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.

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

July 8, 2009 Posted by | Online Marketing | | 50 Comments

Why a *pre-publication* web presence is important

At this point, pretty much everyone is convinced of the value of an author’s web presence.  Yay.  But I’ve seen too many authors shoot for the book’s publication date (or a couple weeks before) as the launch date for their website.

This is about four months too late.

Typically, four to six months before the hardcover publication of a book, the publicity department sends out galleys to magazine and newspaper book editors as well as to some broadcast producers and online journalists.  When I follow up with galley recipients, I’ll include some information about the book in the text of my email message, but it’s helpful for me to be able to link to more information online — links are an extremely effective and unobtrusive way for book publicists to provide the media with the additional details that could sell a writer or editor on a book.  They are also vital tools for bloggers whose posts are lent credibility by links that direct readers to further information.

I’m not saying the complete author website needs to be up and ready six months before the book’s publication date.  I’m not even saying the author has to have a web site at all.  But I am saying it’s a really, really good idea for *something* — a website, a social networking profile, a blog — to be accessible when galleys are mailed out.  An author without a web presence is a bit like the proverbial tree falling in a forest with no one around.

The more information a website has the better, of course, but it’s also okay also to add to the site in stages.  Realistically, busy authors may simply not have the time or the money to create beautiful websites at this stage in the game (or ever).  Here are a few quick and cheap suggestions for getting online fast:

Create a website with basic information first: If you don’t have or don’t know a lot of information (blurbs, book tour dates, etc.), first create the website with the basic information that you do have: a JPEG of the book cover, an author bio and a summary of the book.  Make sure to mention both the publication date of the book as well as the publishing house and include contact information for the author and / or book publicist.  Your publishing house can suggest web designers that work within a variety of budgets, but you can also put together a website yourself for free.  (Of course, these sites look like they’ve been put together for free, but because all the hard, program-my stuff has been built in to the templates, all you need to do is follow a few basic instructions.)

Add the cover and a tag line to an existing author website: Many authors who already have websites will initially post just the cover of their upcoming book and its publication date.  This is a simple and effective way to get the word out about a new book.  (Just don’t forget to go back later and add more information about it!)

Create a Facebook fan page for the book or a profile for yourself:  If you don’t have the time and / or money to create or update a website, create a Facebook book fan page / author profile for free.  You should post the JPEG of the cover as well as your bio, a summary of the book, and contact information.  Make sure to mention both the publication date of the book as well as the publishing house.

For authors who can invest the time in a robust web presence (which is almost always a good idea these days), you can find more information about social networking on this site or you can check my blogroll (on the right side of the page) for other helpful blogs, but the suggestions above cover some of the basics.  Anyone have other ideas for how authors can establish a web presence quickly and cheaply?

May 11, 2009 Posted by | Online Marketing | , | 34 Comments