When I started building websites in the 90s, it was hard. Now, we’re living in a golden age where anyone can turn a free theme into a functional author page. My intention when I started querying was to turn my online art portfolio into an author site—but a hacker wiped it! Rather than rebuild from scratch, I gave my rarely-used WordPress blog a fresh layout. But one question remained: If you aren’t published yet, what do you include on an author website? Below, I’ll give you some easy elements to add to your site, including the one that netted me several comments from agents.
Even if you don’t have publishing experience, this is the place to include interesting or relevant experience you do have. You’ve lived a full life, and it certainly informs your writing. The idea is to give potential editors or agents—because they will check your website—an idea of who you are, why you write what you write, and what transferable skills you bring to the table.
At some point, you’re going to need an author photo, and when that time comes, you’ll wish you’d done it already. (This happened to me last month.) It doesn’t have to be professionally done, but at least try not to make it obvious that it’s a selfie in your car. Consider lighting (natural is best), angle, background, composition/cropping, and image quality.
The next time you’re dressed up for an event, ask someone who’s handy with a camera (or phone camera) to snap a good shot of you. There are also lots of free or cheap retouching apps you can use to make the picture look more professional. (I don’t know what I’d do without the Facetune app.)
Group Affiliations and Awards
Are you a member of a writing organization or group? Include it on your page, especially if you’re in a leadership position. If you’re in RWA, becoming a PRO member is easy, and listing it on your site shows you’re serious about building a career in romance.
Were you a finalist or winner in a writing contest? Go ahead and include awards and nominations on your site, too.
Articles and Guest Posts
Guest posts help everyone. The blogs you’re writing for are happy to have additional content, and you get exposure. You can also keep an updated list of featured posts somewhere on your author site. But if you include a link to another site, make sure you’re selecting the “open in a new tab” option. You don’t want links to take visitors away from your site.
When I started querying, I had a number of other projects I was working on, so I made a “Projects” page on my site. For each one, I included a working title (or cute project name), word count, genre, one sentence pitch, frame (X meets Y), and status.
Project Supergirls, 29,000-word sci-fi romance novella set in NYC featuring an elite team of genetically modified female fighters from another dimension. Sailor Moon meets Anita Blake and Lost Girl. High heat level. Status: complete.
The Projects page was probably the single most effective thing I included on my site. Several agents asked about the other projects I had listed there, and complimented the website overall.
- Buy a domain name, so you can have a URL that doesn’t include the blog service in it. It’s not expensive, and you can write it off.
- Use widgets to connect your social media to the site. You’re probably posting on Twitter or FB more often than your blog anyway (if you have a blog), so you might as well have your most recent updates showing up on your author site.
- Choose a theme with clear navigation. Don’t make visitors search for the menu.
- If you’re just starting out, it’s okay to use a free service like WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, or Strikingly. You can upgrade later when/if it becomes necessary.
- Even if you’re using a free theme, play around in the customization options to make your site reflect you.
Good luck with your author website! Remember, you don’t need to have a lot on there at first, but it’s good to have web presence other than social media when potential agents and editors check you out.
Even if you haven’t built a website or newsletter yet, join us for #RWchat on Sunday, May 7th, for the first of our “May is Marketing Month” chats.
Golden Heart® finalist Alexis Daria’s debut contemporary romance will be released in 2017 from SMP Swerve. On Sunday evenings, Alexis co-hosts #RWchat, a weekly Twitter chat for romance writers. She also serves as PRO Liaison for the New York City chapter of RWA, and Municipal Liaison for the NYC region of National Novel Writing Month. She loves social media, and you can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, and follow her blog.