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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Writing Tip Wednesday--Author Websites

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I’ll be discussing career topics for the next several months. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page or check out my handbook in e-book or print.

An Author Website is one of the most important promotional tools a writer can have. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy, but it should be up to date and easy to navigate.

Creating a website starts with choosing a domain name (the URL). Common names are usually already taken, so many authors add “Author” to the beginning or end of their names. Sometimes, the .com address isn’t available. Using .net is an option, but consider how often readers may accidentally go to the wrong website. Is the other site for an author? A plumber? A porn star? Prices can also vary from hosting company to hosting company. Take time to do a little research before making this big decision.

The next step is deciding on hosting services. Some options like Blogger and WordPress offer free blog sites that can double as websites. Strictly website hosting services are also available and vary a lot in price. Some have upgrades for a higher fee, allowing the user to have more pages and access to more design options. Again, research is key to avoid overpaying for service.

Some website builders have templates and some require a fair amount of technical knowledge, including writing html code. Website designers offer many services to those who aren’t adept at such skills for varying prices to build the site and additional monthly, semi-annual, or annual charges to maintain the site and update information when necessary. Compare costs and time.

Content is next on the list. Branding should be a large part of the artistic content. Stock art is a great option and can be purchased for relatively little money in many cases. All art should be used only with written permission from the owner if digital rights have not been purchased. Using licensed photos and illustrations without permission is illegal and can result in the owner not only requesting the work be removed, but pursuing legal action against the user. Artists don’t like piracy any better than authors.

Be sure text portions are easy to read and free of errors. Use a large enough size and simple font for comfortable reading. Blurbs, excerpts, and informational text with mistakes can give the impression that the author’s books will also contain misspelled words, misused words, and/or grammar issues. Authors can lose potential readers by not proofreading text on their websites!

The layout should be well organized and the color contrast should be eye-friendly. Too many intricate designs and harsh colors can distract. Some background/text color combinations are difficult to read. Simplicity usually works best. Take advantage of multiple-page websites by using a different page for each series, publisher, or genre. Works-in-progress, upcoming books, and contests for readers can fill the pages of a new author. Add book covers and buy links as well blurbs, excerpts, and future release dates. An organized site is easier to navigate. Consider a professional photograph with digital rights if including an author photo and biography.

Be sure to include links to all your social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Pinterest, Amazon author page, blogs, etc.). Allow readers quick access to interaction. A single click is far more effective for connecting with readers and selling books than two clicks or a Google search.

Ask for feedback from friends, other authors, and readers. Use their comments and suggestions to refine the website and make it visitor-friendly. When updates are needed, don’t delay. Keep your storefront up to date for your readers!

Check out your favorite authors’ websites. What features do you like? What can be improved? Do certain colors draw the eye? Which ones make reading difficult? A little research can provide insight into what works and doesn’t work.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

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