My agency specializes in building websites for authors and artists.
We’ve analyzed countless successful and failed author websites and learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t work so we can best serve the author community.
Rather than giving you an item-by-item shopping list of what you need to put on your website, I’ve created a more strategic overview of the essential elements of author websites we know work.
I haven’t gone into the obvious things like books. Yes, of course, your books should be the focus of your website. There, that’s out of the way!
As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. So to demonstrate these principles we’ve compiled the most extensive online resource of its kind I know of, giving you examples of some of the best author websites online right now. Each website example includes a short analysis of which of the following points it’s got right and why it shines.
Important Elements in an Author Website
Simply put, the more you get these elements right, the more successful your site will be in marketing you as an author.
Let’s dive right in.
One of the worst possible things you can do in a website is to make it confusing to navigate. The internet is a fast-paced game. It only takes a half an instant of I don’t know what to do for a visitor to leave.
Your pages need to be labeled clearly and obviously. Navigation is not a place to be creative. Keep it simple. Keep your contact and about pages called contact and about. Keep your books page called books.
Make sure your content is also organized well. Think of how you’d file away all the pages in logical categories and create the links to your various pages in logical, related places.
Good navigation that’s easy to use is one of the most important aspects of a good user experience for your website visitors. It’ll mean they’ll stick around that much longer and are therefore more likely to join your book sales process and buy.
This is very much tied in with navigation.
The design and type used on your website should be clean and distinct. Don’t use 20 different fonts and design styles and don’t try to cram everything into any one section of a page.
If you’re viewing any one browser sized length of scroll it should look easy on the eye to engage with. This means:
- shorter paragraphs
- larger fonts (usually 14 – 18px)
- images to break up the sections and illustrate your content (images communicate much faster than words)
- an integrated clean design style (don’t use half Modern and half Art Nouveau design elements and expect anyone to enjoy the look and feel of your site)
Always think of your pages from a first-time visitor’s point of view. Is this page easy to understand and pleasing to look at?
Branding is so much more than just your logo, color scheme, and name. It’s the overall package of how you’re perceived and what you’re known for as an author.
Your website is a huge opportunity to build your brand and an author or thought leader. A designer that knows their stuff will be able to translate your brand into a website look and feel that enhances your brand instead of damaging it.
Whether you’re a lawyer, medical expert, educator or entrepreneur will hugely influence how you want to brand your website. Branding doesn’t just end with design either, the voice you use, the topics you cover, anything that paints a picture of who you are and what you stand for can reinforce your brand.
The most important thing about branding as an author is to be conscious of it. That way you can project the image you want, not just an accidental brand that just happens to evolve by itself.
One of the oldest workable theories of marketing is the sales funnel. Way back in 1898, long before this online age of clicking, some guy by the name of St Elmo Lewis came up with the idea of a simple step-by-step journey that would take a prospect from who are you anyway to I love your book and I’m referring you to others.
Applying this to the author-verse, make sure your website has a mapped-out customer journey for your visitors.
A successful strategy is to give the first few chapters of a book or audiobook away in exchange for their email. Then you send a series of automated emails with more and more information about what else is in the book and several offers to buy. Simple, but it works.
You can really go to town with this. As a non-fiction author, you very likely have a whole range of interesting studies and resources you can give away on different pages of your website.
Make sure your opt-in forms look attractive and stand out. Experiment a bit with different wordings and imagery till you’re getting a high opt-in rate. 3 or 4 % is usually considered good, but it varies by industry so there’s no hard and fast rule here.
Very much in line with your author funnel are reasons for your fans to come back for more.
Under the heading of fan resources are basically anything valuable to your target audience that will help them engage with your pages and get to know your work better.
A blog is the most often used form of fan resource. It’s also a great opportunity to increase your presence on search engines, which we’ll cover next.
Fan resources can really be anything that makes sense that visitors will enjoy, learn from, or be motivated by. Jonathan Field website has a good-life-o-meter. Drag it all the way to the unicorn. Simple, fun and shows he went the extra mile to create an enjoyable experience for his visitors.
Get creative and add what makes sense for your audience on your website. You can also use a multitude of media: audio, video, interactive web apps. There’s really no limit.
As a non-fiction author SEO is an absolute golden opportunity for you to get a ton of free traffic from search engines like Google. The beautiful thing about this website traffic is that it’s some of the highest quality traffic you can get. At that very moment that your visitors type in a search about how do I tie my shoelaces, they want nothing more than to find your perfectly explaned blog post on exactly how to do just that.
It’s an obvious next step (in this rather silly example) for them to be interested in buying your book on Clever, original ways to lace up your shoes and join your author funnel.
There are 3 simple, important rules for SEO success:
- Create epic content
- Optimize it for your keyword
- Get others to link back to it
Creating epic content means content that is the best answer to that search query on the whole of the internet. If it means writing a couple of thousand words for one blog post, then that’s what it means. An epic post is about providing the best value for that search term and being thorough while still staying on topic.
Write for your audience, not your ego. I said a total of two sentences in this entire post about me (three if you count this one) and I only wrote them so you can see that this information is from a credible source and not a waste of your time.
If you post your content yourself on a WordPress site, use a free plugin called Yoast SEO. Type in the keyword term you want to rank on Google for in the “focus key-phrase” box and just follow all the little red and orange suggestions until the “SEO Analysis” tab turns green smiley face. Easy!
Getting others to link back to your website is one of the most important ranking factors to Google that your site is important. These links from other sites to yours are simply called “backlinks”. You get backlinks by getting interviews, writing guest posts, asking to be featured and simply reaching out to others. Make a buzz in the world of your community and genre. Let everyone know what awesome stuff you’ve made so that they can link to it. The more authoritative the sites linking back to you, the better.
Seeing these elements in action
Now that you have a solid idea of what it takes to put together a great author website, go ahead and check out our best author websites examples post.
There are some of the top non-fiction author websites on the planet featured in it and you’ll learn a lot more by reading the sections on each.
Matt Ziranek – Artist, Writer and Managing Partner at Rocket Expansion Digital Agency – rocketexpansion.com
Matt Ziranek is an artist and writer who helps other artists and writers shine online. As the managing partner of creative design and marketing studio Rocket Expansion, he’s built websites and successful marketing campaigns for best-selling authors and Grammy Award winners.