When I started this project I had a few things in mind. I knew I wanted to make my website better, as professional as it can be before I launch my book and it (hopefully) starts getting a lot more traffic.
What I found was that websites, and author blogs, are as varied as the authors that use them. But that doesn’t mean theres not a few things that make a website successful. I profiled eight top selling author sites and five indie authors who responded to my call for input on Facebook. I found the bestselling authors by looking through the top 100 top selling teen authors on Amazon and picked out the first eight who’s work I’d read or heard of, and who’s work was also not too dissimilar to mine.
I decided to take notes on the strengths and weakness of the site, as well as elements I want to emulate or avoid. All of this keeping in mind, of course, that they are bestselling authors and have the luxury of not having to build an audience.
I created my feedback with the thinking that, if I want to be a bestselling author, I should do my best to be a bestselling author. With all that said, lets start with...
Her Royal Highness
Kiera Cass (kieracass.com)
Overview: Of course she made it on the list, I’m pretty much obsessed with the Selection Series right now, and I’m not alone. Thats what makes her such a good candidate for this project. Best-Selling author Kiera Cass, like most authors, uses her name as her website domain. The other choice is to use the name of a book, but this can be a lot more work since you have to create a new site for each new book. This site has a tab for news, events, books, about and contact page. The general look is pretty minimalist, white background, regal, clean and consistent across all the pages.
Breakdown: The news page is where one might normally have a ‘home’ page, and is used to announce book releases and info on movie deals, while the Events tab is for tour dates. The about page was short, succinct with writing credentials and a few personal touches. It was a nice read, if not a little short for such a high profile author. The books page is well done, including large pictures of the covers, along with a short synopsis and links to buy (this part is obviously VERY important).
Takeaway: I need to not be so hard on myself about comments on my blog or social media. Kiera Cass has sold over three million books and her news posts get, on average, about one thousand likes. Thats .03% of her readership. And I haven’t even sold a book and I’m surprised I don’t have any?
Science Fiction Cinderella
Marissa Meyer (marissameyer.com)
Overview: Author of the Lunar Chronicles, the series of novels retelling Grimm fairytales with a sci-fi twist, has a pretty interesting site. I like the banner on the top and around the sides of the page, it is very reminiscent of her novels. The general look is somewhere between fantasy and sic-fi, a stark black background is an unusual thing to see now on the internet.
Breakdown: This site has nine tabs, which seems a bit like overkill, especially when compared to most author’s five or six. This site has Home, ID (or bio), Books, Media, Blog, Calendar, Extra, FAQ and Connect tabs. That being said, she also has a lot of extra content which is pretty cool if you’re a fan. Some of the pages are a little cluttered. The Home page, for example, has a newsletter subscription box, contact info, newsletter archive and a schedule of visits. All of this is also available on her connect page, which also has a social media box. The Extras page has maps, fan art, book recommendations and inspiration pics.
Takeaway: The site is a little cluttered for my taste, and some of the tabs could be merged together to make a more succinct experience, requiring fewer clicks to get to what you want. What I love is that the author makes it super easy to get in touch withe her, and all the extras are fantastic. I especially liked the music and playlists and the inspiration gallery.
Teenage Drama Mama
E. Lockhart (emilylockhart.com)
Overview: This is a nice clean set up, pretty easy to navigate and very readable. I do feel she has a couple tabs that could be merged, and I have a personal pet peeve about the links on the home page being done in blue with an underline. Looks just a little too old school html for me. In addition, her pen-name is e. lockhart, but her url is emilylockhart.com, which could be confusing.
Breakdown: My weirdo issue with the links aside, I like that her home page makes it so easy to get in touch with her. There are links to all her social media pages, and her blog (which she uses to announce events) and bonus content for her books. The books page is made up of cover art, which you click on to see details. I like that the cover art is easy to find, but I don't love that you have to click each one to read about the book. Typically, the fewer clicks you ask of your visitors, the better. Why not just give the synopsis right on the page? On her bio page she lists the usual writing credentials, but I like that she also got some personal info on there too, makes it feel friendlier.
Takeaway: I really like the sides on her homepage where she has the cover art for We Were Liars and rotating blurbs beneath it. I have to figure out how to do this on mine! Stylistically I appreciate the clean look of the site overall, but I would love to see those hyperlinks in another format.
Nerd Girl Royalty
Rainbow Rowell (rainbowrowell.com)
Overview: I loved this site as soon as I saw it. It’s playful and fun, just like the cover of her book Fangirl. I can tell this author has some sass, I feel like we could drink lots of coffee together. The blue background and banner made to look like a clothing tag are quirky and inviting, while the organized and clean look of the page still make me want to click around for more.
Breakdown: This author has six tabs on her page which are Home, About, Books, Events, News and FAQ. The home page takes advantage of her fabulous cover art for Fangirl, and even includes buy links, which seems genius to have this available right on the front page. The about page is short and sweet, without being impersonal. The books page is textbook, including cover art, blurbs and synopsis along with a link to where you can buy it. I think the News and Events tabs could be merged into one. And again, I love the sass in her answers on the FAQ page.
Takeaway: I find this author’s site to be playful, but minimal so as not to be overwhelming. Its very obvious the product she is selling (i.e. her books) without being pushy, and I love how much of her personality shows through. The only thing I would like to see is a blog, although she may consider her news section to be something of a blog.
So, what have we learned class? One thing I took away from these first four authors' sites is how important a consistent look is across your platform, from your website to your social media page. This includes everything from your profile picture to your color scheme to the fonts you use. I also was struck by how easy it is to overwhelm the page with too much information, too many things to click on can feel daunting and make people want to click away. Lastly, most importantly, these authors ALL make it super easy to get in touch with them, something all indie authors want to keep in mind.
Did you check out these authors’ sites? What were your observations? Comment below! And don’t forget to subscribe so you know when the next blog is up because next week I’ll be profiling four more best-selling author sites and what we can learn from them.
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"Fiction gives the human soul a voice." - Helen Benedict
My thoughts on books, writing, inspiration, motivation and my incredible chosen proffession.