In today’s internet-centric society, an online presence for authors is expected. I didn’t really realize that until I read a book, liked it, and automatically went searching for the author’s website–and couldn’t find one. Crazy, right?
So first, get a website. But once you have one, what do you need?
I have my own preferences, but I went searching around the web over the past month and found several must-haves.
I was delighted to know everyone agrees with me.
First a recap:
One: an integrated website and blog – what I call the wlog
I think it’s okay to use Blogger or WordPress.com and a separate site as long as they have the same look and a visitor can easily move from blog to site and back. If you only have one–it should be the website. Readers primarily want more information about you and your books.
Two: RSS feed buttons are crucial
Don’t rely on Friends Connect, especially now that Google Reader is gone. Yes, people can copy and paste your URL into their favorite reader, but they have to remember to do that! Put the links in your sidebar–have options–include email subscriptions. Make it easy.
Three: Have a newsletter
I knew I liked this feature, but after researching, I found that readers look for this on their first visit to an author’s site. And let me reiterate this is an author’s announcement mailer: new releases, upcoming conferences, and signings. Not writing tips, not a rehash of blog posts, and not daily (or weekly or monthly for that matter).
Okay, on to the new essential!
Golly, I’ve been to some sites where I just don’t know what’s going on.
- navigation “before the fold” or “above the fold.”*
This is an old newspaper term that literally means before the fold of the newspaper. The lead story and important information always came before the fold. On the web, it translates to before the scroll. (Clever how I did that, right?) Navigation should be on the top (right above or below the header) or in the sidebar at the top. Don’t hide it in the footer!
- links that include: home (to your website homepage), contact, about me, projects, blog (if you have one). Other links: agent/publisher information, press kit, your specialty stuff such as a writers workshop, sci fi group, etc.
- follow through with navigation.
Navigation needs to be on every page in the same place. This is also good for SEO (search engine optimization).
This is especially true if you have a series. Don’t list every book in the series in your links, just the series title. That should link to page that lists each book in the series. If you have several series, link to your books, then to each series, then to each book. I know it sounds like a lot of linking and clicking, but visitors will appreciate the ease of finding what they are looking for. (And it will streamline and de-clutter your navigation.)
- some indication to let the visitor know where they are in the structure of your site.
This could be coloring or highlight the link in the menu or it could be providing a breadcrumb trail at the top of the page (below the header) for example: Home > Books > Series 1
- internet conventions.
It’s standard practice that the logo is a hyperlink that will take the visitor back to the homepage. This is a convenience web-users expect, so don’t disappoint them.
- someone test your navigation.
Make sure you test it too! I’ve been to many sites that link incorrectly using htp:// or miss the .html, or simple misspellings.
- page to page links, no popups.
Don’t have your navigation links pop-up into new windows. It gets annoying fast! If you have proper navigation, you don’t need it. If the user wants it to open in a new window or tab, let them do it.
Authors: Can people navigate the mysteries of your site?
Readers: What a must see in the navigation area for you?