If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably already got a good idea about what pages and features an author website might have, like a home page, a bio, and pages for your books. But what exactly goes into creating a great home, about, and book pages? And are there any other pages and features of an author website you might not have thought you needed?
Whether you’re a fiction or non-fiction, children’s or YA author, this article aims to provide a handy resource to better understand author websites. Even if you’ve got a good idea of what pages you need, you might find a helpful tip here or there to help you make more informed decisions when shopping for a new website or when speaking with your web designer.
Table of contents
- Home Page
- About Page
- Book Page
- Events Page
- Mailing List and Newsletter
- Contact Page
- Technical things you should know
Your home page is the most important. It’s likely the first page appearing on Google when searching for your name or books, and it’s the page most people will share on social media. Your home page will, therefore, most likely be your most visited.
However, this doesn’t mean you should be cramming your home page with content. The first impression is important but fleeting. If you show too much, you risk losing the visitor’s attention. If you’re afraid that visitors won’t find the rest of the content on your website, a consistent and concise navigational menu will do the job. Your home page, on the other hand, should have one clear focus to capture what you think your visitors are looking for. One recurring question authors are often faced with when they decide to get a new website is:
Should I be promoting myself or my book?
There’s no right or wrong answer, but the process of coming up with one will help you focus your home page and the rest of your website. It’ll help you decide whether your author photo or your book/s should feature more prominently. It’ll also help you decide what you want visitors to do on your website. Do you want them to buy your book, read your blog, or to book you for a speaking event?
Home pages should also include buttons linking to your social media. You may also consider featuring an RSS feed displaying your latest status updates or Tweets so that your home page is constantly fresh with new content. For example, check out Vikki Wakefield’s home page.
If you want a deeper dive into what you should have on your home page, here’s 10 Things every author should have on their home page.
Writing your about page is like producing any other piece of writing: there are myriad ways you can go about it, and it’s not for me to tell you how to write your about page, outside of the generic stuff, like tell your unique story, know your audience, and be authentic. It’s also a good idea to have your author photo on your about page and to show off your accolades and awards.
Rather than tell you how to write a good about page, here are some about pages and FAQs which may inspire you:
An author website’s book page includes the things you’d expect: front and centre visitors will see a prominent book cover, next to the blurb, release date, review quotes, and accolades/awards.
A book page may also offer options to purchase, which can be implemented in various ways. Options can range from the simple solution of linking to Amazon or Booktopia to a more comprehensive e-Commerce bookshop built into your website. For an in-depth overview of all the options, you can use to sell books on your website, check out ‘5 ways to sell your books, illustrations, and writing services on your website’.
You can also offer free downloads on your book pages, like chapter previews, activities for kids, and teachers’ notes. It’s a good idea to leverage free downloads as a way to gain subscribers to your mailing list. Here’s more on how you can gain subscribers to your mailing list using free downloads.
A blog or a news page is one of the most valuable pages an author can have. It allows authors to periodically add fresh, valuable content to their website in order to generate traffic and engagement. I’ve written more extensively about blogging in another article: Blogging 101 for authors: a beginner’s guide to starting your blog and what to write.
An events page lets you order and promote your latest and upcoming events such as book tours, appearances, speaking events, and school visits. This page may appear to function the same as a blog or a news page, but the key difference is that a blog post is sorted by the date that it’s posted, while an event post is sorted by the date the event is held. A post about an event is often formatted differently to a blog entry, including dates and locations prominently, as well as links to tickets or organiser information. It’s, therefore, a good idea to separate your blog/news page from your events page, so information is more coherent and readily found.
A subscription form will allow visitors to sign up to your mailing list and can be inserted onto any and all pages of your website. It will usually ask for the visitor’s name and email address and may come with a free reward or incentive for signing up (for example, a free book chapter or short story). Once the visitor signs up, their information is usually stored in a third-party Email Marketing Service, such as MailChimp or MailMunch, from which you can send newsletters and updates.
I’ve written numerous articles on how to use email as a promotional tool, how to set up a mailing list on your website, how to gain subscribers and best practices for emailing subscribers. I’ve compiled these below:
- Why email is the #1 promotional tool for authors
- 3 Simple steps to setting up your email list to build your audience
- Gain subscribers to your mailing list using free downloads
- How to email your list subscribers, what to send them, and how to stop them from unsubscribing
- 7 ways to ensure your email subscribers read your blog posts
- Related: How to use a blog tour, social media, and an email newsletter to launch a YA novel
A contact page will include a contact form, which anonymises your email address if you only want visitors to contact you via the contact form (and not directly through email). You might also choose to include the email addresses of your agent(s)/publisher(s). If you choose to use a contact form on your website, it’s a good idea to secure your website with SSL and a spam filter (more on this in the section below).
Technical things you should know about
So far we’ve covered all the essential ‘customer-facing’ aspects of an author website. However, there are a few essential features of every author website which keep things running in the background.
A ‘domain name’ is the name or address of your website, also known as the ‘URL’ or ‘web address’. For author websites, the domain is usually the author’s name or book (again, determining this requires asking: “should I be promoting myself or my book?”). Most of the time, I recommend authors go for their name or a variation of it because it’s more suitable for achieving long term promotional goals.
You should purchase your preferred domain name as soon as possible (do it right now!), even if you’re not currently thinking about getting an author website anytime soon. Buying a domain name is dirt cheap and you’ll have first dibs on your preferred domain. You can buy one at any domain name registrar you can find on Google, such as Cheapdomains, Crazydomains, or Godaddy. If you need more convincing why you should buy a domain name now, here’s 5 Reasons why authors should buy a domain name, and 5 Recommendations for choosing the right domain name for author, and illustrator websites.
A website’s ‘hosting’ refers to the place where all the data, information, and code your website is constructed of is stored. This is usually provided by ‘hosting companies’ such as GoDaddy, InMotion, and SiteGround. If you're not confident with sourcing hosting on your own, your web designer will usually sort it out for you. First-time website owners might sometimes confuse ‘domain hosting’ (discussed above) for ‘website hosting’, but these are two different services. 'Domain hosting' refers to where your website’s domain address is stored, whereas 'website hosting' refers to where your website’s information is hosted.
Having a backup of your website’s information, data, and code is essential to keeping your site secure. In case something goes wrong (like your site getting hacked), your web designer will be able to use a backup to restore your website to an older, safer version. You don’t need to worry about the technical details behind how this happens, your web designer should be the one handling it. But you should always ask whether your web designer provides this service, and they will usually give you backup files if you request it.
Added Security: SSL Certificate
An SSL isn't absolutely necessary to a website but it is highly recommended. Google may warn visitors of websites that don’t have SSL which may drive traffic away, and Google also rewards websites with SSL by ranking them higher in search results. An SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate protects your website visitors’ sensitive data when they share personal information with you. For example:
- their email address, when emailing you through your contact form,
- subscribing to your email newsletter, commenting on your blog posts, or
- using their credit card and address if you sell via your website
If your website uses any of these features, it’s a good idea to install an SSL certificate by speaking with your web designer.
For more recommendations, check out my SSL article.
A spam filter will prevent you from receiving spam email via your contact form and spam comments (for example, if you’ve enabled them on your blog). Your web designer will usually be able to set one up for you.
If you want access to statistics about your website visitors (e.g. how many visitors, how long visits are), you’ll need to install third-party software like Google Analytics or JetPack. The learning curve for using Google Analytics is steeper than Jetpack, but the analytical tools Google offers are more powerful.
Not all authors will need every page or feature I’ve explained and discussed. A first-time author likely won’t have the resources or need for a full-fledged blog or a mailing list, but will at least need a home page and a page for their first book. On the other hand, an established author might need the lot to capture the full extent of their writing efforts.
Looking to set up your author website?
My other job, besides writing articles, is designing and building websites dedicated to authors. So if you’re interested in getting an author website, check out the author website packages I offer. Each package is designed around certain stages of an author’s career, so they get exactly what they need for the budget they have.