Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Website Week: Updates and Content

On Monday, I posted the first section of my article titled "5 Things to Consider Before You Design Your Website." Today, we'll look at items 2 and 3: Updates and Content.

How often will you update your site? Do you want to create it and leave it as-is? Or do you plan on updating it sporadically as you think of things to add? Would you feel comfortable with updating it on a monthly basis? A weekly basis?

If you plan on creating the site and leaving it alone until some point in the future when you’ll have more to add (such as your first book cover!), concentrate on creating a professional looking Home page. A head shot, brief bio, and a method of contacting you should suffice. Do you blog? Include a link to it. Make your website an informational tool for anyone interested in your work. Don't include anything that will be obsolete in a few months. For example, "The piles of snow in my front yard..." or "My latest book will be finished in July 2007!" make it obvious that you aren't updating regularly.

If you plan on updating it sporadically, please reconsider. A poorly designed, rarely updated site will not impress editors or agents, nor will it attract repeat visitors. Either decide to put up a basic, leave-alone site, or update it on a regular basis. You don’t want your website to hurt your reputation.

If you do plan on updating it on a regular basis, decide how often. What day will you publish your updates? The first of the month? The first day of each week? How far in advance will you have to type in your updates in order to meet this? Give yourself a minimum of 24 hours from when you type in your updates to when you publish them so you will catch any mistakes. Editing is important when updating your website. Post your best work on it.


Content? What content? I’m not published yet!

Hold on there. Plenty of pre-published writers have websites. Check them out. Think about what you like about their sites.

Basic elements of an author's website:

The Home page. (If you’re not updating the site regularly, this will be your biography page also. If you are updating regularly, post your updates here.)

Your Home page will feature the header of your site. This should include your name, or pen name, and your brand if you have one. If you don’t have a brand, include the genre of books you write. Don’t make a visitor guess what your site is promoting. Spell it out for them!

The header of my site reads:

Jill Kemerer
sweet, emotional, sparkling romance
Jill Kemerer writes Christian contemporary romance novels.

If someone accidentally found my site, they would not think I'm selling bathrobes nor that I write dark paranormal books.

The Home page is the first page a visitor will see. Don’t expect readers to click through your site to find your updates—keep your fresh material here. Also, don’t make them guess how often you update; post the date front and center. If you update monthly, put the current month and year above your new material. If you’re updating more often, put the actual date above the information.

What will you update about? That’s up to you. You might want to discuss the progress of your latest book. You could write a personal essay, interview an author, or write a book review. The possibilities are endless. You don’t have to promote a published book to have a successful website.

If you're setting up your site as a promotional tool for future books, keep the content based on you, your writing, or writing in general. This isn't the place to include a photo album from last Christmas. However, don't be afraid to include a recipe if you're a fabulous cook or a play list of tunes if you adore music. It's okay to let your personality shine through, as long as it doesn't take away from the overall goal of promoting yourself as a writer.

A Biography page should be included (this can be called About Me, or any other name you prefer). It can be short or long, but include your writing history, any organizations you belong to, previous publishing history (if any), and the genres you write. If you haven’t posted a picture of yourself on your home page, post one here, and think twice before putting up the picture of you in your cut-offs last summer.

A Contact link or e-mail address will allow any visitor to contact you.

If you have a Blog, link it to your site and vice-versa.

You can have as many or as few pages as you want. Again, look at other author’s sites for ideas. Jot down any features you like; you can always add more pages later. It’s your website--do what you want! Mine started out with a Home page, a Biography page, a link to my Blog, and a Contact e-mail. A few months later, I decided to add a Links page. This month I added an Articles page and a Proposals page. I've seen other authors include a Fun Stuff page which lists their favorite books, television shows, candy, etc... I've also seen a My Place page with information about where the author lives. I've seen a Meet the Authors page featuring podcasts of interviews the author conducted.

Join me on Friday for the final installment of this article, which covers Visuals and Professionalism.

Write Already! It's Wednesday!

The entire article is posted on my website. Click HERE if you'd like to read the article in its entirety.


  1. Excellent post, Jill!! It makes me want to start a website of my own. Maybe this summer...when school's out.

  2. Hi, Jill: This is great content. You've inspired me to find my logon Id and password again to do a bit of updating of mine. I need to include my brand line and change some dating things. You're right, those dates do date your site.

  3. Good morning!

    Katie: Yay! It's great to have information to help narrow down the options. I designed mine last summer. It felt more like a fun project than a chore because I puttered with it here and there until I felt ready to publish it.

    Eileen: Great idea to include your brand line. I didn't notice any content that dated your site. It looks terrific!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. This was great again! Some thoughts listed here I hadn't even considered. Great job!

  5. I do think its all about professionalism, isn't it? If we have a half-put together web-site, never update it, and it looks sloppy, that will reflect on us. If we're going to pay to have a website then why not take the time to make it professional-looking?

    I just love all of your ideas. Your website will definitely be my model site once I start designing mine!

  6. I'm learning, learning, learning! Love your pointers. Thinking they will come in handy for me soon.

    Thanks, Jill!!!
    ~ Wendy

  7. Thank you for all this useful information, Jill. I spoke with a friend this past weekend--she created the website for our church, among others--and she said she would help me. So I am using your tips to figure out exactly what I want on my website. By the way, your website is lovely.

  8. *furiously scribbling notes*

    Such a great resource you are in this regard - thanks. There is nothing more frustrating than clicking over to a website from a blog and seeing a message like "more coming soon". It's unfortunate because I likely won't check it out later.

  9. Hope you're having a lovely afternoon!

    Terri: I appreciate the compliment! I'm sure there are many things I didn't cover and I'll realize them at 3:00 am and hit myself on the head.

    Jody: Thanks so much! I looked through at least seventy-five author websites to try to find the one I liked best.(Can you say obsessive? Ha!) I really like Ally Blake's Harlequin Romance novels, and her site resonated with me. I modeled mine after hers.

    Wendy: Glad to be of help! I hope the tips come in handy when you're ready.

    Cindy: That's wonderful! A friend who can give you hands-on help will be a tremendous boon. Have fun with it!

    Tess: I know. I think many writers want a website, but it's so intimidating that when they get around to it they don't know what to do. So it sits in limbo. I would recommend the one-page site for those writers. A nice, professinal bio with a contact link would look much better to editors than a coming soon page.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  10. I'm loving this series of articles on websites. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!

  11. And what's wrong with dark paranormal books??? *wink*

  12. Windsong: I love sharing knowledge! Thanks!

    Jen: There's nothing wrong with dark long as you don't disguise your identity behind daisies and butterflies! Ha! Ha! When are you going to put up a creepy site? I'd loooove to see it! Have a good one!

    Thanks for stopping by!


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