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Building an Author Website: Keep It Simple

Kat Engh Posted by Kat Engh.

Kat used to work for Berrett Koehler as a Social Media Strategist & Communications Manager. Now she works in the fashion industry.

Building an Author Website: Keep It Simple

A good author website doesn’t need a lot of bells and whistles – in fact, I’d argue against creating something overly fancy or complicated. Here’s a crash course to doing it right.

Must-have Elements:

People visiting an author’s website are looking for the following information:

  • Author bio and photo
  • Upcoming speaking events and/or book tour information
  • Recent press and endorsements
  • Links to purchase the book (from a variety of sellers, not just Amazon!)
  • Contact information, including your email and social media profiles
  • Blog and/or other exciting news and updates
  • “About the book” page, with links to read an excerpt from the book
  • A newsletter sign-up box (if you have one)

Here are some great examples of simple, yet effective author pages:

Notice that in all of these examples, the design is clean, not cluttered, and they stick to the basics. If people have to spend more than 10 seconds trying to find the info they’re looking for, they will likely leave your site and either go back to Google, or give up altogether. Not good!

Choosing a URL

A lot of authors will spend time (and often money) building a website dedicated solely to their books. This is great if you have the time, resources, and desire, but if you’re short on any of those three things, you’re always better off using your name as your website’s address. Plus, what if you write another book in the future? Are you going to build another website? It’s much easier to build a site with your name as the URL and add extra pages and info later to promote any books or projects that you produce later, when the time comes.
And yes, you need a real domain name. None of this “author.blogspot.com” business.

Linking to Booksellers

We work with over 60 bookseller partners on ebooks alone, and let’s face it, there’s just not enough room or desire to list every single one of them on your site. We strongly recommend including links to buy your book from the following sellers:

If you much prefer to build something yourself, the good news is, there are plenty of simple DIY website platforms out there. I’m particularly fond of Squarespace*, because they have created beautiful, professional-looking website templates that make it easy to drop your content into immediately. You don’t have to learn to code, you don’t have to register your domain to a different site and then figure out how to connect it to your new website’s dashboard, you don’t have to buying hosting from yet another source, and you don’t have multiple logins to manage. Did any of that sound confusing? If yes, just get a Squarespace account. Your lack of headaches will thank me later. Have you ever created a Powerpoint presentation before? This is going to be much easier than that.

Ask most developers how they learned how to build websites, and they’ll almost all tell you that they learned by just tinkering around. I used to find this answer annoying because I just wanted to have one go-to resource for holding my hand through the process, and those do exist, but that’s not really how most people get started. Once you’ve set up an account, spend some time exploring the dashboard of your new website. What can you change? What can’t you change? Squarespace makes it pretty clear.

A lot of authors ask me about building a Wordpress site, and I myself have built and maintained several Wordpress sites over the past five years. I think Wordpress sites are great if you have a knack for understanding code, but they can be quite cumbersome to build and maintain if you don’t. I’ll just leave it at that.

OK, I Have a Site. Now What?

First, share the site with friends, colleagues, your publisher, etc. and ask them for feedback. If most agree that it looks like it’s ready to go, then you’re ready to brag about it! Add your new website URL to your social media profiles (especially Linkedin!). Make sure that your publisher adds it to all marketing and publicity materials for your book. Add it to your Amazon Author Central Profile. Think of all of the fun ways you might get to show off your shiny new site, and enjoy it! Just make sure that you make it worth your time by keeping it up to date. Remember, the whole reason you’re putting yourself through this is so that you can bring more attention to your book(s) and your esteem as an author.

*Full disclosure: I know a cool girl who works at Squarespace, but that has not influenced my choice to highlight their business, promise!