Thursday, January 12, 2006

Build a Better Website

Through my Book Promotion 101 work and as a program organizer for the Virginia Festival of the Book, I look at an awful lot of authors' websites. And too many of them are indeed awful--amateurish, poorly organized, with vital information hard to find or nonexistent.

Here is what every website should have:

1) An experienced designer! You get what you pay for (but don't overpay either). A good designer can set up your site so that you can edit the content yourself. Your website is your public face to the world. Make it crisp, sharp and professional-looking. As a friend of mine in ad sales once told me, "Presentation is everything."

2) A good proofreader & copy editor! (Not you. The more eyes checking it, the better.)

3) URL should be []. If you must use [], it should lead to [].

4) An image of your current book on the first screen of the home page with title, publisher, publication date, purchasing information & blurbs.

5) Separate pages for Author Bio, Press/Reviews, Events, Contact, Book Excerpt, Other Works.

6) MAKE IT EASY TO REACH YOU! Contact page must have your email address (you can encrypt it and/or set up a separate Yahoo/Hotmail/Gmail/etc account just for website mail); contact info for your publicist (her name, title, email & phone #).

7) Bio page should have a good, clear, recognizable picture of you, with a high-resolution (at least 300dpi) PROFESSIONAL headshot that journalists & event organizers can download. This means: No blurry snapshots on vacation or in front of a bookcase. No pix of you with pets/kids/spouse/partner.

8) Meta tags on (at least) your home page with your name, book title & key words. For example: Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, orphan, orphans, orphanage, pickpockets, gangs, Fagin, London, 19th century.

9) No flash animation on home page (takes too long to download & watch). But if you must have animation, have a "Skip flash" button.

10) No automatic sound (annoying/embarrassing for office workers). Offer sound as an option (for example: see website for Becky Motew, author of the upcoming COUPON GIRL.)

Here is a nearly perfect author website:
LOVE WALKED IN by Marisa de los Santos. My only quibbles are that she doesn't have a URL for her name & no meta tags, so a Google search for her name didn't lead to the site.


      Anonymous said...

      I actually don't mind the non-professional photos, so long as they're clear.

      Sounds? You don't like the lion roaring on Holiday Reinhorn's Big Cats page? It rarely fails to surprise me!

      Dan Wickett

      Anonymous said...

      So, was the typo under #2 a joke? :-)


      Bella Stander said...

      No. It was a perfect example of why someone else should proofread your work. (And now it's gone.)