tips for authors

How to Set Up Your Author Website so Readers See the Best Stuff First

How to organize your calls to action.

How to organize your calls to action.

“I Want Everything At the Top”

Life is all about choices, and choices are hard. So many authors get stuck on their website designs because they can’t figure out which information is the most important. Or they forget that website visitors aren’t patient people who will read every word and patiently scroll through material to find what they need.

“So What Do I Do?”

Readers don’t just stumble onto your website. They visit for two reasons: 1) they’re responding to an invitation (a link in your newsletter or the back matter of your book) or 2) because they have a question that needs answering. IE “What’s the next book in the series” or “When does the new one come out?”

If you have a tight and sensible navigation, these questions should be answerable within one or two clicks. Easy peasy.

But there’s a difference between satisfying the visitor and getting her to do what we want. What we want, of course, is another sale. Once you realize that we have goals and an agenda, too, it gets easier to figure out how your website should prioritize its content.

The Hierarchy of Author Websites

This is what we want visitors to do, roughly in order:

  1. Click a buy link and purchase (or preorder) the book.

  2. Sign up for our newsletter, thereby granting us more chances in the future of grabbing this reader’s attention.

  3. Read about our backlist books (and then ultimately buy them.)

  4. Enjoy bonus content like blog posts and extras, thereby forming a tighter bond with our author brand. Bonus points for you if there are buy links in all these places, too.

  5. Follow us on social media.

Note the location of that last thing. Authors often ask me to put the social media links higher up on the page. But please remember that real estate on your website is valuable. If those links are front and center, your cover art will sink down the page.

And—really—if someone takes the trouble to visit you on your home turf, do you really want to bounce them to that distraction pit known as Facebook? Social media “follows” aren’t valueless. But I’d argue that they’re a little less valuable each year. So use your visitors’ eyeballs wisely. Keep them on your site or bounce them to a vendor site for their next purchase.

Once you’ve established your website’s goals, it becomes easier to know which content to promote first. Good luck out there!