In this Reedsy Live session, book marketer Michael Doane takes viewers through the basics of creating a successful author website — one that can effective capture visitors and convert email addresses into an all-important mailing list. Adhering to the old writer's maxim of "show, don't tell," Michael critiques pre-submitted examples to demonstrate the good and the bad of author websites.
The video is well worth watching, but if your time is limited (and as authors, we rarely have enough time on our hands) we've included a written whistle-stop breakdown of his presentation.
What is the purpose of an author website?
Your website, first and foremost, will act as a content hub. While we're not a huge fan of using the word 'content' to describe your creative output, it's the term everyone else uses, so we'll do the same. Your website should immediately tell your readers and fans something about you and your writing. It can come in a number of forms, including:
- A blog with regular updates
- A brochure of your books
- A social network in its own right for your fans to engage through forums and comments
- Any and all of the above.
It’s a convenient way to keep your existing readers engaged and generate new leads or, in other words, find new readers for your books. It’s usually not the most effective method of increasing sales. Instead, it acts more as a point of introduction. A good website can make people sign up for your mailing list and that is, by far, the best tool independent authors have to sell books.
How will people find your website?
There are three key ways through which people arrive at your website.
Readers can discover your site when searching for content similar to yours on Google (or Bing, or Ask, or Yahoo!). That’s why it’s important to understand search engine optimization (or SEO, as it's commonly known).
A quick checklist to keep in mind, as far as SEO is concerned, includes:
- Mobile-friendliness. Your site should ideally have a responsive design, allowing it to look just as beautiful (and legible) on mobile as it does on a desktop.
- Bounce Rate. If people leave after visiting just one page on your website, it's a sign to search engines that it lacks relevant content.
- Page Structure
- Session length. Having users spend more time on your site suggests that it contains relevant content.
- Backlinks. If more domains that have links back to a page on your site, the better.
Having great content that people want to share with their friends is pretty important for reaching readers. When used properly, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn can help funnel users towards your site. For some great tips on using social media as an author, take a look at this post.
In particular, we've found that Facebook advertising —with its ability to target users by interests as well as demographics— is an effective way to gather leads and drive traffic towards your website. For more information on Facebook advertising for authors, you should check out this great article from bestselling author Mark Dawson.
During the session, Michael looked through some pre-submitted author website — offering praise and constructive criticism, where appropriate. We'll post the URLs to these sites below, so you can click-through and follow along with his analysis. Hopefully, we'll see some of these sites change before long, taking into account Michael's advice.
"The website has a lot of personality — it immediately tells you the kind of guy Joshua is, and the kind of books he’s likely to write. So if you’re into his genre and style, you’ll love it. The domain name is very complicated, it’s worth investing in a simpler name so you can quickly share it with people. The text can get hard to read on some pages because of poor background choices."
"It’s a clear and easy to navigate website. There’s lots of content which is great because it keeps visitors busy and drives down the bounce rate. The free giveaway should be set up as an opt-in so that you can easily collect emails and grow your subscribers. For a fantasy writer, the website lacks personality as there’s very little that’s magical thematically."
"It’s a very good website with an attractive landing page. The integration with Spotify for a soundtrack to her book is really cool and keeps people interested. Again, the free giveaway should be used as a method to capture emails."
"The copy on the landing page is on point, it immediately tells people what the website is about. It’s got links to all the social media accounts, and a blog. It manages to have a lot of personality and could use even more features like a soundtrack widget."
"The text is hard to read on the website. You can read a chapter of the book which is great, but it opens up a document rather than a personalized landing page. There is a broken link which needs attention. Overall, it’s got personality but could use a little bit of cleaning up."
If you have any questions about author websites, let us know in the comments below and Michael will do his best to answer them.