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5 Tips for a Professional-Looking Author Website

If you're an independently published author (or any kind of author, for that matter), it only makes sense to extend your marketing efforts with a website. Facebook, Twitter and Google + are useful tools, but don't substitute for an online reference location for all things you-the-author.

I created my first website in 1996, which is eons ago in electronic terms. My day job is web designer at a university, and I've taught web design to journalism and communication undergraduates. Here are some tips I've gleaned over these years to make sure your author site looks professional. I've written before about the need for establishing your credibility as an author; your website should reflect this credibility as well.

  1. Don't use your author website to learn web design. If you're keen to learn, create a practice site only you can see. If your website looks amateurish, you'll give critics of independent publishing still more ammunition for the idea that self-published works are amateurish. If you don't know how to create a website, hire it done or buy a pre-made template.
  2. If you're creating your own site, go for a cohesive look. All pages should use the same template. The site should look as though all the pages are part of the same site. If someone comes to  your site through Google, she might not come to your homepage first. Make every room of your web “house” reflect your author persona, so you won't cringe if someone turns up first in the back room where all the boxes are stacked. So to speak.
  3. Limit your color palette. A limited palette creates a more pleasing appearance and contributes to that professional look. One of my favorite sites for choosing color schemes is the Color Scheme Designer site.
  4. Limit font selection. Stick to various sizes of one font. Resist the temptation to use multiple colors and fonts–a sure sign of an amateur. And whatever you do, please don't use Comic Sans! That font is such a cliche. So is Papyrus. Typekit is a great source for web fonts.
  5. Eschew cheesy clip art and animation. Before you add any image to a page, ask yourself if it contributes to the cohesive look you want. Does it have a purpose? If not, don't use it.

When you've finished your site, have someone whose opinion you trust look it over. Just as you wouldn't take the word of only your friends and relatives about the editing of your book (at least I hope not), don't rely exclusively on the opinion of someone who doesn't want to offend you.

If you check out my personal site, you'll find that I purchased the template. I was concerned that I have a professional appearance, despite my years of experience, and didn't have the time to fuss with designing it myself.

Let me know if you have questions about this topic. Post them below.

New Hampshire

Ah, am I happy to be going home tomorrow. I've been in Nashua, New Hampshire since Monday. It's not a bad place, but we traveled all day Monday, getting in about 7:30 p.m., then were in training all day, so I haven't seen any of it by daylight, except the distance from the hotel to the Ektron Training Center, a 5 minute walk. I did see some lovely yellow leaves on the ground yesterday that I scuffed through, but that's the extent of it. It rained all day today, and the temperature was in the upper 50s, so I don't think it was typical New England weather. Tomorrow my assistant and I drive back to the airport in Manchester by daylight, so maybe we'll see a little of the state.

I would believe that the results of Tuesday's election were a dream, were it not for yesterday's USA Today headlines exulting, "OBAMA WINS." Traveling is such a strange experience for me, as I always feel very out of touch. Ironic, that, since here I sit with a laptop and free internet at my disposal, as well as today's edition of the aforementioned candy-paper and a large flatscreen tv, but somehow none of it feels real without my familiar surroundings.

I did learn a new phrase, "All set?" Used by waitresses to ask if you had finished with your food. No one sneered, either, when told we were from Alabama.

The food here was good, although somewhat limited in its scope. I had fish and chips at Speaker's Corner, the hotel restaurant, the first night, served with huge onion rings. The next night we ventured to downtown Nashua (hilarious drive–me at the wheel, my assistant navigating, three male colleagues squished into the back of my rental Dodge Avenger trying to also navigate using an iPhone–I never made so many U-turns in my life) and ate at Michael Timothy's, a paneled, cozy place that features wood grilled pizzas. I had essentially a taco pizza with a very thin crust. Quite yummy, with a lovely salad. The next night dinner was across the street at Surf, owned by the same owner as the previous night's place. I managed only one U-turn this time, and had delicious crab cakes and another very nice field greens salad. Dessert this time–banana rum cake, with a fried plantain slice on top. Mmmm. Tonight we were all too tired to drive anywhere, so we ate in the hotel restaurant again. This time I ate New York sirloin, served on a pile of mashed potatoes, with steamed spinach in between, with fried onion straws (essentially) on top. Oh so good.

Lunches at Ektron training were very good as well. Chicken alfredo with penne pasta on Tuesday, chicken/corn/black bean enchildas on Wednesday and ricotta cheese/meat sauce in giant pasta shells today, all with yet more yummy salads. Excellent stuff.

I had delicious breakfasts in the hotel as well.

I have not slept well, though. Getting up early, going to bed early…Oh well.

I learned a lot. Now I'm an Ektron Certified Developer!

2008 A List Apart survey