1/11/10

Successful Author Websites

What do you look for in a successful author website?


While this question refers specifically to websites, everything I say also applies to blogs. Authors need an online presence—but it doesn't have to break the bank. A good free blog or website will do the trick.

First and foremost, it must be visually appealing, clean and professional—and it must have all the information a visitor needs to find your book.

Visually appealing and professional doesn't mean you have to hire someone and spend a lot of money. You can set up free blogs at Blogger or WordPress. You can use one of their templates or choose from the bazillion free template online. If a blog is all you can afford (because it's free), that will be perfectly adequate.

You can also create a free, or mostly free, website at Google, Yola, or Weebly. I haven't used any of these, so I can't recommend one over the other. I'm sure there are other good places out there. Google "free websites" and see what you find.

A "pretty" site will invite the visitor to actually read the information you have on your site.

You need the most important information easy to find—either on the front page, sidebar, or using a tab at the top of the page to click to. Generally, you want the important info no more than one click away from the home page.

Most important info to include:


  • Info about your books: Most prominent on the home page or high on the sidebar is your current release book cover, which clicks to a page or post with more info about the book. Include a larger image of the cover with a teaser, first chapter or excerpt, and all of the info that I include about books on the LDS Fiction site.

    Previously published books should be in a secondary position—smaller images or lower on the sidebar. Each of these should also click to a page or post with more information about the title.

    The book info page should ALWAYS include links to where the book can be purchased online.

  • Info about you: Clickable from a tab or image on the sidebar, a short bio page about you. I recommend including a photo. Make it light and friendly and short.

  • Contact: An email link where you can be contacted by your fans. Also links to other places you can be found online.

Your site needs to be easy to navigate, clean and professional. I'm including a few links to simple sites that do this well. (Simple, because I'm assuming this is for DIY-ers, who can't or don't want to hire help.)



Websites:


Blogs:


Readers—If you:


  • used a free, or nearly free, website builder/hosting service

  • designed your site yourself or used a free template

  • and you think your site is a good example
PLEASE leave a link to your site AND tell us the free service you used to create your site in the comments section. Also, let us know how easy you felt it was to use and if you recommend it or not.

13 comments:

Melanie Goldmund said...

My humble website is at html://melaniegoldmund.weebly.com

It's not so much an author's website as it is an archive of stories and fanfiction that I've written so far, but I do have a link to Stolen Christmas on my home page.

I chose Weebly because the website that I had previously had, at Yahoo Geocities, had suddenly disappeared at the end of October when Geocities was quietly shut down. Weebly seemed easy enough for even me to use and offered unlimited capacity even for the free version. Best of all, there are no ads!

I used one of Weebly's templates, and it was indeed very simple to use. It just took a bit of getting used to, of course. They have a toolbar of icons on the top of the page, and you click on the one you want to use, such as "paragraph" or "paragraph with title." You place this on the page where you want it, then insert your chosen information, such as a paragraph of text or a picture. You can make things bigger or smaller by clicking on the correct icon, too, or make something into a link.

The website is very basic. For instance, aside from your chosen template, you have no choice of font or colour, either for text or for backgrounds. I suppose that sort of thing would be available if you chose the option "customize HTML" and made your webpage by hand. I thought I had learned some HTML a few years ago, but I think it moved on without me -- I haven't been able to figure out how to use the "customize HTML" part of Weebly yet. For now, I'm keeping to the simple part.

Comments and criticisms would be welcomed. (If I ever do write an entire book all by myself and get it published, however, I will probably design a completely new website for it and keep this archive separate.)

Moriah Jovan said...

I have three: One for me to spout off, one for extras pertaining to my books, and one for the storefront.

I own the domains. I have a hosting service (Linksky). I install Wordpress and use it for both blogging and content management. I use free Wordpress templates and manipulate them to suit me. I do all my own graphics.

There are websites and blogs I will not visit if commenting is a hassle (some Blogger sites have not been letting me paste into the comment box) or if I have to register to comment. Why make it unwelcoming for your traffic if they're interested in interacting?

The absolute worst is Vox and the second worst is LiveJournal.

Stephanie Black said...

Thanks for the tips, LDSP. I've been playing with my website lately (www.stephanieblack.net) trying to make it look better, so it's good to get some advice. I use iWeb software.

KarenG said...

I started my first blog last summer on vox (karenjonesgowen.vox.com). It was easy to do and I've had fun expanding it with photos, etc. I wanted to explore blogspot since so many writers use it, so I set up another one there, which you can link to my clicking my name. That's the one I use now for commenting and doing all my writerly stuff. The Vox blog has been more of a fun, casual, hang out with the neighborhood kind of blog.

Overall, I think I would recommend blogspot for anyone wanting to start out. Commenting and following is so easy, they give you lots of options for posting and for personalizing your sidebar. I'm keeping my vox blog for now, but more people are finding me on blogspot.

Annette Lyon said...

I'm in the process of (very belatedly) updating my site. I absolutely love it--and I can't take credit for the template or the coding or anything else.

But for me, the designing and upkeep is free. I married a computer genius, see. One of the best things I ever did for my writing career. :D

Jordan McCollum said...

I set up my own website. It has a fairly professional design, but it's free, so I guess that counts.

I'm an Internet marketing professional in my day job, and along with a professional web designer, I've done two series of author website reviews on my blog: http://jordanmccollum.com/tag/website-reviews/ .

I also did a series of articles on what you need to have on (and do with) an author website (the first of which was posts selected for a guest slot on Nathan Bransford's blog last summer). One of the articles was on how to set up a website, which covers how to do this on Blogger (free except for domain registration) and WordPress (self-hosted; I have hosting for $7/month for my website): http://jordanmccollum.com/2009/08/set-up-author-website/

The articles and the advice from the first set of reviews are also available as a free PDF: http://jordanmccollum.com/guides/Aspiring%20Author%20Websites.pdf

Paul West said...

My blog is from Blogger (http://valona.blogspot.com/) but I have no idea how to do all the neat things I see other's do. I'm not exactly techno-challenged, but just don't have the time to play with it.

Rebecca Talley said...

Thanks for including my blog in your list! I made the header myself (I'm so proud) from a photo I took when visiting my hometown.

You can install a bazillion backgrounds at www.thecutestblogontheblock.com (I think that's the address) by setting your blog on Blogger to minima and then installing the code from Cutest Blog on the Block. Easy peasy.

I'm still tweaking my website (www.rebeccatalley.com) and picked Moriah's brain on how to get Wordpress to do what I wanted. I like having a blog on my website for posts on writing and that's why I chose to go with Wordpress (that I pay to host) so my website has consistently live material. I still need to figure out how to place a photo/image (of my book cover) on the front page of my website--Moriah, aka the Wordpress guru, any suggestions?

C.L. (Cindy) Beck, author said...

Thanks for mentioning our blog site in your list. We feel honored! :)

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

I use WordPress for my site (www.juliebellon.com) and I really like how easy it is for me to update and add to it. I would still like to add a few things and am getting used to how WordPress works. There are tons of great tutorials out there, which is what a novice like me needs, that's for sure!

Great article!

Moriah Jovan said...

I still need to figure out how to place a photo/image (of my book cover) on the front page of my website--Moriah, aka the Wordpress guru, any suggestions?

Rebecca, email me, and I'll check it out.

Kimberly Job said...

I use Ipage.com which is only $3.50 per month for hosting. They have a very simple drag and drop website builder.

Check out my website: www.kimberlyjob.com

arshad said...

its really very nice i enjoyed a lot to visit..Mobiles Handsets