Author Site Essentials: Navigation

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?


Please note: this was not a real search; it’s just an awesome graphic I made to illustrate my point.

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.

devilsmileI was delighted to know everyone agrees with me.

First a recap:

Onean integrated website and blog – what I call the wlog
I think it’s okay to use Blogger or 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.

Always have…

  • 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).
  • hierarchy.
    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?

screenshot of google with text added by me
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  1. Well, I don’t have a newsletter. (My blog posts pretty much ARE a newsletter!) But think I have everything else covered. Sometimes when it’s a website with a blog, it’s difficult to find the blog.

    1. That’s true (about not being able to find their blog). Why do they hide it?

  2. I haven’t got a clue about how to make/design/create an actual website. But if I did, I would probably just link to my current blog from there.

    1. What you have works well! You have navigation and it’s clearly laid out. The only I would recommend ir removing the Blogger nav bar at the top. They have a check box somewhere for that.

  3. Good post. I get a little antsy when I’m after information and site links don’t work.

    1. We have a lot in common! LOL

  4. I am working on a website now, so this is timely! I want to consider not just the things I think might be handy, but the must haves like this. Thanks for helping me out! 🙂

    1. It’s such a tricky thing because of course we want something that is appealing to our own personal atheistic but it also has to be pleasant and, well, easy for visitors to use.

  5. So very true. There is so much that we do by internet these days that if you’re not on it with your product or service or whatever then you’ll get missed. When I want to know more, the internet is where I go for info.

  6. I rely on my brother and my WordPress theme. It took awhile to get the pages the way I want them. It is important to have a site and a way for fans to contact you. FB seems most popular. Strange, but true.

    1. You have an awesome brother.

  7. and not just writers, I’m shocked whenever I can’t find a site for actors and actresses…. some don’t even have photos circling around the Google…. I mean how do you expect to get roles if you don’t have photos around the net….

    1. That’s true. I think we except to find business information online too.

  8. I think you summed it up when you said, ‘Make it easy’.
    Great post.

  9. Great tips. I hope one day I’ll have enough news to need a newsletter. I do have a website with links to my blog and vice versa, and I’ve designed my site so navigation is clear intuitive and streamlined. I used to do web design, and I don’t care how pretty something is, if you can’t find what you’re looking for it’s frustrating.

    VR Barkowski

    1. I really like your side-half-circle nav in your website.

  10. This is why I hired a friend who likes this kind of thing to make my website. This stuff makes me crazy 🙂

  11. Ace tips Holly. I hate clicking on someones name who left a comment on my blog, only to find G+ page or Facebook profile. I want it to link to their blog/website. I don’t have time to hunt down their links via reading profile pages. And then, when their blog url isn’t even on that profile page I lose the will to find it elsewhere.

    Shah X

    1. G+ is so confusing. I’m never able to find someones blog link in there.

  12. You’re right about navigation as a key to being able to communicate with others. I get very frustrated when I can’t figure out how get around a site or even how to leave a comment. I really hate having to prove I’m not a robot at the end of my post. I usually don’t go back to sites with word verification on.

    I can’t imagine doing more social media than I do, so no newsletter for me. Good luck with it though. I see a lot of those coming out and they do synthesize blog articles and other news.

    I’m back from break and it’s great to stop in again to say hi.

  13. Excellent advice! I had that happen once too. Loved a debut novel, went to look up more, and there was NO FLIPPING AUTHOR SITE! I was beside myself. How could this writer I absolutely adored have neglected the very important aspect of a web presence? I wanted to know more. Gah!

  14. Hi Holly
    what a great post. I’m going to have to come back and investigate more. One thing I think I should do is clean up my blog and delete all negative post I wrote while sick. Being ill makes me depressed and dark.

    1. I periodically pick a month and review my posts and clean the up for typos and clarity as well.

  15. Oh gosh… having a site is so essential! Love your tips. Spot on post as always!!!! 😀

  16. Hi Holly – I just have the one site for now .. but I only blog … yet I can see where you are coming from – and you know your way round all the aspects too … I need a guiding light!

    Cheers Hilary

  17. Wow. Good post! I don’t have a newsletter, but I don’t have that many announcements either. At least not yet. And I hope it’s easy enough to navigate my site. Let me know what you think – you’ve been there! LOL! I’m not great at all that stuff, but I try. 😀

    1. Yes it is easy to navigate!

  18. I guess I have a wlog, and it serves as my newsletter folks can subscribe to. But easy navigation is definitely key. Great post!

  19. Great online suggestions! I started out with a separate website and blog, but ended up moving everything over to the blog to save money and focus on one site…simplification. The ease of navigation is so important.

    1. I agree. It is easier to maintain when it is altogether.

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