Building a website may not exactly feel like it’s something that feels like it belongs in the ole “writer skills toolkit,” but I’m of the belief that it’s extremely important.
Opportunity can’t knock if it can’t find your door.
Your website doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to be wildly inventive, and if you have a unique name you might be able to get away with just having a Twitter account or some other means of being identifiable on the Internet. (It could also just be a blog).
And yes, this post goes for both the published and the unpublished. Everyone seeking publication or planning to self-publish needs one.
In this post, I’ll cover:
- Why you need one
- The “must haves” that belong on your site
- How to make a good one
- Examples of good author websites
What I’m not going to cover is how to literally go about building a website (there are other, better resources out there on that), but rather what authors should think about as they build one.
Why you need one
If you’re already convinced, feel free to skip ahead to the other sections of this post, but if you’re still on the verge of throwing a “why can’t I just write my books” tantrum, let me take a step back and make the case.
First, let me be clear: you don’t HAVE to have a website. Website-less authors are not summarily rounded up and disqualified from seeking publication. I’m sure you can name a bestselling author who is happily website-less.
But it helps.
On the broader point of “Why can’t authors just write,” people often harken back to apocryphal golden eras of yore where authors could just be authors, often pointing to authors like Hemingway… who were actually wildly good self-promoters for their time.
You’re a writer. You want people to read your book. Why would you cede the responsibility to market it to someone else?
You don’t have to do everything yourself (including ahem building your website) and writing a great book is still the most important factor in your eventual success. But you do need to take responsibility for marketing.
A website is a bare-minimum way of putting yourself out there.
Author website must-haves
Are you ready for the list of author website absolute must-haves?
- Your name
- A biography (doesn’t have to be elaborate)
- A way to contact you
It can literally just be one static page on the Internet. All you’re really doing is giving people a means of learning more about you and getting in touch with you if, say, someone comes across something you’ve written or just wants more background and they Google your name.
That said, while this is the minimum it’s better to try to include just a bit more in order to convey a sense of professionalism.
How to make a good author website
A good website can do more than just exist on the Internet. It’s really an opportunity to connect with people you may want to work with or people who may want to read your books.
To me there are two main elements of a good website:
Take some time to consider the design of your site. And if this isn’t your strong suit, find someone to help you. Even if you can’t afford a designer, think of who you might be able to barter with or how you can get creative about asking for help.
Style provides an important first impression. Good design inspires a sense of professionalism and prompts curiosity.
A reason to visit
If you want people to return to your site and build a relationship with you, think about why someone might visit and what you want them to do when they arrive.
- Are you giving great information via a blog or resources?
- Is it a fun experience?
- Does someone who visits your site know what to do and where to find things?
What belongs in a good site
Here’s a checklist of things to include in a well-developed site:
- Your bio
- Your books, if you’ve published. (I’d personally keep things vague if you’re unpublished and trying to find a literary agent.)
- How and where to connect with you on social media
- Your blog, if you have one
- Your newsletter, if you have one
- Events and news, if you have events and are newsworthy
- How to contact you
Examples of good author websites
Here are some of my favorite author websites out there and a few notes about why I like them:
- Tahereh Mafi – Great style
- Susan Dennard – Really good author resources keep me coming back
- Joanna Penn – Tons of resources
- Ransom Riggs – It’s fun to visit the different sections, and well-aligned with his books
- Sarah McCarry – Simple clean design and fantastic blog
- Austin Keon – Strong design and good content
Any recommendations or favorite author websites I missed? Let me know in the comments!
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.
Art: The Geographer by Johannes Vermeer
JOHN T. SHEA says
Interesting, Nathan. Your examples are all attractive, though Sarah McCarry’s ‘simple, clean design’ grabs me the most at the moment, as it looks like it would be readable on a phone (though I haven’t tried that yet) like your blog and John Scalzi’s blog. Sometimes less really is more.
I spend much of my time on social media these days, for practice among other reasons. But I have no blog or author website yet! I’ll probably try a WordPress blog and try not to break the Internet…
Bryan Fagan says
I had to be honest with myself before I created a blog. This had to be long term. I had to be dedicated when creating the best content I could. Most of all it had to be fun.
So far it’s been a huge plus. My blog is new. I stated in January. Now I’m wondering why I didn’t do this years ago.
Sharon Goldinger says
Nathan, I’m a big fan of your blog. You have great information. You asked for recommendations and I have one. It’s a new website platform for authors: http://www.pub-site.com. I have referred an author there and she was pleased with the results.
Cyndi Perkins says
I’m currently vacillating in that purgatory between upgrading my wordpress.com or shifting to wordpress.org. I’d like my blog cyndiperkins.com to look more professional. Maybe monetize it with a buy button for my novel. That’s all. So do I need the org?
I like blogging on a once-monthly basis, have a couple thousand followers, one novel out, more to come.
Also, can you please explain why authors need to do a newsletter and have an email list in which they bug people on a consistent basis? Personally, I hate stuff for stuff’s sake clogging my inbox. And I’m not even a millennial. I can bla bla bla about cool things with the best of them, so it’s not a lack of material. I want to connect with my readers when something meaningful is going on, like an appearance or new release, but I can do that on social media, i.e. a linked blog post and photos and lives while I’m there. If you could share your thoughts on this (they were waxing enthusiastic over the importance of email open rates at AWP2018, said it’s still the most important tool there is) I’d appreciate it. PS I love your blog and I like knowing about it via an inbox notification. 🙂
Nathan Bransford says
Ha I think you ended up answering your own question at the end there. Having a newsletter list isn’t about bugging people, it’s about keeping them up to date when you have something new they’d be interested in!
Rebecca Cameron says
Hi, Nathan… just happened to find this post, and wanted to thank you for the information. Currently planning to leap from blog-only to a more interactive website, and your post was quite helpful. Thanks!
Truphena Mahindu says
Please include some websites by authors from other countries as well.
My favourite author website is Nat Amoore’s.