What does it take for an author website to truly stand out? It’s important that a website loads fast and looks professional, but what are the features that really make author websites pop? It’s the same as any other website. A site needs to answer only one question: Does it serve the intended purpose and serve it well? All else is extra.
Writers want to connect with readers, want to provide information to journalists and bloggers who would write about them, and want to present themselves well to take up opportunities to speak at conferences, enter into partnerships with other creatives or organizations, etc. So our websites need to make it easier for us to do those things.
Over the last few months, we’ve rounded up some websites which showcase different aspects that we feel serve writers well. Here they are, with our top feature from each site.
Please note, that some of these websites may have changed since we did these reviews. We have screenshot videos on our Instagram feed of all the sites we are referring to if you want to see how the site looked when we wrote this.
Award-winning Designer, Author, and Art Director, Miquel Reina’s website is an example of how a site doesn’t need to be complex to be effective. His site is simple, clean, and easy to navigate.
Sara Raasch is the author of the NY Times bestselling ‘Snow Like Ashes’ trilogy and ‘These Rebel Waves,’ a duology.
Her website is another example of what a simple site, hers is a one-pager, can accomplish. Simple. No frills. Gets to the point.
Our one recommendation would be to add a more robust bio to compliment the light-hearted, fun ‘about’ section she has. This makes it easy for journalists and bloggers who want to grab your bio and don’t have the time to rewrite it formally.
Haruki Murakami is a novelist and translator from Japan. Haruki is a significant contributor to Japanese literature, receiving several prestigious awards for his fiction and nonfiction works. The Guardian also named him one of the world’s greatest living novelists.
Our favorite parts of his website are the ‘community’ and ‘resources’ sections. They are a solid recognition of his fans and offer readers different ways to interact with the writer. Readers can submit comments about their favorite scenes or characters, or even fan art for the gallery on the site.
Tamika Christy is an award-winning author who writes stories based on real-life issues such as mental illness, family dysfunction, and relationship woes.
We love how she uses a lot of her own photos for her blog posts. So many other blogs rely on stock images and if it’s possible to use your own clean, well-taken photos, go for it. Readers can almost always tell when photos are yours – and it makes a difference.
Don’t sweat it too much though. We don’t want you spending your time posing for photos instead of writing.
We can’t get over how Neon leaned on their name and made the main color on their website a bright neon green.
The thing we love most about this site though is how Neon actually gives options to download high res photos to use on blogs and in news reports and also gives 25, 50, 100, and 150-word versions of their bio.
They get it! This is what we’re always talking about in our website reviews on Instagram – making it easy for people to write about you. You have no idea how hard it is to find decent images and biographies for most writers we deal with.
Yang is the author of the critically-acclaimed ‘Tensorate’ series of novellas, with books and stories published as JY Yang and JY Neon Yang.
When you have social proof, use it! Bestselling children’s author Linsey Davis does this well on her site.
Bamm! Right there on her home page are four videos of her being interviewed on The View, ABC News, and Good Morning America.
On her ‘About’ page she has more social proof – a photo gallery showing her with well-known people holding her books. While this may not get you more readers directly, it gets you more opportunities to be in front of more people who could be potential readers.
N. K. Jemisin
You’ll start to notice a trend here. Your author website does not need to be complicated. N. K. Jemisin’s minimalist site is a good example of this. We love the straight-to-the-point approach.
Notice also how she has a high res, easy-to-use publicity photo on her about page with clear copyright and fair-use instructions. I cannot reiterate this enough. Having good photos of yourself is the gateway to lots of free publicity. There are so many times when I’ve been doing articles about a group of artists, say shortlisted writers for an award and only one of them has a decent photo. Guess whose photo gets to be the face of the article?
The one recommendation we would offer for this website is to make more use of the home page by profiling her latest book.
Jemisin also has different versions of her bio on her ‘Press Kit’ page (20 words, 47 words, 151 words, and an extended version. Once again, This makes it super easy for journalists and book bloggers to copy and paste the one they like into their articles.
One of the big challenges on the web is how do you present information in different languages? Do you build two separate websites? Or two distinct parts of the same website? Do you embed a translation feature – which you know won’t be 100% accurate?
On Sandra Cisneros’s author website, she tackles this challenge in a simple but elegant way; split the page in two and have one side in English and the other in Spanish.
The other feature we absolutely dig is the guestbook she has on her site. There was a time when guestbooks were all the rave online – and then they disappeared. And here is Sandra saying forget trends, I want to give people a way to say something to me that is not a comment about a particular page on my website. Nice.
The moment you land on her homepage, you don’t need to ask what sort of writer Leigh Bardugo is. The theme, colors, and font selection all scream out FANTASY in a beautiful, dark way.
We also love the ‘Reading Order’ page which introduces you to her work and shows you where to begin if you want to enter her ‘Grishaverse’ world of fantasy.
Refer also to the post we made recently which talks about a tool on Michael La Ronn’s website that helps you find a book to start with from the many books he’s written.
When people come to your website, some want to find out about your books, others want to know if you would make a great candidate for an opportunity they have. One of the oft unspoken uses of our author websites is as an easily accessible way to document all the things we have accomplished.
Roxanne Gay does this well on her site. Her comprehensive lists of publications and appearances immediately impress upon the visitor who does not know her that she is a serious writer and activist.
If you want to bring people’s attention to something; your latest book, your new podcast, etc, one way to do that is to have nothing else but that ONE thing on your home page.
Enter Mike Chen, whose home page is currently one screenshot long and has nothing but a feature of his latest book, ‘Light Years from Home.’
Mike Chen started writing as a child. His stories blend science fiction elements and themes with intimate, human interest stories. “In my stories, there are no epic wars or fate-of-the-universe events; instead, they’re tales of family and friendship and humor that just happen to have some time travel or an apocalypse.”
The only thing we wish he had is a bio in the third person. If you don’t know why by now, you need to go back and start reading from the top of this article.
A number of the websites listed here have this feature; a way for readers and fans to sign up for updates. We think the way it’s presented on Reynold’s website is dope though. It’s bold, big, and hard to miss.
If you’re a serious writer in this for the long term, a mailing list is one of your most powerful marketing and connection tools. When you develop a solid list, a core part of your readership is always one email away. That’s powerful.
How do you make money as a writer? Meera Kothand’s site is one example after another of how you can monetize your work; sell books, offer online courses, offer lead magnets, etc.
Her site also features her books which are written for online entrepreneurs – and writers fit into this group ;-). The free courses alone are worth the visit, especially if you’re still new to email marketing, blogging, or information product development.
Give them free stuff! People love free! Brandon Sanderson understands this and uses his site to give away free chapters, free short stories, and annotations for his books. In exchange, readers leave their email addresses and everybody wins.
Sanderson also gives readers status updates on his projects.
Why just give them free chapters? Arora takes the ‘free’ mantra to new levels by giving away a whole book for free on her site.
A lot of new authors will struggle with this idea, but the idea of the permanently free book ‘permafree’ is pretty common on Amazon, especially by writers who have a series of books. They give away the first book in the series for free in the hope that readers will like the story so much that they buy the rest of the series.
Jyoti Arora is an author & blogger known for thought-provoking novels with riveting stories & heart-touching characters.
Article by Fungai Tichawangana
Research and additional input: Princess Alava