Why You Need a Reader-Friendly Website (And How to Get It That Way)

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Today is the release of my 10th full length novel! Whoo-hoo! Can you believe it? It seems like just yesterday my debut book was releasing and now book number 10 is hitting shelves!

I'm super excited about this particular book, Luther and Katharina. I wrote the book about seven years ago (around the same time I wrote my debut book). But for many different reasons, this book languished in la-la land. All the waiting has made this release day even more special.

My author copies!
(Sidenote: A word of hope for those who are seeking tradition publication for a specific book–don't give up hope if that's your dream! It can happen, perhaps just not the way you expect or as quickly.)

Every time a book birthday draws near, I begin to strategize my marketing plan, not only with my publisher, but I also come up with a brainstormed list of things I can do as well. I try to vary what I do from book to book. Sometimes I do blog tours. Other times I do social media sharing contests. This time I'm doing daily trivia questions and giveaways over on Facebook.

While marketing plans change from book to book, there's one thing I do with every single new book–I update my website and make sure the new book page is ready for readers. And no I don't just add the book, the blurb, a few reviews, and the "buy now" tabs and call it good. I go beyond that to make sure the page is reader-friendly.

Why is it important for authors to have an up-to-date, reader-friendly website? 

There are lots of reasons, especially in today's current competitive market. One of the main reasons is that a website is an author's "home." When we have visitors into our physical home, first impressions often stick. Visitors get a glimpse of our personality and tastes by what they see. And if it's unwelcoming, our visitors will sense that too.

Likewise our online homes reflect us as authors. If our sites are disorganized, hard to navigate, and out-of-date, that will speak volumes. If our site is all about the "hard sell" with only the "buy now" buttons, chances are readers aren't going to feel all that welcome. When they leave our site, they'll have no motivation to return.

Ultimately we DO want readers to return, over and over. We want to have a welcoming atmosphere that fosters an ongoing relationship.

In other words, our website is much more than a showcase for us as authors. Yes, it's important to have our bios, pictures, etc. But it can't stop there. Our website needs to meet the needs of our readers. What can we give to them? How can we enhance their reading experience? What will help them connect more deeply with our stories?

As I prepared for the release of Luther and Katharina, here are a few simple ways I made sure the book page was ready for readers. The page includes:

Book Club Collection package. All of the items are free and easy to download: introduction letter, discussion questions, famous Luther quotes, a fun quiz to do before or after the meeting, and background information on the characters.

Playlist of songs and hymns. This particular playlist consists of hymns written by Martin Luther. I chose more contemporary renditions to reflect my tastes.

Famous Quotes download. I put together a list of famous Martin Luther quotes and also highlight some of the ones I use in the book.

Martin Luther quiz . I used for an easy format.

Pinterest Gallery. The board is full of various pictures that relate to the book.

Reader Photos slideshow. Whenever a reader takes a picture of herself or her pet with the book, I add it to the slideshow.

Reader Creation slideshow. I love when readers make graphics of quotes from my books or even just to showcase the book itself. I put those graphics into a slideshow as well.

Authorgraph widget. I make it easy for readers to have their e-books signed by including an authorgraph widget at the bottom of the page.

I invite you to stop by my Luther and Katharina page to browse around to get a better idea of all of the above. My website is always a work in progress and I welcome additional ideas of how I can make it more engaging.

What about YOU? How reader-friendly is your website? What are some other ways authors might make their websites more engaging for readers?

© All the articles in this blog are copyrighted and may not be used without prior written consent from the author. You may quote without permission if you give proper credit and links. Thank you!