In the ever-evolving publishing industry, the author website has become a crucial marketing tool, though not all sites are created equally. Since the genesis of GFP’s author website development service, I have seen my fair share of sites. From the $20,000 site built by a fancy design firm to the basic HTML page that looks like it was created in 1993 (and probably was), the world of author websites is vast and diverse. Like the cover designer who comes upon a beautifully crafted book jacket on the New Fiction table or the interior designer who selects that perfect font, I’m exhilarated when I find a great author website. We all have our things.
There’s just nothing better than an author website with a stunning layout, eye-catching but tasteful images, intuitive navigation, and—dare I say it?—a biography that doesn’t double as a memoir. A good author website compels the viewer to learn more about the writer, read her books, follow her on social media . . . or at the very least, bookmark the site for future exploration.
While a website can be a wonderful epicenter for new ideas, connections, and reader engagement—an opportunity for an author to showcase her hard work and accomplishments, gather reader e-mails, and enhance SEO reach—plenty of authors still skip websites altogether. For many of these writers, a website can be a scary undertaking. It’s something they know they should do, but they’re not sure where to start.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to force you down the circuitous road of digital self-promotion. We already covered that here, here, here, and here. Rather, let us start with the first—and in my opinion, the most entertaining—step: browsing for inspiration. Much like buying a new car or a home, it’s important to see what’s out there before settling on a direction for your site. Here are some things I think a good author website should accomplish:
- Should reflect the nature of the author’s writing in a positive way
- Should provide ways for viewers to connect with the author
- Should be easy to navigate
- Should help readers get to know the author (to an appropriate level)
Designer: Low Fat Designs
Flynn's site’s design mirrors that of the cover for her newest book, The Grownup, which took a turn from the formula of her first three covers: black background, geometric sans-serif typeface, iconic image, and a pop of bright color.
Flynn’s website excels in staying true to her content. The spooky yet playful typography creates a striking first impression that draws visitors down the page. Followed by an ominous yellow eye, the reader scrolls toward the bottom to meet an elegant damask block, which leads to Flynn’s newsletter signup, upcoming events, and previous books.
Aside from being easy on the eyes, the website is organized and painless to navigate, and it lays out all of the information a reader might require.
Designer: Corianton Hale
Much like her new book, Shrill, Lindy West’s website is loud—in the best possible way. The website opens with a cover page—a feature that isn’t always easy to pull off. Here, West does it right by using a striking opening image, layered with praise from the likes of Ira Glass. Via an elegant scrolling parallax feature, the site oscillates between photos of West, praise from notable individuals, and information about her book, press, and events, all presented within a series of clear and defined color blocks.
While the cover page doesn’t tell us much about the author, its intriguing imagery and bold text draw the viewer in to stay. This website is simple, visually compelling, and well representative of West as an author.
An author’s website should adapt as new books are released, even if only through small changes like font or color scheme. A new book is worthy of celebration, and a website makeover is also a great marketing tactic.
In John Irving’s case, the font from his newest book cover is incorporated into the heading of his website. Albeit a small detail, the bold, unmistakable typeface adorning his cover lends the site familiarity and symbolizes a shift in Irving’s literary style. The banner photo emphasizes his hands-on storytelling approach, and the carousel feature at the bottom showcases his impressive collection of previous works. Overall the site is clean, simple, functional, and attractive.
Designer: Isla Brink
At Girl Friday, we love to keep things simple. This website maintains a clean design, organized layout, and plenty of important information—and you don’t even have to scroll! It’s simple without being boring. Fierro’s designer balanced the site’s white background with a pop of hot pink pulled from her book cover. With a stark white background, it’s important to incorporate some eye-catching elements to keep the viewer engaged.
What really stands out, though, is the site’s clever use of space. Each section is strategically laid out to give each of the site’s components roomy boundaries. You’ll find everything you need here: a rotating quote block (a great space-saving technique), where to buy the book, news, mailing list sign-ups, social media, and more.
Designer: Pavilion Web
Peter James’s website gives me a prime-time, CSI, breaking-news feel—a fitting look for a bestselling crime writer. The black and white images, red accents, and subtle changes in texture make this simple yet stylized website a great marketing piece for an accomplished author.
Authors often make the mistake of adding too much content to their websites. It’s clear this site holds a well of information—some of which a reader may be interested in, and some not so much. For example: if you’re looking for James’s press kit, you may not be as interested in his YouTube channel. However, this website mitigates a potential content overload with a simple (albeit longer than average) horizontal navigation bar. This popular technique allows readers to opt in and out of content without being overwhelmed by too much information.