If you are like 97.425% of writers*, at least one of your body parts will involuntarily clench when I say the words “Your Author Website.” But as your internet face to the world, it’s worth your while to unclench and look at what you can do to make your website more effective.
*I like to make up statistics. Even so, I’m pretty sure my numbers are correct there.
Today, we’ll spend some time talking about Must Haves. Next week, in Part Two, we’ll talk about Suggested Pages, and in Part Three, we’ll talk about Things to Avoid.
I’m not planning on spending time talking about the various website platforms, mostly because I only have eyes for WordPress and am woefully under-informed about others. However, if you have suggestions, throw them up in the comments.
Whether you design your website yourself or hire someone else to do it, there are some bits of information that really need to be included.
Must Have Pages/Content
- About Me
- Social Media Icons
- Books (for published authors)
At the top of this page, where it will be the easiest to find, please place information on how to contact your agent and/or publicist, if you have them. Repeat this information on your contact page.
Last year, I was on the planning board for a large literary festival. There were a couple authors I wanted to invite, but doing so was made difficult because I had such a hard time tracking down their publicists. Likewise, if someone is interested in your work and wants to contact your agent, you probably want them to be able to do so. Make it easy for them.
A simple line or two saying something like “For rights inquiries, please contact A. Fabulous Agent at Best Literary Agency” and/or “For interviews, ARC requests, and appearances, please contact Awesome Publicist at Wonderful Publisher/Publicity House” and include an email address.
Below that, if you are published or soon to be published, this is where your author photo and bio should be found. I love what Beth Revis has done on her About page. She has posted a blurb bio, a short bio, and a long bio, with photos and social media links, all on one page.
I followed her example and did the same thing on mine. Having all this information on one page has been very handy when it comes to doing interviews. I can simply send a link to the interviewer. They select what size bio they prefer, download my photo, and find all my social media links in one place.
If you do not yet have books under contract, this page is still very important. Agents and editors will check it out when they are stalking you online. (They totally do that.) Make sure it’s professional.
This could also be a good place to mention memberships like SCBWI, awards, and/or preferred genres.
Again, if you have an agent and/or publicist, copy and paste those same lines from your About Me page to the top of this page. I can’t stress enough how important it can be to make this information easy to find.
Under that place either a contact form or an email address.
I’m going to nitpick here. I personally find this: emailaddress [at] gmail [dot] com a little annoying. I don’t think it lends a professional polish to your website and it’s a pain to copy and reformat for email.
On the other hand, spambots are really irritating. How can you avoid them, but still list a nice, linked email address? It’s easy with a free, online email scrambler and a little bit of HTML. To scramble email, I like GoLiveCentral.com.
Put in the email address you would like scrambled and click Submit. The website will give you a series of numbers and symbols.
That is the email address, but in order to use it you have to do a little bit of HTML work. I am mostly familiar with wordpress, but I think most website platforms have two tabs for entering pages/posts. One tab usually says something like Visual. The other may say Text or HTML. Click that one.
GoLiveCentral very kindly gives the HTML code you will need to enter to create a beautiful email link:
Yours will look something like this:
Substituting the scrambled email code and your own text for the capital letters above.
Note: once you have entered this in your HTML, don’t go back to the Visual view tab before posting. For some $%&@ reason, it unscrambles it.
I’ve used this technique here: Heidi Schulz’s email, hold the spam, please.
Doesn’t that look nicer that [at] email [dot] com? And no bots! Feel free to email me and test it out.
Social Media Icons
I was a semi-serious blogger for years before I started writing fiction. I read a lot about blog/website design. Most post/article agreed that the upper right corner of every page of your website should have your social media icons. Just like making your publicist information easy for festival planners, and representation information easy for editors that are looking to throw money at you, make it easy for readers to connect with you across your entire internet platform. Don’t make them scroll and dig to find your twitter handle.
Ideally, you should have an RSS icon here as well so readers can have updates sent to their reader. And, for those who may prefer to have updates emailed to them, a subscription box is a great idea. Place it directly under your social media/RSS icons.
Literary Agent Jennifer Laughran wrote a great blog post about what to include on this page. Rather than regurgitating, I’m going to go refer you to the source. Read it here.
Jennifer’s client Miriam Forster has done a great job of following her advice. See Miriam’s Books page. If you are so inclined, it would also be great to include a blurb or two and your jacket copy or synopsis on this page.
Next week, we’ll talk about other pages/content you might want to include on your website.
What do you think are author website Must Haves? Let’s get a discussion going in the comments.
Heidi Schulz is a writer, reader, and giraffe suspicioner. Her debut novel for middle grade readers, HOOK’S REVENGE, will be published by Disney•Hyperion on September 16, 2014, followed by her picture book debut, GIRAFFES RUIN EVERYTHING, by Bloomsbury Kids, in 2016. She lives in Oregon with her husband, their teen daughter, a terrible little dog, and five irascible chickens. Connect with her on her website, Twitter, or Facebook.