A website is very, very seldom #1 on an author’s priority list — which is understandable. Most books are sold and discovered through Amazon and most readers will interact with authors on major social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter (or, shudder, Snapchat). So why is it still important for an author to maintain a quality website?
Using six example sites from bestselling authors, we’ll show you the value in author websites and reveal some crucial tips for making yours one of your greatest marketing assets.
Hugh Howey is one of the big self-publishing success stories — snowballing a popular Kindle novella, Wool, into a full-blown series of bestsellers. As an independent author, without the promotional help of a large publisher, he’s had to build a fan base from scratch — and his website has no doubt helped him on this journey.
When readers land on that page, they can immediately tell: which books he’s released (on the left-hand bar), a little bit about him (picture and short bio), and what he’s up to (the blog).
People who Google “Hugh Howey” are likely looking for more information on the man, and an idea of the books he’s written. Howey’s website takes care of these questions immediately, and it’s something that many authors can learn from.
This one is less specific to authors and more of a general design tip. You want to make the experience of browsing through your website pleasant — and you can help this by exercising restraint. Anthony Horowitz is the British creator of the Alex Rider series and the official author of the James Bond series. His website is a perfect example of restraint in design.
Working primarily with a grey palette and yellow highlights, Horowitz’s site is also careful not to use too many typefaces. As a result, it’s easy to navigate and a pleasure to read.
The most important tool in a new author’s marketing arsenal is their mailing list. If you get interested readers to subscribe to your newsletter, you’ll be able to target them time each and every time you have a book to sell. But how do you build that mailing list?
The answer is… a lead magnet.
Mark Dawson is the million-selling author of the John Milton thrillers. He attributes much of his success to his lead magnets. When you land on Dawson's website, you are invited to join his mailing list — and as an incentive, he’ll supply you with a “starter library”, which includes a number of short stories and novellas. Once he has you hooked with those shorts he'll send you an automated email directing you to his “pay” novels.
Check out the site of just about any successful indie author and you’ll spot a lead magnet. It’s a proven tactic that any and all new authors should adopt where possible. If you’re a novelist, offer your first book or a short story for free. If you’re writing non-fiction, you can draw people in with the offer of a webinar, or a worksheet. Just do it!
One problem that authors traditionally had was keeping their fans engaged. If they only put out a book every two years, there was always the danger that they’d lose interest during that time. In 2018, your website provides ample opportunity to keep readers interested in your work.
If you want to see the most successful instance of ‘fan engagement’ by an author, you could do no better than to look to Pottermore.
“The digital heart of the Wizarding World,” as Pottermore claims, is Rowling’s website that not only serves as her ebook and audiobook publisher, but is also where fans can go to access exclusive content. Blog posts that reveal more about minor characters? A digital sorting hat? They can both be found on Pottermore. In fact, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, started off as a Pottermore exclusive short!
Now, not every author can build games and fun quizzes for their readers, but releasing regular short stories and giving them sneak peeks at upcoming works will go a long way towards keeping your fans warm.
If you’re an author who’s written more than one book, you’ll understand that you are a brand. When readers hear your name, you want them to associate it with a certain aesthetic. No matter how small or large your profile is, you can always benefit from reinforcing your brand. Here’s the website of Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn as of June 2018:
With the imminent release of an HBO series, Flynn’s homepage focuses on her earlier novel Sharp Objects. The page is managed by her publisher (which might explain why it’s a little light on bells and whistles) who have managed to pattern the page’s design after the novel’s aesthetic — down to its use of the same font and general minimalism.
It looks like there’s no design at work here, but if see what the page was like when she was promoting her recent novel, The Grownup, you can see that there’s a continual, conscious effort to match her website with the book she’s currently spotlighting.
Maintaining a cohesive brand seems like such a simple idea but, yet again, you’d be surprised how often author websites neglect to do this. Check out this post at Reedsy for more tips on how to create a website that will herald you as an author to watch.