Your author website should be much more than a static business card — it should be a marketing tool serving as the hub of your online activity, from selling books to blogging to participating in social media. These elements allow you to grow your reach and increase book sales.

While every author will have different goals for their website,  and your genre and personality should set a unique tone for your site, these are frequently used elements that all author websites should have:

1. A list of published books

An author website can be a useful sales tool. Many sites include a page listing all of their published books with links to buy each one. Typically, they:

  • Link to the book page in the top navigation. This makes it easy for visitors to find this page no matter where they arrive on the website.
  • Display the book covers. This can help spark recognition later when a reader is browsing BookBub’s latest deals or a retailer’s search results page.
  • Include a brief elevator pitch. Each book usually includes a quick synopsis or a blurb from a recognizable author.
  • Include links to all retailers where the book is available. This helps visitors easily find each book wherever they shop.

For example, Daniel Silva includes links to each retailer where the book is available on his books page:

Daniel Silva's Books Page

2. The author’s newest or upcoming release

Many author websites have a prominent feature section on the homepage for promoting their most recent work. This makes it easy for fans to find the book with the latest buzz. Authors who have a book coming out shortly tend to feature this instead, and change the language from “coming soon” to “now available” once the launch date arrives.

In this section, many authors include blurbs instead of a simple synopsis to build excitement and hype. For example, Dan Brown includes blurbs for Inferno on his homepage:

Dan Brown's Homepage

3. A way to subscribe to updates

Most well-designed author websites make it easy for viewers to sign up to receive updates from the author. Collecting email addresses lets authors build relationships with interested readers. Email subscriptions can be more meaningful than a Twitter follow or a Facebook like, where updates can easily get lost because of excess noise or platform algorithms.

The forms on authors’ websites tend to:

  • Have very few fields. Asking for just an email address, or email and first name, seems to be sufficient.
  • Be easy to find. Many sites include the subscription form right on the homepage and in the blog’s sidebar. Some even have pop-up forms that appear after a short length of time.
  • Specify what the viewer is signing up for. Many forms include a bit of text specifying whether the viewer can expect a monthly newsletter, updates on future books, and/or a notification of each blog update.
  • Include a special freebie. Some authors offer an enticing giveaway to drive more sign-ups, such as a free sneak-peek chapter, a free book, or a chance to win an autographed book.

For example, Rachel Shane’s homepage features a prominent newsletter sign-up box (offering a free starter library in exchange for an email signup):

Rachel Shane's Opt-In Box

Need a website optimized for email signups? I can help you create a beautiful website that grows your email list. Learn more and get in touch here.

Steena Holmes’s website includes a pop-up advertising a free book in exchange for signing up for her newsletter:

Steena Holmes Subscription Popup

Here are some reasonably priced email service providers that make it easy to add sign-up forms to a website and send emails to subscribers:

4. A way to contact the author

While some authors make it difficult for people to find their contact information, most sites include a page or form for contacting the author. This opens communication for fans who want to send appreciation or feedback about a book, and ensures that the author doesn’t miss out on any desired media opportunities.

Instead of making viewers hunt for an email address or do social media sleuthing, here’s how authors make it easy to contact them:

  • Include a link in the menu bar. Many authors include a “Contact” link in their site’s top navigation.
  • Include a contact form. Having a contact form instead of an email address dissuades spammers and bots from wreaking excess havoc on the author’s inbox.
  • Specify other contact info. If the author has people who take care of communications — a literary agent, film rights agent, or publicist — those individuals’ contact information is often included on the contact page as well.

Lauren Weisberger has a comprehensive contact page in which she has a contact form, a subscription form, her team’s contact info, and information for readers seeking an autograph:

Lauren Weisberger's Contact Page

5. Links to social media profiles

Having a presence on social media gives readers another way to have a conversation with an author, rather than sending fan mail into a dark void. Because having a social media presence is so popular (and expected), authors usually make it easy for fans to find their profiles. Here are a few places they tend to place icons linking to each of their social media channels:

  • The site header, opposite the logo
  • The left side of the website’s navigation bar, if space allows
  • The blog’s sidebar
  • The site’s footer

For example, Cassandra Clare includes her social media icons in her site’s header, just under the top navigation:

Cassandra Clare's Social Media Icons

Some authors also make it easy for readers to share content from their websites and blogs. AddThis and ShareThis are two easy-to-install options for social sharing buttons.

One more thing: Remember to include a link to your BookBub Author Profile in your social media links!

6. A list of upcoming events

Some authors include a page listing upcoming events they’ll be attending. This lets fans save the date for anything local to them. Here are some of the types of events these authors include:

  • Book readings and signings
  • Speaking engagements
  • Panels or conferences they’ll be attending
  • Workshops they’ll be hosting
  • Live broadcast interviews
  • Any other media coverage

For example, Elizabeth Gilbert has a “Tour” page listing her upcoming tour stops:

Elizabeth Gilbert's Tour Page

7. A blog to showcase their personality

Having a blog doesn’t mean needing to update it weekly or even monthly. But fans often appreciate insights into an author’s personality and writing process, and anything they post is fodder for their next email to subscribers. Here’s the type of content authors tend to include:

  • Insider info. This can include behind-the-scenes looks at their work in progress.
  • Announcements. Many authors provide updates on upcoming books, such as cover releases or pre-order availability announcements.
  • Book recommendations. This includes book reviews, lists of favorite books, and recommendations of other books in the author’s genre.
  • Contests. Authors often host giveaways or contests for their newest book or upcoming release.
  • Publishing experiences. Some authors provide insight into their publishing process, whether sharing how they got a literary agent or their self-publishing strategy.
  • Personal posts. This includes things like recipes, photos from a recent trip, or random musings.
  • Author tips. Some authors provide writing and publishing tips for fellow authors.

Most of these blogs include a few common elements in their sidebars:

  • A subscription form
  • A list of popular posts
  • A list of recent posts
  • An archive of old posts

8. Simple navigation

Any website should make it easy for visitors to find exactly what they’re looking for within seconds. Most authors include some variation of this hierarchy in their top navigation:

  • About
  • Books
  • Events
  • Blog
  • Contact

Some authors also include a specific link for readers to get a free book, short story, or excerpt. Others include links to media kits, videos, news, press, writing, extras, contests, FAQ, galleries, links, and so on.

9. A clean, modern design

Many of the best author websites look modern, user-friendly, and uncluttered. The last thing a reader wants to stumble upon is a site with Comic Sans font and 90s-style design where every square inch is covered with waving animated GIF flags and marquee text.

Here are some practices authors have been implementing in their website design:

  • A simple color palette. Less is more, so the use of a bold color for buttons or links stands out on the page.
  • No pushy media. Auto-playing music and videos are becoming a thing of the past.
  • White space. Many of the top websites avoid dense blocks of text. They use section headers, numbers, and bullet points to break up large pieces of content.
  • Mobile-optimized. 25% of all web searches are conducted on a mobile device, so many websites now use responsive design.
I now offer website design services! Whether you’re an author or small business, I can help you create a beautiful website that grows your email list. Learn more and get in touch here.

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This article has been updated on October 2nd, 2016.

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