In Part I of "Creating Author Websites That Don't Suck" we went over the guts. The engine. The foundation of your website. (All the boring technical stuff that is really, really important.)
Now it's time to get your author website looking super schnazzy and ready for business. So, let's get started with:
Author Websites (That Don't Suck) Action Step No.4: Decide on the "Look and Feel" of Your Website
This is probably the most FUN you'll have creating your author website. (It's also the point at which you'll tear your hair out.)
...because there are just TOO MANY frickin' options out there. You could:
- Choose a pre-built WordPress theme (this is the design template for WordPress websites)
- Hire a web designer to create the "look and feel" from scratch
- Use a combination of the two
I've done all THREE. (And spent far more money than I'm comfortable admitting.) But my recommendation would be to a) buy a pre-built WordPress theme (these can run from $17-$50) and then b) hire somebody else to make tweaks as you desire.
Don't try to do any of the heavy lifting yourself. (You'll hurt yourself - and more importantly you'll hurt your website.)
So, here's what to keep in mind with website design:
- Use a theme marketplace, such as ThemeForest, to find your website template. (Tons of designers means more competition for them - and you get to check out their reviews/previews.)
- Make sure the theme is responsive. This means it looks good on a phone. Kinda important these days.
- Make sure personality of the design matches your author vibe. Metallic look and harsh tones may not be the best fit for your historical romance novel series.
- Don't over-complicate it. Yer not running a newspaper, so you don't need a theme with 245 different page templates. Just focus on what the "homepage" will look like and what "posts" will look like.
- Hire somebody, if you're not sure how to customize something. (Otherwise you'll spend hours, trust me.)
Author Websites (That Don't Suck) Action Step No.5: Build the Six Most Important Pages in the World
Creating a website from scratch can appear very daunting. But we're not selling t-shirts. We're just promoting our author business. So all we really need are the following pages:
- Contact Us
- Media Info
Creating these pages is dead easy in WordPress. (Here are some YouTube video tutorials on what to do.)
But WHAT you put on them is pretty obvious - the "About," "Media," and "Events" pages are simply giving folks more info...about you!
And the "Books" and "Events" pages should have links to your...wait for it...books and events. (These pages should have tons of photos
(Don't forget to put your social media contact info on the "Contact Us" page.)
But having created a few of these, here's what you need to know about creating your must-have author website pages:
- The top left of your homepage is the most important location of your website. So save your best/most important marketing message for that primo spot.
- Make sure your homepage has a picture of YOU! Not just your book.
- Your "events" page isn't just about upcoming stuff. Include pictures from anything author-related you did to drum up excitement.
- "Contact Us" info isn't just email address. Include your physical address (what Google wants), phone number, and all social media profile links.
- Put swipe-able copy on your "media" page. Make it read like a press release.
- Spy on other authors in your genre to see what they do. Why reinvent the wheel? (And who's got the time.)
What I Use: YouTube WordPress Page Tutorials (So I know what the hell I'm doing) - Other Author's Websites (Saves you time)
Author Websites That Don't Suck Action Step No.6: Get Some Email Subscribers
Grabbing email addresses from site visitors - so you can sell them stuff later on - is the #1 job a website. (Not showing your parents that you're finally a "real writer.")
Now the process "seems" simple - but so does formatting a book in MS Word the first time you try it. Here's what you do:
- Sign up for an email autoresponder service. I use Aweber. You can use whatever you want. But you need some way to generate a sign-up form and collect email addresses. (And your old AOL email account ain't gonna cut it.)
- Create a vertical (taller than wider) email opt-in form and a horizantal (wider than taller) opt-in form. You do this in your autoresponder dashboard, and usually you'll include verbiage about "Sign Up now for this free thing-y or a discount on my next book" (Example: http://scriptbully.com/movie-making/)
- Place the "vertical" code in a "sidebar widget" and enable the sidebar throughout your website. How to do this will depend on the theme you're runing. If unsure, have somebody on Fiverr do it. (Should take 'em two minutes.)
- Place the "horizantal" code in the upper-left of your homepage. Remember we talked about that spot being the MOST powerful part of your website. (Again, have a Fiverr designer if you're not sure how.)
- Each new blog post you publish, place the "horizantal" code after the last paragraph. (This will entice readers to opt-in.) If you're not sure how to publish a post, check out this YouTube WordPress video tutorial.
What I Use: Aweber Email Autoresponder (Cheap; Reliable; Easy to use) - Fiverr (To handle all my website email opt-in tweaks) - YouTube WordPress Video Tutorial (Everything you need to know about WordPress is on that swirling cesspool of weirdness.)