April 23, 2018

Guest Post: On Author Websites by Hailey Stratton

These days, it’s hard to get by without a good website. Like it or not, a website can often be a first glimpse into your life that potential publishers might see, so you want to make sure it represents you accurately. At minimum, your website should be a place where it’s easy to find out more about you, what inspires your work, and how to get in touch. However, there’s so much more you can do to make your website one of your most important and useful assets.

Build your website

Here are a few basic guidelines for creating an attractive website which will help you accurately display your passion, creativity and skill while also helping you land more work or sell more books.

Elegant Design:

This is quite possibly the most important aspect of creating a website. You want a website that’s attractive and will give your visitors a glimpse into who you are as a person. You want something attractive and easy to use. And perhaps most importantly, you’re going to want to pick a design that lends itself to the topics you write about. For example, if you write about romance, you might consider picking a theme that makes use of colors generally associated with love, like pink, whereas if you’re a horror writer you’ll probably want to go with something darker.

Contact Form:

Having an easily accessible contact form on your website goes a long way to helping people get in touch with you. Often times, I see authors with websites that only list an email address as a way to get in touch. While this will definitely be some of your visitors’ preferred way to reach out to you, having a page with a contact form where people can quickly and easily send you a message will streamline the process and quite possibly increase the amount of feedback you get.

Easy Navigation:

If it’s hard to get around your website, your visitors are probably going to leave, so make sure there are clear paths to everything a visitor might want to see. At minimum you should have prominent links to an About page, a contact form, and your social media profiles as well as any products you’re selling.

Mobile Responsiveness:

One of the reasons that having a website is important is because more and more people are spending great portions of their time online. Most of which is done by mobile devices. If your website is hard to navigate from a phone or an iPad, you’re probably going to frustrate your visitors.

Once you’re ready to begin building your site, or maybe you’ve just realized you’re in desperate need of a redesign, here are some resources to help you along the way:

SiteBeginner.com — a great guide to help you create a Wordpress site from the ground up for under $5 per month.

MakeAWebsiteHub.com — if you’re not totally convinced on Wordpress (which is my recommendation), here’s a great guide to help you choose a blogging platform.

Canva.com — chances are you need a little help in the graphic design department. Canva can help you make great looking logos and more.

Get creative

Once you have your website created, you don’t want to let it go stale by just sitting there waiting for visitors to hit your contact form.

World Building:

In addition to being a helpful marketing tool or central hub, a good website might also serve as a creative outlet and might even be a direct extension of your printed works. For example, you can use your website to continue building the world where your books take place by publishing additional short companion stories. Maybe you had an idea that you liked but didn’t make it into the final draft of your book. Or let’s say there was something you wanted to explore but it didn’t make sense to include in your book, for one reason or another. You might be easily able to reformat those plots into easily digestible bites to publish on your website.

Maybe I’m dreaming a little bit (and it is something I wish was reality), but I like to imagine that if J.R.R. Tolkien were alive at a time when he could have been publishing on the internet that he’d have had his own website or blog where he explored nearly endless side stories of various characters, vast elaborations of his worlds, maybe it would have even allowed him to create full excerpts of the fictional writings within his stories.

I’m sure you could come up with a ton of ways to incorporate blogging into your books. There’s a marketing benefit of this as well at it would generate interest from people stumbling upon your short stories on your blog and possibly make them interested in purchasing your books to read more.

Writing Prompts:

If using your blog for world building doesn’t seem like it would fit in with your work or it just doesn’t interest you, using your blog to help you generate new ideas or get yourself out of a writers’ block would serve as a great tool.

One way you could do this is by using writing prompts. There’s a good chance you already do this to some degree but there’s added value to publishing them on your blog as well. This would allow you to create an easily accessible hub full of your own ideas to revisit and build off of.

You could even use writing prompts for marketing! A simple way would be to participate in Reddit’s Writing Prompts. There you can choose to write about a topic that interests you, write it up in a comment and also publish a longer version on your blog with a link to your website where anyone who’s interested can read more and potentially discover your other work.

You’re all set!

Now that you’ve got your website created and a blogging strategy lined out, it’s time to start using it to its fullest potential. Most importantly, remember to have fun. A website or blog can be an incredible way to get your creative juices flowing without being tied down to any restrictions.

Hailey Stratton is a freelance writer, graphic designer and aspiring photographer currently in Nashville. When she’s not working on various projects, she enjoys spending time with her cats Larry and Gary (yes, they have rhyming human names. That idea was entirely her fiance’s!) and cuddling up to watch a sad movie with a glass of wine.