Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A checklist for your author website

Hey YAtopians! Your resident publicist, here. I've been spending a lot of time lately looking at writers' websites for my day job (Event Coordinator at my county library) and have been repeatedly frustrated by some of the same missing information.

So I though I'd share a checklist of all the things I'm looking for when I go to a writer's (unpublished or published!) website.

1) Contact Me

This should be noticeable somewhere on the screen as soon as the page loads (above the fold, if you will), with no scrolling or clicking on other pages necessary. If you want to be contacted by media and people who want to give you free publicity, this is not optional.

If you do not handle your own publicity or right negotiations, make sure these contact people are also listed clearly on this page - not at the bottom in 2.5 pt font.

On a side note: It's my personal preference to have an email address versus a contact form, because I can track who I've emailed in my "Sent" folder. ESPECIALLY if your pen name is Jane Doe and the name on your email address is Reignbow Moonblood and you don't mention the discrepancy and I'm like, "I've never heard of you, you crazy person?"

2) Social Media Links

Facebook and Twitter, at the least + anywhere else you want people to find you. They either need to be immediately visible or somewhere that makes sense to a four year old, like on your aforementioned "Contact Me" page, not on your "Writing Inspiration" page. (I wish I was joking.)

3) Your Books

For the love of Godiva almighty, if you have published books, don't make me go on a scavenger hunt to find info about them. As I say to clients, make it as easy as possible for people to give you money. This info should not be (only) in your sidebar or in your About Me page. You should either have an overall "Books" page or a page for each book.

On this/these page(s), you need:
  • your cover
  • your blurb
  • external buy links - this means Amazon and B&N at the very least. I know most of you get higher royalties if we buy from your publisher's website, but you don't get any if we don't buy it at all. We are comfortable with the stores we like and don't trust strange online stores in the age of identity theft.
  • if the book is not yet released, clearly indicate the release date!
  • optional: the name of your publisher (if it's a selling point)
  • optional: one or two short review quotes. NOT pages and pages of quotes.
  • optional: a link to the book's goodreads page
  • optional: ISBN
  • optional: if you have magazine/journal articles you'd like to highlight, the bottom of this page is a good place

The following things aren't what I would consider "necessary," but highly recommended:

4) Some Way to Subscribe to News

Whether it's an option to subscribe to your blog via email or a more official newsletter, make sure people who want to receive updates about your books can easily do so.

5) Meet Me / Meet Sarah

Don't do this. I don't know if this means "About Me," or "Contact Me" or "Meet me in person."

On a related note, if you're doing in-person events, make sure to have these somewhere clearly labeled on your site. If you just call it something like "Events" or "Appearances" you can post virtual appearances as well.

That's all I have for now, but I'm sure I'll think of more later today. Probably when I'm in the shower. :-)

If you'd like me to take a look at your author website and provide (very brief, very basic) feedback, feel free to leave your link below!


  1. This is great, thank you! I'm bookmarking this for review when I'm updating my website in the next few weeks!

  2. Great points! If a pretty page doesn't have a link to social media sites easily available, I get very frustrated :)

  3. Great post. I'm nowhere near making an author website yet, but I'll definitely keep these things in mind!

  4. How would you suggest handling it if there's reason to be leery of putting the e-mail address out there? I'm really gun-shy about putting out my contact info, even through an off-site contact form, after getting some angry, abusive e-mails in the days of my old Angelfire site. Even though I don't discuss heated or sensitive topics anymore at my new site (it's primarily writing-based), I'm still nervous that a few people might do that again.

  5. Carrie-Anne, I understand how that can be tough. I took a look at your site to get some background info. Basically, you have to make the decision - you have to decide if your fear of verbal abuse is more powerful than opportunities that may arise: say, for instance, a reporter is doing a piece on Atlantic City in the 1940s and wants to feature you and your books; or an editor is looking for a writer to write a Russian historical novel and wants to contact you for a proposal; or the coordinator of a book festival is looking to fill a historical fiction spot at their event.

    If missing those opportunities is worth you keeping your inbox asshole-free, then don't put contact info on your site. But know that you will miss those kinds of opportunities over and over again.

    If you do decide to make your self accessible, what I would do is set up another email address specifically for public use. That way, if you do find yourself receiving those emails again, the email you use for business and private communications won't be tainted and you can just shut it down.

    Another option is to ask or hire someone you trust to screen your emails for you.

    Hope I helped!

  6. Your contact details should easily be seen, whether it's your email address or social media profiles. Opening different avenues for clients to purchase your products is a big must. Make sure that you regularly check the details that you'll post here. User's might come back once in a while to ask questions. :)