What Does an Author Website Need?Apr 28, 2021
First Up: You Need a Website
It's necessary in 2021 and so easy to do. Back in the day, used to have to hire somebody who would do something that was super complicated, that you didn't understand. And usually, that person would take forever and be an incredibly frustrating person and all of these things. Now, then there was WordPress, which is doable for the non-techie but not ideal.
Now you can just so easily create your own site without any tech skills whatsoever on sites like Squarespace and GoDaddy. I do mine on Kajabi where I have my courses, my newsletters, my payment system, my blog. You can use my affiliate link below to set up your own Kajabi site.
I would highly recommend starting with GoDaddy. Buy your domain name on GoDaddy—with privacy, which I highly recommend having—it's roughly $20 a year and privacy means they're not putting your address and contact information out there so you're not contacted by all these random people that you don't want to be contacted by who are all going to try to sell you something that you do not need.
It Does Not Need to be Your Name
If you're buying it now and your name is unique and you can get it, do. I actually beat a more famous Anna David, a German singer, by getting annadavid.com early on. But if your name is taken, there are all sorts of variations. Let's say your name is Jane Smith. itsjanesmith or janesmithwrites or janeelizabathsmith or whatever your middle name is. So don't sweat it but I do recommend doing .com over.org., .club, all the different dot whatevers that are available today.
Why not try to have the name be the same as it is across all your social media? So if your domain name is "itsjanesmith.com," why not have that be your Instagram, your Facebook and everything else?
Instead of creating a separate site for your book, you can buy the domain name for it and just have it redirect to a page for your book on your site.
A domain name and hosting are different and you can do both on GoDaddy, where the hosting is roughly $100 a year, which is a great deal.
What Kind of Bio Does Your Website Need?
First off, you need a bio and I say keep it short and sweet. Don't pack it with random things that just make it look like you're that student who's trying to make your essay fit two pages. I have short and longer versions and the bio links to different pages on the site—a book page, a press page or whatever. But putting that you've appeared on a podcast no one's ever heard of is not going to help your bio.
Get the most impressive facts upfront and if you want to have a personal thing—say, she lives in Los Angeles with her nine cats and her husband—put it at the end. Those long jokey bios don't help anyone. And do it in first and not third person.
Don't say "I don't have anything too impressive to put in there!" Work with what you've got and use that as an incentive to try to get published online before your book comes out so that it can say "Jane Smith has been published in the Huffington Post, Thrive Global" and that kind of thing.
You can also put a link to your Amazon author page and ask people to follow you there. You obviously have to wait until you have an Amazon author page but the way these work is that everybody who follows you on Amazon is going to get an email from Amazon when your next book comes out. And that is so valuable. Imagine if Instagram sent out an email every time you posted something on Instagram!
How to Display Your Contact Info
Put your email address there. When people have a contact form, I have had many times where I wanted to offer an opportunity to be featured in a book or to be interviewed and I see one of those forms and think it's not worth it. Who are we to be so important that we can't put our email address there? We want readers and potential promoters to be able to reach us!
A lot of people worry that putting their email on a site means they're going to be added to all these spam lists. I say we all get tons of spam without that which we delete. But if you are worried about it, you can always put "Jane" and then "at jane smith dot com" so it's not clickable.
What Should Go on Your Book Page
Obviously, if you're creating your author page now there's no book yet so just be prepared to do that. But recommend having basically a sales page for your book that breaks down WHY someone should buy your book rather than just a page that summarizes your book and has the cover. You can see a link to the one I did for Make Your Mess Your Memoir in the Related Links section below.
On your home page or your book page, put links to the places you've been featured on. If you haven't been featured in any media, here's a great way around that. You can create a press release for your book and then send it to a press release company (there's a link to my favorite one in the Related Links section below).
For a couple of hundred dollars, they will circulate the release to thousands of outlets, then once that's up and they send you the links to them, copy the icons of those sites and put them on your site. Voila, you've been featured in or on those websites.
Cool Idea: A "Start Here" page
I heard about this on Stephan Spencer's podcast and if you want to find out about SEO, he's your guy (see link below). He talked about how if you have a page that says START HERE at the top of your site, it will be the most popular page on your website. People will do things they're told to do. On annadavid.com, I did that and have a long timeline of my writing career, starting with when I was five and I include photos and links. And at the top it just says, "Here's a link to a regular bio" for people who don't want to go through this whole thing (see a link to my Start Here page below).
You Can Have an Excerpt From Your Book
Once your book is on Amazon, go to the right side of your book's page, click where it says <Embed> below Add to List, click on Embed on your site and then copy that code. Then go to the backend of your website and create a section called Custom Code. If this sounds complicated, it's not. On GoDaddy, for example, the option is right there. And then what shows up is this glorious image of your book cover and a large preview of the book. And then when the reader gets to a certain part of that preview, it directs them to buy the book. You can see what I mean by scrolling to the bottom of this page.
If You Have a Blog...
This isn't required at all but it's an option that will greatly increase Search Engine Optimization when it comes to your site. You can copy and paste blog posts onto Medium to try to use the content to also attract a new audience but make sure you use canonical links so that the web crawlers direct people to your site first. (I have a link that breaks down canonical links in the Relevant Links section below.)