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5 Steps to Your Author Website

Earlier this month, I gave you the Top 5 Reasons an AYUGHF Needs a Promotion Package and the Top 5 Things in your Promotion Package.

Now I want to talk about the 5 steps to creating your author website.

1 )RESEARCH:

Your Style: Before I start with a new client, I suggest that they give me a list of their top 5 favorite sites and what they love about them. (And also, what they might not love so much). And I suggest that they look at 100+ sites before they land on that top 5. It may sound like a lot, but by the time they’re done with this research, they probably have a good handle on what they like. Additionally, when they present that list to me, then I have a good idea of what’s going to ring their chimes, and what isn’t. Try RWA’s list of author websites for a place to start looking.

Designers:While you’re skimming through your hundred websites, take note of the sites that you feel are well done (even if they aren’t part of your top 5) and check out the bottom. A lot of times, a designer will put his/her tag or logo at the very bottom with a link to the designer’s site. Take a look at the designer’s portfolio. Do you like the over-all look of that designer’s sites? If you have any friends who use that designer, ask them of their impressions and request a quote. Speak with all the designers that you’re interested in (preferably on the phone/via skype). Find out about the designer’s process, timeline, additional fees (hosting, maintenance, etc). Make sure you own your design and content, and your domain name before you sign on the dotted line.

Do you have what it takes to DIY? I think it’s tempting for a lot of authors to decide to design their sites themselves. For some, this works out very well. For most… Well, not so much. There are a lot of hosts that boast over-night websites and who offer templates at a reasonable rate. The upside is that it will give you a tidy little website with a minimum of pain. (Note: I suspect few people actually achieve a website overnight, but I could be wrong!) On the downside, most of them look like they were built from a template. However, if your budget is very small (read: Non-existent), then that may be your best option. It is definitely a better option than trying to do something for scratch, if you don’t have graphic design & and web design experience.

2) DESIGN:

A few thoughts about the design of your site:

  • Every page should have the same branding (color/design/fonts/etc) Exception: if you’re writing in 2 very different sub-genres but under the same penname, then a site with duel branding is acceptable. However, they should still look somewhat similar.
  • Every page should contain menus in the same location/same order (the exception to that rule might be submenus if you have a lot of pages, and possibly the home page)
  • A visitor should be able to get to EVERY PAGE IN YOUR SITE within 2 clicks.
  • Animation should be kept to a minimum (if you ever ask me what I think of your site and there’s a line of dancing hamsters on your home page, I WILL be honest… and you WON’T like me afterward.) πŸ˜‰

3) CONTENT

An author site should have (AT A MINIMUM) the following elements:

  • Inviting home page
  • Author Biography
  • Books Page (with at least a blurb about each of your books. But preferably also with an excerpt)
  • A way for visitors to contact you

If your books are published (or coming soon), you should have AT A MINUMUM:

  • Links to places for your books to be purchased (B&N, Amazon, Borders, etc)
  • Upcoming Appearances (both real and virtual)
  • Your book Covers (as soon as you have them

There are nearly an unlimited number of features you can have additionally, but here’s a list in approximate order of how often I see them.

  • Twitter Feed
  • Facebook Fanpage Feed
  • Links to Facebook/Twitter
  • Blog
  • Links
  • Photo Gallery
  • Media Page (with links to news outlets where you might have appeared, high-res photos, ability to contact your β€œpeople” (like agents, publicity departments, foreign & film rights agents, etc)
  • Contests
  • News
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Printable Book List
  • Fan Page/Section (After you have a fanbase. If you’ve just put out your first book, this is a bit premature!)
  • Fan Forums (see above)
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Articles Archive
  • Awards Pages
  • …and the list could go on all day!

4) UPDATE PLAN

Congrats! Your site is live… what’s next? Make a plan to update your site AT LEAST once a month. If you blog, you’re probably covered. But if not, then make sure you have something to keep your site fresh.

5) PROMOTE PLAN

Tell the world your site is here… but give your visitors something more to do than Oooh and Ahhh over your site. I recommend a contest with some sort of prize at the end. (Like a B&N giftcard or a fun gimme related to your book(s).) You can do this simply by having your visitors email you to sign up for the contest, or you can do a contest form, or you can have them comment on your blog (if you have one).

Speaking of promoting new websites… Bemis Promotions just launched www.kateparkerbooks.com for our very own Kate Parker, and also www.lesliewitwer.com, for one of the Rubys’ loyal followers. Feel free to ask any additional questions about websites for authors– I’ll be here all day.

But to get started, what are your 5 favorite author sites?

I’ll be granting one lucky commenter their choice of a review of their website or a $10 B&N Giftcard.

43 responses to “5 Steps to Your Author Website”

  1. Laurie Kellogg says:

    Oh, you are so right about not achieving a website overnight, Liz. I’ve designed on my own and have the bald patches to prove it. It’s a minimum of a three-day project. If an author can afford a professional to do it, she’d be foolish not to take advantage of the expertise.

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Laurie — DIY is not for the faint of heart! I never want to tell anyone DON’T DO IT YOURSELF… but I will suggest that it’s not for everyone!

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  2. Beth Langston says:

    My day job is at a software development company–and I work in the department responsible for assuring that disabled users can access our software. So remember impaired users when creating your web site; they love good books too!

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  3. Barb Han says:

    My question is how do I contact you for a quote?

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  4. Thanks for posting this, Liz. You do such awesome work. I’m going to check all the points on my own website ( http://www.autumnjordon.com ) and see where it needs to improve.

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  5. Diana Layne says:

    Oh, girl, I dream of the day I can afford you. My site is one of those simple templates, which to me wasn’t so simple. One day…

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  6. Kat says:

    Aspiring-to-publication-writer here, who just dipped her tootsies in the web site building pool. Fun, but YIKES, it’s a time-suck! My fave author sites belong to Jayne Ann Krentz and Eloisa James. Both have fun, interesting, interactive sections (dear GAWD, but I lost hours on Eloisa’s site looking for Easter eggs!) My question is on author vs. book branding. I’m unpubbed. I write dark, gothic historicals. But as a person, I’m utterly irreverant, a bit ascerbic, and a bourbon-and-shiny-things diva. So which should my web site reflect? Should it be all castles and storms and broody-man stuff, or include a dash of my off-center humor (and worship of all things shiny?)

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Kat,

      I don’t think they necessarily have to be mutually exclusive. There are always ways of incorporating who you are and what you write, even if those two things seem way different on the surface. The “look at 100 sites, pick 5 favorites” exercise would be especially useful to someone like you because you’ll get a sense of what steams your clams from a visual sense! πŸ˜€ Hope that helps. BTW — and this really goes for anyone, not just Kat, if you come up with your top favorite 5 sites, and you still are baffled about what your style is, I’ll be happy to take a look at them and tell you what I’d recommend as far as a site goes. (One time, free, no obligation offer!) πŸ˜€

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      • Kat says:

        Liz, great advice on looking at lots of web sites. I’ve become obsessed lately with looking at how an author comes across. Anna Campbell is another favorite, because the “shift” on her site is so subtle. On each page, the links down the left show a setting, a heroine, and a hero (in historic garb), but each is different, depending on the page. But on her “about” page, the photos are funny ones of her. Good inspiration. My web site is still under construction, but you’re welcome to look at it at http://katsheridan.com/ (don’t mind the watermarked photos–I’m still trying to decide what to buy!)

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        • Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

          Oh, Kat, love the bright colors (says she who also has an inordinate fondness for bright, shiny things!)

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          • Kat says:

            I sort of guessed that, Gwyn, from the gorgeous stained glass side panels on your site! Your site instantly states your genre and you, and that’s wonderful!

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          • Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

            What a lovely thing to say since that’s exactly the reaction we wanted. Thanks, Kat.

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  7. Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

    I have to say, Liz, you are a doll to do this for us.

    I, for one, am totally asea when it comes to this stuff. Without Laurie, I’d still not have a website. And it did take about three days (thank heaven I no longer pay for long-distance calls by the minute!)

    I’m really happy with what we accomplished in those three days, but it wasn’t easy by any means. Laur has software that allowed us to do things that might not be possible for most DIYers. http://www.GwynlynMacKenzie.com

    Take a look and tell me what you think. No contests yet, but it’s new, and I’m still feeling my way around.

    That said, I don’t have nearly the pages you suggest, but since I’m, as yet, unpubbed, I guess that’s okay. Once I make the leap, we’ll be talking, you and I, although I will probably keep the overall look the same; I really do love it, and it’s so ME. One of the advantages of working with someone who knows you really well. πŸ˜‰

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  8. Leslie Karen Witwer says:

    I was searching for web ideas and happened to notice Bemis Promotions at the bottom of some of my favorites. It was an obvious choice after that and I’m so happy I placed myself in Liz’s capable hands–she is a DREAM to work with and an artist extraordinaire.

    One thing I recommend to those consulting with a designer is to be very specific about what you like and don’t like and don’t be afraid the expand on why. The designers are trying to be creative to another person’s specifications (good heavens, what a task!) and they cannot read minds. Fortunately, Liz and her team could read mine πŸ˜‰ They’ve created one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever come across just for me.

    Liz, do you know what the guidelines are for contests on the website? Must you put out a disclaimer? I’ve heard there are legal issues where you must be careful.

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  9. Must resist the urge to redesign my website. LOL. Fabulous tips on what authors need to keep in mind when planning a site. Like Di, one of these days I’ll be able to afford to have my site professionally designed. (I can’t wait!) But for now, I’ll just continue to muddle through on my own. πŸ™‚

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  10. Vivi Andrews says:

    My site is a DIY that I really hope doesn’t look too much like I slapped it together myself. As far as favorites, I love the clean, bright, open ones – Julia Quinn, Eloisa James. Asymmetric, not too heavily themed, classy.

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  11. Fav sites: I love Darynda Jones’s and Courtney Milan’s. I just drool over both on a regular basis! They’re both quite different, too, but equally well put together.

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  12. Rita Henuber says:

    There are too many great sites to list. You guys have mentions many of the ones I like.
    I can tell you I like it when the site opens and I instantly get a feel for what the author writes. If there is anything flashing I click away instantly.
    One that I don’t like is James Patterson’s. Too much going on. Like a migraine waiting to happen.
    I can recommend my wonderful, talented, web designer Liz Bemis

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  13. Marian Lanouette says:

    I am texted challenged: AYUGHF??
    When do you suggest a non-publihsed author should start their website-Thanks, Marian

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  14. Kylie Griffin says:

    5 sites I like:

    Nalini Singh – http://www.nalinisignh.com
    Keri Arthur – http://www.keriarthur.com/
    Anna Campbell – http://www.annacampbell.info/about.html
    Jess Granger – http://www.jessgranger.com/
    Larissa Ione – http://larissaione.com/blog/

    While some of them aren’t “flashy” or have all the bells and whistles they are simple to read and easy to navigate. I’m usually looking for book-lists. All the rest is extra I might explore when I get the time.

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  15. Great tips, Liz!!!! I was amazed at how much work I had to do for YOU to get my site ready. Hahaha. It was all so worth it, but we are talking days.

    Thanks so much!
    ~D~

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  16. thelisas says:

    Perfect timing, we totally need to revamp our site. Would love to get some professional input. Thanks so much.

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  17. I love, love, love Autumn Jordan’s site! Thanks for the post today, Liz – I’ll be printing this info out, for sure!!

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  18. Annie Seaton says:

    Thanks so much for the info. Very timely for me a I had just uploaded my website yesterday. I had a lot of fun looking around and I signed up Autumn’s newsletter!
    I love the sisterhood of romance writers!

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  19. Linda Lovely says:

    I’m also grateful for the timely info. I just received my book cover and date for my first book signing/launch and have to do a fairly major overhaul of my web site. But, my heavens, where does my time go? A warning for those doing their own. I was fairly comfortable with the software I used (initially offered free by my website provider) then I got an upgrade and enough has changed that I’m a bit buffaloed by the new version.

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  20. […] some advice from the Ruby Slipper Sisterhood on what to consider when constructing or designing your own author’s website. […]

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  21. […] created your author web site yet? This post can help you plan and design it as well as give you ideas for […]

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  22. I really like examining and I think this website got some genuinely utilitarian stuff on it! .

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  23. Rachell Gralak says:

    Are these canvas prints or actual oil paintings on canvas?

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