Author Website Design Inspiration: 5 Ideas From Bestselling Authors
Author websites are the one place readers get to judge a book by its cover… or in this case, the webpage. We’ve already written an extensive piece with tips for building an effective author website: 10 Tips to Build The Perfect Author Website, but we thought we could go even further and offer you some actual inspiration and ideas to get started on yours.
The main goal of your website is to allow you to connect with your readers, and help convert them into loyal customers. It’s obvious that authors are masters of language, but when it comes to the web, some don’t deem it necessary to have a strong internet presence. And that’s exactly where a dedicated reader can be made…or lost. So the author website design inspiration you'll find in this post will be geared towards one main goal: creating loyal readers.
Idea #1: Adding teasers to your author website
Once an avid reader has finished a great book, they immediately want to read another; it’s an addiction. So when they make their way to your author website, the first thing they should see on your homepage is a feature on what you’re working on next. Readers want some exclusivity!
Nothing is worse than finishing your new favorite book or the first book in a series and going to the author’s website to find out when the next one will be published and there’s absolutely zero information. It’s simply heartbreaking coming from a reader’s eyes and also from a marketing perspective.
Case in point? If you're a loyal reader of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones), you probably want to know when Winds of Winter is going to be finished. So you head to the author's website, and… you see this.
"Next publication"? Nothing! Even for as famous a series author as George R.R. Martin, this is not going to make readers happy.
Now we've seen what not to do, let's turn to some positive inspiration from Joe Abercrombie’s author website: not only does he have his upcoming book on full display, he also offers a (free!) three-chapter extract to get his followers excited about the upcoming release. Any kind of exclusive or "bonus" content you can offer your readers will make them feel special and turn them into loyal fans.
Idea #2: Keep things fresh
How many times have you as a reader visited an author’s website and thought, “Hmm… is the site under construction?” Keeping your main homepage fresh is how you increase traffic flow. We hate to see author websites that have had the same homepages since they even considered publishing a book. If you don’t continuously update your website — just like you continuously update your social media — will the reader continue coming back? Probably not… and you’re in jeopardy of losing connections with loyal readers.
Similar to a blog, smart use of social media content can be the defining factor in a robust “fan club” or the more fresh term: a following. Like Joe Abercrombie, consider leaking a chapter title, strong excerpt, or finalized book cover. Not only will this get followers eager for an upcoming project, but it will also expand your following base across several platforms keeping your content new and relevant.
If you want heavy online traffic (let’s be honest, who doesn’t like getting noticed?), you have to keep updating your news, blog entries, a great book review, and comments! Interactivity with readers is crucial because essentially the whole point of having a website is to intermingle with subscribers. Don’t leave your followers thinking, “Am I talking to a wall?”
Now, how about some inspiration on how to actually do that? Steena Holmes' website is worth having a look at. She has several sections of updates and upcoming events on her homepage. She even has some chances for her readers to get involved and interactive through contests. Turn your website into a place where readers can actually stay up to date and interact with you, and they'll keep coming back for more. Should you want more examples of authors keeping things fresh, check out 11 Author Websites That Get It Right.
Idea #3: Be approachable
Don’t play hard to get. It’s shocking how difficult some authors make it to be contacted by readers, publishers, and other medias. Think about the times you’ve searched over and under the web looking for one specific person’s email address and gave up because it was probably buried in some faraway land and all you wanted to do was ask a question or give them a good review. It’s not fun for anyone and you end up discouraged.
We understand that being a published author means that you’re extremely busy working on your next book, but creating a separate email account for the sole purpose of receiving feedback from your followers is extremely controlled and feasible. (And if you’re having a bad day, reading a little fan mail should cure that!)
Similarly, designing the website so that the "Contact" page is immediately available from the menu is crucial. If people want to get in touch with you, your design should make it as easy for them as you can.
Also, if you’re feeling sociable, make it easy for your readers to find you on social media — Twitter, Instagram, Facebook — with the help of push buttons. It will be easier to “like” what they tweet or tag you in and if they tweet positive feedback, they’re marketing for you!
Or you can try Nick Stephenson’s approach to staying in touch: homing pigeons 😉
Idea #4: Make the best first impression
A reader coming to your website usually wants one thing: to know more about you. The first thing they'll do is click to your "bio" page. We know writers hate writing about themselves (unless you're a memoir writer!), but you gotta give readers what they want, so feel free to indulge yourself with some healthy bragging.
But how do you write the ultimate author bio? The trick is to write more than one. As a writer, rewriting and re-editing comes with the territory. Write multiple versions of your bio blurb until you’ve broken down your shyness barrier and created a bio that truly defines you not only as an author, but also as a person. And continuing our point in idea #2, continue to keep it fresh by updating it as you move along in your career.
Now, since you're here for some inspiration, take a look at Lindsay Buroker's bio page. It's a great case in point for being genuine and true to your work. She’s honest, witty, and real in her bio blurb.
Idea #5: The website as an extension of your book
There is one question we haven't addressed yet: how do you get as many readers as possible to actually go to your website? The first thing is to write a really really good book. The better the book, the more the author will want to learn more about you and your other work, and head to your website for that.
Then, you need to make sure that you actually link to your website at the beginning and end of all your ebooks. You also need to make sure you pick a simple URL, like "firstnamelastname.com" or "seriesname.com." That way, your website will likely show up as the first result on Google when readers Google you.
But the ultimate way to get authors to check out your site is to turn it into an extension of your book, by linking it to one of your characters, or places, or adding more to the story. Not sure what we mean by that? You'll find some inspiration in ML Banner's story:
"I had a character in the book who was a scientist and I thought: it’d be really cool if he had this research institute. So I created a persona for him online: a G+ profile, a Twitter account, and a website for the CMER Institute. The key was really to think from my character’s standpoint and see what I would do, in his place, to get the word out about this phenomenon [solar flares] that endangers the world.
The beautiful thing about eBooks is the connectivity: you can embed hyperlinks. So I linked to this CMERI website where my character actually offered a free ebook called “The Apocalypse Survival Guide”. And I actually got over 1,200 downloads of that book. Some people even seem to believe that the CMERI is real, as I got a couple of media inquiries!"
You have all the best practices in one: link to the website in the book, social media, free additional content, and a website that truly takes the story to another level. Of course, your author website's design should match the "branding" of your book or series, and ideally feature some of the imagery used on the cover. Our best advice for that is to put your author website design in the hands of a Reedsy professional.
What are your favourite author websites out there? Which ones do you turn to for design inspiration? What other tips would you add to this list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!