Author Websites 101

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You want to be published? You want to have a career as a writer? Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re building your website. Because you NEED a website. And your website should show you’re a professional–even if you’re a goofy one.

INFORMATION:

YOU – A biography. On my site I have a brief bio on the front page, and a more in-depth one later on. You need an author photo that wasn’t taken by your child or by your phone held at arm’s length. Professionalism counts.

YOUR BOOKS – What they are and where to find them. I like to have one page with everything, and then individual pages for each novel so I can talk about inspiration or share bits of trade reviews – I LOVE it when other authors do this. If you write in different genres, separating by genres is smart. And just like a resume, put the most recent up first – you may argue w/ me if you’re writing a series, but otherwise? Most recent book gets top billing.

EVENTS OR APPEARANCES – Even release dates, or cover release dates… Sometimes it’s more about making yourself LOOK busy and/or important. Yes, I just said that. I’ve seen authors write up things like – attending launch party for XXX, which is promo for the both of you – WIN-WIN)

LINKS TO SOCIAL MEDIA – You don’t have to take on the whole world in social media. Choose what works for you and keep your audience in mind (Yes, this could be a post on its own. Maybe several).

LINKS TO BLOG – If you blog, if you group blog…

AN OFFER TO SIGN UP FOR A NEWSLETTER – If you have one. The pros and cons of this would be much better discussed by someone other than myself 😉

THE FEEL OF THE SITE:

You’re selling YOU. You need to have a website that reflects both you and what you write. Your website could/should follow the feel of your stories, but as more people branch out into more genres, the more important it is to have a website that encompasses YOU, and second, what you write.

A few examples:

I wanted to show Lindsey Leavitt’s site because she writes in several genres. Now, if she wanted to build a site specifically for a series, awesome! She can link to it from the site that is about HER.

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Her tagline, right at the top, tells you what you’re in for. Social media is easy to find, and her tabs help readers of different genres find what they’re looking for. The colors are bright and fun, and match the tone of her book covers. www.lindseyleavitt.com Just under her header – fab white space (I’ll show examples later on).

Maggie Stiefvater’s website is also fab. Her novels/series are all quite different, so her website is neutral. Want more info on a series? She has links for that. The rotating headers all involve MAGGIE and things she likes as a person rather than as an author. Just under the lovely headers is very simple with lots of white space.

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OK. We’re not all Brandon Sanderson, but this is his sidebar:

All of his upcoming events are right on the landing page. No one needs to hunt around on his website to find his fan club or where he’s going to be next.

Simple and brilliant. AND the artwork falls in line with his books without taking over the site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How beautiful is KATHRYN PURDIE’S SITE??? I know right away what she writes from the background, but it’s so subtle! I love it.

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And then it gets even better when you press ENTER:

All her links are interesting, and there’s some great info here without this feeling overwhelming.

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And now we’ll talk about – THE WHITESPACE. Cluttered sites are SO hard to navigate. Kathryn Purdie put this subtle background in instead of white space, which I think works SUPER well, but it’s so easy for a website to be so busy that visitors don’t know where to direct their attention.

Veronica Roth’s website does a brilliant job with clean white space:

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Jennifer Weiner’s site is gorgeous, simple, and you can see how effective white space can be – even at the bottom of her landing page (BELOW):

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I will readily admit that I’m a sucker for simplicity, but ANDREW HARWELL’S site? Simple & interesting. He wears a lot of different hats, so simple is going to be better.

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My best advice to you is this:

Go to a TON of websites of authors you admire. Authors who write what you do. Authors who write something completely different from what you write. Take note of what works. What doesn’t work. And then spend some time thinking about how you can tailor what works, to yourself. You may need to hire a designer. You definitely need more eyes than just your own.

My inspiration for today’s post came from the fact that I really want to re-work my own site. Something I’ll be tweaking over the holiday break 🙂

Happy designing!

~ J0

Jolene Perry has written young adult titles for Entangled/Macmillan, Albert Whitman Teen, and Simon Pulse. She is represented by Jane Dystel of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management. You can find her on her BLOG, her WEBSITE, or chillin’ with her family in Alaska (pun intended).

Be Authentic: Build Your Brand

The job of an author goes beyond finding people to read the books; the job of the author is to create fans.

Connecting with that potential fan base has so many facets it can be overwhelming. As a writer you often forget it is your job to network and market your skills. This can be done well before you are published. Using social media to engage in authentic interactions, establish communities, build a brand, and present yourself as an expert can create fantastic opportunities. Though social media isn’t the only way to create fans, you will want to think about what will work best for you and how to utilize it before you are too busy with publishing deadlines and life emergencies.

It is my job as a business owner and your job as an author to establish ourselves as experts. There are many things for which you can and should be known for. In 2012 I bought a full service bookstore in my community. It was my job to prove to the loyal customers that I was an authority on the books held within the walls and get each and every one of them to believe and invest in my ability to find and recommend quality titles for them. It is up to every person and every author to establish what it is that they can do to build a brand and create a feeling of expertise. I needed these loyal customers to become my fans and talk about me beyond the bookstore and let others in the community know the books had been left in good hands.

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Over the years my expertise has shifted. When I was first blogging, before The Hunger Games came out, people on Twitter turned to me to define dystopian fiction and give recommendations. Next I worked in a school, my expertise was focused on connecting students with books that would interest them and fell within their reading level.

Now I connect my customers with titles they are looking for and ones they didn’t know they wanted on a daily basis. As I reconnect with my academic pursuits, I see new avenues to connect with unique aspects of myself and opportunities to become an expert in new topics.

Building a brand is about identifying the knowledge you already have and combining it with the things you already do and then sharing those experiences with the world. Does your brand have to do with your writing life, your day job, your previous life, or your academic pursuits? For many writers, being an author isn’t the first iteration of their life . Before I was a bookstore owner I was a book blogger, mother, homemaker, and an avid reader, each of these aspects of my life provide a rich resource from which I can draw my expertise.

Take some time and think about what makes you uniquely you. Is there a way that can be cultivated into your personal brand. How can you use this aspect to establish yourself as an expert? Being authentic is about showing all sides of yourself, maybe even some of your flaws. It can be difficult to talk about yourself when you really want to talk about your book or events you are attending, but that can end up just feeling like a sales pitch. How do you relay your authentic self in person and online?

Every time you use the internet you are building your brand, whether you intend to or not, now it is time for you to cultivate that image rather than hide behind it. Don’t be afraid to expose yourself, your flaws, your emotions. It doesn’t mean you have to put every aspect of yourself online, but be aware of what you are sharing and why you are sharing it. How does how you are using social media, or a blog, or even just talking to colleague help build a brand and establish you as an expert? Do you know how to grow the perfect tomato? Prune roses to perfection? Bake flawless banana bread? It doesn’t have to be something big, but how can you authentically own it? I am really good at untangling things (especially necklaces) and though it takes time, I am usually successful. Maybe there is a way to cultivate that skill into my brand. I am not sure I want people mailing me their necklaces to untangle for them, but it is good to be known for something.

Identify what you are good at, talk about it online and in person. Show all aspects of yourself, not just the best aspects. Build your brand. Be an expert. Ready. Set. Go.

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Eastern 100%Megan O’Sullivan has owned Main Street Books in Cedar City, UT since May 2012. This year marks the 24th year the bookstore has been in business. She considers herself a bibliophile of the most extreme case. She has been obsessed with dystopian literature, Chris Pratt, and noodles, but is currently pursuing an interest in culinary history and the social conception of food.

Are you a socialite?

One of the essential parts of modern day writing is building a platform.  This can be daunting and exciting at the same time.  I have been actively building my presence and want to share a few things I’ve learned.

1. This takes work.  If you think it’s just going to be a few minutes a day thing, you are not going to have the internet presence you want.  My other blog is almost a year old and I have over 300 followers.  That didn’t happen by accident but by me looking for like minded people, visiting with them at their space and making them feel welcome at mine.

2. Don’t try all the things at once.  If you launch into a facebook page, twitter account and new blog all at the same time, it’s like working out really hard three days in a row.  By day four, you are ready to quit, exhausted, frustrated and in a world of hurt.  Pick one area, work on that a bit.  When that is established, try another.

3. YOUR NAME IS YOUR BRAND. That needs to be the title of the blog, as close as possible to your twitter handle, the title at the top of your facebook page.  I’m lucky to have a name that I think I’m the only one, but it is working for me.  Example?  At the writing workshop we attended a few weeks ago, I was recognized by several people because my first and last name are on EVERYTHING. And your picture better be with your name.

4. Maintain the balance (funny because this is the 3rd blog I was scheduled to post at today…).  Writing takes time.  Platform building takes time.  You need to decide right now if you want to be a blogger or a writer.  You can be both, you should be both, but it’s really easy to only be one.  Balance is tricky and I still haven’t figured it out completely, but it is something I work for every day.

Are there social media sites you like more than others?  What do you like about some and dislike about them or others?  Please feel free to share with us where we can find you!