"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Structuring the Author Website

In a recent pitch session, an agent requested I create a webpage, and then send her my COMPLETE MS! (Obviously this is no guarantee of a contract, but I took it as a good sign).

Some friends and other authors have often asked me why I don’t already have a website, and I always replied that my blog WAS my website. In truth, I think I just felt only authors with published books needed a webpage. I mistakenly assumed that freelance writers could get by with just the blog.
This agent informed me that when she receives a query, pitch, or manuscript, the first thing she does is look to see if they have a website. “No matter what else they have to their credit,  if I can’t find a website with their name in the address, I push their work to the junk pile.”

Obviously, I don’t want to offer ANY agent, editor, or publisher a reason to pass up my work. So, now I am planning to design my first website. I’m doing this myself because of two very important reasons a) Hopefully, I can create quality on the inexpensive side and b) I’m a bit of a control freak!

And so, I’m hoping you don’t mind sharing your own thoughts and advice on the subject.

1)      HOSTS – I’ve been researching servers, and common website hosts. As far as I can tell, the top rated free ones appear to be these sites. This agent recommended WIX in particular, but I’d love to hear about your own experience.

2)       ABOUT ME – Every author needs a bio page that lets readers know who you are, and what you have to offer. I have one of these pages already on this blog (called “Meet Sylvia”), but it was designed more than four years ago so any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.

3)      CONTACT – You don’t want to forget to tell people how to get in touch. Hopefully, your site is attracting business, but if they can’t figure out quickly how to contact you, you won’t generate much revenue. You want to be sure to include an email address on this page. Again, I have this page here on my blog, and I have also included a mailing address with my information. I keep a PO Box because I don’t want everyone sending mail to my personal residence. However, I just realized I don’t have a phone # listed. Not sure why I’ve never included this since it is available on my business cards. I use my cell # for business.

4)      PICTURES – Some people will tell you that a picture is not necessary. Yet, I know if I can’t see the person I’m dealing with, or the product I’m expected to purchase, I WILL walk away. I don’t want that to be a problem for me. On my blog, I have a picture my husband took of me on my “ABOUT” page, and a picture a friend took of me in a hat as my avatar. There is also a slideshow with a few other pics of me at various events. I may have my husband and my friend (who is a photographer) shoot a few more pictures of me so I have color, and pose choices as I design my website layout. Any thoughts on colors, or backgrounds?

5)      MEDIA – A press page can be particularly helpful for book authors, but remember ultimately you are selling yourself. While I don’t have a press page on this blog, I have helped others create their own. If you’d like to see my article on creating your own media kit, try this FREE download.

6)      SAMPLES – To pique reader interest, include some free reads (I have a few on my “Publications” page). This can be poems, short stories, sample chapters, blog posts, anything that will give readers a taste of your voice, and inspire them to learn, or buy, more.

7)      TESTIMONIALS – Testimonials and reviews can lend credibility. This is something I’ll have to work on for my website. So, how do I get them? ASK. Hopefully, some of the editors, publishers, and other individuals I work with will be willing to offer one.

8)      BUYING – Be sure to always have a link to how readers can purchase your work. My sidebar features covers of some of the places I’ve been published, and clicking on the graphics will take you directly to a site for purchase. I plan on having a separate page for this purpose on my website.

9)      EVENTS – This is one page the agent was adamant that I add. While this is usually a list of any upcoming speaking engagements, giveaways, and upcoming releases, the agent suggested I leave a list of all past events as well. She says this will show my experience.

10)  BLOG – This would provide links to any blogs your run, or on which you frequently appear as a guest.

11)  SERVICES – I’ve noticed many authors offer services for a fee. Some of them work as freelance editors, give frequent presentations or lessons, or offer their illustration services. This page will list those offerings, and either a price list, or encourage you to contact them with specifics for more detailed information tailored to specific needs.
Now that you know my goals for creating a website, I would appreciate hearing your thoughts and advice on the subject.

Any elements I’ve missed? Do you have a website, or know of one, I need to visit?


nashvillecats2 said...

An excellent write and some good issues and tips.


Botanist said...

Looks like you have a good list of headings. I can't think of anything to add for general purposes, I don't have all of these on my site but they are all in my "to do when it becomes relevant" list.

One extra thing I have on my site is a page for background information about my sci-fi world. Probably most relevant for speculative fiction, the idea is to give interested readers a more in-depth view behind the scenes.

Hosts - I use Webs.com, which seems to be distinct from your list's Web.com. Their support leaves a lot to be desired, but setting up a site is easy and I've had no problems with the actual hosting service.

One comment about viewing your blog as your website: When I visit a blog I almost never check out the tabs under the header, whereas on a "proper" website I'm more inclined to explore.

P.S. that new way of proving you're not a robot is 10000% more annoying than the old captchas!!!

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

This infuriates me. It is hard enough to get an agent's interest, a publisher's interest...putting aside my writing to market...what exactly does the ancient publishing industry do any longer? They take a lot from the writer...certainly don't offer any of their own marketing. What a sack of you know what. The jerks. They want everything laid in their laps, don't they. Why should they have to work at all. Just because it takes four months for us to write the book, sure...we can do their job for them too.

Ahhhhhh...Mac screams

Helen V. said...

I'm trying to put together my first website, too, so I'm interested in how you make out.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Well this was interesting news! An agent requests your manuscript (obviously interested) but sends manuscripts to the slush pile if the author doesn't have a website? I find that strange, really. Yes, I know a website is a good idea down the road, but . . . doesn't the writing come first? Isn't she putting the cart before the horse?