In the current publishing environment, authors and illustrators have to put on many hats for many different audiences. They have to deal with publishers, agents, funding organisations, critics, schools, libraries, their peers, and most importantly: their readers, which could be just as varied. Many authors write in different genres or for different age groups, and many illustrators create art for all kinds of different work.
Because authors and illustrators have to address so many different audiences, they’ll often wonder: who is my website for?
I get this question a lot, and many times it’s the first question clients ask when they come to me for a website. Here are two recent examples:
“I am a children's author and also write for adults. I'm not sure how to choose a design that brands me instead of one genre but appeals to multiple audiences.”
“I can't afford two websites but can one website balance my children's works and my retail art and stationary business?”
Almost every time, my advice for these kinds of authors is to encourage them to think of their website as a single product which has the ability to appeal to multiple audiences at once.
Why do I believe this?
Your website glues everything together
Social Media creates many different online personas dividing audiences
Online, authors have different accounts for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Snapchat, Patreon, and much more. On each of these platforms different aspects of the author emerge. This could be because different platforms attract different kinds of people. Or, it could be because different platforms offer different kinds of features, possibilities, and limitations. Twitter has a 280 character limit, Instagram and YouTube are different kinds of audio-visual platforms, and Patreon is mainly used by authors as an alternative source of income.
You can’t control social media, but you can control your website
Your website, on the other hand, is far less limited in what you choose to do with it. It is something you own which you have boundless creative control over. Instead of creating a pastiche of different snapshots of your brand through multiple social media channels, your website gives you the opportunity to create one coherent brand to market to all of your audiences. It can also become a hub for your multiple online personalities and audiences.
Loyal audiences are attracted to a coherent personality which your website can convey
Loyal fans are attracted to a coherent personality across your online platforms. Just search Google for authors you know and you’ll likely see a ‘knowledge panel’ on the right hand side of the search results bringing together all of their work and social media accounts:
This is what your website does, but much better. Google can provide a simple snapshot of all of your work, but your website can demonstrate the values behind all of your work, which is a much more potent force capable of captivating all of your audiences.
You don’t need separate websites
In most cases, you don’t need different websites targeting different readers of your work, if you write in different genres or for different age groups. For example, even if you write for adults and children, generally don’t need separate websites, even though they are two very different kinds of readers.
In terms of marketing, it’s far more efficient to pour the effort you’re not spending on writing into promoting the values behind your writing, and creating a strong association between those values and your name.
You spread your time and money too thin with multiple websites
First of all, it’s already hard enough to do online marketing for one website. I find that most authors spread themselves too thin in terms of money and time when they try to manage multiple websites.
Instead, it’s better to put your resources and time into one property: your author name. In terms of marketing, it’s far more efficient to pour the effort you’re not spending on writing into promoting the values behind your writing, and creating a strong association between those values and your name. Simon Sinek, author and motivational speaker, suggests that people buy what you ‘believe’, not what you ‘sell’. Although the different kinds of books you ‘sell’ may not resonate across all of your audiences, what you ‘believe’ will.
Which brings me to my next point…
You should ‘flatten’ the content on your website
you shouldn’t be so concerned with separating your writing or other work into different categories or pages, but looking for ways to ‘flatten’ your content
The truth and data behind your website visits
Many website owners mistakenly believe that visitors are exploring all angles of their profile and consuming all of the pages on their website, but the data and analytics behind many websites show that this is far from the case.
From my experience working with authors and looking at analytics data, most website visits are a short, transient part of a visitor’s daily internet and social media browsing, and they’re likely to only see a fragment of any one website.
Your goal is to capture a visitor’s fleeting attention
The fleeting nature of a website visit demonstrates the importance of communicating a core message and your values across your entire website, which should show in every page, whether through the visual design or the content. Having a core message permeate throughout your website reduces the risk of immediately alienating one part of your audience and losing their interest.
Don’t forget about the ‘gatekeepers’ of your work
For example, children’s authors often mistakenly think that their website should be targeted solely toward children, and forget to think about the ‘gatekeepers’ of their work who are far more likely to visit their websites and make the decision to buy their books: parents and teachers. Illustrator websites are also often accessed by their peers - other authors who might want to work with them on their next picture book.
Flatten your content
Therefore, you shouldn’t be so concerned with separating your writing or other work into different categories or pages, but looking for ways to ‘flatten’ your content to communicate the values behind all of your work. This could be embodied in a visual theme, a common thread, or a motif found across all of your work.
The design needs to strike a right balance between being too specific —which might alienate some readers— and being too general —which might compromised the unique qualities of each of your books. This is a challenge we tackled when designing Belinda Murell’s website, which you can read about in a case study here.
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.
Here are some good examples of author websites made to appeal to multiple audiences
Do you write for multiple audiences? Check out these designs made to strengthen the values behind your work
Writing a book today is hard. Writing multiple books for multiple audiences is even harder. Add the need to market yourself online and social media into the mix, and it’s easy to see why adding a website to all of that can be daunting. But your website can in fact be the glue which holds all of these things together by pulling all of your online personas into one place, and demonstrate the values behind all of your work which speaks to all of your audiences.