Stand Out: Building An Author Website That Sells Books

Image courtesy of Wes Peck

When people hear of something new—a product, business, celebrity, book, or author—what’s the first thing they do? Get online and find out more. Just like judging a book by its cover, people judge authors and books by their websites. That makes effective web design another way to prove to readers that your work is worth their time.

Since most writers don’t have to time or skill to pursue web design effectively alongside their writing work, below is a list of web designers who have experience designing engaging blogs and websites. Each has unique strengths and styles, and they range from independent artists to members of larger design groups and publishing organizations. Each shares their advice for authors and a bit about their work in their own words. They’re listed alphabetically by first name. (Leave a comment if you or a web designer you know would like to be included in this directory.)

There are many other ways to find a web designer. Start with referrals from other writers or by tracking down the designers who created websites you love. The Graphic Artists Guild also has listings of web designers to help you find the right fit. You can also find web designers on LinkedIn, or you can post an ad on Craigslist or Elance. If you’re on a tight budget you can hire students at a local design school.

What you can expect to pay varies, of course. Some of the factors that influence price include the complexity of the site, number of pages, type of artwork, and overall level of customization. The designers below have a wide range of services basic website design beginning around $450 to $1000 for simple, template-based sites to completely customized websites starting around $2000 to $3000. Some are higher, some are lower—but a good price doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a good fit for your site.

Aimee Steckowski

DO make sure your site has a search box, social icons in the top header, a strong and consistent logo/brand throughout, share icons on the bottom of each blog post, categories for blog posts to allow users to find the topic of choice, and a blog post signature. Choose a topic or theme for your blog/website and stick to it.

DON’T change your website design, layout, or brand/logo more than once a year; it will confuse your readers.

What platforms, widgets, plugins, or other tools do you recommend?

Platform: Genesis by Copyblogger, Studiopress.com themes. Plugins: ShareThis, CommentLuv, MailChimp, JetPack for WordPress.com, WP-DB Backup, WP125 for Ad Spaces, Antispam Bee.

The most effective website you’ve seen—but not worked on: http://www.thesaleslion.com/

Your favorite website you’ve worked on: http://www.magpieeventsblog.com/ and http://www.redouxinteriors.com/

Website: http://www.byaimee.com/

Lindsey Riel

DO invest in your blog design, whether it be modifying a pre-made theme or having a completely custom design built. Readers are much more likely to stick around if your content is easy to find and aesthetically pleasing. Do make your content the focal point. Good design should enhance your content, not take away or distract from it.

DON’T use small type (16 pt. or above is recommended) or flash. Flash websites are often times not viewable on mobile devices and even some home computers as well. 

What platforms, widgets, plugins, or other tools do you recommend?

I highly recommend, and use myself, WordPress as a platform to build your website and blog. I also highly recommend the Genesis Framework for WordPress (an explanation of Genesis Framework). It is all I use anymore and cannot imagine working without it.

The most effective website you’ve seen—but not worked on: http://www.chrisbrogan.com/

Your favorite website you’ve worked on: TheTomKatStudio.com. The owner, Kim Stoegbauer, and I just clicked and have similar style, making the project more fun than work. 

Website: prettydarncute.com

Rachel Gogos

DO make it easy for your readers to connect with you. A great way to build your readership and your target audience is to be somewhat accessible—not overly accessible because you don’t want to create an email nightmare for yourself. One great way to do this is by offering virtual book club readings via Skype, FaceTime, or a Google Hangout. This will encourage more people to buy your book and read it and put you in direct contact with your fan base. Take the time to figure out your long-term goals before designing and developing your site.

DON’T forget that your visual presentation of yourself and your books is just as important as your incredible writing. Because authors are so literal it’s sometimes a challenge for their visual representation to match the caliber of their writing. On the web it’s important for both to be in alignment with one another.

What platforms, widgets, plugins, or other tools do you recommend?

WordPress is the best content management system out there for authors. It’s a fairly easy system to update on your own without needing the help of anyone techy. You can easily add images, photos, or video to blog posts. WordPress is very Google friendly and also very flexible, so if you want to add a page to your site later on, it won’t require an entire redesign. Use a social media share plugin so your content can easily be shared. Also, don’t forget to use video—either for your book trailer or even of yourself talking about your book. Video is an extremely powerful tool to use in connecting with your audience.

The most effective website you’ve seen—but not worked on: StartWithWhy.com. I love the design. It’s smart and it pops. Notice the ability to tweet the header copy on every page? It’s a brilliant use of space and makes the author very quotable. The site totally positions the author as an expert right on the homepage. The book is easy to buy as well as some of the author’s other offerings.

Your favorite website you’ve worked on: http://www.EleniGage.com. This website captures the author’s personality, interests and essence. The pomegranate logo has an entire story behind it in Eleni’s personal life and her strong Greek roots. The mosaic in the logo pays homage to Eleni’s love of Byzantine iconography. The writing is top-notch and the design highlights the writing without the content overwhelming web audience. The author’s books are both visible and easy to buy directly from the homepage without it appearing to salesy. As you can see from the social media icons and the contact page the author is accessible but not overly so.

Website: http://www.thebrandiD.com

 

About MAW

Melissa Anne Wuske is a freelance writer and editor. She is also the communications director for Stop Traffick Fashion where she writes about human trafficking.