Sunday, March 25, 2012

Website Suggestion: Top 5


I’ve been asked to provide what, in my opinion, is a “Do and Don’t” list for Author Websites. I have approached them all from the positive DO point of view (although I also mention some Don’t in many of them).

By no means is this comprehensive, I only focused on what I view as the top 5 for length purposes … and please keep in mind, this is simply my opinion. Mileage can and does vary.

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1. DO have a website. First and foremost, if you are an author, in today’s internet based consumer economy, you need an author website. You don’t have to be especially tech savvy or rich to have a website. True, you could pay someone to design and maintain your website. Nothing wrong with that. But if you can’t afford that option (and let’s face it starting out, who really can?), then there are other options. Go to a website provider with templates offered. Use a blog as your website. It doesn’t even have to be perfect – just functional and most of all, provide information about your books and where to find them.

2. DO have your own domain name. Even if you use a blog as your website, you should still have a domain name that is unique to you. It is very easy to redirect a domain name to wherever you want it to go.

Also … DO have YOUR NAME in your domain name (the url that goes to your website). This one is from personal experience. When I started out, I used the name of my website as my domain name, rather than my pen name. So when readers did a search, if I didn’t have my meta tags set up right, they couldn’t find me. When I started publishing, rather than writing shorts to share for free, I corrected that mistake and purchased my pen name as a domain name. Even if you have to put the word AUTHOR in the url, or even BOOKS, whatever, having your name in your domain name is a good idea.

Unfortunately, because I already had links all over the place going to my non-pen name domain, I have to keep it around as well as use my pen name domain name. So both go to the exact same website.

Now I do know authors that have their domain name set as something else, and it works for them. I just strongly suggest, especially if you are starting out and don’t already have an existing domain name going, that you consider using your pen name as your domain name.

3. DO have information about your books on your website! This one may seem simple, but you would not believe the number of author websites I have gone to which don’t even have blurbs for the books. Just an excerpt. Excerpts are nice and all, but unless I know what the book is actually about, it probably isn’t going to sell me on it. Because let’s face it, it could be the sexiest scene I have ever read, but unless I know that it isn’t a genre that I have learned by experience I generally am disappointed in, I probably still won’t make the purchase.

Yes – many times I can go to Amazon to find a blurb, but you know what? The average reader isn’t going to be that interested – and they shouldn’t have to go to that much effort. Plain and simple. You want them to follow your buy links to actually BUY the book. They shouldn’t have to follow them to find out what your book is about. It is your job as an author to provide it.

4. DO update your website. Again, it may seem simple, but I have seen websites that are sadly out of date time and time again. If you don’t have any books in the works to mention, that is one thing. But when Amazon is recommending your upcoming book to me, and I go to your website and find that you haven’t updated it in two years despite having had three books come out in the meantime, I am going to wonder what is going on. Do you not want me to visit your website and find out what you have coming out for me to buy? As a reader I shouldn't have to hunt down information on your releases – you should be providing it to me.

I know it is hard to find time to do some of these things ...

If you don’t have the time to update your website, and can’t afford to hire something to do it for you, find a friend who has the time. Pay them in free books, cookies, having your teenager mow their lawn – whatever. Just keep your website up-to-date.

5. DO keep in mind that not all readers are on cable modems and have really fast internet connections. Dial-ups do still exist. So all those really neat animations and graphics that you think are so cute? Carefully consider just which ones you simply have to have, and cut the rest. I know it is hard – I used to have all the cute little animations and images on my website. But I learned quickly to streamline it. Why? Because every image you have on your website takes time to load – and the bigger the file, the more time it takes. Some pages won’t even show until the majority of graphics have loaded, and readers are not going to wait five minutes for all the bouncing kitties and puppies to load to read your website. They will get frustrated, and close out the site. If you are lucky, they will try again later.

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Well, that in a nutshell, is what I consider the Top 5 most important things on an author website.

I will post from time to time other suggestions, and I am always open to questions … so please feel free to leave any questions you may have in the comments field.