Is Your Author Website Helping You or Holding You Back?

Don’t let your website sink your career

Imagine you’re the captain of the good ship D.I.Y. Book Promotion. You’re heading straight into the seas of indifference and your boat is chugging hard. Your author website should function like the prow of the ship, helping to cut through those vast and stormy waters. Your website should make your voyage faster and safer.

But in reality, is your website helping or hindering?

Pro-looking websites are essential promo tools for independent authors.

Depending on the visitor experience, your website can either earn you new readers, encourage reviewers to actually give your book the time of day, make it easy for press and bloggers to cover your story, and help you feature your content in one simple location (videos, essays, links to interviews, audio of readings, etc.)—or prove to the world that you shouldn’t be taken seriously at all.

Here are a handful of ways to tell if your website is on your side.

It’s gotta pass the 3-second test

Studies have shown that a visitor will have an emotional response to a website within 3 seconds. Do they trust you? Do they think you’re respectable? Does the quality of your presentation resonate with them on an emotional level? If not, they’re going to hit the back button and forget about you forever. Don’t let that happen. Here’s how to make sure your website passes the 3-second test.

Your website should go where you steer

Your website should serve YOU; not the other way around. If you’re spending less time promoting or writing because you’re having to wrestle with the technical aspects of website creation, design, upkeep, and hosting—it might be time for a new web solution.

If you’re not a coder or a designer, check out HostBaby for Authors for some great template solutions that will help you create a pro-looking website in minutes.

The vibe of your website should feel authentic

Your website’s aesthetic has to match the mood of your work. Hot-pink is probably a bad color choice for a crime writer’s website. Helvetica might be a bad font choice if you write medieval fantasy. But choosing font and color are only the beginning. You need to consider everything from the design to the photos to the bio to the e-commerce experience. The visitor should understand something more about you from the way your site looks and behaves.

Your website shouldn’t be an unintentional time machine

So many author websites look like they’re straight out of 1998. (I’m looking at YOU, George R.R. Martin!) If we go back to the “prow of the ship” analogy—don’t let your ship’s hull grow barnacles. The website is often the first thing a critic or reader will encounter when it comes to your writing life; it should look current. It should shout “hey, I’m here, and I’m active, and I care enough about my career to keep this site fresh in terms of content AND design.”

And remember, it’s easier to slap a new coat of paint on a boat once a year than it is to replace the whole rusty hull. Just do routine maintenance and the occasional design fix, and you’ll avoid having to do any major overhauls.

The visitor should know where they are

This one is obvious, but somehow also frequently overlooked: your website should have YOUR name big and bold at the top. Web-surfing is not the best place for mysteries. We like to know we’ve arrived in the right place when we’re doing a Google search. Similarly,…

The top navigation should be crystal clear

Don’t make your visitors have to bust out their own maps and charts to make their way through your website. Use standard names for your navigation buttons/pages. For instance, “Bio” is a better name than “Exposition,” “Upcoming events” is better than “Me, in the flesh” (which could be confused for a bio, or a book title, or… something else.)


So, how’d your website do? Did it pass all the tests? Great! If not, these problems are easily remedied. If you need any help with website creation or hosting, please check out HostBaby for Authors and try it FREE for 30 days.


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Chris Robley is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."


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