You’ve probably all read a bunch of posts on “10 things your author website needs to include”, right? If you haven’t, read The Basic Components of an Author Website by Jane Friedman, it’s probably the best one.
But there’s a problem: what if all authors who set up their websites all follow the same design “rules” and advice? All these websites end up looking exactly the same, with a good old standard layout: home, books, about, contact bar. Of course, you need all these, but that’s no reason for displaying them the same way everyone else does…
Let’s look at some of the best author websites out there and think about why they stand out from the crowd; how they carry the author’s brand and drive readers to convert to specific goals (buying a book, signing up to the newsletter, etc.). Crucially, we are on the hunt for originality – the special something that creates the “wow” moment!
Tip #1: Stay within the boundaries of your brand
Understanding what your author brand is and how it engages your audience is crucial to designing any author website. A fantastic example of this sort of thinking is Mark Dawson. He has one of the best author websites out there. In fact, it’s more than just a standard website: it’s a powerful portal to capture readers instantly and communicate his message.
Strong colours highlight a clear, single call to action that incentivises readers to sign up to a mailing list by giving away free books. This design has the simultaneous effect of shading the standard contact bar to the background. The text is brilliant: a clear and effective communication that is consistent with the brand. The single-page design of the website is also effective. Too much unnecessary jumping around different website pages can be distracting for visitors, and this is a good way of keeping the reader’s focus. Scrolling down the page, the focus is clearly on the books, as opposed to Mark himself, whose bio is towards the bottom. This is a clever decision, again focusing on the books and characters. Note how he only uses two social shares (Facebook and Twitter) at the top, directing readers to a specific selection of social media that is appropriate to his audience. Never spread your marketing efforts too thinly!
Tip #2: Focus on one core message
Mark’s website is a great example of the power of focus and selection. What aspects of your own author website you want to make a focus? Concentrate your energies on a few things and your power to engage and convert readers will increase dramatically. From thrillers to sweet romance, next up is the beautiful website of author Steena Holmes. Again, the design is fantastic. Gentle colours, charming hearts and an elegant text throughout is exactly what readers expect from Steena’s work. There are similarities with Mark’s website: an immediate link to conversion, with alternating “Coming soon” and “On sale now” directors.
Tip #3: Be personal and honest
The originality in Steena’s website comes from the personal touch: a “Meet Steena Holmes” section says it all – the ability for readers to connect personally with Steena is a crucial insight behind the construction of the website. The website is charm, gentleness and personability encapsulated. What is your relationship with your readers, and how can that best be expressed through your website? Honesty is key here: all reader / author relationships are different. Figure out what your relationship is like.
Tip #4: Think balance and proportion
From sweet romance to dark fantasy, we now go on to the rich and engaging website of Ben Galley. Ben’s striking use of imagery – including a faded static background image – really makes his website stand out. Moving down from the focus on his latest book (notice the crucial patterns here?!), we see what is original in the design and website integrations.
As well as being an author, Ben is also a publishing consultant. His website is original in that it manages to incorporate all his different facets – videos, blogs, mailing list, book progress updates and his personal cloud – all into one website without it being overwhelming, or the different elements becoming confused. The clarity is a matter of balance and proportion. If you are an author who also offers other services, think about how you can integrate them stylishly, so that one section does not overwhelm or distract from another.
Our final website is something completely different again – the website of Chuck Wendig. Chuck’s website is straight to the point, perfectly echoing his brand: the name of the website matches the font, his tone (NSFW / NSFL) and his social media presence. It’s able to be slightly ‘messy’ because it all rests on a clear white background – a great design choice. Once again, the whole website focuses on the work. You have to click the top button to find out anything about Chuck himself. The crucial thing about Chuck’s website is that the animations look fantastic, but they are not unattainable to any author. Have a play with them and see how dynamic, fun and engaging the are. Yes, you will need to spend money on a front-end developer if you want results like this, but just look what the results can be from a bit of investment.
Tip #5: Invest in design and user experience
Think about what you are prepared to invest into your website to make it stand out of the competition. Authors work in an extremely competitive market, and if you want to take your career to another level, it may be worth seriously considering what you look like online. All these websites are seriously impressive. They are able to be original because a lot of thought has gone behind the core aspects of each one.