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

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.

FUNNEL.jpg

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.

Search Engine Optimization for Writers

balance

Search Engine Optimization means boosting natural visibility. The aim is to lift your website, blog, etc. as high as possible in the keyword search result which describes your product. Web traffic is driven by the major commercial search engines, Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

Reasons why you must work with SEO:

  • Most consumers never visit the second page of search engine results. You must get to the first page.
  • The majority of users utilize search engines before they buy a product
  • Direct relevant traffic to your website: people who want to read your genre and who will love your blurb.
  • Yes, I know IT isn’t your top priority. SEO demands patience, but the results benefit you in the long run.

The door to the world of search engine optimization doesn’t open quickly. If it did, optimization wouldn’t be big business.  You can find top companies who will do the job for you–for money. In this article, I explain a few key concepts. Applying optimization means sitting on your butt to untangle a difficult dilemma. But you’ve already overcome the most significant obstacle by writing a book! Use the same iron determination to make your creation visible to the world. Make a habit of looking into your SEO performance now and then.

Keywords

“Your SEO keywords are the essential words and phrases in your web content that make it possible for people to find your site via search engines. A website that is well optimized for search engines “speaks the same language” as its potential visitor base with keywords for SEO that help connect searchers to your site.”

Source: https://www.wordstream.com/seo-keyword

Writing a list of keywords is the decisive step in your search engine optimization initiative. The best keyword research tool is just a spreadsheet. I’m sure you use “book” among your keywords, but that doesn’t set you apart from the competition. Self-publishing has revolutionized the volume of new books.

“Here’s the problem with self-publishing: no one cares about your book. That’s it in a nutshell. There are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone, depending on which stats you believe. Many of those – perhaps as many as half or even more – are self-published. On average, they sell less than 250 copies each. Your book won’t stand out. Hilary Clinton’s will. Yours won’t.”

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nickmorgan/2013/01/08/thinking-of-self-publishing-your-book-in-2013-heres-what-you-need-to-know/#2304f25d14bb

But that won’t stop you from trying? It sure as hell won’t stop me. That’s why finding you from the sea of other writers is a necessity.

Remember to include your keyword in the title, in the first 300 words and topmost headlines. In the body of the text, use variations of your keyword. The point is to think about keywords when you write a blog post, create a new page on your WordPress or other hosting sites. You use hashtags when you post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you didn’t, start doing it now. Watching which content comes up under each hashtag will open a new world for you. It’s the same thing with keywords. And remember to spy on your competitors!

Find out more about SEO:

9 Secrets of Professional SEO Article Writers: https://www.contentfac.com/7-secrets-of-professional-seo-writers/

Sources for Newbies: https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo

What Attracts People to You

Remember to follow up and modify your actions accordingly. See which of your posts get most likes and forwardings. Produce more content which “sells.” I’ve done this on a small scale and my smiley face—yes, good old me—produces most likes when I do something I love: fiddle my guns, run with my dogs, photograph the Finnish nature. A person behind the pen name can be the most exciting thing to your readers. Sometimes, my Huskies get more likes than I do. So what? They belong to the same brand.

The Google keywords heroine post-apocalypse arctic produces one of my author pages as a search result. My work on this was minimal. Yet I ended up on the first result page. The point being that those ordinary words describe The Unholy Warrior, my novel in the making. That’s why I wrote the words into the body of my page’s text.

“When it comes to web pages, Metadata and meta tags refer to the title and description of a web page that are encoded into the page but not actually displayed on the screen with the page. The real consumer of this invisible data and HTML code are the search engines, as this data provides important information to search engines about the content and purpose of the web page.”

Source: https://www.webpresencesolutions.net/metadata-meta-tags-web-page-titles-page-descriptions-explained/

Do study, what attracts people to you. Writers similar to you: what are they doing better? Please don’t compare yourself to Lee Child or David Baldacci. Just Googling thriller writers produces their broad smiles along with Stephen King. These people are insanely famous, and they have otherworldly resources to take care of their SEO. Look into people a bit above your own level, writers who are easy to find. And don’t procrastinate optimization until you’ve published. You’ll waste most of the punch in a book launch. But it’s never too late to start.

Site Tools

WordPress, especially if you paid for the business version, offers you different plugins for free. The pro versions cost but provide a wide range of functions.

SEO_Yoast

Yoast and other top SEO plugins for WordPress: https://neilpatel.com/blog/10-wordpress-plugins-to-turn-your-site-into-an-seo-powerhouse/

Use the plugin of your choice and let the wizard guide you into applying for a Google search engine authentication code (which is just Google’s way of making sure you own the site). https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35179?hl=en

Just by doing this with Yoast, I surpassed a few ladies bearing the same name. Plus I attacked multiple fronts: social media ranks high in search results.

Rebecka_search_results

Searching Google with my full name is just an example. A name is specific. More common search terms produce more competition, but as a writer, you need to be known by your pen name or Christian name. Search yourself from time to time!

Internal Content Linking

Internal links are any links that connect your webpages to one another. You must offer content which serves the customer. He must find what he wants easy and quick.

“Search engines put emphasis on rewarding positive user experiences as they care about their end customer – the searcher. When the searcher uses Google or Bing and finds what they are looking for at the top of the search results, the site is giving their user value.”

That means your site needs to be easy to navigate and the content well written. Don’t think what you want to say, but what your reader needs to hear! And please don’t push.

Five essential best practices for internal linking structure:

  • Put the user first
  • Manage internal link value and flow
  • Structure around content topics
  • Utilize unique content and canonicals
  • Indexing and prioritization

Source: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-internal-links-best-practices/214886/

External Content Linking

“In fact, an external or hyperlink is any link that was posted on another website but points to your web resource. Same way, when you insert a link to another resource on your site – it is called an external or outbound link.”

Source: https://sitechecker.pro/external-links/

Use external linking to direct traffic onto your author site. Use social media with references to relevant content on your blog. Don’t spam. The material must be exciting and allow your followers to spread it out of their free will, and their followers to do the same.

You remember when you learned to engage the reader’s emotions with your writing? Do the same with web content!

Everyone who forwards what you want is your helper in SEO. The more links lead to your page, the higher the ranking it deserves in search engines. That’s why blogging is so useful for a writer. Feature guest writers on your blog. Appear on someone else’s author page and spread the link around.

Final Reminder

I’m just a stupid person who writes as a hobby. If I could get the hang of basic SEO to scratch the surface, so can you.  With $69 per month, a team of experts can do it for you. Where’s the fun in that? Besides, they don’t know your book the way an author knows his child. They won’t be passionate about the product! You spent every free moment for the past months/years writing your story. You know what your readers want to hear!

Remember to use paid advertising in social media to promote your published book and to encourage people to write reviews. Start experimenting (in good time before going live) with Facebook ads, for example. Use small money and measure your results. Refine your actions accordingly. Every system offers great statistics tools nowadays. Take a peek where your fans come from and how they ended up on your site.

Happy search engine optimization!

PS: If you intend to publish traditionally, don’t think the publishing company will do this for you because they won’t.