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Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Anatomy of a Website

Courtesy of LegendsWeb

A website is becoming more and more important for authors as the world goes more digital.

But what makes a good website? Here are some ideas for the basics--please feel free to add your own in the comments section. :)

Pre-author (Still writing the book phase)

  • Register your domain name: most places charge a $10 a year fee to do this. Better to get it before you need it, than to find it's been taken when you're ready to put up your website.
  • Reserve your social media names: same reason. You may never use them (ex: some people prefer Twitter over Facebook or vice versa.)
  • This is where most authors start blogging. 
Pre-publication (Yay! The book's written and it's coming out.)

  • Decide what kind of tone you want your website to have and how you want to professionally present yourself.
  • Write up an "About" page. Most of these are done in third person. Some are written in first. As a reader, I love reading about authors--providing what I'm reading is interesting. It's all about voice.
  • FAQ pages can be fun and helpful. (If you get the same questions from people over and over again.) It's also a great place to put your stance on beta reading solicitations.
  • Contact page. It's a good idea to have a way for fans to contact you. Something I've done to avoid the spam bots finding my email address is to use a contact service like ContactMe.com. You can also post a picture of your email address, because while your fans can read it, the bots can't. (At least, I don't think they can. O:))
  • Book page. Here's where you put all the relevant information for your book: cover, blurb, and release date. It's also not a bad idea to include the first 1-3 chapters or so (this will depend on your publisher) so people can get a taste for what's coming.
  • Include the social media links to the places you hang out.
  • Extra content. Having a short story set in the world/with the characters of your novel or something similar can give added allure to both your website and your book. Think DVD extras and don't be afraid to get creative.
Post-publication (The book's out!)

  • News page. This is the place where readers can see what you're up to professionally. This could take the form of what you're working on next, any places you'll be for signings or conferences, or contests that you or your publisher is hosting.
  • Update the "Book" page with links for where your book can be found. 
A word about design

When you're designing your website (whether you do this yourself or hire someone to do it) it's good to keep a few things in mind.

  • Keep it clean and simple.
  • Make sure it's easy to navigate. You've spent all this time on the content of your website, make sure your readers can find it.
  • White text on black backgrounds are elegant-looking, but they can be murder on the eyes of your reader. Especially if they are light sensitive or are prone to migraines.
  • Keep it quiet. You may have found the perfect music to set the mood for both your book and your website, but resist the urge. Or have a player on your site that the reader has to turn on manually.
  • Captcha. Opinions on this will vary with most hating it. I only turned on the captcha when it became apparent that I was a spam bot favorite. I hated doing it, but I hated having to clean up my website every day (I use wordpress.org) more.
  • Flash. Flash animations are awesome. They're also time-consuming to load depending on your reader's Internet setup. There are many a gorgeous site I ended up giving up on, because they took too long to load.
  • Flashing neon lines of text that move across the screen. Just . . . don't. It distracts from the rest of the content.

Danyelle Leafty| @danyelleleafty writes YA and MG fantasy. She is the author of The Fairy Godmother Dilemma series (CatspellFirespellApplespell, and Frogspell), and can be found on her blog. She can also be found on Wattpad.


Leslie S. Rose said...

This post is GOLD. Bookmarking immediately.

James Garcia Jr. said...

Thanks for sharing. I have been doing this for a couple of years, and although I have done a few of these, there are several more tips that I can put into place. Thanks.

Suzanne Lilly said...

I like how you divided this article into pre-publication and post-publication. Thanks for the excellent advice.

Danyelle L. said...

Thanks, Leslie. I hope it's useful. :)

You're welcome, James. I hope it helps. I'm still learning a lot as I go. :D

Thanks, Suzanne, and you're welcome! :)

Jeanne Lowery Meeks said...

Timely and helpful post. It appears that Word press suggests combining blog and website. Do you think they should be separate?