When readers visit your website, they’re looking for six things, and they won’t stick around if they don’t find at least one thing they want.
This article will summarize research conducted by Codex Group about what readers want from author websites.
What do readers want to see on an author’s website?
1. Exclusive Content
In the study, 43% of survey respondents wanted exclusive online content.
Readers want to feel like they’re getting something no one else is getting. They want the behind-the-scenes special goodies that are only available on your website, so you need to give them a compelling reason to visit your website.
If your website is just an online version of your book’s last page with your bio and your photo, there’s no good reason for them to search for your site.
Many authors operate their website as if it’s an empty room. They unlock the door and then wonder why no one comes. You must send invitations, set out the food, and host the party. Make your website an inviting place for readers to visit.
You can offer fun things like MP3s, short stories, or even a whole book for free. You might post photos of the place where your novel is set, but they can’t be photos you’re posting on social media. Readers want to find really cool information and photos related to your book that they can’t find anywhere else.
But readers aren’t the only ones looking for exclusive content. Google likes exclusive content as well. When the content on your website can’t be found anywhere else on the web, you get an SEO boost from Google.
Having a blog on your website makes it easier to offer content for free. Seth Godin gives away a lot of exclusive content on his blog, and he also sells more books than most authors.
Add a page called “Goodies” or “Freebies” to your website, and you’ll see an increase in traffic because readers will want to snag your PDF download or your book’s companion products.
2. Your Speaking Schedule
Readers visiting a nonfiction author’s website are often looking for a speaking schedule. Codex reported that 36% of web visitors want to see a schedule of speaking engagements, book signings, and appearances.
Some authors consider themselves to be a speaker who writes rather than a writer who speaks. If that’s you, there’s a good chance people want to know when and where you’re speaking next. If you don’t publish your speaking schedule, you’re decreasing your chances of being invited to speak.
Event coordinators want to see that you’ll help them promote their event by publishing it on your website and linking back to their event page. They are most interested in selling tickets and filling seats. If you are not willing to promote their event on your website via your speaking schedule, you’re less likely to be invited to speak.
On the other hand, if they see that you draw a crowd, they will be willing to pay you more.
Publishing your speaking schedule also increases your authority. When readers, event coordinators, or media outlets see that you speak regularly, they know you’ve had experience and success.
With the MySpeakingEvents WordPress plugin, you can easily create a speaking schedule page that will be helpful to your readers and increase the likelihood of booking future events.
3. Recommended Books
Website visitors are also looking for book recommendations. In fact, 36% want to see recommended books, “explainers,” or inside information about the book. They want the details that average readers won’t know if they just grab your book from Amazon or the library. People who come to your website want the inside scoop.
Authors must be readers. Share the books you like by posting a review on your blog. You can list the books that inspired your book or list the authors who make you want to write.
Garr Reynolds does a great job making book recommendations. He doesn’t just recommend a book. He explains the gist of the book visually.
Garr Reynolds has had a huge impact on the way I speak and present information. Because of his recommendations, I never use bullet points in my PowerPoint or Keynote presentations. I use beautiful photos instead because of his book and blog. I’ve also read the books he recommends, and those books have also impacted me. His influence was multiplied because of the books he recommended.
If you’re writing nonfiction, you can recommend other books on your topic. Readers who want to delve deep into the topic will appreciate a list of the books you used as you were researching.
Readers will talk about books, and they might as well be discussing them in the comments of your website or using your review as a resource when they go to book club.
Some authors are a bit selfish with their websites. They may read a book they like and then keep it to themselves, but that’s a missed opportunity. You need content, so write a book review.
You also probably need some revenue.
Whenever you recommend books, you can make a little extra money by using Amazon’s affiliate program. With Amazon affiliate links, you’ll receive a commission whenever readers click your link and make an Amazon purchase. The MyBookTable plugin is an easy way to create a bookstore webpage that “stocks” the books you recommend, and it allows you to use your affiliate links.
4. Book News
Codex reported that 33% of respondents wanted weekly email news bulletins with updates on tours, reviews, and books in progress.
One of the main reasons readers visit an author’s website is to find out when the next book is coming out. It’s easy to keep your readers up-to-date on your book progress with the MyBookProgress WordPress Plugin. Readers can view the progress bar on your website, and they can get progress details when they receive your newsletter. Are you ahead of schedule? Did you have an event that delayed your progress? Your fans want to hear about it.
Readers will also be interested to know when you have a breakthrough with one of your characters or when you’ve concocted a perfect solution for your character’s dilemma. In your newsletter, you can offer special perks like discounts, preorder bonuses, or information about where you’ll be signing books.
Your web visitors need to feel like they’re the “in crowd.” Make sure they are the first to know when you sign your next book contract, finish a draft, or finalize your cover.
Check out the following episodes for tips on creating an author newsletter people want to read.
- How to Pick the Right Email Marketing Service for You
- 3 Ways to Grow Your Author Newsletter
- 8 Tools to Help Authors Get More Email Subscribers
- 8 Elements of Effective Author Newsletters
5. Your Contact Information
It’s frustrating for readers when they find an author’s website only to discover they can’t contact that author. Be kind to your readers and set up an email address dedicated to receiving reader feedback.
Authors have been corresponding with readers for centuries. C.S. Lewis spent hours hand-writing responses to his readers’ letters. If he can do that, you can give people your email address.
Many authors get nervous about providing their contact information. To some, it feels unsafe. However, your physical address, as well as many other personal details, are for sale on the internet for a few dollars. If you’ve ever received a credit card offer or a magazine you didn’t subscribe to, then your address is for sale.
If that sounds unbelievable, watch this video where an amazing “mind reader” reveals his gift.
You don’t necessarily have to put your home address on your website, but you should have one or more of the following easily visible on your website.
- Contact Form
- Email Address
- Phone number: If that makes you nervous, set up an account with Google Voice where you can have calls forwarded to your phone between the hours you choose.
- Physical Address: Use a PO box if that feels more secure.
As Rob Eagar says, “Don’t Play Hide & Seek with Your Readers.” Make it easy for people to correspond. When your writing inspires readers, they want to tell you. Some readers will even create their own works of art and will be eager to share them with the author who inspired it.
Having your contact information visible on your website also makes it easier for the media to contact you for interviews. When podcasters search for guests, they often visit the author’s website to find contact information and extend an invitation.
If a New York Times reporter needs a quote from you before their deadline in two hours, they need to be able to call you. If they can’t reach you quickly, they won’t reach out.
6. Your Social Network Information
Certain readers are only interested in your social network handles, so make it simple for website visitors to connect with you on your social channels. If you’re on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, make sure to include prominent buttons on your website where readers can click to connect.
If I can’t find the email address for a potential podcast guest, I’ll often contact them through social media.
7. Good Photos
Website visitors don’t want to see piles of text when they come to your site. They don’t want to read a welcome letter or see the snapshot your husband took of you in the backyard. Your website only looks as good as the photography you use.
Authors often choose a beautiful website theme and then feel disappointed when their website doesn’t look like the demo. The difference between the demo site and your site is probably the photography.
A good design won’t fix bad photos, but good photos can sometimes save a bad design.
Learn how to take good photos with your smartphone. When you learn the basics of lighting and photography, you’ll be amazed at how professional your photos look. Start by searching Google or YouTube for a video on how to use lighting to improve your photos.
Improving your photography skills will improve the look of your website. If you’re not interested in photography, you can buy stock photos. For stock photos, I recommend using Unsplash or Depositphotos.
Invest in a good photo of yourself to include on your website. Make sure it’s a current photo so that if a reader meets you in person, they will recognize you from your photo. If you’re not sure how to get a good photo of yourself, listen to our episode about 7 Tips for Best Selling Author Portraits.
When you give people a compelling reason to visit your website and make it easy for them to find everything they want, your readers will become fans. Then they’ll use links to your amazing website to spread the word about your books, and your website traffic and potentially your book sales will increase.
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