Hello, Sierra here, the designer behind Manuscript Wish List® and one half of Atmosphere Websites (along with Mike Chen). I’m here to talk to you today about the way to present yourself on your website or blog.
Present myself? you might be wondering. Well…I put on pants today, anyway.
No, I’m referring to how you come across to visitors and potential readers. The way you come across is all part of your author brand. When we begin a client website project, one of the first things I ask clients to do is think of four or so words that describe them. Those might be, for example, funny, elegant, light, or romantic. Whatever those words are help define you, and in turn help me translate that into the visual language of design.
But back to you and your pants.
The pants you wear on your website will be your potential reader’s first impression of you. While first impressions definitely rely on good design to get the brand elements across, there’s another incredibly important tool that authors must use: your About page.
Your About page is, according to the statistics we see on our client sites, usually either the first or second page users click on. That means:
- they want to know who you are before they care about learning about your books
- they want to know who you are before they look at your blog or your photos of your baby alligator
Author bios run the gamut of being dry to funny. You don’t want dry, no you don’t. But you don’t have to be funny, either. You want to be relatable and you want to connect with your visitor right off the bat.
Here are a few ways of doing that:
- Add some personal history in—and make it good.
People like to know where you grew up and what you did before you became a writer – or, if you were always a writer, what you avoided doing in order to stay a writer.
They do not want to know how many degrees you have. Oh sure, mention the MFA, but don’t dwell on it. Far more interesting is that you were the president of the Funky Chicken Association on your college campus. What is the Funky Chicken Association? Make it up.
- Describe where you are now.
This is part of being relatable. Did you settle in Pahrump, Nevada? (I love the name Pahrump.) Did you settle there because saying the town name made you laugh every time and you wanted to live some place where you’d laugh a lot?
Or, if you don’t want to name the town where you live because you have a highly developed sense of paranoia (and, as a writer, this is perfectly understandable), you could simply describe where you live in amusing terms. For example, if you live in Chicken, Alaska, then perhaps you say, “I live in a northern city that sees its fair share of rotten eggs.”
Do you write full time from home, or do you toil in a salt mine all day and then come home to a bowl of soup and then you write zombie apocalypse stories in which the foremen of mines all get eaten first? People like to know that. It’s part of who you are.
- Sprinkle in some tidbits.
Tidbits are like bacon bits: they make everything better. Everyone has something interesting going on besides their writing. Maybe you grow blue-ribbon pumpkins. Maybe wild birds flock to you for reasons unknown. Maybe, like me, you’re a sports writer on the side in a male-dominated industry. Maybe you have a robust obsession with Jane Austen and you own four first editions of her books. (Photos, or they didn’t happen!) All of these things make for interesting facts, but if you’re sitting here unable to think of a single thing about yourself that is interesting, make something up, like that you are a World-renowned Snail Racer.
Overall, these parts of your bio should make you into an interesting character for your readers to meet and enjoy. It should also give readers a sense of your voice. After all, your bio, being one of the first things people read on your site, is going to influence readers as to whether to click further.
You don’t have to be funny. But you do have to be typo-free, grammatically-correct, and relatable.
Take a look at author sites and see how people describe themselves. Do they engage you? Do you want to learn more about them? What did the author do–or not do—to engage you?
We’ve created a useful worksheet for you to fill out to get started – head on over to our site for the goody: http://www.atmosphereauthorwebsites.com/blog/
I think Mike’s About page is a great example; check it out: http://www.mikechenbooks.com/about/
Sierra Godfrey is the designer behind Manuscript Wish List®, and one half of Atmosphere Websites, which specializes in author websites. She also writes fiction and is a sports writer covering Spanish football (soccer) for online sports sites. She lives in the foggy wastelands of the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.