This week in Pen to Pen, I’m happy to have Mary Caelsto, author of Perfect Author Newsletters, here to talk about author websites. Mary is a prolific writer with 50 titles under her belt, and she coaches other authors in improving their websites and newsletters. She was kind enough to stop by today to share some of her website wisdom.
The Five Essentials For Your Author Website
By Mary Caelsto
Getting a website up and running can be a harrowing experience for authors. Not only do you have to deal with the technical aspects of a website—domains, hosting, content management systems—but you also need to make sure your website has the information your readers, and more importantly industry professionals need.
So how do you know your website has the right stuff? Here’s a short list of the five essentials for any professional author website.
A Good Platform
What good is having a website if no one can reach it or it doesn’t give you a professional look. If you are using free hosting (that isn’t built and designed for authors), or your website’s address isn’t www.yourauthorname.com, I want you to think strongly about moving to a better platform. If you’re using Wix or Weebly or other free platforms, there’s also a chance that your webhost has conditions in its terms of service that are detrimental to your career. (You can check http://myauthorhome.com/why for a comparison of free services.)
Much like we don’t think about the engines or undercarriage of our car until we have a break down, most of us don’t think about the backbones to our websites. However there are hosts out there who do not allow profanity or adult content, and that is dangerous to authors who write steamy or erotic books. There are also free hosts that take ownership of anything posted on their platforms. And while your reader may not think twice about your free site, as someone with over a decade in publishing, I can tell you industry professionals do.
Plus, let’s be honest. No one wants their website to go down due to shoddy architecture.
A Contact Form or Page
I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve tried to reach out to authors to invite them on my podcast, share a promotional opportunity, or just say, “I love your books!” and cannot find a way to contact the author on their website. That’s sad. Putting an email address or email link invites spammers, so a contact form is best. WordPress comes with several great free contact form plugins and implementing one will take less than 30 minutes. Make sure your readers know how to contact you, especially since Facebook and other social media can make that difficult.
An About Page
Readers like to know that the authors whose books they love are real people. An about page with a good bio will help give readers a connection. It also makes it easy when you do promotional work for a venue to grab your bio to put with your books, or in my case since I interview authors for my podcast, your episode page. In other words, an about page, no matter how much we hate talking about ourselves, makes it super easy for readers to get a connection with you and for promoters to promote you.
As an author who has written more than fifty books, I’ll confess this is something I have on my “need to do” list for my own website. Sure, I have a webstore with links to vendors for my books, but I don’t have a printable book list or even just a plain old text book list, and that’s something I need to remedy. If you have written a lot of books a list will help your readers see which ones they’ve read and which ones they haven’t.
Yes, another non-content item for the list. Your site needs good security. If you use WordPress there are plenty of tutorials out there on how to secure it, and there are also professionals like myself who will ensure your site is secure. Security does need to be updated; it’s not something you set once and forget. However, once you get the basics in place, updating can be as simple as updating a plugin, and it’s something that any author can do.
Notice that I didn’t put excerpts on the list, though it’s also good if you can list excerpts of your works as well. With Amazon’s Look Inside feature and the ability to send samples to your ereader, an excerpt on a website is less important than it was. Listing your book, a catchy blurb, and all buy links is a great way to point readers to your work and get them to purchase your stories.
Hopefully these five items will help ensure you have a professional author website and help you grow your career.
Mary Caelsto is author of the book Perfect Author Newsletters. She’s a technical goddess for authors who lives in the Ozarks on a homestead with her flock of chickens, spoiled horses, cats, and her husband and mother. When not working on her own books, written under numerous pen names, she helps authors with newsletters and websites as a virtual assistant and freelance editor. She runs My Author Home, which offers free and paid hosting for authors, both of which come with her award-winning customer service. She’s been published for more than fifteen years, an editor for over a decade, and worked in the technical and customer service fields for nearly as long.
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