Five Things Every Author’s Website Needs (And a Couple it Doesn’t!)
It’s pretty much an article of faith now that a published or soon-to-be-published author needs a website. No matter how much other social media you participate in, the website is the foundation of all your efforts, the place that houses the most important information about who you are, what you’ve written, and how to order, and why readers would want to buy your books.
To ensure your website offers you the maximum benefit, here are a few things that it really has to have.
- A warm, attractive home page that welcomes readers and presents yourself and your books in an intriguing way. It should invite viewers to stay a while and investigate further. Attractive design, with a nice color palette and balanced layout makes you look more professional as well as letting viewers enjoy the experience. And of course, you want to be sure that your navigation is clear, consistent, and easy to use.
- A page for your book or books. This should show covers and order information (preferably linked to the order pages for your book at various online vendors) for each book. I suggest listing them in reverse chronological order with the most recent first, the one exception being that if you have books in a series, those should always be listed together. If you have a backlist of more than one or two books, a printable booklist (either a text file or PDF) is always appreciated by readers.
- A News/Coming Soon page. One of the most common reasons for a reader to visit an author’s website is to find out about what the next book will be and when it will be available. They’d also like to know if you’ll be doing an appearance or book signing somewhere near them.
- A bit about yourself. Readers like to know something about the person who wrote their favorite story. You’re a celebrity to your readers, and we’re all curious about celebrities. So let them know where you live (roughly – don’t ever publish your actual street address on your site; city or region is good enough), what you do if you have a day job that isn’t writing, what your hobbies and interests are.
- A way to contact you. There’s a lot of disagreement about the best way to do this. Five years ago, I was advising authors to put an email link on their site, until spammers began combing the web to find email addresses to hack and spoof. I switched to suggesting using a contact form, and I’ve installed a number of them. In the last year or so, however, those forms are being spammed and, if they’re not set up properly, can even be used to relay large quantities of spam.
And finally for the things you don’t want on your site. Boiled down, you want to avoid anything that will make visitors leave more quickly. That includes music that autoplays, too many moving or slow-loading displays, and confusing navigation that changes from page to page.
The auto-playing music should be self-evident. Many people surf during down-time at work or in rooms with other people. That great oldies song you love may be like fingers on chalkboard to other people. If you want to put music on your site, give your viewer the option of turning it on.
Flash displays were popular for a while because they provided classy animations that could compelled attention and interest. But those lovely displays often were slow to load and offered jerky displays. And today Flash doesn’t work on many phones and tablets. Better to limit your use of Flash. And do I really need to mention how annoying a lot of little blinking objects are? One or maybe even two you can get away with. Any more than that and you’re overdoing it.
Karen McCullough is a web designer by profession, and the author of a dozen published novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres as well. She has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy, and has also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, three grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.
Greed, jealousy, and anger often lurk below the surface of trade shows and business exhibitions, but murder isn’t usually on the program…
For fifty-one weeks of the year, Heather McNeil loves her job as assistant to the director of the Washington DC Market Show Center. But the Gift and Home trade show, the biggest show of the year at the center, is a week-long nightmare. This year’s version is worse than usual. Misplaced shipments, feuding exhibitors, and malfunctioning popcorn machines are all in a day’s work. Finding the body of a murdered executive dumped in a trash bin during the show isn’t. The discovery tips Heather’s life into havoc.
The police have reason to suspect the victim’s wife killed him, but Heather doesn’t believe it. She’s gotten glimmers of an entirely different scenario and possible motive, but questioning exhibitors about the crime doesn’t make her popular with them or with her employers. Still, other lives might be at risk, and if she doesn’t identify the murderer before the show ends, the culprit could well remain free to kill again.
Her only help comes from a company executive with ulterior motives and the Market Center’s attractive new security officer, Scott Brandon. Despite opposition from some of the exhibitors, her employers, and the police, Heather seeks to expose the killer before the show ends. To solve the mystery she will have to risk what’s most important to her and be prepared to fight for answers, her job, and possibly her life.