The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

What to include on author websites

Ann from McGraw-Hill suggested a while back that I post about author websites.  You know (or can guess) what basics should be on an author website, but here are a few items that you may not have considered:

Publishing house: The house doesn’t much matter to the average reader, but many journalists and organizations looking for guest speakers will make note of this.  Make sure you know (and list) the imprint that published your book as well as the publishing house.  If you’re an author and don’t know what an imprint is, ask!

Contact information for yourself: If you wanted complete privacy, you probably shouldn’t have written the book (or you should have gone the John Twelve Hawks path of anonymity, but we all know how well that one worked).  You need to give readers a way to get in touch with you.  Many authors create separate email accounts for this purpose.  If you’re into the social networking scene, include information for your profiles, but keep in mind that not all readers use these networks and they will appreciate being able to contact you via plain vanilla email.  Depending on the book you’ve written and its target demographic, you may want to consider opening a post office box and including that address.  If you want, include a phone number, but I can’t recall the last time I saw an author list a phone number on a website (or perhaps I just blocked it out).

Contact information for a publicist and / or lecture agent: Useful for journalists and organizations looking for guest speakers.  It helps if you clarify that the publicist contact is for media requests only.  I ask authors to post my email address but not my phone number because I will inevitably need background information from random journalists and bloggers who find their way to me from an author’s website and it’s impossible to provide that information in a phone call.

Contact information for your literary agent: Agent Stuart Krichevsky points out that rights and other inquiries can come to literary agents via author websites.  No point in losing out on an opportunity simply because someone couldn’t locate your agent.

A media room: If you have the capability to do so, consider storing hi-resolution (300 dpi) images of yourself and your book cover on your website that bloggers and journalists can download.  If you are using a professional author photograph, check to make sure you aren’t violating the terms of the contract by allowing the photo to be downloaded by anyone and their cousin.  (You may need to use a snapshot taken by a family member or friend for this purpose.)  Consider uploading a variety of photos (head shot, full length with different backgrounds) to provide some choice for journalists.  In any case, make sure to include a credit lines for photos.  Make it clear that people can download the images.  Many journalists also like using brief (under 1000 word) excerpts from books.  You can consider posting a short excerpt on your site, but prior to doing so, you will want to check in with the publishing house or your literary agent — if serial rights to your book have been sold / are being worked out, you don’t want to jettison the deal by giving out the information for free.

Additional information about yourself and the book(s): Consider including additional information about yourself (extended bio, Q&A) or about the book (how you came to write the book, research process, etc.)

Permalinks: A permalink is an address for a specific page of your site.  So www.authorwebsite.com would be the home page and www.authorwebsite.com/events would be the permalink for the author tour and www.authorwebsite.com/media would be the permalink to interviews and reviews.  Some sites are built entirely under one URL, making it impossible for online journalists to link to any one section of a site.  This isn’t 1994.  You need permalinks.

Buy links: When you link to an online retailer, make sure to spread the wealth.  At my publishing house, we ask authors to link to at least Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders and Indiebound (which represents most independent bookstores).  Some authors also link to Powells, an independent bookstore in Portland that also runs a large mail-order business.  Ebook militant Mike Cane reminds us to also include buy links to ebook editions (and not simply to the Kindle and Sony eReader editions of the ebook).  The same could also apply to the audiobook.  Since we’re now up to, oh, about a dozen buy links, I think you’d probably have to break them down the purchase options into print, ebook and audio editions and then from there readers can click through to the retailer of their choice.  I know this seems cumbersome, but a) there are a heck of a lot of retailers out there selling your book and you should give them each a fair shake and b) there are a lot of readers out there wanting to experience your book in a lot of formats.

A community / discussion function: If you anticipate (or hope to build) a community of readers who will want to discuss your book, consider using a site like Ning or FiledBy that allows readers to connect.  Author websites can be built with either application (for free, although there are, of course, paid premium options), or you can integrate the sites into existing author websites.

For more information about author websites, check out What not to have on your book website.  If you have the money, go ahead and set up a really gorgeous website (go easy on the audio and flash, though — it doesn’t matter how great your site looks if it takes so long to load that people give up on it) but keep in mind that people also want information — content.  Substance is as important as style.

***

What do you like to see (or not see) on author websites?

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July 8, 2009 - Posted by | Online Marketing |

50 Comments »

  1. Once again great advice! I don’t know how many times I as well as our reviewers have to jump over hoops in order to find out how to contact a particular publicist and/or author.
    This is not only to request a review copy but also an interview.

    Regards,
    Norm, Bookpleasures.com

    Comment by Bookpleasures | July 8, 2009 | Reply

    • And I’m sure a lot of the time people skip reviewing a book / interviewing an author because it’s so difficult just tracking down contact information. I wouldn’t be surprised if a certain amount of coverage is determined solely by the ease with which one can get in touch with the publicist / author.

      Comment by Yen | July 8, 2009 | Reply

      • Yes, you are right. We do skip reviewing books if they come into our office without any contact information. Those books go directly into our “donate” pile. The same goes for books when we can’t figure out what category/genre they are. We don’t do the guessing game for books that we offer free reviews for.

        Comment by Reader Views | July 8, 2009

  2. I started reading the post dreading that I would discover I’ve left a ton of required items off my author site; by your criteria, though, I’ve basically nailed it. Whew. I want/need to add a downloadable chapter of my latest book, but otherwise, not too shabby: http://www.cliveyoung.com

    Comment by cliveyoung | July 8, 2009 | Reply

    • Good for you! Also, you may already do this, but when readers contact you, what do they ask for (aside from commenting on the book)? Use their comments to figure out what’s really working on your site and what you might want to change.

      Comment by Yen | July 8, 2009 | Reply

  3. Mike Shatzkin from http://idealog.com/blog suggests looking at FiledBy (http://www.filedby.com). Like Ning, it allows authors to build websites and to incorporate a community function in the site.

    Comment by Yen | July 8, 2009 | Reply

  4. I am shocked at the number of sites who don’t use permalinks! As a blogger, I often want to link to a very particular page but I can’t because they use the same url for all the pages. So it usually ends up that instead of making my readers sift through what I wanted them to find, I leave it out entirely.

    Comment by Natasha @ Maw Books | July 8, 2009 | Reply

    • I’ve done the same — if I can’t link to something when it seems obvious that there should be a link, I simply don’t mention it. Invariably, there’s another site somewhere that contains the information I’m looking for.

      Comment by Yen | July 8, 2009 | Reply

  5. You neglected to mention the Buy My Books links.

    1) Print publisher(s)
    2) eBook edition(s)
    3) etailers for print (NOT just Amazon!)
    4) etailers for eBook (NOT just K or Sony!)

    Also, if you have a local bookstore, it might be possible to arrange with them to sell mail order copies signed by the author. I’ve seen Scalzi and others do this.

    Although you have a permalink for Events, you neglected the importance of keeping that info up to date. Even if the latest listing is “Nothing Scheduled as of XX/XX/09.”

    Comment by Mike Cane | July 8, 2009 | Reply

    • Oops — major oversight. Thanks for pointing that out — I’m going to edit the post to include buy links.

      Comment by Yen | July 8, 2009 | Reply

  6. Yes, yes, yes! Your publicist’s email address, please! If we can’t find it, we may not review your book. We don’t want to bother you.

    Comment by Kat at Fantasy Literature | July 8, 2009 | Reply

  7. I just went through this trying to book an author as a panelist for a forum this August. I couldn’t even find a telephone number for the university press (with a fairly extensive catalog) on the publisher’s website only for their field reps.

    Thankfully my author was affiliated with a (different) university, and their PR/Communications department put me right in touch.

    Comment by Mark | July 8, 2009 | Reply

    • Publishing houses are invariably cagey about listing phone numbers (and even if they list main phone numbers, we all know what getting through to the operator means). Many houses are creating general email addresses (publicity, editorial, etc.) accesible by several people in the departments and they will post these addresses on their websites. Of course, finding the addresses on the sites isn’t always easy … But it’s a start and hopefully industry wide we’ll be making this information more prominent / easy to find.

      Comment by Yen | July 8, 2009 | Reply

  8. Something else that I might add and this is primarily addressed to publicists. There are a few publishers that have separate PR reps for Canada and the USA. This should be very clear as sometimes when I correspond with one publicist, I am told that my query has to be addressed to their Canadian publicist as I operate from Canada.

    Another annoying item that our reviewers sometimes discover is that some publishing houses won’t reply to you unless you fax them your request or write them a letter. Again, I guess these people have not heard about email! Why should we go to all of the trouble of faxing or writing a letter when in fact we are doing a service to the publisher and author by reviewing the book.

    Norm, Bookpleasures.com

    Comment by Bookpleasures | July 8, 2009 | Reply

  9. You need to do a bit more research before you attack an author whose Internet success confirms the conclusions of your otherwise excellent article.

    An editor friend at the Random House group tells me that johntwelvehawks.com is one of the most popular sites carried by the Random House server. Dan Brown is #1 of course, but Hawks gets more site visits than Alexander McCall Smith (a vastly more popular author).

    Comment by The Ghost of Maxwell Perkins | July 8, 2009 | Reply

    • Hawks.com site is based on flash. If that was any indie author’s site they would be getting no SEO juice. If people want to be found in search engines don’t use flash. The site type and authority that http://www.deankoontz.com/ is what indie/DIY authors should be looking for as inspiration.

      Comment by Anthony Puttee | July 18, 2011 | Reply

  10. Great post I’ll be sure to pass along to my new author friends. Thanks!

    Comment by Scobberlotcher | July 8, 2009 | Reply

  11. AWESOME — both this and what not to post — thank you!

    Comment by Kristan | July 9, 2009 | Reply

  12. Very helpful! Also: (1) Include your agent’s contact info; many rights inquiries and other opportunities come to us this way, and (2) Avoid splash pages. You want people to get new information immediately – an on-sale, a new blog post, etc.

    Comment by Stuart Krichevsky | July 9, 2009 | Reply

  13. Wow! So much good information all in one place. I need a large mug of coffee (or two) to help me read through all this wonderful advice.
    Thank you

    Comment by SHARON TREGENZA | July 12, 2009 | Reply

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  15. Had a website that is now closed and under construction, this article has given me good ideas on how to proceed.

    Comment by Marta | July 29, 2009 | Reply

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  17. I found this very useful, thanks. I have an author blog but want to break into my own website at some point, I will file this for reference. Again, thanks.

    Comment by Glynis Smy | October 9, 2009 | Reply

  18. Can you please, since you purport to be a publishing industry expert, take the unnecessary apostrophe out of “Answer’s” in the header of your blog?

    Thank you!

    Comment by Craig | October 13, 2009 | Reply

    • “Answer’s” is the conjugation of “answer” and “is.” “Answers” without the apostrophe denotes the plural of the word “answer” which is not what I mean in this particular instance. Any further questions?

      Comment by Yen | October 13, 2009 | Reply

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  25. Great blog btw! What if u r a self published author? Should the name of the site to promote the book reflect the (self)publishing company or the authorname.com? Tricky huh? Love the tips

    Comment by si | April 9, 2010 | Reply

  26. Hi! This is great advice, especially since I’m getting ready to revamp my website. I will keep this post in mind!

    Take care,

    Nora Weston

    Comment by Nora Weston | November 28, 2010 | Reply

  27. While some comments are good, most are funny. The author says it’s not 1994, but I think his modem must be if it takes him more than a few seconds to load a flash site. One of my side jobs is building web sites and I’m building one for an author now. And, yes, it will be flash with effects, and it will be good. Oh, and it will have a black background. You people need to get out of the 80’s.

    Comment by Dave | January 30, 2011 | Reply

    • Flash is also a security risk, so many have it turned OFF. Personally I hate web sites with that flash and java garbage that starts auto playing

      Comment by Wolfpause | June 5, 2012 | Reply

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  35. Thanks for this information – very helpful as I’m planning to set up an author’s website for my new Quick Life Tips book.

    Comment by Annabel Sutton | December 30, 2011 | Reply

  36. Great advice! But I’d add one more. A section for contests, a great interactive and promotional tool for readers and authors to get to know each other. Even this website has a contest link in the upper right menu, the NPR Books Watch Contest!

    Comment by Shelter Somerset, author of M/M Amish Series | January 24, 2012 | Reply

  37. I am glad that I stopped in here. I recently took on a client that is an author and am learning the differences between marketing for a product vs. marketing for a piece of intellectual property. The author Michael Luftman has just recently published his first book and has little knowledge of how to go about promoting it in this digital world. The book is a catchy crime novel about an artist that encounters some money troubles and develops a new way to make the value of his art collection increase in value. Anyway, your post is incredibly helpful to me and I will be sure to check out and share other articles from your site. Thanks again for the great advice!!

    Comment by An Art To Murder - Michael Luftman | February 6, 2012 | Reply

    • Well, that’s certainly a “stealthy” way of going about promoting a novel. Word of advice from someone who’s learned the hard way—people don’t like it when novelists use backdoor marketing.

      Comment by Mario | February 7, 2012 | Reply

  38. There’s no more need to spam protect your mailto email address on a web site by munging it, that’s an old tired, boring trick that is really annoying. I use a php based script and it’s on a password protected entry page, with the password displayed right there by the contact link, the user simply types the password in, and the form comes up to send me their comments etc. Nowhere does my email show because it’s php and this only shows the output not the source, so people can view the source page all they like and there’s nothing there.
    I get zero spam. The script is free and is on the thesitewizard web site, and it’s called feedbackform
    Ive had it for years and love it.

    Comment by Wolfpause | June 5, 2012 | Reply

  39. Thank you so much for sharing this article. It is a big help for me.

    Comment by Ave | December 28, 2012 | Reply


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