Do I need a website?
By Jade Craddock
Today the internet is such a fundamental part of daily life for many that it seems an obvious advantage for authors to have websites. But surprisingly a number of authors still choose not to. So does a website really matter? ♥
The simple answer is yes.
If a reader, fan or someone interested in an author’s books wants to find out about said author, the likelihood is that their first stop will be the internet, and whilst book store websites and reviewer blogs are great for finding out about an author’s works, they simply don’t do the same job as an author website – of giving the author a voice, allowing them to introduce themselves and opening up the opportunity to interact.
Whilst there’s no rule that says authors must have websites, it can be quite disconcerting if you look up an author and find they don’t have a website. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t come across as particularly reader-friendly, professional or credible. And as a marketing strategy it’s not very effective either. Websites allow you to present yourself and your books to the world, and having a presence, a place for readers to interact, gives the right impression to readers, publishers and agents.
What to include?
The simple rule seems to be: BBC
Regardless of what else a website contains, these elements are always present and basically sum up the main purposes of a website.
Bio – introduce yourself
Books – introduce your work
Contact – interact
How you go about presenting each of these and what information you include is up to you and will help to define your website. But most websites use these only as starting blocks and, necessarily, add other elements which are crucial to making the website less basic and generic. Some popular features include:
FAQs – answering those questions that readers/interviewers frequently pose
News – giving updates on various milestones often in relation to your work i.e. cover art, book launches etc
Advice/Writing – offering tips to aspiring authors or sharing your personal publication story
Press – highlighting your coverage in the media and reviews
Blog – directing readers to your blog
Gallery – containing photos, clippings, pictures
Events/Signings – detailing information about your appearances at events and signings
For readers/reading groups – questions and content that relate to your books and can be used by readers and reading groups for discussion
Not all of these may be relevant or appealing to you, and none of them are compulsory, but if it’s going to help distinguish your website and engage with readers it may be useful.
What makes a great website?
Content – the website’s obviously got to include everything readers would expect to find, with no glaring gaps. But the content itself, and how it’s delivered, also needs to be individual, tailored and apt. It’s a chance for you to use your writing skills and show off your writing style. It’s also a chance for you to show your personality, for readers to get a sense of you as yourself rather than as an author. Content needs to be complete and full but not overly long, or at least broken into manageable chunks. And if you can come up with something original that sets your website apart but also emphasises your author image all the better. Ali Harris did a wonderful promo for The First Last Kiss whereby she posted photos of kisses, including those sent in from readers. It was really sweet and endearing, but it also linked beautifully to her book and carried on the magic outside of the pages.
Design – this is absolutely crucial. The design – layout, colour, font – is one of the first things that users will notice about a site and can make a website a hit or a miss. As soon as a user goes on to your site they will have an instantaneous, almost unconscious, impression. You obviously want this to be a good impression, but you’re not always going to please everyone. However, you’ll know yourself that some websites simply have no appeal and that’s not something you want for your own website. Feedback from users can be helpful, but you should be able to see yourself if something looks sterile, bland or uninspiring. Some author websites successfully use the styles and designs from their covers as the basis for the website design and this can work really well. If you can get the wow factor, great, but overall you just want to avoid a design that is outdated and uninspiring.
Neat – one of the most off-putting things in a website is a cluttered design that makes reading and navigating difficult. You don’t want too much happening on each page, or at least if you do, you don’t want it to make reading difficult.
Usability/Navigation – it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a website that looks great and is bursting with fun, interesting content, if it’s not clear or easy to use, visitors won’t hang around, especially if they can’t find that content in the first place. Everything should be clearly signposted, easy to find and get to.
Individuality – with so many author websites out there, all with similar aims and requirements, it’s easy for author websites to look and feel similar. But although the fundamentals of all author websites are likely to be the same, that doesn’t mean they have to look and feel the same. Let your personality and authorial style shine through. Websites should be as unique as the authors behind them.
Up to date – the last thing a user wants when they’re visiting an author website to find out about their latest book is for the website to be lagging behind. Even if you’re between books, news and updates filling visitors in on your progress, the stage you’re at with your latest books, or some forthcoming appearances and events, allows users to be kept up to speed and keeps the website fresh and up to date.
So get online and introduce yourself and your books to the world.
Some good examples:
Jo Carnegie: www.churchminster.co.uk
Michelle Colston: www.michellecolston.com
Michele Gorman: www.michelegorman.co.uk
Molly Hopkins: www.mollyhopkins.co.uk
Cathy Kelly: www.cathykelly.com
Kate Langdon: katelangdon.com
Carole Matthews: www.carolematthews.com
Lucy Robinson: lucy-robinson.co.uk
Maria Semple: www.mariasemple.com
Linda Yellin: www.lindayellin.com