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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.