What every author needs to include on their website

Websites are a key marketing tool for all authors, whether or not they have chosen to go down the independent publishing route. All author websites are different, and different authors might decide to include different things on their site depending on what they’re trying to achieve, but we can still identify several things that the vast majority of writers will want to include on their site.

Here’s a checklist of what you should include.

  • Book information. If you’re going to have a website for your writing, it certainly helps if you include information about it. Including details of your books and any other relevant writing you’ve done (such as key publications or important competition wins) is a must.
  • Author bio. You want people to know who you are, so make sure you’ve included a good ‘about’ page with key details that are relevant to your career as an author.
  • Social media information. We all use social media to engage with people, promote our work and make important writing-related announcements, so make sure people can find the relevant details easily on your website.
  • Contact information. You never know when someone might want to get in touch with you with amazing news (or just, y’know, a nice message or random comment), so make sure your contact information is easy to find on your site.
  • Blog. We all love a blog. It’s not quite as formal as a ‘proper’ website but it’s still a hugely useful and important tool for writers, so making sure you’ve either got one directly on your main website or clearly linked to that website definitely makes sense.
  • Coming soon. You might not need this all the time, but if you’re working on a new project that’s due out soon, it makes sense to get ahead on the promotion and put some enticing details somewhere on your website.

Are there any other ‘must haves’ that you think authors should include on their websites?

Should you have a penname?

Pseudonym. Nom du plume. There are several different names for it (rather fittingly, really), but they all refer to having a penname. Writing under a different name is something that quite a few authors do, but should you decide to do it, too? In other words, should you decide to use a different name for your writing to the name that you use to go through life?

In most instances, I would say it’s probably easier to keep your real name for your writing work. There’s no reason for most people to use a different name and it cuts down on any confusion that could arise from you deciding to use a different one.

However, there are clearly plenty of cases where authors have written under names that are different from their own, and so depending on what you have written, it could be something you’d like to consider. If you have the same name of an already well-known author, for example, it might make more sense for you to write under another name. If you write in several different genres, you might decide to have one name for each (“Nora Roberts writing as JD Robb” is one example). Also, if you’re writing as a duo, you might like to combine your names so you can publish the book as if it’s by a single author (Nicci French is an example of this).

Generally speaking though, I’d say it’s probably wise to use your own name on your work wherever possible. After all, if you believe in your work enough to publish it and have other people read it, either through a traditional publisher or through self-publishing, you might as well put your own name on it. There might be certain circumstances where it makes sense to use another name, such as those outlined above, or other situations such as if you really hate your name and think your work might sound more appealing if you had a different one, but in most cases it’s just far simpler to use your real name.

But what do you think? Do you publish under a pseudonym or do you think you should always put your real name on your work if possible?

Why is crime fiction so popular?

If you take a look at almost any bestseller list, you can usually expect to see at least a few crime novels in there. This is a genre that is seriously popular and has huge numbers of dedicated fans.

But why is this? Why is crime fiction so popular?

If you asked ten different people that question, you would probably get ten different answers. People like books for different reasons. But still, I think we can identify some common themes that bind people together in their love for crime fiction.

One of these common themes has got to be the sheer range and variety that can be found within the genre. From the sleuthing of Sherlock Holmes to grittier, more gruesome modern thrillers, to cosy mysteries, to the recent rise in popularity of Scandinavian crime fiction, there is a lot going on within crime fiction and so it stands to reason that most people are bound to be able to find something about it that they like.

I think the mystery inherent in the genre is also another of the big selling points. If you think about it, all of the best books – crime fiction or not – have some element of mystery or tension in them. Why is that character behaving like that? What is the point of that subplot? What will happen when X meets Y? These are the sorts of things that grab people’s attention and, when they’re done well, hold their attention right through to the end.

And, even though books of all genres employ tactics such as this, I’d argue that in many cases, crime fiction does it the best. The stakes are very often literally about life and death and one of the key skills of a mystery writer is to make people want to keep turning the page – you shouldn’t want to put the book down until you’ve read it to the end. I think that compulsion to find out what happened and the buzz you get from reading a really compelling mystery go a long way to explaining just why we love these books so much.

Plus, there is a kind of intrigue in crime. It’s something that we’re all aware of and know about, and so even if we’ve never really experienced it ourselves, we can still believe many of the actions in these books taking place. There’s a believability to the best crime fiction that makes it compelling – and books provide a safe place to explore different sides of humanity.

Which brings us onto the issue of character. Some of the most complex, interesting and best known literary characters come from crime fiction. The best books are peopled with characters we want to know more about – we don’t always get to know more, at least not very quickly (especially if we’re talking about a series of novels), but the well-drawn and compelling characters have to be one of the top reasons for the popularity of the genre. After all, if the characters were no good, we wouldn’t care.

We also get a chance to use our brains with these books, whether it’s trying to work out a character’s motive, think through the ‘whodunnit’ mystery, or read between the lines to pick up meaning that hasn’t been explicitly stated. And all of that is even before we talk about the compelling, twisty, unexpected plots that so many crime novels utilise so successfully, or the hard-hitting endings that knock you for six.

To use a cliché, crime fiction has the whole package. It has the characters, the plot, the suspense, the mystery, the top quality writing and, often, the promise of more to come in the next book and the next. And there is always more to read. This is a genre where there’s always a new book to discover, where someone you know has a recommendation of a book you just have to read, or your favourite writer is due to release the next instalment of their must-read series.

It’s an exciting genre, and one I’m hugely proud to be writing in. But what are your reasons for loving crime fiction? I’d love to know what you think…

How do you engage your readers?

Engaging with readers is a crucial job of the independent publisher. ‘Engagement’ could mean anything from updating your Twitter feed to meeting people face to face, but however you choose to engage with people, it’s something that requires regular attention. Here are some of the things you might like to think about when you’re looking for new ways to engage with your readers.

Have a purpose

First of all, what is the purpose of your engagement? For example, let’s say you’re starting a new blog for engagement purposes. What will that blog be about? Why will people want to read it? You might have all sorts of different posts on your blog, but it can help you to have a focus that lets people know the sort of thing they can expect to find.

This blog, for instance, is about lots of things to do with writing, reading and the book industry, but it is specifically to do with independent publishing.

Be passionate

It almost doesn’t need to be said, does it? If you’re going to engage with readers and encourage them to find out more about your work, you need to be passionate about what you’re doing. Whether you’re writing blog posts about a topic related to the subject of your novel, or updating your Facebook page with the latest happenings in your writing life, you need to be selling it.

Focus on the content

It can be quite easy to get caught up in the process of engagement and looking at statistics to see how many people have looked at your blog/website/Facebook page this week. However, as important as these statistics are, they’ll never be as important as the content. You could spend hours and hours analysing your stats and still get nowhere because your content isn’t up to scratch, so make sure you’ve got your priorities right.

After all, people are more likely to be interested in engaging with you if you’ve got something worthwhile and interesting to say, so give as much of your attention as possible to the actual content of your engagement activity.

Make it easy to connect

Also, you can boost your chances of successful engagement by making it as easy as possible for people to connect with you. Simple things such as making sure you’ve got the comments enabled on your blog, or the links to your social media pages on your website, can make a big difference. Being open and friendly to the people who do get in touch is also a good idea; you don’t want to put them off getting in touch by failing to reply or being too distant.

Get the message out there

If people are going to engage with you, they need to be able to find you, so don’t forget the promotion aspect of engagement. We’ve looked before in this blog at different ways of marketing and connecting with people, and there are plenty of things you can do to encourage engagement, from implementing social media campaigns to having giveaways of your book to encourage interest.

Be persistent

Finally, don’t give up. The process of engaging people and keeping their attention can take time, so keep working on it even if nothing much happens at first. Keep writing those blog posts on a regular basis, updating Facebook and your website with news, posting on Twitter about things that interest you and so on. And be proactive. Sometimes waiting for people to engage with you is counterproductive. Sometimes you have to go out there and make the first move, by replying to someone else’s Tweet or commenting on an interesting blog. That first step can be the hardest, but it could be what you need to engage with someone new and start to generate more interest for your work.

So, how do you go about engaging with your readers? Do you have any tried and tested tips, or ideas you’d love to try? Let me know in the comments.

Battle over .book begins

You may have heard about the scheme to introduce a whole host of new top level domains (TLDs) to internet addresses. TLDs are things like .com and .net, and up until now there hasn’t been a whole lot of choice in the selection.

However, ICANN, the organisation in charge of TLDs, has been inviting applications from businesses and other organisations for new web address suffixes. Part of the idea behind this is to make it so that TLDs are more relevant to the websites that use them. The first round of applications has recently finished, and more than 1000 applications have been made, including for TLDs such as .app, .shop and .map.

One of the most popular applications was for .book, which is thought to be contested by nine separate applicants, including Amazon. This process is significant, because whoever wins the .book TLD will have control over it. This means, for instance, that if another book retailer wanted to utilise the .book TLD for their own website, the organisation that owned it could in theory decide to deny them the opportunity.

It’s thought that the application review process is set to go on for seven months or so, and the first set of new TLDs should start to go live in March 2013. You can read more about the TLD application process and the .book story by visiting this article from The Bookseller.