Top 5 Must-Haves for An Author Website (from a reader's point of view)
Happy Friday, Seeker villagers! As an avid reader, reviewer, book blogger, and book marketer, I spend a lot of time on author websites. Like... a lot. Ninety-nine percent of the blog posts I publish on Reading Is My SuperPower require me to visit an author's website. And I would say at least fifty percent of what I do for JustRead Tours also finds me there too.
Picture this all-too-common scenario with me: I am doing a review for your debut novel, so I don't know a lot about you as an author yet. I search for your name (plus the keyword 'author') on the interwebs, click the link it regurgitates at me, the website loads .... and .... I sigh with disappointment. I can find almost no helpful information that I need to finish building my blog post. In fact, it doesn't even look like you want readers to connect with you at all.
What does this mean for you? Well... if it's me on the other end of that click, it means that I'm going to scrounge up what I can find elsewhere because I'm stubborn. But an interested reader who looked up your website may get frustrated and go away, no longer invested in you or your books.
So what are some basic, easy-peasy-to-do must-haves that every author should include on their website to tell readers & media everything they need to know?
1. Author Bio
Ideally, you should offer a short bio and a medium-length bio. Both bio options should be in third person (I cannot stress that enough!!!) Our very own Mindy Obenhaus has two perfect bios to choose from on her website. My recommendation would be one paragraph max for the short bio & no more than three paragraphs for the longer one.
Oh - and please keep your bio updated! If I go to an author's website and their bio says something like "Her latest book releases in March 2017", but I am posting about her actual latest book that released in October 2021, I am going to be hesitant to use the bio on her website.
2. High Resolution Head Shot
You can have a variety of head shots to choose from or just the one - that's not as important as the fact that the photos you include should be high resolution and professional-looking. Note: I'm not saying you absolutely must invest in a professional head shot (though I do recommend it) but at least make sure it's high quality and cropped well. I also strongly suggest that you be looking at the camera and smiling. Look friendly and open and "buy my book & you'll have fun". But the most important thing is that it's high resolution and doesn't look like my six-year-old nephew took it and/or cropped it.
Why does this matter on a website and not just a book jacket or media interview? Well, because graphics matter to most book bloggers / marketers. See the two examples below. This a graphic template I use often on RimSP - I have lost count of how many times I've had to hunt down a higher resolution or more professional looking head shot because the one on the author's website looks more like the 'please, no' sample than the 'yes, please' one.
I know I'm spending a lot of time on this point but can you see the difference a professional looking photo can make? It sets a first impression for readers that can reflect negatively (whether true or not) on the assumed quality of your writing. So if you're going to spend some time and money on one thing, let it be this!
3. Updated Book Information
This is similar to the 'keep it updated' note I mentioned in the section on your author bio. Your latest release should be easily discoverable on your website with a high resolution front cover (don't only include the whole cover spread - book bloggers don't use those) and a variety of purchase links. It's also not a bad idea to link to your publisher's page for your book. In other words, make it a piece of cake for people to find your book. (And now I want cake. And to read a book.) The fabulous Becky Wade is a great example of putting this 'must-have' into practice. Her latest release is super simple to find, and she also has a book list in a separate tab, organized by series. You can click on each book cover for the blurb, ways to purchase, fun behind the scenes info, quote graphics and more. Super fun for readers & super helpful for book bloggers / marketers.
PS - Need to know how to tell whether an image file is high resolution or not? There are some very technical descriptions that go over my head but as a general rule of thumb, if it's under 1MB in file size then it's probably not high resolution enough.
4. Social Media Links
Let readers know how to connect with you!!! If we love your books, we are definitely going to want to follow you on social media and learn more about you & your life & what you're reading too. And if we find that we have things in common, well then we're all the more invested in you as a person and as an author. Personal investment from readers makes you an 'auto buy author' for them ... which translates into consistent sales. If they're coming to your website, they want to know more about you. Don't miss those opportunities! Our dear Mary Connealy has the icons readily visible no matter where you click through on her website AND listed out in her media kit too. Super helpful!!
5. Mailing List Sign-Up
While we're talking about connecting with your readers, you really need to have a way for readers to sign up for new book alerts and other email newsletters you might send throughout the year. This should be - you can probably guess what I'm going to say - easy to find on your website, whether it's a separate tab or a pop-up or a prominent place on your landing page and/or media kit.
Which brings me to the part of this post where it all comes together. If you've clicked on any of the authors' websites I linked to above, you may have noticed that they all have one thing in common - their media kit pages. A media kit on your website is a godsend for bloggers / media / marketers because all the info they are looking for is all on one page - can I get an amen?! But again... keep it updated. It's useless to us if it's 5 books old. (By the way, the 2021 Christy Award finalist Erica Vetsch did a terrific post on media kits a while back.)
Optional Fun Things To Also Include
I polled some bookish friends (aka Beth & Rachel) for some other ideas of things that aren't must-haves but do also appeal to readers. These are optional, but they really are a lot of fun to have!
- a printable book list (example: Jody Hedlund)
- charts of interconnected characters/books or family trees (example: Melanie Dickerson)
- book club kits (example: DiAnn Mills)
- other fun extras like character profiles, recipes, playlists, etc. (example: Dani Pettrey)
The possibilities of what you can do are endless... have fun with it & your readers will too! But don't get overwhelmed. As long as you have the top 5 must-haves I covered in this post, your website will be an incredibly useful tool to establish connections with the people who will read & promote your books.
Carrie Schmidt is an avid reader, book reviewer, story addict, KissingBooks fan, book boyfriend collector, and cool aunt. She also loves Jesus and THE Story a whole lot. Co-founder of the Christian Fiction Readers' Retreat and JustRead Publicity Tours, LLC, Carrie lives in Georgia with her husband Eric.
She can be found lurking at various blogs and websites (because she can't stop talking about books) but her main home is the blog she started in 2015 - ReadingIsMySuperPower.org.
What about you?
Authors, what questions do you have about your author website?
Readers, what makes you want to hang out on an author's website?
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