The only reason why anyone would visit an author website is because it is the most interesting website in the entire world – for that person at that time.
So, why would someone visit your fiction website?
Here are ten answers that will not only draw readers to your author website, but will get them to bring their friends as well.
The DVD Approach for Novel Websites
The best way to get people to a book’s website is to treat the site like the “special features” section of a DVD. Just as DVD bonus features give viewers something they didn’t get in the theater, your website should give your readers the bonuses they didn‘t get in the book.
#1 Integrated Blog
Many of the other tips in this post require an integrated blog to work. So if you are curious about what you should blog about, keep reading. Blogger and other 3rd party blogs are like the MySpace of blogging. They are old fashioned and ineffective. The key is for your blog to be 100% integrated into your website.
- “Author websites with integrated blogs get 50% more traffic than those without a blog.” – Click to Tweet!
- “Avoid putting your author blog on a third party site like Blogger.com or WordPress.com.” – Click to Tweet!
#2 Deleted Scenes & Alternate Endings
Often when authors go through the editorial process, the editor cuts scenes out of their book. These scenes may not fit in your book, but people would love to see them on your website. Especially if you mention at the end of your book “you can find hidden chapters and deleted scenes on my website.” This will make people curious to see what got cut from the book.
- “Readers love to find deleted scenes posted on an author’s website.” – Click to Tweet!
- “Readers love to find alternate endings & hidden chapters on your book’s website.” – Click to Tweet!
#3 Fan Art
There is a certain kind of person, perhaps 1% of the population, who is compelled to draw the characters and scenes when they read a book. They process the story by sketching it. If you are a published novelist, there may be dozens of sketches of your characters hidden in the sketchbooks of your readers.
Your readers would love to see those sketches. So, encourage your fans to send you their character art. Then feature their art on your blog and invite other readers to send you their drawings. Give them credit and a link to their website or blog if they have one.
- “Fan Art is a great source of “free” blog posts that your readers will love.” – Click to Tweet!
- “There may already be character art hidden in the sketchbooks of your readers.” – Click to Tweet!
- “Your readers already create binders full of fan art! Post it to your blog to boost traffic.” – Click to Tweet!
#4 Short Stories
Short stories can draw readers to your website, especially if those short stories are about characters they have already come to love in your books. If you’re writing a series, there may be some plot points that happen between books that didn’t quite make it into the book.
I know an author who wrote a short Christmas story with two of her characters and posted it in December. Readers who subscribed to her email newsletter got that Christmas story as a bonus. That’s a brilliant strategy. She added hundreds of people to her subscriber base and made her readers very happy.
The key with short stories is to get them professionally edited. Your short stories need to be of the same editorial quality as your traditionally-published fiction. Otherwise it can hurt your brand.
- “Readers love short stories of characters they already know. But edit those stories before posting!” – Click to Tweet!
#5 Answer Reader Questions on Your Blog
As a novelist, your blog should save you time, not cost you time.
Popular writers can spend hours answering the same reader questions over and over again. The better way is to answer the question once in a blog post and then send every subsequent asker a link to the post that answers their question.
In fact, you may already have dozens of “blog posts” in the sent folder of your inbox. To “blog-atize” those emails, take out the recipient’s information, edit it, add a magnetic title (which can be simply the question you’re answering) and then hit publish!
- “As a novelist, your blog should save you time, not cost you time.” – Click to Tweet!
- “Answer reader questions once, on your blog, then send subsequent askers to that one good answer.” – Click to Tweet!
#6 Upcoming Book Status
Add a book progress bar to your sidebar or homepage. Brandon Sanderson does this and I think it’s really clever. I visit Sanderson’s site frequently to see when the next book will be ready.
We are working on a plugin that will let you easily add a progress bar to your website. To find out about when it is ready, sign up in the sidebar for our email newsletter.
- “Add a book progress bar to your author website to give your readers a reason to come back often.” – Click to Tweet
- “Put a button near the progress bar that says “Get Book Updates” that goes to your email newsletter.” – Click to Tweet
#7 Email Newsletter Signup
Your fans want to know when your next book comes out. Your publisher can’t tell them because your publisher doesn’t know who they are. So it is up to you to collect their email address. You don’t have to send a lot of boring emails. Just say, “I’ll only email you when my next book comes out,” and they’ll be very happy to sign up for an email newsletter like that.
- “Make your email signup form easy to find for maximum author newsletter growth.” – Click to Tweet
- “The harder your email signup form is to see, the fewer subscribers you will have.” – Click to Tweet
#8 Sell Autographed Copies
People would love to be able to buy an autographed copy of your book, even for an additional cost. Signed By The Author is a great service that helps authors sell autographed copies. This is an easy way to make some extra money by giving your passionate readers something special.
#9 Author Commentary
Many people like to listen to the director’s commentary on a DVD. Similarly, some readers want to read the author’s notes. Why did you kill off the love interest in Chapter 4? Is the antagonist like anyone you know in real life?
An easy way to offer “author’s commentary” is to use your answers from tip #5 above (visitor’s questions). After 20 or so posts, you can pull them together into a PDF to offer as a download.
- “Your author website is a great place to offer “director’s commentary” for your book.” – Click to Tweet
#10 Social Icons
10-20% of your readers come to your author website just to find you on their favorite social network. So, give your readers an easy way to connect to you socially. Put social link icons right at the top of your site so readers can easily connect with you. All they have to do is Google your name, go to your website, and at the top of the page they can know where to find you on their favorite social network.
- “Readers google your name to find you on Twitter. Is your Twitter name easy to find on your site?” – Click to Tweet!
- “I just learned what brings readers to a novel’s website. – Click to Tweet!
- “Here are 10 ways to bring readers to your book’s website.” – Click to Tweet!
- “Treat your fiction website like the special features on a DVD for a traffic surge.” – Click to Tweet!
What do you think?
- What do you like to find on fiction websites?
- What do you go to a fiction website to find?
Need help with your Novel Website? We build websites for authors just like you.
Brilliant advice. My friend, Becky Doughty, is posting a serial novel in monthly installments. I look forward to each month’s tale of another person/couple in the “Coach House Trailer Park.” I know Becky plans to e-pub this book, which seems like a stroke of brilliance. I know I’ll be buying it. I definitely think serials/short stories are the way to get your writing to the masses, before you even have a book published!
I have learned so much from you this last year – always a new angle I can work.
Thank you, Heather, for plugging my Elderberry Croft story – I’m excited to see how this endeavor plays out. I love going to new author websites and getting a taste of their writing, especially when it’s full stories, rather than teasers. Although Elderberry Croft is a serial novel, each episode is a complete story within itself. But the story of the main character, Willow Goodhope, is the underlying thread that ties them all together.
Love the fan art idea – my husband offered to “illustrate” for me, but as our Facebook friends can attest, it probably isn’t a good fit. (We put out a sample piece for fan consideration….) But I’m totally thinking it might be a good idea for cover options!
Great tips! I was planning to post short stories of scenes that didn’t make it when the publishing date nears. 🙂
What great ideas! These are going on my to-do list!
Love the “DVD special features” concept. Sheer brilliance.
I wish my favorite authors would take it to heart.
Something to keep in mind for my own books too. Thank you. 🙂
Great tips! Now all I need is a published novel… I especially like the idea of deleted scenes and of author commentary.
Coincidentally, I’m currently reading Way of Kings, so I really appreciate the fan art you chose.
“[3rd party blog services] are old fashioned and ineffective…”
Guess I’m in trouble building my home on one. I actually have my own website but I haven’t a clue how to set it up, I barely understood how to hook it into forwarding to my free wordpress blog. I suppose advice is to invest in it, but the reality is many of us don’t have that money to invest and that doesn’t mean we deserve readers less or should just give up.
WordPress has served me very well over the last few years, actually, and I’ve gained several subscribers. I don’t even have a book out yet and I edit over time (after a pre-posting edit that is) as I go along or I’d never have content. I also follow a few authors I love who use wordpress.com as well.
I’m not trying to argue with you here, I’m sure an official website is better (it at least allows adsense), but everything I just mentioned leaves me wondering exactly why you call them ineffective? What makes them ineffective? I can only think some readers might turn up their noses that you use a free service? Is there something I’m missing? I really am curious about the basis for this particular tweetable.
I enjoyed some of the other suggestions though, bonus content is a good idea to consider 😀
The extra content and having network buttons are a good idea, I’m wondering though what you mean by “integrated content”? I couldn’t see anything in this post that you couldn’t have on Blogger.
Like you mentioned, I find myself going to sites (authors included) to look for social network links.
Thanks for the great ideas!
great post with great ideas. Do you think an author must have a separate blog or can the author use their current blogs and add an author page?
Your author website should have an integrated blog. So if you own RethaGroenewald.com, your blogs should be found on there. 🙂
There’s good advice here. In fact, I’d recommend doing this rather than spending time on Facebook or Twitter.
However, there’s nothing wrong with using Blogger. Lynn Viehl has been using it for years to promote her works, and she has built up a good enough following to get her last book on the NY Times list. A look at her website at http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/ shows separate pages containing her backlist, her “best of” articles and links.
Thomas, another great post. Seriously. I’m trying to take all your advice as I build http://www.christiansuspense.com.
I’ve just added a Character Builder page ( http://tinyurl.com/aoa6wpg ) to help drive traffic until my book is published. We’ve signed the contract, but the physical book is still a year away. Your post (above) is what gave me the idea. Hope it works out!
Great tips, but I too am confused about your remark about using Blogger and WordPress, especially as it seems your site has a lot of posts on how to use WordPress effectively.
I would LOVE if someone made fan art of my new novel…now all I need is fans! haha
but seriously, that progress plugin looks pretty cool, reminds me of the progress bar in Scrivener, not sure if that is intentional or not.
I have the same question as some others here. What’s wrong with using Blogger?
Blogger isn’t as effective due to SEO, design, and developer constraints…but it sounds like a blog post to clarify is needed.
This is really very interesting article to say the least. Thanks for sharing
Thanks, I think there’s some great advice here. For now I’ll make my email sign up and social icons more prominent on my site. Love the idea of fan art – one day!
I love what Mindy Starns Clark does on her website. A lot of her modern-day stories weave in historical details. On her website, you can click through to a particular book and learn how much is real history. Fascinating!
Thank you for sharing this great information. I have some of these in place already, but many more to implement. Building a following on social media is not my expertise, but really enjoy connecting with my fans. This information will make that process easier for both of us. Thanks!