Tips for: Author Websites

A white background. A large, light gray serif font reads "TIPS FOR" in all caps across the center. In a purple script font above that text reads "author websites""

I’d like to preface this, as I try to do with all my posts, with who my intended audience is: authors with book deals at traditional publishers. Other people may find useful information here, and that’s great, but I can’t speak toward best-practices for anyone outside of that group.

I know this post is long. Think of it less as a directive and more as a resource page. You don’t have to do everything here all at once. Take each section below one step at a time, and when you get to the next step, open this page back up to reference. Just like having a website isn’t a build-it-once-and-be-done-with-it endeavor, it is also not a build-it-all-in-one-sitting endeavor. The world is vast and time is in short supply—let yourself take the time you need without causing yourself unnecessary levels of stress.

A quick aside: You can’t discuss this topic without giving a shoutout to Dahlia Adler, Queen and Haunter of Author Websites, from whom I first learned so much of this information. You can support her and her incredible work through the LGBTQReads website or Bookshop account, or by buying her books (they are very good and you will not regret it!).

Okay! Let’s get into it!

Building a site
Pages for your site
General Tips

Building a site

First things first, you’ll need a website. I am nowhere close to an expert on this process. Lots of people hire designers to create one for them, and that’s fabulous if it’s in your budget! Other people go through platforms that have free templates (for reference, this is what I did). This is, truly, a “to each their own” situation—make the choice that works best for the time and budget you have. If you choose the former, I recommend searching for someone who has experience designing author websites specifically. If you choose the latter, some places to start are: WordPress, SquareSpace, or Wix, but there are so many others! Either way, take some time to do a bit of research and find what works best for you.

Especially if you choose to use a platform with website templates and build it yourself, you may want to consider buying your own domain (this means your URL would be ElannaHeda.com, rather than ElannaHeda.WordPress.com). When doing so, my one recommendation is do not buy your domain through the site. Buy it separately, from a site like Hover.com or GoDaddy (Hover is the one I use, but there are a bunch—again, do your own research, as some of them are scams). That way, if you ever want to move your website from, for example, WordPress to SquareSpace, you can be sure that the domain name will stay with you.

Pages for your site

Okay, so you’ve got your site all set up and picked the theme you like. Congrats! Now what pages should you create for it? I recommend the following at minimum:

But other pages that can be nice or fun to have are:

About/Contact/Media Kit

Depending on how private you want to be or how full you want your website’s menu to be, you can make these all one page or divide the info out among them to your liking. An important tip: Information can (and often should) live on multiple pages! This will only make it easier for people to find, as—and I say this lovingly—no one is reading your website cover to cover. So if you choose to have all three pages, feel free to repeat info on all of them! For example, your agent’s name/website/agency could go on all of them, and there’s literally no reason not to repeat it. If you’re going to split the info into three pages, here’s how I recommend differentiating them:

About

Bio: Depending on the vibe you want to give off, your little bio here can be short and professional, or it can be entirely focused on your pet’s favorite toys and your favorite snacks. This can be a page for you to connect with readers, or it can be a professional landing point!

Photo: If you’re comfortable having an author photo, this is a great place to put that (not every author does!). You can also use more of a ~personality pic~ if you like! If you’re choosing the former, though, please include credit for whoever took the photo, or specify if no photo credit is needed. If you choose to do the latter, feel free to make a note to the press if you don’t want them using the photo for publication, and be sure to direct them to a photo they can use. But always remember: If it exists on the internet, then someone, somewhere, will pull it from your site for their own use. Be sure you’re okay with that for all things you post.

Social: If you have any social media platforms, this is a good space to link to them.

Media kit (also known as a press kit): If you do not make your media kit a specific page that people can access from your website’s menu, then this is a good place to link to it. Please make a media kit. It truly is in your best interest and will save so many people—including you—so much time. There’s more info on making one below!

Other info: Please put your agent’s information here. Just a simple line below your bio saying “My literary representation is ____ at ___ agency” and either list their email or their website (you can ask your agent how they’d like this to be listed, and you absolutely should ask before putting their email out in the wild).

Contact

Direct contact: This does not need to be just a page with a form for people to fill out! It absolutely can be if you want, as that’s a great way for readers, educators, event planners, or bloggers/reviewers to be able to reach you without having your email address floating about, if that’s something you’re interested in. If you don’t like the idea of having a form, then you can list your email address (if so, I recommend creating a new one specifically for this purpose). And if you have a P.O. box for fan letters, this is also the spot for that. Please note: Direct contact of any form is entirely optional. Providing people access to you is not a requirement for being an author. It is something you can offer and rescind as you see fit. It is absolutely acceptable for you to forego all options outlined in this section, or to forego a contact page entirely.

Social media contact: If you have any social media platforms, this is a good space to link to them, though I believe the About page, if separate from your Contact page, is a more intuitive placement. If you have both a Contact and About page, you can link them on both. You’ll notice that my social media links sit on every page on my site (scroll up and look on the right)—if you do the same, then there’s no need to add them to individual pages.

Media kit: If you do not make your media kit a specific page that people can access from your website’s menu, then this is a good place to link to it. I think an About page is a more intuitive spot for this, but if you choose not to have an About page, then this works just fine (again, you can also link it on both!). No matter what, though, please make a media kit. It truly is in your best interest and will save so many people—including you—so much time. It will also ensure you’re never left off a roundup or that one of your book goes unreviewed because the reviewer couldn’t find the information they need. There’s more info on making one below!

Indirect contact: As a person in traditional publishing, there are lots of indirect ways for people to get in contact with you! You have an agent, a publicist, and someone who is handling the rights to your books. This is a great place to direct people to them. Jasmine Guillory’s website is a great example of having a Contact page and only providing indirect contact. Please discuss this with the people you are listing before putting their contact information on your website.

Media Kit

For this one, I’m almost entirely just laying out what Dahlia put in her Twitter thread, for accessibility/posterity, although I do add some notes of my own. I look at author’s websites from a publisher’s perspective, but she looks from a media perspective, which means she has much more expansive knowledge on this.

Again, it truly is in your best interest to make a media kit, and it will save so many people—including you—so much time. It will also ensure you’re never left off a roundup or that one of your books goes unreviewed because the blogger couldn’t find the information they needed.

The two easiest options I know of to build a media kit are: Creating a page on your website with all the info/files, or creating a folder in a cloud service (e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox) that contains the documents and photos with all the info. Both work, so pick which method you’re most comfortable not just creating but maintaining. Remember, everything on your website is fluid and should be updated regularly. If it’s annoying to do, you’re not going to update it, so build processes that are as painless as possible.

And one more quick thing before we get into this: Always name your files with intention. For example, YourName_WhatTheFileIs_CreditsNeeded is usually a good baseline. So, for example, if I took a selfie and used that as my author photo, I would name the file: Elanna Heda_Author Photo_No credit needed. If I made a document for my bios and included guidelines about using my photos, I’d name it: Elanna Heda_Bio + Photo Guidelines. The person downloading your files likely has 20 other author photos/bios downloaded, so your name there helps them keep it all straight, the credit information helps them not have to go hunting (and serves as a reminder to them to give the credit), and the file information gives you another opportunity to cue them that you have guidelines in place. I promise, anyone who sees your file names will be so grateful.

Okay, so here’s what you’ll need:

  • Bios
    • At least two, both in third person. One should be about 50 words, the other should be about 250 words. If you’d like to write a third, I recommend a to-the-point one, 25 words or less.
    • You’re allowed to have more than one! Some authors who write across age categories or genres like to have one for each, and that’s totally fine! Just be sure to specify which bios are for which age category/genre, and, for outlets who want to cover your work overall, label one for general use.
  • Hi-res author photo(s)
    • You must include information about photo credit for each photo! If your media kit is a page on your website, list the credit beneath/next to the photo. If you go the Drive/Dropbox route, it’s super easy to just put the photographer’s name in the file name, or you can put it in the document with your bios, or you can upload a separate document listing out the photos and credits for them. Again, whatever’s easiest for you—just make sure the information is easily found!
    • If your photo was taken by you/a friend, or your contract with your photographer specifies no credit is necessary, then say “No photo credit needed” in the same place you’d write the photo credit.
    • Make sure the photos are actually downloadable and in a usable format (.jpg or .png are your best bets). You can test this by opening the media kit in a different browser and trying to download the content, or by sending the media kit to a friend to check for you.
    • Just like a bio, you’re allowed to have more than one (Alexandra Bracken does)! Some authors who write across age categories or genres like to have one for each, and that’s totally fine! Just be sure to specify which one is for which, and, for outlets who want to cover your work overall, which one is for general use.
  • Social media links
    • I’d like to take a moment to clarify that I’m not saying authors have to be on any form of social media. But if you are, be sure to link to them in your media kit. If you’re not, be sure to specify that, too, so people don’t mistakenly link to the wrong accounts.
  • Hi-res book covers
    • If your cover is released and you don’t have a hi-res copy, please contact your publisher, either through your marketing team or your editor. (Pro-tip: if they have one, be sure to CC the assistant! They usually have the files and are faster to reply.)
    • Include credit for the design team! This is usually an illustrator and a designer. Especially for an illustrator, who is often a freelancer, it’s nice to link to their website/portfolio/social.
    • Again, make sure the photos are actually downloadable and in a usable format (.jpg or .png are your best bets). You can test this by opening the page in a different browser and trying to download the content, or by sending to a friend to check for you.
  • Alt text
    • Not everybody looking at your content will be able to see photos. A way for you to make your work more accessible (and control the way your images are described/understood) is to create your own alt text and post it for others to use when accessing your media kit. Plus, then you won’t have to re-write it every time you go to post your cover on Twitter or Instagram!

And here’s what can be nice to have:

  • News coverage
    • You might not have this for a while, but if you’ve ever done an interview or anyone’s ever covered your writing, this is a good place to compile it.
  • Agents/Rights
    • Who represents you for your books? Translation rights? Film and TV? Audio?
  • Additional info about your books
    • ISBN(s), a one-sentence summary, the flap copy, genre, publisher info (especially if you have multiple publishers!), page count, release date, and praise/accolades.
    • This info is also great to include on your Books page.

Corinne Duyvis has an incredibly comprehensive media kit on her website, and Ashley Poston is a great example of an external media kit (they used Dropbox and linked it to be found on her About page).

Book(s)/Published Works

If you’ve ever been published, this can be a good place to preserve links to it, especially for things like short stories, research papers, or poetry that might be more difficult for people to find on their own.

You can do one big page with all your books listed together with their details, or you can give each book its own page full of details. You can also create one Books page with just the titles (and maybe the covers/release dates), and have that page link to each book’s individual page with more details.

This is also a place you can keep announced but as-yet-unpublished books. If you’ve got a Publisher’s Weekly or Publisher’s Lunch deal announcement, you can put that up. You can also put up a temporary cover (this can be as simple as a rectangle that says “Cover To Be Revealed”), and your own little description of the book. I don’t recommend getting too detailed here until you’ve done a couple rounds of edits because you never know what will change! But I do recommend listing your publisher and predicted release date (this can just be Season Year format).

As you gain things like a specific release date, a cover, flap copy, blurbs/reviews, media coverage, and foreign editions, you can add that information here! Don’t forget to include buy links for each edition (this includes hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook, and foreign editions). For buy links, you can either link to your publisher’s page and put the responsibility of selecting retailers on them, or you can list a few options on your own site. If you have a relationship with an indie, feel free to list them specifically; if not, you can direct people to BookShop or IndieBound. You can also list retailers like Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Target, Walmart, or Amazon. Please list a few retailers. They get sad when they feel left out.

More on retailers: Jake Maia Arlow’s Book page for How to Excavate a Heart is a fabulous example of how to encourage readers to shop at indie bookstores, as well as how to cultivate relationships with local indies, if you have any. Jake said they’re happy for other authors to use it as a template, and she made a blog post to show you how to recreate it.

Other information you can have here includes but is not limited to: ISBNs, a GoodReads/StoryGraph link, and information on preorder campaigns or signed editions (if you have either). Chelsea Abdullah’s website is a good example of a simple but informative Book page.

Other pages

I’ll lay out what the intention of the below pages are, and you can choose whether they fit your needs/purposes/audiences. You can also combine some of these pages! And remember: Information can live on multiple pages!

Home page

Just a landing page (i.e., where people are first sent when they type in your URL). If you don’t want to make one, you can have your About page or your Books page be your website landing page.

Events

If you’re currently open to doing events (whether in person or virtual), this is a good place to keep them all organized. It gives you a link to post with details for when you announce the events, and it allows people to easily find events you’re doing.

If you don’t currently have any events planned, this is also a place where you can state that you’re open to them, or what types of events you’re open to (e.g. virtual only, in-person only, only in a certain region, school visits).

The News, Press, and Events pages all blend together easily if you only want to have one or two.

News

This would be a place to post any book or life updates! Cover reveals, preorder campaigns, book announcements, deal announcements, foreign rights sales, etc.

The News, Press, and Events pages all blend together easily if you only want to have one or two.

Press

Any coverage of you or your books can live here. Reviews, interviews, newspapers, podcasts, anything.

The News, Press, and Events pages all blend together easily if you only want to have one or two.

FAQs

You don’t have to be asked a question frequently (or ever) to have a Frequently Asked Questions page. Think of it more as… a Future/Anticipated Questions page. Some common ones are listed below, but feel free to add whatever you want and tailor it to your needs, especially if you write middle grade (i.e. kids might need to write a report on you one day and go looking for basic biographical information):

  • When’s your next book?
  • How do you pronounce your name?
  • Who’s your agent?
  • Will you read my book?
  • Will you blurb my book?
  • Will your book(s) be available in my language?
  • Will you come to my school/town/bookstore/etc.?
  • What order should I read your books in?
  • How did you get started with writing?
  • Do you have advice for people who want to write?
  • Can you send me your book?
  • Who would you cast as the main characters in a movie/TV show of your book?
  • Should your books be read in a certain order?

Content Warnings

These can be listed on their own page, or you can list them on the book’s page or as a FAQ.

Educator/Teacher

If you or your publisher have commissioned or created resources that would be useful in a classroom, it can be helpful to include them on your website for easy access. Even if you have a discussion guide in the back of your book, it’s nice to also list it out on your website—that way, teachers who don’t have class copies will be able to print it out easily. Claribel Ortega’s site has a very comprehensive page for this if you’re looking for ideas!

General tips

  • Every image, gif, and video on your site should have corresponding alt text, and videos should have captions or a transcript easily available. Not everyone on your site has the same audio or visual capabilities, and accessibility should never be a luxury. Every major website-building platform will have a way to quickly and easily type in alt text when you upload visual media, and if you’re having trouble finding it, then a quick search of “[platform name] enter alt text” should get you forums and YouTube tutorials. If these aren’t tools you knew about or thought of much before, then I’m so excited to be the one to teach you! You can learn loads more about digital accessibilty here.
  • Don’t be afraid to liberally link to other pages on your site. Time is short and that makes people lazy: make it as easy as possible for them to get to the info you know they want! And similarly…
  • Design your website as if each page is the first and only page someone will look at. Do not assume they saw something on a different page. Do not assume they will go looking for info on their own. How? Repeat information! Link to other, relevant pages! Almost every blog post I’ve made, I’ve linked to a different blog post of mine. Even on this page, I repeat information a lot because I’ve designed it as a resource document rather than a read-the-whole-thing-in-one-sitting-and-be-done blog post. That’s also why I tried to link to other parts of this post within the post, to help readers find what they need. (Those in-page links are called HTML anchors on WordPress, if you’re interested in creating some yourself.)
  • Don’t design your whole website based on one book—unless you’re happy to completely re-do the design when your next book comes out. Or unless you want your entire author brand to forever be that first book.
  • If it exists on the internet, then someone, somewhere, will pull it from your site for their own use. Be sure you’re okay with that for everything you post (this goes as a social media rule too).
  • I talk about social media links in a few places in this post, and I’d like to be clear that I’m not implying that authors have to be on any form of social media. But if you are, be sure to link them across your site (e.g., I made them a widget at the top of the right-hand column of my site, so you see them on every page). If you’re not on social media, though, it’s probably nice to specify that somewhere, to help prevent bloggers from mistakenly linking to/contacting the wrong accounts or readers potentially getting scammed by an impersonator.
  • When in doubt, look at the websites of other authors who write books in your age category and genre. Note what feels intuitive, what information you’d want that’s absent, what you’d never thought of that they include, etc. This isn’t copying, it’s market research. (Well, it’s not inherently copying—plagiarizing is still bad.)
  • Again, everything on your website is fluid and should be updated regularly. If something is annoying to do, you’re not going to update it, so build processes that are as painless as possible.

Still have questions? You can contact me (see what I did there? Links!!!) or ask me on Twitter (which I chose to link here so you don’t have to scroll all the way to the top—repeat info!!!). And as always…

Happy writing. You got this.

❤ Elanna

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