7.7 WRITING AS A CAREER: WEBSITES
Every author needs to have a website. Don’t feel overwhelmed by this – you don’t have to know any HTML or coding to make one. Sign up at a site like WordPress, Wix or Squarespace and use their templates to make a site.
You should check whether the host site has blog functionality, as you’ll need this to run a ‘News’ or Blog section on the site. A blog which allows RSS and Email subscription is desirable.
You want to get a website up and running as soon as possible so it has the best chance of being the first search result on Google for your name by release day. Search rankings are determined by links on the site, which is why having a blog on your website is so useful. By linking to sites and holding a conversation on your site – and having people like back to you – you’ll rise up the ranks so that people searching your name will find you immediately. I had it hard for this – there’s a clothes company called ‘Lauren James’ – but I’ve been blogging for so long now that my website ranks next to theirs, even though their reach is a lot larger than mine.
Create a colour scheme using colours from your book cover, and add the cover as a banner. Changing this for new books helps keep it feeling fresh and new. If you use the same title and name fonts on each books, this keeps a consistent brand.
Recommended standard elements:
- White background behind text
- Menu along the top of the page
- Theme which works for both mobile and desktop screens
- Simple is better – avoid flash graphics or scrolling displays
For all of the sites discussed here, you won’t need to pay anything to use them – and you can make a website for free. However, I personally choose to have a custom domain name, so I pay for my website. I use WordPress and pay $11 a year for a URL to them to change my URL to a custom domain name, which I bought for $20 for 5 years.
Choose something like www.firstnamelastnameauthor.com if possible. Don’t make your URL an in-joke or something related to your books – you’ll move onto different stories, so your brand needs to be about you and your own name, so that it will last long term. Choose something you will be happy with in ten or twenty years’ time, as changing a website URL is almost impossible without huge consequences – it’ll make links in the back of books out of date, break links in your biography on other websites, and change your search engine ranking. Make sure it’s right from the beginning.
The homepage should contain everything they need to know. It should include an author photo and biography, and a list of all your books, with covers and blurbs and links to further information.
It should also include links to your other social media accounts and contact details for yourself, your agents and publicists if appropriate. Make sure you include a public email address (not the one your bank is registered to!).
Imagine you’re searching for information about an author to write an article about them – everything you need should be featured on the homepage. This also means the first few lines of your biography will come up in Google searches as the ‘preview’ below your website link.
You can also include a link to download a PDF version of this information, called a ‘Press Kit’, for journalists, if you wish.
[NAME] is a [AGE] year old [STUDENT/JOB] from [HOMETOWN]. They are interested in writing [GENRE] and are currently working on a [PROJECT DESCRIPTION – NOVEL/POETRY COLLECTION] about [BUZZWORDS]. They are interested in [HOBBY] and their favourite book is [TITLE].
Book landing page
Each book should have its own page on your website, which includes absolutely everything there is to know about the book. This includes:
- Covers – hardback, paperback, audiobook, foreign and domestic editions,
- Press quotes and journal reviews
- Publisher – if you have more than one, list them all and their countries
- Release dates
- ISBN numbers
- Goodreads links
- Purchase links
- Links to extra content you’ve made about the book – fancasting, playlists, etc
If your books get a lot of fanart or you’ve commissioned any art, you may also want to include pictures of these on the book landing page, with links to the fan’s sites – this is a nice visual introduction to the book and it shows people that there’s a big fandom for your book, so it makes them more likely to read it, as it’s a quick visual guide to the content of the book.
Set a reminder in your calendar to keep this updated regularly – release dates and covers do change quite often in the run up to release day, and you want to make sure your website has the most up-to-date information, as this is what people will refer to when looking you up.
I use my Gmail calendar to remind me of different marketing requirements, set to repeat every 3 months or year, depending on how often that task needs doing. Often I forget what I’ve set up, so this is a handy way to remind yourself – and when it’s done, I just delete the event.
I really recommend investing in a professional photoshoot to get a high-quality headshot. You’ll be asked for it frequently, and you should use it as your profile pic on every social media site and your website, as well as at the back of your books.
Make sure you get a copyright permission form from the photographer, and cite them as the photographer when sharing the photo.
Remember to smile in your photo, as unsmiling pics look quite uninviting.
Your menu should include links to the following types of things:
ABOUT – BLOG – NEWSLETTER – BOOKS – CONTACT – EVENTS – SCHOOL VISITS – NON-FICTION
Plus anything else which is important for anyone to find immediately.
When you insert a hyperlink, you should set it up to ‘Open in a new window’ if it leads away from your site, and leave it to open in the same tab if it’s a link to another page of your site. You don’t want to send people away from your website until they’ve finished reading!
Your website should have a blog that people can subscribe to by email, RSS or by following. I use WordPress to host my website, which includes blog functionality. The posts here are arranged by date and can be commented on, unlike website pages.
If you have a big announcement you should aim to post about it on your blog even if you’re not making new content. Finish posts about books with links to the retail purchase sites, for example:
Amazon UK | Waterstones | Amazon US | The Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Wordery | Foyles | Kobo | iBooks | WHSmith
You can add the book on Goodreads or subscribe to my newsletter to receive behind the scenes content.
If you’re invited to write blog posts, I would accept this for your debut, as its excellent training in how to quickly, efficiently write online content. Set up a reminder in your calendar to repost the blog post on your own website a few months later, so you get the maximum use out of your writing (and you don’t want to risk losing your work if the host site goes down.
Publication year author groups
If you’re in a big genre, often debut authors will create a group where they can promote each others’ work. Mine was the Fearless Fifteeners, published in 2015, for example. These are great, especially if there’s a forum where you can see what other authors are doing and collect tips.
- Fancasts – which actors should play your characters in a film
- Research for the book
- Crossover with another story/world like Narnia
- Character’s daemons
- Characters running their blog
- Interview your character
- Post-epilogue scene
- Deleted scenes
- A scene from start to finish – the editing process
- How to fix a plot problem
- things I’ve learnt about publishing
- ‘5 ways to….’ questions I get asked/tips
- Favourite fictional characters (book boyfriends/girlfriends)
- Book fashion items – related to the colour scheme of your cover, or theme of the book (e.g. dinosaurs! Space!)
- Lists of your favourite fictional characters (‘Top book boy/girlfriends’)
- Monthly favourites – cool things you’ve read/watched/listened to/eaten/bought that month
- Update on creative writing journey
- Discussion of the publishing industry
- Recent trends in releases
- Favourite books of the year
- Books you’ve preordered
- Promoting your friends’ writing/Unbound/Kickstarter/Anthology publishing projects you’re interested in
Canva is free to use within a web browser. It’s an easy way to design graphics using templates, to make your website interesting and informative. Use the templates for things like Instagram posts and website banner headers.
Lauren James was born in 1992, and graduated in 2014 from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. She is the Carnegie-nominated British Young Adult author of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, The Quiet at the End of the World and The Next Together series.
She started writing during secondary school English classes, because she couldn’t stop thinking about a couple who kept falling in love throughout history. She sold the rights to the novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university.
Her books have sold over fifty thousand copies in the UK alone, and been translated into five languages worldwide. She has been described as ‘Gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘A strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly.
Her other novels include The Last Beginning, named one of the best LGBT-inclusive works for young adults by the Independent, and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, which was inspired by a Physics calculation she was assigned at university. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and all of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. The Quiet at the End of the World considers the legacy and evolution of the human race into the far future.
Lauren is published in the UK by Walker Books and in the US by HarperCollins. She lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2020. She lectures at the University of Cambridge and Coventry University, and works with Writing West Midlands, providing creative writing courses to children through the Spark Young Writers programme.