The primary goal of an author's website is to sell books. Everything else is extraneous.
What should be on your site?
A well-designed website is the best way to sell your books and reach potential readers.
Your site should have:
- a bibliography of all your work
- your biography
- contact information for you and/or your agent (for press contacts, interviews, and scheduling requests)
- a news page, email list, and/or RSS feed to update readers
- a site map for search engines, so your site is indexed faster and more accurately
- keywords and a short, one-sentence description, which are used by search engines.
As you have more content, you should add:
- a calendar with appearances, talks, signings, and upcoming release dates
- separate pages for each book, including sample chapters
- if you write series, add a page for each, listing the books in both universe and publication order; if characters cross over between series or books, include that information as well.
After your site is finished:
- include the URL on your letterhead, correspondence, business cards, bios for appearances, advertising, and book jackets
- submit the site to be indexed on Google, Yahoo, and MSN
- submit the site to your national genre group's (RWA, SFWA, MWA, HWA, etc.) site
- submit the site to the appropriate local writers' organizations.
- do make sure your site complies with the latest web standards, to ensure that everyone can access it, no matter what platform they're using to view it
- do limit the use and file size of graphics to ensure your site loads quickly and smoothly, and doesn't cause issues for people with visual impairments
- do use a palette of web-safe colors and relative font sizes
- don't set up a blog unless you're going to commit time to update it regularly (weekly at the very least)
- don't use cutesy names for menu links
- don't use Flash, Java, or music files that start playing automatically when a visitor opens a page
- don't set up forums (leave that to fan sites)
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. My publishing company is going to make a page for me, so why do I need to set up a site of my own?
A. Publishers will promote the books they publish. Readers want to know about all of your work, not just what one company has published.
Q. Why do I need a custom-built, personalized website? Can't I just use a free template?
A. Your website should be a reflection of your personality and individuality. The design should set your site apart from everything else clamoring for attention from readers. Pre-packaged sites don't come with personal attention and support, either.
Q. Why does my site need to comply with web standards?
A. A standards-compliant site displays well no matter how your readers are accessing it. That means you don't have to create a different version of the site for every browser and platform. In addition, the site will not need to be redesigned every time browsers are updated, and it will still display in older versions of the most common browsers.
Q. Why should I hire a professional web designer to do my site, rather than doing it myself/hiring my best friend's kid/letting a fan do it for free?
A. Your site is just that: your site. It is your public face, the authority on your work, and you should treat it as such. If you know web design, you could do your own site, but remember, all those hours you spend maintaining it and keeping up with web standards are hours you're not spending writing.