Saturday, April 25, 2015

Is Your Author Website Up to Snuff? - by Vijaya Schartz

Join me in welcoming our guest, Vijaya Schartz!

I recently redesigned my author website and learned a lot in the process. I’m sure other authors encounter the same challenges. Although we all know our author website is important, it’s often the last thing we tackle. Whether we fumble with our first site, redesign or freshen up an existing one, we usually procrastinate. The task seems daunting. Sometimes money is an issue if you are not a techie. Yet, an author should rethink his/her entire website on a regular basis, and check that the information is up to date, at least once a month.

Is an author website still relevant in today’s social media world?
Although you may spend more time on facebook or twitter, you have a blog, and you guest post on many other blogs, your website should remain the primary source for your readers to find your books. You should have total control of the information your readers get about you and your books. Only you have the correct information and can disseminate it through your official author website. Your website link should be in your signature line, in your bio, on your business cards, on every piece of promotional material concerning your books.

Why is it necessary to redesign and update an author site every other year?
Trends evolve, mobile devices change the way we browse. You write more books and they need to be featured. You want to provide your readers with new information all the time. Keep a current calendar of your appearances, etc. When I visit an author site that lists a book signing coming up two years ago, I wonder whether this author is still writing.

Can you host your website on a blog?
Absolutely. Wordpress and Blogspot can be your official website. It’s preferable to still get your own domain name ( or and you can use the blog with its easy templates. If you go that route, you still must have several pages, one about yourself, one about your book (or books), upcoming releases, new releases, one you use as an actual blog, etc. Using your own domain name and having more than one page may cost you a little, but it’s very affordable.

Make your design friendly to the new technology:
While large book covers and fancy backgrounds were the rave a few years ago, along with video clips and moving widgets, these features have gone the way of the dodo, because of the new ways readers access your information. No more small print, book excerpts, either. They become unreadable on the tiny screen. Keep those for the blogs.

Why I redesigned my website:
I’ve had my website since 1999 (my first book came out in 2000) and it went through many incarnations. The last redesign was two years ago, but I have so many books, it had become too cumbersome and a maze to navigate. I use a cheap hosting company (Hostingmatters), and I had used up all the space allocated and couldn’t add anymore book covers (unless I was willing to pay premium hosting prices). Then one of my publishers decided to redesign fresh new covers for my sci-fi romances, and I had more new titles coming this year. Some of my backlist titles are now out of print. To compound the problem, I also had a widget from Photobucket that streamed my book covers in a fancy little show, but Photobucket stopped this feature, and although the widget still worked, I could not change or add any new covers to it... It was time to rethink my entire website situation and take action.

How I did the redesign:
- I had a fancy wallpaper background, which I loved, but mobile devices hate those. Instead, I made a banner by cutting a strip of it and used it as a header, and I matched the dark background in solid color. It has the same feel as the full wallpaper graphic.

- I limited all my book covers to a uniform, and much smaller size (200x300 pixels). They are still big enough to look good on the large screen, and they easily adapt to the small screen of my cell phone. I didn’t go for the stripped down mobile version. I’m a flamboyant girl, and I do like color and graphics, even on my cell.

- I reduced the number of pages to simplify navigation. No more cats and fancy flashing banners. Not every book has a page, now. I have a page for each genre (since I write in several genres), and a page for each series. When you click on the covers, you get to a place on the page with the full book information. If you only have a few books, then you probably want to have an entire page for each book. But with over twenty-five titles, not counting the boxed sets, anthologies and special editions, I had to make a different choice.

- I gave the new pages carefully chosen names and descriptions, as well as fresh metatags and search words (in the file properties section of each page if you design your own site). You want to make sure your site shows up on top of the list when a reader is Googling your name.

- I made the buy links and social media buttons part of the header, so each page has a link to my media pages, and to my author page on Amazon, B&N, ARe, Kobo, Smashwords, etc. Experts are divided on this, but as a small press author, I still think a reader should be able to buy my books in three clicks. That is the golden rule in Internet retailing. If your books are only in brick and mortar bookstores, you do not need all these links front and center, but I do.

- After the new site went live, I received rave comments from marketers and friendly suggestions from author website experts, and I quickly implemented the suggested changes I deemed useful. And voila!

As a result:
My site is now five times lighter than it was before, and I don’t have to worry about increased hosting costs. The pictures load fast, even if you have a slow Internet connection. It’s easy to navigate, and user friendly. It contains all my books and has room for many more. It looks fabulous on a cell phone. I can now send my readers there with the utmost confidence.

5 important basic tips to keep in mind:

            1 - Get your or domain name. No one ever checks .net .biz or .tv
2 - Be weary of website designers who are not familiar with specific author business. Authors have different needs. Visit the websites of the most successful authors in your genre for inspiration. It’s all right to copy their ideas. They know the business and instructed their website designer accordingly. They have teams of experts keeping their site up to the new media and market demands.
3 - Always have at least one book cover (latest release) on your front page if you are published. The reader should know at first glance they’ve landed on the right author website.
4 - keep it simple, easy to navigate. Links, links, links.
            5 - Use precise tags and search words, so your site shows up on top of search list results.

I hope this helps. This said, good luck redesigning your author website.

Vijaya Schartz
Blasters, Swords, Romance with a Kick

Author Bio:
Born in France, award-winning author Vijaya Schartz never conformed to anything and could never refuse a challenge. She likes action and exotic settings, in life and on the page. She traveled the world and claims to also travel through time, as she writes without boundaries about the future and the far away past. Her love of cats transpires in many of her books... and she has more than twenty-five novels published. Her stories collected numerous five star reviews and a few literary awards. Find her and her books at

Latest release from Vijaya Schartz:
BELOVED CRUSADER, Curse of the Lost Isle Book 6 (standalone)
1096 AD ‑ To redeem a Pagan curse, Palatina the Fae braves the Christian world to embark on an expedition to free the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem from the Turks. Pierre de Belfort, Christian Knight of Lorraine, swore never to let a woman rule his life, and doesn't believe in love. Thrown together into the turmoil of the First Crusade, on a sacred journey to a land of fables, they must learn to trust each other. For in this war, the true enemy is not human... and discovery could mean burning at the stake.


Jannine Gallant said...

Nice site! Those buy buttons are very cool. Did you download them from each site? Great informative post!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Wonderful tips! Your ideas are timely, because I need to get my website updated. Thanks for your generous advice!

Leah St. James said...

Love the banner, Vijay! Great idea. And thanks for the reminder that I need to keep my site fresh and updated...even if I'm tired of looking at it! :-)

Vijaya Schartz said...

Jannine, I copied and saved these buttons from the online retailers, then used them and linked them to my page on each site.

Cherie Lee said...

Well stated and easily understood information.

Connie Flynn said...

I'm preparing to update my own website and your tips are very helpful. Thanks for sharing them. Great book cover, by the way.

Connie Flynn said...

I should have gone to your new site before posting. It's terrific and those links are amazing. A really good idea, one I'm going to follow.

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