Author Website Design 101

Recently, I spoke to a colleague who made her first sale. I remember the feeling for me, almost a year ago…a little numb, a lot anxious, and very excited. During my journey, I began establishing the social networking tools for publication: Twitter, Facebook, and a website. Signing that contract changed my perspective on my toolset. As a result, I refined my author repertoire in preparation for “release day”.

One of my big changes is that I completely revamped my website. Never having done a website or a blog before, I had started out with a free WordPress blog that doubled as my website. While that helped me get my feet wet, I wanted something with a little more pizazz. My domain was hosted through 1and1.com so I started there but ended up choosing Wix to create the actual website. Having a tech background, I didn’t mind rolling up my sleeves to figure out how to use the application, which is very user-friendly.

Below are some things you need to consider before you get started.

Branding

What is your author brand? Not your book brand, although the genre you write is a part of branding you as an author. What do you want your readers—yes, you’ll have them—to think about when they hear your name or first come into your site? If you write dark, paranormal stories or romantic suspense, you may want darker colors or a picture that will allow the reader to convey this at first glance.

Since I write contemporary, I struggled with my brand. Finally, I decided to keep it simple. I picked colors I liked and found an image of vines that reminded me of my Tangled Hearts series.

What about a tag line? Whether you have one is a personal preference. You certainly don’t need one, but if you’re a newbie author, it may be nice to have something catchy you can use on your website or on a business card. I struggled with this. So many good tag lines are taken. I brainstormed a list, ran it by the Femmes, and went with one (Tangle Yourself In Love). Then, as I found myself blogging, printing up promotional materials, and needing to talk about my book, it didn’t feel right. So I ended up changing it to, Where Love, Family and Friendship Unite. And it feels right for me and sums up my stories very simply.

Website banner new tagline

Author bio

You’ll need an author bio for your book, marketing materials, blog tours, and your website. Not sure what to write? Look at what other authors write. I think it’s nice to share a tidbit about both your professional and personal life. Readers want to be able to relate to an author so if you like to garden in your spare time or love to watch romantic comedies, then find a creative way to work it into your bio. Oh, and along with a bio, you may want to consider having a picture taken if you don’t already have one. It doesn’t have to be a professional photo. Femme Jaye took mine when I hadn’t even planned it and it’s probably the best picture that’s ever been taken of me!

Book Summary/Buy Links

You’ll want a page for your books. Even if you’re not published yet, create a page and tell the readers what you’re working on. If you’ll be published soon, share what you know. Maybe it’s only the title and a short blurb. You can always put “Coming soon from XXX publisher”. This is something that as you get more information, you’ll modify.

Contact Form

You’ll want a way for readers to reach out to you without giving them access to your personal email. Most website applications have a contact form you can utilize for this purpose.

Other Stuff

In designing your website, you’ll want to plan what Pages you want at the top. You’ll also want your social media links on each page. Newsletter sign-up. While this is not something you have to do, you want to build a readership. That way, when you have news on the release of your book, you can reach out and let people know it’s there and how to buy it.

Resources

Below are some resources I’ve found. You can spend weeks researching all the possibilities. I found a couple, tried two and went with my second option. Personally, I found Wix easy to use and love that I can change things on the fly.

Websites

Wix

1and1

WordPress

GoDaddy

 

Stock images

iStock Photo

Deposit Photos

Dreamstine

Gettyimages

Mailing List/Newletter

MailChimp

 

Getting published is overwhelming and handling all the marketing aspects on top of edits from your publisher can be a stressor for many. Creating a website may not be something you want to take on yourself. There are many companies that will design your website and manage your content. You have to decide how much time you’re willing to spend figuring it out, whether you’re skilled/patient enough to do it, or if you’d rather lay out the money.

Not sure? Try the free version of these sites. Play around and see how easy it is for you to build your own. There are templates you can choose from and customize. This makes it very easy to get started. Remember, keep it simple. Less is more. It took me weeks to set mine up. I did a little at a time until I got it the way I wanted it.

If you want to check out my site, hop on over to:

http://mariakalexander.com

 

I know among the Femmes we have a mixture of self-created website verses paid. What lessons did you learn or what suggestions do you have?

 

Maria

 

 

 

Leave a comment

19 Comments

  1. Great post Maria! Lots of useful information here. I started out designing my own website, but I found myself asking the hubby too many tech questions. He’s patient, but I needed more help than I realized. When my third book was scheduled for release, I hired a web designer, and I love my site now. There’s pros and cons to hiring someone though. I definitely think it’s easier to add content, if you do it yourself. I checked out your site and well done! Hope the world wide release is going well!

    Reply
    • Hi Tina. I admit I enjoy tinkering with applications and learning new things. And I honestly don’t think I would have been able to tell someone what I wanted. I just had to figure it out. It doesn’t have the pretty image like yours does (love it) but it works for me at the moment. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  2. Great post Maria, full of wonderful information for all authors. I chose to go the blog route as I had one previously and found it easy to work with, and everything you said here would apply to that also.

    Reply
    • Hi Angela.Sometimes I miss having a personal blog but decided on the newsletter instead.That was another fun learning challenge. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  3. Elizabeth John

     /  May 12, 2014

    Great ideas, Maria! This is very useful!
    Elizabeth John

    Reply
  4. Nice tips, Maria!

    Reply
  5. Jenna Blue

     /  May 13, 2014

    Maria, great post! And a good reminder for me that I STILL haven’t done a website! I’ll be referring to your tips here for sure! ; )

    Reply
  6. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  May 13, 2014

    Excellent post with amazing tips and tons of information. I want to roll out a new website by August when my 3rd book is released. I went the blog route, and while I love being able to drop a post here and there, I do wish the site had a bit more in regards to bells and whistles. In the end, once I build the site on my own, I plan to link my blog content to it. I’ve found the flowing blog helpful in that it can be linked to Goodreads and Amazon. Readers have found me this way which has been fun.

    Reply
    • WIX has the ability to add a blog as well. Or I can probably link to my WP blog. I may at some point but right now, I’m maintaining status quo. That’s the beauty of maintaining the site myself, I can add new functionality whenever I want.

      Reply
  7. Hi Maria, wow, this post was packed with so much useful information. I love your new tag line and header for your website/facebook page. There is a lot that goes into writing that has nothing to do with the actual writing of a book! Hope readers of this blog discover that, and how helpful to have all your ducks lined up BEFORE you get the call. Best, Michele

    Reply
    • Thanks, Michele. You’re right in that there is a lot you can be doing to prepare for “the call”. And as you pitch to editors and agents, it lets them know you’re serious and gives them a chance to learn more about you, if they so desire. Of course, we’re all balancing writing with other obligations and you can only do what you can do. So if you don’t have a website, no worries. But you may want to keep it in the back of your mind that way your not overwhelmed when you get that contract.

      Reply
  8. I started with a free website and transitioned to a paid one. There are certain elements I wanted that I couldn’t figure out on my own. I like having someone who is just an email away who can answer my questions. And after the initial cash outlay, the cost isn’t too bad. However, I do miss being able to get in there and tinker with widgets and other features. But, all in all, I’m happy with my choice!

    Reply
    • I don’t remember ever seeing your free website but I love your current one. There are many bells and whistles I can’t do, especially when it comes to graphics. What’s nice is that there are many options to choose from to fit our needs and purses!

      Reply
  9. I’m a author website designer and I have to say these are great tips! The items you mentioned are what most authors need in their website to cause a better marketing impact

    Reply
    • Hi and thanks for visiting our blog. It helps to validate my tips with someone in the business. The idea of creating a website can be so stressful. Hopefully I’ve provided some simple tips to provide some perspective and help not make it so overwhelming. Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  10. Jaye Marie Rome

     /  May 22, 2014

    Brava, Maria, for designing your own website. I found it too daunting, so I called in a friend to do mine for me! These are all great tips. Maybe one day, when I need to revamp, I’ll try to do mine myself.

    I’m glad you like the photo I took of you! You’d think I know what I’m doing, lol!

    Hugs,
    Jaye

    Reply

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