hire a virtual assistant company like 247VirtualAssistant to manage it for you without relying on hire priced designers who may use unique custom codes that are not easy to fix if you ever need to change designers. If your website designer creates a WordPress website, you are guaranteed to have a large pool of experts who can help you tweak it to fit your changing needs over the years.
- Review the web designer’s portfolio to see if their experience matches your design preferences and needs. Not every designer is familiar with the unique needs of authors, but if you find someone who can design sites that you admire and you have followed the tips above for planning your website, you may be able to train them to tailor their talents to fit your needs. A few web designers for you to check out include: AuthorMedia.com, InsightfulDevelopment.com, iPage.com (they are a hosting company that offers WordPress design services), 247VirtualAssistant.com (they are a VA company that offers website design services), or even Fiverr.com can connect you to hundreds of web designers around the world who will design your WordPress site for $5 or more.
- Make sure you understand all the fees upfront. No one wants to invest hundreds into developing a website just to find out that they still have to pay extra for website hosting, a domain name, or some other recommended security add-on. Before you pay a dime, make sure understand the total fee.
- Make sure you understand all of the included services. There is a lot of jargon in the web design world, so don’t be shy about asking as many questions as you need to make sure you understand what you are buying. If the designer seems aggravated by your questions, they may not be the person for you to work with.
- When you find a website you like, ask the owner who designed it. This is one of the best ways to find a website designer.
- Get feedback from family, friends and members of your target audience for ways to improve your website.
Tips for building your own website
- Buy your domain and hosting through a Bluehost company. Bluehost.com is one of the most commonly recommended website hosts in the blogging community because they are so easy to use. However, Domain.com offers the same platform and sometimes has a lower promotional price than Bluehost. iPage.com offers a tool that specifically makes WordPress easy to use and has great e-commerce tools to help you build an online shopping cart system. Fortunately for you, they are all part of the same parent company. Simply choose the one with the best promotional offer at the time you are ready to build your website and go from there. Besides, most of the blogs that advocate any one hosting company is usually an affiliate who gets paid when you follow their suggestion. I am currently using iPage, but I am not an affiliate and I recommend any of the three because the 24/7 support each of them offer is the primary asset-besides the price-that will matter the most to you. Your domain name will be free when you buy your hosting plan.
- Follow the step-by-step instructions from OutThink to build your WordPress site. WordPress is robust enough for websites like Ebay and The New York Times, yet simple enough to get up and running in under 20 minutes. If you have already planned your website using the tips in the first section above, you will have no problem building your entire website-all content included-in under an hour. WordPress themes are simply pre-formated website template designs you can use as a shortcut for designing your own website. Click here for a list of 99 great ones to choose from for your book.
- Browse the plug-in options for ways to customize your website to match your unique needs. I recommend reading “Essential WordPress Plugins for Book Authors Building a Platform” for inspiration.
- Get feedback from family, friends and members of your target audience for ways to improve your website.
Most authors leave the entire website design to the recommendation of their website designer and skip the planning tips above. The outcome may be a generic information site that lacks specific calls-to-action. This means that they also lack the ability to effectively sell the book or at least build the mailing list so that you have the chance to try and sell to those people later.
These tips do not guarantee you sales, but they do guarantee that you will not produce a website that looks like it was made by an amateur.
Use the tips for inspiration-not as rigid rules-and don’t be afraid to adjust your website over time in response to visitor feedback.
Question-What is the best author or book website you have ever seen?