I've been mulling over the whole website thing for a while now. I have a separate, static author website (www.roniloren.com). I did it myself. It's fine. Meh. (UPDATE: I've now redone my website, so that link should take you to the new one! It's still one I did myself, but I think it's a whole lot better.) But I really want something swankier for when my book releases. Unfortunately, a professionally done site is not cheap. So for now, I'm going to have to wait.
However, that doesn't mean I can't research, right? So, spurred by a question from the lovely Ashley March, I started looking into what the best author websites do right. This time I will focus on published author sites because Sierra Godfrey did a post on here a while back with website tips for the pre-published author--see that here.)
FOR AN UPDATED AND EXPANDED VERSION OF THE POST see: 13 Steps to Creating an Author Website Readers Will Love
1. Make sure a drunk monkey could navigate it.
Please, please, please make it easy for me to find whatever I'm looking for. I don't want to have to dig. I will move on. Make the design eye-catching but clean (ignore my busy blog design, this is a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do thing. I'm a mom, I get to do that now.) Oh, and DO NOT HAVE MUSIC that auto-plays.
2. Make it easy to read about and buy your books.
I'm amazed at how many author websites bury the info about their books like they're some sort of prize at the bottom of the cereal box. I want to be able to see the following:
a) The books you have out now with blurbs AND covers
b) The books that are upcoming and their blurbs and covers once available
c) Buttons where I can choose if I want to buy it on Amazon or whatever.
d) If you write series, LABEL them and put the books in order so that I know which comes first. It's sometimes hard to tell on Amazon what the order of a series is. Please help your readers with this.
3. A photo of you. Not your avatar or cat. You!
Get over your I-hate-all-pictures-of-myself thing. EVERYONE except maybe those kids on Jersey Shore hates pictures of themselves. It's normal. But I as a nosy reader want to put a face with the author name. And I don't care if you don't look like a supermodel. But believe me, if you have no pic, I will imagine you as a wart-covered troll. Just sayin' Also, a bio that rocks is a necessity. (Tips on that here.)
4. Provide links to all the ways I can stalk you.
Have links on your contact page with your twitter, facebook, goodreads, email, etc. links.
5. If you blog, don't phone it in.
If you hate blogging, we'll be able to tell. So if you are going to do it. Really do it. And for the love of all things good and holy, please attempt to make it interesting. And it's not about YOU, it's about the reader. I'm going to quote from a fabulous post over at Author Tech Tips: "Yes, yes, you’re a big famous author. But people still don’t care about you. They care about themselves. Think that is selfish? Take the plank out of your own eye before you can point the finger. If you offer something of value, your readers will want to come back. Photos of your kids will not bring them back."
6. Be addictive.
Give your readers a reason to want to come back. Do you offer something they can only get on your site? Contests? Super secret snippets from your current project? Pictures of your characters? Playlists for your books? Think of takeaways that would excite a reader.
7. A website is not like a cactus--you can't water it every six months and assume it's going to thrive.
Going to an author site who has an update from months ago is like getting served stale chips at a Mexican restaurant. It makes your image feel stale. Like, wow, nothing exciting is happening with his books right now. Even if you don't blog, make sure that your release dates and such are up to date. Don't say coming soon and the book release date has already passed.
8. Be newsworthy
Are you going to speaking somewhere or did you win an award? Have a news section that you keep updated. It's a good addition or even alternative to having an active blog. Just make sure you keep it fresh.
9. Pimp Out Others
On Author Tech Tips, they quoted a survey that said a third of readers like to see what books your recommend when they visit your website. I think one way to do it is having other authors stop by your blog and do interviews and contests. You can also put a Goodreads widget somewhere on your site (like mine over there on the right) that shows what you're reading right now. That's a form of recommendation.
10. Be likable
Please do not use your site for rants or whining. It should be a positive, happy place for people to be--even if you write about serial killers. You want people to leave your site thinking that they could enjoy being friends with you.
Alright, so those are my tips. What are some of the things that you like to see on an author website? What are some author sites you visit regularly--why? Oh, and anyone know any amazing web designers that would love to offer me a discount on services, lol?