You should have an author website if you are an author. You are in the business of selling books and you need to promote your books. A website can help with this. Don't rely solely on social media and your publisher. A website with a good domain name gives you a destination that is yours. You can tell people about it at signings and conventions. You can send people to it from your social media accounts. It can also be used in promotions, printed bookmarks, flyers, etc.
How you design your author website and what it contains will depend on the type of books you write. However, there are certain components that are consistent with all types of author websites that readers will be looking for, such as an author bio and a list of your books.
A great way to decide what your author website needs is to look at the websites of authors that write books similar to yours. Your author website will need similar components but not necessarily all of them. You might also decide to have some features on your website that you don't see on the websites of your fellow competing authors.
The most basic needs of an author website are information about the author and information about the author's books.
- Bio Page - You must have a bio page. You are branding yourself to the world as an author. You should have an author photograph with your bio. John Grisham has a photo and a pull quote on his author bio page.
- Books Page - You must have a page that lists your books. You should have a separate page for each book with cover art, book description, book blurbs, etc. You should also have links to online stores where readers can buy the book. Stephen King calls his book section The Library.
- Book Tours and Appearances - You should let readers know where they can find you if you are doing a book tour or virtual signing. Some authors call this an Events or Appearances page. Author Diana Gabaldon calls her page an Appearances page. She also uses this page to list places you can keep up with her, such as social media, email newsletter and forums.
- Contact Information - If you are an up-and-coming author you should have a way for people to contact you. You don't want to miss out on any potential publicity. Some famous authors are more reluctant to provide contact information, but most still provide at least a fan mail address. For example, Dean Koontz doesn't provide an email address or email contact form on his contact page, but he does provide a P.O. Box mailing address.
- Social Media - Social media links are technically optional if you are really reluctant to use any kind of social media. Keep in mind that social media is a permanent part of our universe. If you aren't part of it then you are missing a connection to readers and reducing your maximum potential exposure. You don't need to use all the social media sites. Twitter and Facebook are the most popular choices. You should try and get your social media pages verified. See our Authors on Twitter list to get an idea how other authors are using Twitter.
- Press/Links Page - This is a page with links to select interviews and book reviews.
- Blog - Some writers also like to keep a blog on their website. You can find some great examples on our list of Best Author Blogs.
- Photos - There is usually an author photograph on the bio page. You can also keep an updated photo album. Some authors share photographs from their events. You can also use Instagram.
- Videos - You can setup a YouTube channel and record videos. You can also share videos of interviews you have done or a video from a convention appearance or book signing.
- FAQ - Some author websites have a FAQ where they answer questions readers frequently ask about their work. For example, see Nora Roberts' FAQ and Julia Quinn's FAQ. Stephen King also has a big FAQ on his author website.
- Newsletter - Some authors like to have an email newsletter to keep readers updated with their latest work, book tours, etc. It is not a bad idea but don't send emails too frequently or people might drop off your list or ignore your newsletter.
- Excerpts - An excerpt from your book can help give readers an idea what your book or novel is like. You could also provide a link to a look inside feature on Amazon or your publisher's site.
- Advice in Your Niche - If you have a book that covers a specific subject matter you can write about it in a blog or post articles on your site. Some authors do this if they are an expert in a subject matter. It can help you sell books if it drives traffic to your site and your book is related to your articles. If you write for other publications then your advice page could be a collection of links to your articles.
- Other Languages - You can list editions of your books available in other languages. For example, romance author Julian Quinn has a books by language page.
- Comments - You can add comments but there are drawbacks with also comments. Trolls do exist.
- Coming Soon Page - Teasing readers about what is coming next from you is smart marketing.
- Store/Merchandise - If you build a world that becomes very popular with readers you might be able to sell branded merchandise. For example, see George R.R. Martin's store. If you are first time author you should hold off on selling t-shirts and mugs. Focus on selling books.
An important thing to keep in mind with an author website is the concept of website maintenance. Any website feature you add that requires new content will ultimately become a demand on your time. The more stuff you have on your site that you have to update the more work it will require. If you are paying people to update your site it will be more expensive the more maintenance it requires. Even if you are paying people you still have to keep an eye on it and approve or assist with at least some of the content creation for the site.