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

How to Design a Book Cover

covers

Most books evoke a feeling the instant you look at them. In the perfect scenario, the title whips up the intrigue, and the cover has gorgeous artwork. As you read the blurb and author bio, you become convinced that you must buy this book. 

The surefire elements to use in a book cover are the Main Character and the setting of your story. Most authors choose this scenario. Some book cover artists have a special gift of creating motion, but a static capture of your hero/heroine in his/her natural habitat works. The aim is to inform the customer about the following facts (within a few second’s decision time):

  • genre
  • mood
  • main character
  • setting and era
  • theme 
  • author

If you’re unsure about your book’s title, read my previous blog post about the matter: https://rebeckajager.com/2019/09/27/the-trouble-with-naming-your-book/

Look at other author’s choices. If you find a cover that matches all your hopes, find out who the artist is, and hire him/her. Collecting a set of all-time favorites helps you decide on the critical elements. If you hire a professional graphic designer, he will ask what kind of covers you like.

What you need to decide

It doesn’t matter at this point who will do the cover. Before any of the graphical work starts, you must make up your mind on several matters.

  1. Do you want to feature your main character or characters on the cover? If the answer is yes, you must know what the hero wears and how the heroine loves to braid her hair. What is the Main Character’s weapon of choice? Remember that nobody knows your sassy protagonist like you do. 
  2. Setting/ the background. Do you have an essential place in your book which could work as the backdrop of the cover? Decide on weather, time of day, geography…and so on.
  3. Do you have a color scheme or other preferences? Which matches your idea of a cover style: magical, sparkly, dark, futuristic, dystopian? Bright light or a sharp contrast?
  4. What are the themes of your book? Which genre? Do you want a traditional cover or something which will stand out among your numerous competitors?
  5. Do you have symbols that could make a different cover?
  6. What fonts do you like? What is your subtitle?
  7. Author bio: you need an introduction to the back cover. Why would people read a book by you? Who are you as a writer?
  8. Blurb!! This is important. Why would the readers love your book? Write the blurb for the ideal reader.
  9. Provide the artist a defining moment from your book. Do you want this moment portrayed on the cover?
  10.  If you adore some book cover, define what is so great about it? Fonts, image, design, style?

Symbols

Sometimes, you need to stand out among competitors, and that means choosing a different approach.

Symbols

A modern dystopian example of symbol usage is The Hunger Games trilogy. George Orwell’s 1984, a classic, has worn several famous book cover designs since the first edition in 1949. This evergreen dystopian has spawned famous words like “Orwellian.” The ever-watchful eye featured in many a cover of 1984 has become the icon of Big Brother.

Another dystopian example is Margaret Atwood’s The handmaid’s Tale. We all know what the red hood means. The books mentioned above (and their movie/tv-series adaptations) have become so famous that their imagery is part of our subconsciousness. If your story has a central theme or a potent symbol, why not use it. 

Doing It By Yourself

An e-book cover for Amazon is the easy part. But if you plan on publishing a paperback and a hardcover, not to mention an audiobook, you must know the exact dimensions! Printing a book with an error in the trim size becomes expensive. If your book comes out in several formats, I suggest you hire a professional designer.

Amazon KDP paperback templates: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G201834230

You need to know in advance:

  • Operating system (Ios or Windows)
  • Trim size: the most common trim size for paperbacks in the US is 6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm), but you have several trim size options. If you’re unsure which size to pick, find books with content similar to yours to get an idea of what readers expect.
  • Language
  • Page count which affects the trim size
  • Remember to leave room for the barcode on the back

Choose a Cover Image

The easiest way to start is to choose a photo from an image bank, download it to Canva or some other graphic editor and start experimenting. If you’ve got excellent image manipulation skills up your sleeve, combine two or more images.

Each image bank embellishes available photos/illustrations with keywords. You can find the spitting image of your MC by listing physical descriptions. Reserve time for the search. The cover is your book’s face and one of the critical components of buyer decision making.

“This should go without saying, but your picture should match your genre. Could you imagine if Stephen King’s It had a cute puppy on the cover? The reader would surely be in for a surprise. Now, that example may seem a bit extreme. But there are too many authors out there who don’t get specific enough with their picture. And remember, your photo shouldn’t just fit your genre. It should also support your specific book.”

Source and more information: https://kindlepreneur.com/book-cover-ideas/

Image Banks

The services mentioned below rank their stock in different categories. You should always check the license of a particular image before you use it on a print product. Each company offers various pricing and payment methods. You can buy a single image or several each month.

IStock: https://www.istockphoto.com/

Shutterstock: https://www.shutterstock.com/

Getty Images: https://www.gettyimages.fi/

123RF: https://www.123rf.com/

Design Tools 

Canva https://www.canva.com/create/book-covers/

(Free and Pro versions have different characteristics.)

Adobe Photoshop: https://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop.html

Adobe Illustrator: https://www.adobe.com/products/illustrator.html

Adobe Spark: https://spark.adobe.com/make/book-cover-maker/

Font Choices

“Fonts are unquestionably one of the most important things that appear on a book cover – often being the “make or break” factor. The type of font you should use will largely depend on the genre that your book is written in. A recommendation that I made in my previous blog posts is to always look at the bestselling book covers within your genre.”

Source and more information: http://inspiredcoverdesigns.com/the-best-fonts-to-use-on-a-book-cover-by-genre/

Factors to consider:

  • Layout
  • Sentence structure
  • Direction
  • Color

“A study from an MIT psychologist found a direct link between a poor layout and negative emotions in readers.”

Source and more information: https://kindlepreneur.com/book-cover-typography-font/

Hiring a Professional Graphic Designer

Decide if you’ll settle for a premade cover. The process is easy, the artist replaces the Lorem Ipsum text with your author name and book title, bio, and blurb. But you won’t get a unique book cover.

Example: https://thebookcoverdesigner.com/

If you want the designer to make an exquisite cover, start by looking for professional illustrators and artists:

Fiverr

Reedsy: https://reedsy.com/#/freelancers

Choose category design.

Or Google for book cover designers. Ask other authors about experiences working with a particular artist.

How to Make Sure Your Readers Love The Cover?

Publish different versions of the final cover on social media and ask your followers to voice their opinion. Cover reveals work as pre-release marketing. You can even design a campaign or contest around the cover reveal.

If you need help, ask me. I also design book covers.


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