Elements of Website Design For Authors

Web site design

The matter of website design; it all depends where you’re at. If you just started publishing short stories, a blog would be perfect for you and easy to create. Maybe you have ten best sellers out (congrats, you lucky bastard!). That means your author website must house different sales channels.

This article is only a superficial scratch on the fascinating theme of web page design, but I wrote it to guide you onto the path. Remember that you can always add features and scale your business.

Look At Your Competitors

As with book covers, a bit of industrial espionage pays. Check out your competition and write down the observations.

  • Visual content. What’s to like? Images, the free white space which lets the central elements rock? 
  • Commercial content and plugins: buying her book was super easy! I loved his blog.
  • Mechanisms of interaction: I subscribed to her newsletter with one click. I followed his social media accounts in an instant.
  • The fonts are gorgeous. I want that CSS! (stands for Cascading Style Sheets). https://skillcrush.com/2012/04/03/css/

Don’t worry if you don’t get CSS. Themes come with fonts, and you use them like in a text editor; by choosing titles and default text. Experiment.

Phases To Go Through

  1. Choose your platform (WordPressWix, etc.)
  2. Choose a domain name (no cryptic words, make it easy for people to find you!). Register the www- address.  How to get a domain name 
  3. Install the website builder of your choice. Best website builder software: https://www.thebest10websitebuilders.com/charts/2/best-website-builders
  4. Get familiar with the dashboard of the software. 
  5. Choose a theme: https://www.wpbeginner.com/glossary/responsive-theme/
  6. Create a header that consists of a headline and a theme image. Canva is great for making graphic elements. It’s free and offers multiple styles. Choose pictures and a theme that goes with your genre.
  7. Add your core pages. I suggest the following: front/home page, landing page (for offers), books for sale or upcoming books (presale marketing). Additional pages to your liking: short stories, author bio, guest authors (swap for publicity), blog, competitions, and whatever you like.

More information and detailed steps by The Write Practicehttps://thewritepractice.com/building-an-author-website/

Up-to-date Content

Yes, it’s a great idea to have a blog and a newsfeed and social media interaction on your page, but remember that you must keep up with the pulsating beat of updates.

Outdated content from the year 2017 won’t speak for you, to the contrary.

Images

Start with static elements and design them well. Please keep it simple but use high-quality photos. I’ve discussed how to buy commercial pictures in my previous blog post: https://rebeckajager.com/2019/12/11/how-to-design-a-book-cover/

The Main Message

“Authors often make the mistake of thinking that people visit their websites just to read their bio. Are you, the author, important? Sure, but your book is more important. Let people know they’re on an author’s website by making your product the star of the show.”

Source and more information: https://blog.reedsy.com/author-websites/

Tell the potential customers who you are as an author, and advertise your book. Always add a functioning link to Amazon or some other bookstore. Remember that each extra action causes your customers to fall out of the sales funnel. Make buying as easy as possible

Establishing a PayPal account and using the PayPal button has become rather easy nowadays. Remember to count printing, sending the book, and all other expenses so that you break at least even. If e-commerce becomes too complicated, just use the Amazon/Nook/Kobo/Play Books, etc. links with a buy now- button.

Remember to test. Everything on your page must work before you publish it!

An extra puzzle: what would make people come back to your site?

Plugins

A plugin is a mini-application that you can incorporate into your site. Most website builders offer a range of free plugins, but extra features demand a small monthly/yearly fee.

Examples:

Always test that the plugin works before you publish new content! 

Experiment, read DIY- articles and try again. If you fail, log into Fiverr and search for a skilled IT person.

For more information: https://www.makealivingwriting.com/12-essential-free-wordpress-plugins-for-your-writer-website/

Site Speed

If your header image is 15 Megabytes and takes twenty seconds to load, nobody cares if it’s incredible. Pack your images and lose the extra byte size. 

For more information on image formats: https://themeisle.com/blog/best-image-format/

Test your site speed with several different browsers and operating systems. Ask friends and family to experiment. Post a poll on social media and allow fans to voice their opinion.

Scalability

Scalability means that your website theme and the mechanics behind the visual facade adapt to different viewer devices and screen sizes. Open that mobile phone of yours and check your visuals. Ask friends to look at pages and click on the links. Request an honest opinion and have them answer a few questions. The process is similar to the beta reading of your book.

Remember that having no author site is the worst option. Having a 90s feel with everything blinking 100 mph is almost as bad as having no page. Boasting a smooth functioning website is your calling card as a professional writer. 

SEO- search-Engine Optimization

People must find you among a kazillion other writers and bloggers. If you don’t know what the infamous SEO means, check out my previous blog post on the subject: https://rebeckajager.com/2019/03/12/search-engine-optimization-for-writers/

Building An Author Brand

Branding means that you use consistent features throughout your virtual existence. Having the same account name everywhere and using a logo helps people recognize you wherever they stumble upon your content. 

A film-noir color scheme on your website? Great! (if you’re a mystery writer). Use the same header on your social media. After you get the hang of branding, a consistent effort soon becomes second nature.

But, a brand is much more than colors and visuals. You know what a writer’s voice is, don’t you? The brand is your voice when it comes to the web: instantly recognizable and consists of a thousand little things.

“Brand is everything people perceive you as. It’s your personality, every word you write, the fonts and colors you use, the way you make people feel when they read your books or visit your website. Many people wrongly equate brand to a logo or website colors and although these are brand elements, a brand is much more than just these graphic aspects.”

Source and more information on branding your writing career: https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2017/11/10/authentic-author-brand/

Remember that practice makes perfect. 

Landing Page

Start simple and add complicated elements after you master the basics. Create a landing page if you don’t know what else to do. Many website builders and emailing software offer articles and advice on how to create a simple landing page.

A landing page should:

  • House your writer bio (short) 
  • Show off your products = books
  • Engage the customer and keep the conversation going
  • Offer promo codes and discounts (IMPORTANT!)
  • Advertise an incentive to a selected group of customers (give them a VIP-feeling)
  • Gather those precious contact details

Source and more information: https://mailchimp.com/resources/landing-pages-design-tips/

TIP: Think like your customer. What do you value when you look for a book to buy?

Have fun, and ask me if you’re baffled. Request to join my Facebook group for writers to discuss the matter: https://www.facebook.com/groups/569574570248527

The Delicate Art of Taking Author Selfies

As a writer, you’re active on social media, right? For most of us, talking about our work comes naturally after a period of awkward shyness. When you gain confidence, advertising your book or short story becomes second nature. 

There’s an extra asset: you! Yes, your readers are dying to know who you are and what’s your writing process. Here, we enter the terrifying phase. For those who don’t take selfies daily, the first author photograph would be the image on the back of your book. The book cover artist will ask for the author’s portrait to accompany a passage on your writing career. 

Why should a customer pay for your book? Because you’re a hell of a writer, duh!

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Some examples or yours truly as the model.

The Dreaded Moment

For some of us, one extra photo among a mobile stream of selfies is no biggie. Just capture your profile using the best camera angle at the end of a selfie stick and open an image retouching app. Voila! The bravest of writers venture on dangerous soil: publish a bikini picture from the recent vacation.

For the rest of mankind, letting the world see our wrinkles, puffy eyes, and triple chins is a nightmare. If you have serious self-confidence issues, I suggest a visit to the professional photographer. He or she will create an atmosphere of a world-famous author and highlight your best features. This method also ensures the required quality pixel-wise.

The Gadgets

If you do half of your marketing by yourself (like me), learning to take selfies is a required skill. Discovering how to display your best side brings personal joy as well. Readers communicate with the author of their favorite book, especially if they know what you look like.

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Image source: https://besttopreviews.net/best-gopro-selfie-stick-remote-control-review-2017/

A selfie stick is used to take photographs or videos by positioning a digital camera device, typically a smartphone, beyond the normal range of the arm. This allows for shots to be taken at angles and distances that would not have been possible with the human arm by itself. A quality selfie stick can save your phone from being dropped into the Niagara Falls as you pose for the perfect photo!

The rods are typically extensible. Luxury models, which work via a wireless connection, have a remote shutter button. And that is an excellent feature if you want to show your followers the beauty of your homestead.

Camera Angle

Using the stick allows you to include the scenery. Also, the downward-facing camera angle makes your face look narrower and the eyes bigger. For me, this works as my puffy eyes disappear. Experiment, it’s fun. I’m forty-eight years old, but with some secret tricks, I look thirty.

  1. Look up toward the camera
  2. Extend your head away from your neck
  3. Relax your mouth, and exhale
  4. Instead of holding your phone in front of you, keep it to the side 
  5. Spin until you find your best light. Direct daylight and fluorescent tubes produce images that are worlds apart. Find which lighting suits you.
  6. Use props like hats, scarves, and sunglasses to hide flaws. As you become a better photographer, you won’t need them.

Source and more information: https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/a12378/take-the-best-selfie/

An extra hack: try the camera’s portrait mode.

The Retouching Apps

Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are professional image manipulation applications, and their price is compatibly high. I use both and will never go back. But you can search for free mobile apps from your app store. Most house advertisement which might distract use but offer pro versions for a few bucks.

To name some

  • AirBrush
  • FaceTune 2
  • Pixelmator
  • Photoshop Fix
  • Fotor
  • Visage
  • TouchRetouch
  • Parfait
  • YouCam Makeup
  • VSCO
  • And many more…

Source and more information: https://expertphotography.com/photo-retouching-apps/

Source and more information: https://www.dailydot.com/debug/best-selfie-apps-iphone-android/

The Beginner‘s Mistakes

If you write romance, why not exercise a 1980s soft filter? Most novice photo retouchers amplify each effect to the max, which will leave your face and background hazy. Every follower spots you overdid the editing.

Narrowing your face and enlargening your eyes will make your author selfie look like a Manga character. And that’s fine if you write manga, but a serious writer wouldn’t wear teddy bear ears and nose either, even if the app offered some.

The best selfies exhibit you in your natural habitat. If you run each morning, take a selfie in front of the sunrise. If cooking is your hobby, why not take a casual photo with the delicious result?

Maybe you bought a new dress? Share the end result of hairdressing and makeup. Most of us enjoy life’s simple joys. Whatever your interests are, some of your readers know in an instant what you mean. Your dad’s old SUV might work as a backdrop. We don’t need a tribe of Bedouins as extras for a full-blown Hollywood photoshoot in the Saharan desert. But if that’s your thing, I say go for it.

You rewrote your opening chapter twenty times, and the same goes for learning to edit. Retouching a photograph is like editing a book. As with everything else, practice makes perfect.

Check out my Instagram profile.

For more visual content, meet me on Pinterest.

Subscribe to The Writer’s Newsletter for more tips.

Why Every Writer Needs a Newsletter

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Want to start a writer’s newsletter? I heard the BLAH. But you want people to buy your book, don’t you? Everybody screams: yes! Maybe you have an author presence at several social media platforms, and creating another content channel feels like much work and no fun.

I always say: choose your weapons. We have our preferences, and someone swims like a fish on Twitter as the next person loves Instagram (I do). When you open a new channel to reach for your readers, nothing is more direct than a newsletter. The preferred message arrives at people’s private inboxes. The list of your newsletter subscribers is a database of potential book-buying customers.

The Introvert Dilemma

Many of us are introverts and miss the golden times when authors sat typing while sipping red wine and chain-smoking. The manuscript traveled via snail mail to the publisher who took care of the rest, which became history.

Well, those days are long gone. Even if you hook the agent with a genius query letter, and consequently, Barnes & Noble is dying to publish your book, they still want you to market it! The agent takes a look at your social media presence, and so does the publisher. Do you blog? How many subscribe to your newsletter? Three? Thirty? Three thousand? The numbers don’t lie; they tell the professionals that you know how to market, and you’re a potential moneymaker. 

Writing is easy; selling the book is the hard part. Not selling has created more disgruntled ex-writers than booze and the Second World War combined.

The Facebook Poll

If you’re not a member of my Facebook Writer’s Group, join now: https://www.facebook.com/groups/569574570248527

I asked the members which issue I should blog about next, and the answer is (ta-da): Author Newsletter.

This is because writers think the newsletter is the hardest channel to create because of technical difficulties with WordPress plugins and what-not IT- problems. But there’s another obstacle which is more difficult to overcome: fear of marketing your brainchild.

The Key to Your Online Presence as a Writer is Making a Connection

There’s no going around this evil duty: you must establish a newsletter. And newsletter marketing is so much more than blasting: “Buy my book!” on days without end.

“If you’re an author, this means identifying the target market for your books and understanding how they spend their time online. If you’re writing for a young adult audience, spend some time immersing yourself in the densely populated online world of YA readers and writers. What do they like to see from YA authors online? How do they discover new books and new authors?”

Source and more information: https://writersedit.com/self-publishing/ultimate-guide-establishing-author-newsletter/

And: https://writersedit.com/self-publishing/ultimate-guide-online-author-presence/

 The Subject Matter

Think about your Social Media posts. You’ve established a set of content types and subjects which your followers enjoy. Use that knowledge when you create newsletters. Programs like MailChimp (which I use) have excellent tutorials that guide you toward better marketing. The web overfills with marketing courses for writers. Ask your author friends who sell impressive figures, on Amazon or elsewhere, how they studied marketing.

Steps of creating The Author Newsletter

  1. Choose a newsletter program to use. MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact, AWeber, and many more.
  2. Embed a subscription form on your website. Sometimes you need to copy-paste a string or HTML- code from the newsletter software to WordPress or whoever hosts your site. Allow subscribers to sign up via a form in the sidebar or footer on every page of your website.
  3. Decide how often you send. Once a month is enough if you ask me. This frequency also allows you time to design awesome content.
  4. Gather subscribers before sending out anything. Offer a freebie in return for giving their email address.
  5. Compose your newsletter. Promote the newsletter across Social Media and build your subscriber base.

Legal Matters

Don’t add anyone into your subscribers unless you have their permission! Also, learn about spam legislation in your country. 

 Organizations that don’t comply face hefty fines.

Source and more information: https://writersedit.com/self-publishing/ultimate-guide-establishing-author-newsletter/

What To Put in Your Newsletter?

The answer to this question depends on who you ask. Googling the search term: “What to put in your author newsletter” produces some great articles. Think of your products and who you are as a writer. Draw lines around what you feel comfortable sharing.

A list of possible subjects:

  • Share customer reviews 
  • book excerpts 
  • cover reveal, or a sneak peek
  • giveaways: a signed copy of your book or a chance to ask you questions about your characters
  • Share your blog
  • Exclusive articles that you don’t share elsewhere. Give your subscribers the feeling they are VIP, part of a selected few.
  • who you are as an author and a person
  • awards from writing competitions and honorable mentions
  • writing advice
  • spotlights on other authors
  • books that gave you inspiration for your writing

Source and more information: https://allthekissing.com/2018/10/what-to-include-in-an-author-newsletter/

Be Patient and Study Statistics

Remember that new skills take time to master. You spent several years learning writing and developed through trials and tribulations into the author you are today. Study how each post does. MailChimp and others offer excellent spreadsheets for statistics. Take heed of the percentages: how many opened your email? Did the opening produce link clicks? Don’t replay errors and use the themes & content which people love to open and follow. 

You do this with Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, don’t you? If not, start immediately. 

Each link click loses a percentage of your customers. Design your newsletters in a way that offers direct, clear statements and endorses a call to action. Allow subscribers to comment and respond. Pick a theme for each newsletter. If you lead your subscribers into a maze of confusing directions, they won’t end up buying the product.

The Funnel

Seeing that only 1,3% of receivers ended up clicking the Shop Now-link of your recent newsletter might depress you, but the funnel explains what happened. It’s normal; most customers don’t come out as frequent buyers at the bottom.

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Image source and an interesting article on digital sales: https://www.crazyegg.com/blog/sales-funnel/

“A marketing funnel is a collection of stages that prospective customers move through with the first stage being the awareness stage. Marketing funnels were designed to push these potential customers through the buyer’s journey to ultimately purchase a brand’s products or services.”

Source and more information on funneling: 

https://powerdigitalmarketing.com/blog/a-guide-to-marketing-funnels/#gref

Study funnels and everything else. And stay patient because an expert industry attempts to unravel the secrets of buyer decision making and the psychology of the hunter-gatherer. As an author, you are a start-up business, but leave time for child-like unchained creation. Do something small every day to add subscribers to your list. Post daily on social media and learn to publish content which has a demand. Before you know it, you have cracked the killer combination. 

Even if you end up with the email addresses of sixty people, that’s sixty more than the guy or gal next to you.