Big Fish Media has added website design to our portfolio of services. During the last six months, we have developed the official website for the legacy of C.K. Prahalad; and the website for the book Choosing Change, by Susan Goldsworthy and Walter McFarland. We’ll have more news about our planned offerings soon; along the way, we’ve been doing our homework on top issues for nonfiction authors deciding to develop a website for their book. Over the next week or so, we will publish four posts offering insight, tactics, advice, and best practices to authors, drawn from our experience and analysis of successful nonfiction author websites.
Remember that in almost every case, authors need to be active in social media as well as operating a successful website. And, as Jason Allen Ashlock wrote in his excellent column The Truth About Author Websites, many experts believe a bad website does more harm than good. Because of the importance of costs and providing updated and new content, we still recommend WordPress as the best development platform and learning to self-admin your site is critical.
Consider a few of these basic must-dos for an author’s website, assuming his or her book is going to be published commercially and in distribution:
1. Keep content fresh: whether via blogging, news updates, interactive Q&A features, or other means; don’t allow your site to become stale (if you’re going to have a blog, be committed to creating new material at least once a week). Link to your social media.
2. Invest in a WordPress-savvy designer for a simple, elegant and functional approach. That may seem like obvious advice. What’s important is to visualize information in a style that consumers are used to: note the design on Simon & Schuster’s new websites.
3. In terms of functionality, the do no harm principle is key: whomever you hire to develop your site, take extra steps to ensure it is not buggy, that all links work, that there are no typos, and that functions provided on the site actually work. Further, avoid complex functionality that distract from your purpose, including digital bells and whistles such as Flash that won’t open properly on many machines: I like these 8 usability tips from Monica Valentinelli at SFWA.org.
4. Collect contacts and share valuable information via a newsletter or other regular outreach that could take place monthly, bi-monthly, what have you. Recruit followers for your book’s Facebook page. Newsletter signups should be available on the home page with no additional clickthroughs.
5. Use endorsements, media mentions and reviews, any manner of credible third-party affirmations to sell your message.What other people say about you is more important than what you say about you.
6. Be personal, open, and direct so viewers and readers get to know you. Personality matters. Rigorously scrub your bio and personal reflections of corporate jargon and excessive details. Share what’s important to you and gives you purpose. Such an approach can become counterproductive if you don’t use your common sense about what to reveal of yourself, or let your ego run amok. Business and leadership author Scott Berkun has a useful post on writing a bio; Richard Ridley in Amazon’s CreateSpace community offers a smart piece on the three types of author bios; marketing master innovator Rohit Bhargava writes and speaks frequently on why personality is important in connecting online–see his books and presentations here.