So You Want to Develop a Website This Summer

As we wrote last week and the week before, summer is underway, and we have a summer of writing planned for ourselves. So, we perused some of the nonfiction and fiction writing guides on our shelves to remind us of obvious principles we take for granted, fundamental motivations for writing, or what it means to work on a big project.

LaptopThis summer, we also want to re-envision our websites. We each have a serviceable website already; see Anna’s HERE and Doug’s HERE. But we want to move to a more user-friendly platform so that it’s easier for us to keep our websites current and easier for readers to find what they’re seeking and also some bonus surprises that have been hard to incorporate using the current system.

These days, a website is part of the writer’s obligation. With options like WordPress, authors can create professional-looking pages and, therefore, have become more responsible than ever for establishing a presence and platform for themselves. Since we use for this blog every week, it makes sense to start using it for our websites too.

Website development offers relatively quick, visible accomplishment. It’s fun to compare templates and arrange content. A lot of the content already exists and just needs to be reshaped. You can see a completed webpage after a good day’s work on it—and everybody else can see it too. Of course, website development takes time away from writing, so we may not get to the website revamp until later this summer.

That said, once we have our summer writing routine established (we’ve been working on that!), working on our websites could help us understand our book projects. Creating an online presence can force a writer, for instance, to compose a pitch that encapsulates the essence of a book project. Especially for a nonfiction writer, developing content for the author website can clarify what contribution the book makes to the field and why you are the best person to write this book. The website is a sort of lens through which to see not exactly the writing itself but, rather, the writing as a book.

Here are a few of the resources and approaches that are likely to guide our thinking as we re-see our websites.

Sell Your Book Like Wildfire By Rob Eagar

In 2008, the publishing research firm, Codex Group, surveyed nearly twenty-one thousand book shoppers across America […] to understand the relative effectiveness of author websites among shoppers and determine the elements that keep them coming back to a site. […] Visiting an author’s website is the No. 1 way that book readers want to get to know and support their favorite authors. And this desire is true regardless of age. […B]ook shoppers who had visited an author website in the last week bought 38 percent more books, from a wider range of retailers, than those who had not visited an author’s website.

Four Goals for Your Author Website: Credibility / Content / Community / Contact information

Ten Requirements for an Author Website: Home Page / Newsletter Sign-Up / Free Resources Page / About Me Page / Speaking Page / Events Calendar / Endorsements / Media Page, Books (or Store) Page / Contact Page

Your Writer Platform

Things to AVOID: a mish-mash of colors, anything unnecessary that makes your page take longer to open, misspellings, a cluttered sidebar.

BONUSES to consider: a slideshow, a video, additional resources on your topic, sneak peeks or exclusive content not available elsewhere.

Five Author Websites We Like

Full Disclosure: We also like these authors as writers and as people! And they’ve recently published books or chapbooks and updated their websites to reflect these new publications.

Patricia Grace King:

The menu is straightforward, the images are striking, and the links for getting your hands on the books are easy to find.

Paulette Livers:

The website focuses on the new book, the events and interviews show engagement with readers, and (until June 1) there was a raffle for Cementville that undoubtedly generated an email list of interested readers.

Rebbeca Makkai:

The typeface is a bit bigger than other websites and, therefore, feels a little louder without suggesting yelling. The book cover image on the home page moves slightly when your cursor rolls over it. Lots of endorsements.

Allison Benis White:

The design is very streamlined, and content doesn’t clutter any page, so the whole website feels clean, crisp, and focused. The menu picks up a design element from the title and design of the first book.

Tom Zoellner:

The home page features the trailer for the new book, social media links, endorsements, and a video from the author’s appearance on The Daily Show for a previous book.


3 thoughts on “So You Want to Develop a Website This Summer

    1. So these encouraging comments seem to be spam from India. That said if we can get the back end working at our domain host, we can switch to (or and have some good options for the time being. When we sell a book, we’ll certainly consider hiring a professional, and we have recommendations from other writers whose websites we like. In fact, we don’t think any of the writer websites we mention in our post were designed and built by the writer. But Anna has done some production work before, and WordPress is really user friendly for this blog and adaptable for websites. Here’s a colleague in graphic design who did her own website:

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