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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Fall 2012: I’ve really enjoyed writing about book publicity and meeting (0nline and in person) writers, publicists, editors, agents and others in the publishing industry, but I’ve — reluctantly — come to the conclusion that I just don’t have the time to maintain this blog.
I imagine there is some information that will remain the same and that will remain useful, but there is much more that is or will become out of date, so please keep that in mind if you find yourself perusing my posts.
For some time now, I’ve closely followed a lot of very informative sites about media and about the publishing industry. Since I find myself quite voluble at times about issues that pertain to my job in the publicity department at a large publishing house, I thought I’d set up a book publicity blog. The purpose of this blog is provide tips, primarily, but also information about publishing / marketing trends that will help book publicists — and hopefully others in media and publishing — do our jobs with greater ease and efficiency. Please note that the opinions expressed on this blog are my own, not those of my company.
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