Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.
Last week we talked about why unpublished writers need author websites. The post built a case for the usefulness of maintaining an author site–not only to gather fans, but to entertain agents like myself who may wander over there after reading your query. (Yes, this happens.)
But we didn’t talk much about what sort of content to include. I mean, what is there to say when you don’t have a book? Well, there’s a lot to say…but we’ll get to that later.
When building a website as an unpublished author, you’ll probably have two goals. The first goal would be to provide editors, agents and the publishing world with a better picture of who you are and what you’re about. The second goal would be to utilize your website as a central hub for all of your social media ventures. That way, when you meet someone who is excited about your writing, you don’t have to give them your Twitter handle, Facebook link, blog URL and so on. You just give them your website url, and they’ll be able to navigate your social media channels however they prefer.
This week, let’s focus on Goal #1…
What you should include on your author website…
1. An awesome masthead. The masthead, or banner, is the chunk of pretty design that sits at the top of most websites. If you note Susan Sleeman’s masthead, she not only has her author name front and center, but she has a tagline and really awesome buttons that link to her social media. This is the type of masthead you want! One that pulls people in.
I realize most authors get hung up on taglines, so let’s talk a bit about them. First of all, they don’t need to be Mad Men-quality. They just need to communicate what you write so that visitors who like to read what you write will poke around a bit more. The problem that most face when developing their tagline, is they haven’t really identified WHAT it is they want to write. They may dabble in three separate genres at once. But what they don’t understand is that careers are started by focusing on ONE of those areas. So, my advice is to look at whatever series or project you’re currently working on and/or most excited about, and make that your ‘thing’.(You can always change your tagline after your career picks up and you move on to other themes within that specific genre).
So if you’re writing a romantic comedy set in Texas, your tagline could be like: Emma Cotes – Texas-Sized Romantic Comedies. Or if you write sword and sorcery fantasy, your tagline could be: Jason Fitzpatrick – Putting Dragons Back in Fantasy Since 2005. Or it could be as simple as Jason Fitzpatrick – Sword and Sorcery Fantasy. It doesn’t have to impress. It just needs to attract the right reader.
2. A great author picture. Believe it or not, but most authors are afraid to put their photos online. And it always boils down to one of two reasons: they either feel uncomfortable with the way they look or they’re the type that believe it’s self-serving to promote yourself instead of your work. Please, do yourself a favor…get over yourself and put some freaking photos up! And don’t put up photos that were taken 20 years ago when you were thin. We want the present day you. And we want it in high quality. Not some cropped shot that your niece took when you were at the park.
It probably sounds silly, but being able to see your face can be what an agent or editor needs to feel comfortable with working with you.
3. An informative “About” page. No, we don’t want your life story, but five or so paragraphs of your journey as a writer, mom, physical therapist and whatever else life has thrown you, is very valuable. But before you write, be sure to shed any journalistic qualities you may have picked up in college or in the workplace. Yes, the “about” section is a pure regurgitation of information. But you want it to be fun. You want it to be lively. And you want it to reflect your writer’s voice. Take a look at Ree Drummond’s “About” page for inspiration. It’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.
4. A “Contact” page. Time to drop your online privacy inhibitions! A ‘contact’ page just isn’t complete without contact information. So, you email address is a must.
Now, if you’re a nonfiction writer, then you really need to beef up this page. Include your postal address and even a phone number for booking speaking events.
5. A blog. Ok, so you have the crucial information covered. But where do you get to show your skills? Linking your blog to your website (or even having it live on your site) is a great way to allow industry professionals the chance to scope out your writing talent. I think it goes without saying that if you do this, your blog needs to be updated on a regular basis, it needs to hit your target readership, and it needs to be well-written.
For tips on blogging, check out my 3-part series:
6. A “Where to Find Me” Page (this is for the nonficiton authors). If you write nonfiction, then platform means everything. Speaking and doing radio appearances are great ways to get your name out there to establish yourself as an expert. On your website, keep an updated schedule of where you’ll be. This way, those who want to connect with you in person will get that chance. Plus, you never know when an agent or editor may stop by during your talk.
That’s all I have when it comes to populating your author website. Any suggestions? Questions? Got a website you’d like to share? Or maybe you’d like some tips on your website? Post links, questions and thoughts below!