Best Author Websites – This article (for aspiring and established authors) is the second part of a 3-part series on how to create an effective author website. If you haven’t already done so, click here now to read Part 1: Author Website.
This article series reveals the 7 critical ingredients of the best author websites. It also introduces several case studies and examples of some of the best author websites that my team has helped authors create… so you can model them.
The best author websites: establish credibility, impress literary agents and publishers, help their authors promote their book, get more exposure, make more money, and make a greater difference in the world.
So, let’s get to it…
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Best Author Websites
7 Essential Ingredients
As a reminder from part 1 in this article series,
the first 3 ingredients are:
1. An inviting welcome message
2. Irresistible FREE offer and opt-on
3. Two types of content (web pages and blog posts)
Oh, one more thing…
If you haven’t yet read my Author Platform article, you might want to do that now before you continue. It’s kind of the “umbrella” article that explains what an author promotional platform really is, why it’s important, and how to create one that’s irresistible to literary agents and publishers.
An author website is just one piece of
the proverbial promotional pie!
Okay, now we can talk about…
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Best Author Websites – Ingredient #4
Products and/or Services
If you’re an author you might not think you have much (or anything) that falls into this category. But you do. At the very least you should have a prominent web page devoted to your book. Yes, even if you’re still unpublished. The best author websites always include a summary or book synopsis (think flap copy) that serves as a teaser (not just for future book buyers, but also for literary agents)!
Just make sure (if you’re seeking a literary agent and publisher), that you clearly state, at the beginning of the web page with your book on it, that you’re seeking an agent and publisher. I even suggest that you do this in red font to be sure they don’t miss it. Otherwise, book agents and publishers will get confused and think you’ve already published (or self-published) your book.
If you’ve already published or (self-published) the book you’re making available to literary agents and publishers, that’s a bit more complicated. It’s never too late for a previously published author to get a literary agent, traditional publisher, and book deal… but it can be tricky. Click here to read an article that talks about that, and a few other things you might find interesting and helpful.
Now let’s move on to…
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Best Author Websites – Ingredient #5
If you have ‘em, use ‘em.
I’ve jokingly told people privately (now publicly) that
I’m a (excuse my French) “testimonial whore.”
Here’s proof: Coaching Testimonials
Here’s MORE proof: General Testimonials
Don’t judge me.
You’ve got to be semi-shameless if you’re going to “pitch yourself”. Remember, you’re not just pitching your book. Your pitching YOU, as well. It feels awkward at first for most people (it did for me, too), but you’ll get better at it. Probably not used to it, but better at it. So start stretching yourself in this area. Soon you’ll be comfortable asking people to tell you why they love you and what you do. Because they probably DO (or they probably WILL) love you and what you do.
Keep in mind…
It’s just marketing.
I get testimonials from my coaching clients whenever possible. I don’t do it because I need people to stroke my ego. I do it because it’s effective. I know it’s effective because my clients tell me things (like what you see below) AFTER they sign up to work with me:
“I’m always skeptical. That’s because there are so many people on the Internet telling you they’re the greatest. They say, ‘I can do this and I can do that. We’ll give you the secret solution to solve all your problems if you just give us $15,000 and your firstborn child.’ So the hundreds of testimonials on your website were very convincing.”
When one of my author coaching clients said that, I thought it was great… told him it was so good that I was going to use it. Why? Because it’s true and we all know it. I can sit here all day long and tell you I’m good at what I do. Anyone can do that. But it doesn’t mean anything.
If you’re smart, you aren’t going to believe people like me who are promoting themselves (at least not 100%) when they have something to gain (like your business). You’ll be much more interested in what other people have said about the person (who’ve actually worked with the person), because those statements are more credible.
Literary agents are no different.
They don’t want to work hard to figure out if you’re telling them the truth about how good you and/or your book are. They prefer to hear “social proof” from someone else that they know they can trust.
The best author websites have testimonials.
So, make sure you start collecting (and posting), all the wonderful things that people have said about your book (and YOU as a person).
It’s all good.
Don’t have any testimonials?
That’s okay, let this article be a wake-up call to start gathering them. And, just so you know, it’s possible to contact famous bestselling authors (completely cold, without any connection to them) and get them to give you blurbs. I tell all my coaching clients exactly how to do it.
And it works.
I’ll tell you more about THAT another day…
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Best Author Websites – Ingredient #6
Most of the time it’s a bad idea to talk about yourself. That’s because most people don’t know how to do it very well. So, how do you write a biography that people will enjoy… just as much (hopefully) as your book?
Write your bio in two stages.
When you’re writing the first draft, let it all out. Don’t filter yourself or overthink it or hold anything back. Just make sure you write down everything that might (at all) be interesting or relevant. The keyword at this stage of the process is “comprehensive.”
Then let it simmer.
Come back later and look at it again, this time through the eyes of your target audience. What do they really need to know? What will they relate to? What do you want them to think about you and your book? What do you want them to feel? What problem are you solving for them? Is that being communicated in your bio? Did you include any details that made you appear vulnerable or showed your imperfections so you’d be more likable and people would be more likely to trust you?
Lastly, ask yourself if you did everything possible to make your bio interesting. I’m a big believer that HOW you say things is just as important as WHAT you say. I’m not saying that style if more important than substance, of course. But why not use both to make your writing more compelling and enjoyable?
Because you can!
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Best Author Websites – Ingredient #7
This is (mostly) pretty obvious but not completely so don’t skip this section. I have one or two “zingers” that you might not have considered (especially as an author).
Yes, the best author websites have a contact form or email link. And the best author websites always include a mailing address. But please don’t use your home address on your website. I did that early on as an agent when I had a home office, and I had strange people bringing manuscripts to my door on Saturday morning.
Without coffee or croissants.
Now, the best author websites also include social media links. You never know how someone important is going to contact you. I’ve had some of my authors get “followed” on Twitter by famous celebrities and authors. If you’re paying attention, notice when that happens, and message the person… you could end up forming great relationships and (of course) getting more testimonials! I know it might be hard to imagine, but this has happened to several of my authors, so don’t neglect this area.
The best author websites always include a phone number as well. Someone important might need to reach you quickly and a phone call is the best solution. For example… a couple days ago my wife and business partner, Ingrid Elfver (founder of Born Celebrity), was contacted by someone writing an article for In Touch magazine. They wanted to get Ingrid’s thoughts about some of today’s hottest reality TV stars.
How cool is that?
Ingrid would have missed out on the opportunity
if she hadn’t made it easy for them to reach her.
They needed to interview her THAT DAY.
Moral of the story?
The best author websites make it easy for people to get in touch. You never know who’s going to show up at the virtual front door of your author website.
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Then click here to read part three
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Mark: I have three things to do: my mother’s care and bills, gardening for exercise and socialization and working on my writing. The Bridgeport novel will soon complete itself. I’ve had to revise my eating, as many of us have, because of wheat and gluten allergies. I am using “Brain Grain” by Pearlmutter as a guide. Without healthful eating, my three ring circus will not be possible. The future will be huge for me as you and Ingrid will experience. The world stage awaits. Remain patient. :Joel
Hi Joel, glad to hear that you’re eating better… and gardening. Exercise and diet are important for all of us, even more so I think for writers, who go so deep inside themselves. We need the physical activity to help us stay healthy but also to keep bringing us back to reality and the present moment. Getting too lost in our heads isn’t a good thing. Oh, and it’s easy for me to be patient. So don’t worry about that. I’m always coming up new projects to keep me busy and entertained. 😉 Wishing you and your mother all the best. Mark (and Ingrid)
The redesign of your website, including author website coaching, demonstrates again your sincere help in getting us book deals if not a series of them to gain a presence in the publishing field. Also, you have thereby responded to the call from me and others to become a comprehensive literary advisor in that regard. One of the necessary steps is marketing and an internet presence. Your advice falls in line with a course of action I chose as the best possible.
Hi Joel, I hope you’re having a good weekend and your family is doing well. I just got back from the gym and I’m catching up on comments. I’m glad you got some inspiration from the author website article series. And it’s good hearing from you. Just so you know, we think of you a lot now on different occasions when we eat garlic since you sent us some from the farm. It’s all gone now, but the memories aren’t. 😉 Wishing you a warm and wonderful Spring. And looking forward to our next steps together. Mark (and Ingrid)
Instead of garlic, I will share Belgium shallots with you this year. I will plant them Tuesday. With family matters getting under control, the concluding chapters of my Bridgeport novel came into focus. Family members supported me in committing my mother to a dementia unit to allow me to live my own life. It was a needed but painful step. As I got free of the problem, my writing blossomed again and urged me to complete it. Stories at best have lives of their own. Thanks again for your support.
Hi Joel, I thought you were done farming! Maybe you have a small garden behind the bookstore? You really don’t have to send us anything. We just appreciate knowing that you’re think of us, as we are you. Glad to hear you’re continuing to make progress with your writing, and you seem to be through the most challenging part of your family situation. Here’s to continued blossoming. Mark
Lot’s of room for thought here. It is obvious that getting my website up is going to take a lot of work. I am glad of your advice just as I am starting not after I thought I had finished. I plan to divide my WEB site into 4 parts; 1) Homepage 2) Writing where I will publish poems and start a weekly serial, 3) my paintings and 4) a social justice blog “What kind of world do you want?”. Will make these the reason to sign on.
Wish I had a magic pen to write all this “guff”
Hi Erik, I did just get all your backlogged emails by the way. I’ll respond to those ASAP. Responding to comments on my site right now. Keep taking deep breaths and enjoy the creative aspect of all the content development. The time will fly and you’ll have it all finished before you know it. Have a great weekend and see you soon. Mark
After this teaching piece, I am going to not sign with amazon/Kindle for a while. You are a terrific teacher.
Thank you Deborah, Amazon is great… but only when you’ve truly exhausted every other option with literary agents and publishers. Why pay to play when you can GET PAID? 😉 Mark
Most insightful, indeed.
Keep up the good work, Mark.
I shall tweet this.
Thank you Wendy, glad you’re liking the series… and sharing it. 😉 Mark
Great follow up from part 1 of this issue. I found the part about broadcasting you are looking for an agent v. interesting. You mention that it’s best not to reference an ebook that didn’t sell well. I currently talk about my first novel on my site – it was never published & when I have submitted novel 2 to agents (v. close to doing so), will re-edit novel one. So do you think I should leave the first novel up on the site or take it down? Thanks Mark.
Hi A.K., I’d probably take it down… since the first thing agents will want to know is how many you sold, etc. And that will work against you. Make sense? Mark
I think even though it was never actually published or for sale, that question will come up. I really appreciate your advice – Thank you so much 🙂
Happy to help, and have a great weekend! Mark
OK, My question is about the Products/Services section:
How much is too much?
I have what I call my personal slush pile of manuscripts, both middle grade and Picture books, Fiction and Nonfiction, for readers from Kindergarten through 6th grade.
So how many from that pile do I tease on my website? Do I make one Pay Dirt page with links to each of the books? Do I somehow group it by genre, age group, or interest level and make a page based on each group? Or do I highlight one and rotate them?
Hi Jen, too many variables for me to answer that here. I’d need to talk it through with you. As I think you already understand, there are a lot of different ways to go about it, depending on your goals… everything else on your site… and the genres. Mark
I think you hit the nail on the head, Mark. I need to figure out what my goals are. I can’t finish this website until I have a clear idea of the end result.
I also think I need a writer’s break. I’m starting to think that everything I write is horrible, that nothing will ever be polished enough. I know that’s not true, but before I delete everything, I’d better take a breather.
You know the dinner in your Fre*e Mp3? That scares me, even on a good day. Is it weird to be relieved when rejected?
Hi Jen, good idea about getting clear on the end goal before continuing… but sometimes it emerges as you’re working on it. Don’t be too hard on yourself about your writing. You’re probably better than you realize, and just need a break… like you said. And look forward to that dinner, feeling a bit scared is always better than not feeling anything. 😉 Have a great weekend. Mark
Such interesting stuff! You could advise those online personal ad contestants to change their profiles as well! Smiles. Terrific to learn of it all. Do agents view site announcements of manuscript availability as a sign that nobody has picked them up yet, and perhaps for good reason? Should a writer thus “not” advertise that they’re not yet contracted by anyone? There’s probably a “humble meets confident” balancing place to stand regarding one’s book? Thanks so much for your insight & expertise!
Personal ad contestants? You lost me. I haven’t had any coffee or tea yet thought this morning so it might be me. Please do explain. Regarding your question about agent perception, it’s more important to be clear that your book is available for literary agents and not self-published if that’s the case. By the way, book agents don’t know if you just started marketing your book or if you’ve been doing so for months. Plus you need to put something on your website. 😉 Some people don’t have more than their book. Oh, and thank YOU for being part of my community and always letting me know that someone out there appreciates my work! Mark
Great! That makes sense! And it’s ME who hasn’t had enough coffee (or Chardonnay) then yet, as I just thought advice on, “How to write one’s bio,” & “making great offers,” & claiming to be “available”could ALSO be great classified ad/dating profile advice!Thankfully I’m off the market, but I hear that ads today are funny! And photos funnier!Or miss representative.ANYWAY,it’s great to read your columns!Oh, I Smoked an exquisite Sauterne soaked rabbit yesterday! (Not every day is camel). Cheers!!!
Hi Leah, ah… now I get it. I knew I was missing something. 😉 You always make me smile. Cheers to you as well. Ingrid and I went to Il Divo last night and had a bottle of champagne with dinner prior, celebrating getting our taxes done. Happy Day! Mark
Mark, your insights are, again, valuable and point to actions that are not impossible to accomplish. As far as “irresistible free offer” on my home page — I do have 40 or more of my rock songs on a “SONGS” page available for FREE download, but don’t think I’ve made that plain enough to first-time visitors. (I will.)
I also have lots of reader testimonials that need to find a place/page. Meanwhile, I have lots of short humor pieces, but it’s difficult getting even friends to “like”…what’s up?
Hi Ken, I’m glad you think it’s doable. And I like your approach to the giveaway. I know a lot of people hate hearing about the extra “work” but to me it’s creative expression that’s fun if you get your head right. And yes, it’s hard as hell to get people to share stuff. Everyone is so busy and wrapped up in their own agenda. That’s why nurturing relationships (and bribing people from time to time) is so important. 😉 Mark
I don’t presently have a website. I am interested in it but right now, I don’t want to take any time or energy away from that agent list I’m working on. I’m totally confused about the literary agents who read three or so chapters, ask for more and then I don’t hear anymore. At least tell me NO or Yes or Maybe or stop writing or needs this or that. But to just disappear and never respond is amazing to me. I Love everything that Mark send and I read with intensity and I am just a sponge.
Hi Phyllis, hang in there… and follow up with agents after 8-12 weeks when they have a full. Then call them. Remind yourself that you’re doing them a favor. They’re reading your work and might want to offer you a contract. They’d appreciate hearing from you before you start sending out more queries. Think of it that way. They’re notoriously slow and busy. Long response times are normal. You have to chase them a bit sometimes. I know it’s annoying, but easier when you know it’s how it works. Get enough interested and then they’ll chase you. Keep trusting the process and thank you for your support. Talk to me later about a website after you get more queries out. 😉 Mark
I’m jumping in here to point out that what Mark is suggesting to do here is NOT the same as cold-calling them right out the gate. Agents generally find it annoying if you try to query them over the phone, especially when their guidelines say not to. What Mark’s saying is that once an agent has requested a full, you might have to remind them that they asked for it. And that might mean a phone call. Maybe no one was confused about that, but just in case…
Hi Jen, good point. She’s a client of mine so she knows that, but it’s good you brought it up so everyone isn’t calling agents to pitch their work. That doesn’t go over so well. Mark
I am a writer for middle grade adventure books. The Star series is about a 12 year old girl and the adventure she encounters. I have completed the first two books. I am having trouble connecting to an agent. I have sent out about 30 queries over the last 8 months with no takers. Is this something you can assist me with? I realize the books have to be good to get anywhere and I think they are.
Hi Dan, that’s exactly what I do. If you haven’t already done so, listen to the fr*ee mp3 featured here on my homepage at https://literary-agents.com. That will give you valuable tips and a sense of how I can help you. Then sign up here for a coaching call with me: https://literary-agents.com/book-marketing/book-marketing-coach/. I’ll help you as much as possible during that time and show you why you’re not having more success. Of course we’ll also figure out during that time if we’re a good fit to do more together. I have programs where I work 1-on-1 with people until they get an agent (if I believe they have what it takes to get an agent). Mark