Q: What are the most important elements for a book author website?
The most important element of all is the ability for you the author to make changes yourself at a moment’s notice. If you have an unexpected book signing come up or a fabulous book review that you want to post asap, then you need to be able to do that.
This ability in the past was usually out of the question for people who didn’t know website coding (or whose spouse, child, parent, etc. didn’t know it). People had to wait on – and pay – their website builder to make even the simplest changes.
In recent years the ability to use WordPress.org (known as just WordPress) for both a blog and a website has changed the landscape so that the power can now be in your own hands.
Once a WordPress self-hosted site is up, you can make changes as easily as you make changes in Word. (Of course, there is a similar learning curve as with Word.)
First, a clarification. I am NOT talking about WordPress.com, which is a hosted site the same way a blogger site is a hosted blog site.
Second, you still usually need a web person to set up your self-hosted WordPress blog/site before you take over the management yourself. And what’s more, just any WordPress website isn’t necessarily ideal for your purposes.
You need a site created by a web person who understands search engine optimization, keywords, etc. as well as arranging user friendly navigation on the site.
Third, your website address (the URL or domain name of the site) is important. When you use your website address on social media sites, you want it to reflect what your site is about. If you want to use a book title as a website address and the book title is not very specific, such as the imaginary “Having Fun,” you might want to get an URL that includes “thebook” as part of the domain name.
(All is not lost if you have a site now without an effective website address. You can get a better URL and have it redirected to your site.)
Another consideration before choosing a book title as your website address: If you have written or are writing more than one book, perhaps it would be better to have one website with your author name as the address rather than individual websites each with a specific book title used as the website address.
I learned this the hard way because I started out with a book title website for my first self-published book, MRS. LIEUTENANT. Eventually I added that site to my new author site of www.PhyllisZimblerMiller.comand then redirected the www.mrslieutenant.comwebsite address to the book’s page on my author site.
Fourth, of course, you want to make it very clear where someone can buy your book – and make it very easy for people to do so.
For example, you do NOT want to give a link to the home page of Amazon. After all, when people get to the home page of Amazon, they can get easily distracted and forget what book they are looking for or actually try unsuccessfully to find your book.
Make sure that the link to purchase your book is directly to the book’s page on a site and make that link very obvious. Have the link near the top of the page and not where people have to scroll down to find it.
Fifth, make sure that people coming to your book author site know exactly what is on offer. Is the book fiction or nonfiction? The first of a trilogy? An award-winning book? And the cover of your book should be featured prominently.
Here are examples from my author website – I have a fiction tab and a non-fiction tab on the nav at the top of the site:
Sixth, if at all possible, have a blog as part of your website (using WordPress for a site automatically includes the opportunity to have a blog as part of the site). A blog is usually the best way to continually add fresh content to a website, and search engines love fresh content. Thus fresh content on a blog can help your site rank higher in the search engine results.
Also, have a sign-up on your site so that people can automatically get your new blog posts either through email notification or through an RSS feed.
In addition, while the above are what I consider the most important elements for a book author website, a bonus element would be offering a free gift in exchange for having people join your email list (different than your blog feed signup) so that you can keep in front of your potential fans through email marketing.
This email list should be run through an email marketing service rather than you adding people to your own email account. Two main reasons for this: An email marketing service helps get your emails through the spam filters and an email marketing service looks much more professional than sending out a group email of your own.
And, finally, remember to periodically review the content of your website. Make sure that the event information is current, for example, and that all the information and links are still accurate.
© 2010 Miller Mosaic, LLC
Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the author of fiction and nonfiction books. She blogs about book-related topics at www.PhyllisZimblerMiller.com