The 6 Elements Of A Good Author Website

The other day on Twitter Sofia Samatar laid down some truth:

Yes. All the yesses. +1, co-sign.

Every author should have a website, even if you’re just beginning and have only one thing published. Heck, even before you have things published. You should always take as much control over your online presence as you can. That starts with having a good website[1].

Having a good, clear, professional-looking website does not require a lot of technical knowledge, a lot of money, and a lot of maintenance. But if you’re not very technically inclined and feel intimidated by creating a website, there are people who are happy to help you. Some will do so for free, some for a small fee, and some who are pros and charge pro rates. But before we get into that, let’s break down what an author website should have on it.

The six elements you need:

  • Homepage
  • Blog
  • About
  • Publication List
  • Events page*
  • Contact


With many author sites it’s a good idea for this to be a static page. Yes, my homepage is my blog. I regret this decision! Especially now that I don’t blog here as much. I’ll likely change it soon. Having a static page allows you to highlight what’s new–such as a new book or story–and give an at-a-glance view to your visitors to the important info about you and serve as a portal to the rest of the site plus other important sites[2]. This is where you’ll list the social networks you’re on and your profiles on Amazon, Goodreads, etc.


BUT I DON’T WANT TO BLOG you might be screaming right now. That’s fine. Just because I say you should include a blog it doesn’t mean you have to update that blog every day or hour. You don’t even need to call that section Blog. You can call it News, Announcements, or something similar. The purpose of this section is for you to have an easily updatable place to put the kind of news and info readers like. Not just when your book is published, but when it gets a nice review, when it’s nominated for or wins an award, if you’re interviewed or otherwise mentioned in the press, pictures from your book signings or other appearances, when you publish a new story, when you start selling merch, or whatever.

Of course, if you want to have a traditional blog, even better. But don’t feel compelled to make your blog section an online journal if that’s not your speed.


In addition to talking about yourself and your amazing work, your About page should contain or have links to your official bio (I have a public Google Doc with a long and short version), your official photos (link to the hi-res versions of images, don’t embed them) and photo credits, and hi-res versions of your book covers. This makes it really easy for folks to grab this info without you having to search it out each time.

This is also the place to list your social network and other profiles.

Publication List

This one is self-explanatory. The only thing I’ll suggest here is that you make it attractive! However, a simple list with links is fine, too.

Events Page

This one had a star next to it because it’s only really necessary if you make a lot of personal appearances and do many signings. Those who’ve published a book will need this section, maybe not if you’re just publishing short stories at the moment. In that case, the announcements on your blog should suffice, just be sure you have a blog category called Events or something like that so they’re easy to find.

There are lots of ways to maintain an Events page and I have no particular best practices. Check out what other authors do for ideas. I do suggest including info on this page on how people can request to book you for events, signings, and the like.


Always have a way for people to contact you! Always. I prefer to have contact forms because then no one is getting your actual email address unless you email them back. And it cuts down on spam. And if you don’t mind if fans ping you on social media, mention that here, too.

I Am Not Tech-Savvy And Can’t Make My Own Website

That’s okay! There are several options below for creating a website easily without needing technical acumen. But if you still feel nervous about it, there are people who will help you. Some for free, some will charge a fee.

I used to design websites for a living. I don’t anymore, but I still set up WordPress for folks who need it because, for me, it’s simple and doesn’t take much time. If you really need an author website and have $75, I will set it up for you on and walk you through the basics and show you how to update it on your own.

If you need a more complex website, or want an installation on your own host (explained below) and a customized design, there are other folks who can help you. My friends Stephanie Leary and Jeremy Tolbert are both WordPress experts and make beautiful sites. They charge pro rates. They are worth it.

If you’re a person willing to help authors create simple websites for free or for a fee, scroll down to the comments and let us know! Please say whether you work for free or charge and include a link to your website or portfolio.

What Should I Use To Make My Website?

I always suggest that people use WordPress to make author websites. WP is a blogging platform, but it’s easily used as a whole site management tool. It makes updating simple, and you can get a nice look without knowing any code. It’s also free. You can set up a site on or get your own hosting and set it up on your server for free.

There are other options, such as drag and drop site builders on SquareSpace or similar. I’m not a huge fan of those, but as long as they allow you to have all the elements mentioned above with little fuss and at your level of technical comfort, go with what works for you.

I do not suggest using Blogger, because it sucks. LiveJournal and DreamWidth won’t work because they are mainly blogs with a little bit of functionality for static pages, but not enough.

Tumblr is a possibility because you can create static pages, add your own domain name, and mess around with themes enough to customize. However, I find it all really hard compared to WordPress and the resulting site not as functional or easy to maintain. or Host It Myself?

If you want to set up a site completely for free, then you can go with Someone on Twitter asked if a site URL like projected an unprofessional vibe. In my experience, not as much as or an email address. It looks perfectly legit to be on the .com site.

If you’re still nervous about it, you can put your own domain on a site so it looks like even though you’re still using on the backend. WordPress will sell you a domain name themselves, but it’s a bit less expensive to buy the domain elsewhere and pay the fee to attach it to your site. I use NameCheap where .com domains cost less than $11 a year.

The drawback with is that you have to use the WP themes they list[3], you can’t install one you just find somewhere. You’re also restricted to specific plugins. Plugins are awesome–they add extra functionality to WordPress and there are a handful I cannot live without.

For the most control over themes, plugins, and domains, you’ll need to get your own hosting account. My main advice here: DO NOT GET GODADDY. It’s just best to look elsewhere. I use MDD Hosting and pay less than $20 per month. There are tons of good hosting options out there–ask for suggestions on social media if you don’t already know of a company. And always read the reviews before you sign up.

Not sure if you need a hosted site or can just stick to Start out on You can migrate everything, including comments and images, over to a hosted WordPress installation later if you decide to switch. The process is easy.

You Need A Good, Clear Website Of Your Own

You don’t need to spend any money to get one started, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get the little extras that make it feel even more professional, and you don’t need to know anything about code to create and maintain it. If you need help, help is available. If you have questions, ask. Let there be no barriers to you having a good, clear website.


  1. After you have a website, the next step is to create profiles on high profile social networks and other author-related websites so that you can craft your Google search results the way you want to. But that’s a different post….[]
  2. If you want an example of a site with a static front page, look at this other site I built[]
  3. These days there are way more good-looking themes than there were when I moved away from For author sites, I suggest checking out Satellite, Writr, Fictive, and Wilson. There are many more free themes to choose from.[]

Do you subscribe to magazines?

stack of magazines

My io9 weekly fiction roundup continues apace. I decided that at the beginning of every month I would remind people that magazines need subscribers, and subscribing is awesome. Go, team! In searching for all the subscription links I took note of all the ways one can subscribe to the many and various SF zines. Where just a few years ago I complained about the lack of choices, now there are many. This makes me happy.

Side Note: Strange Horizons, what is up! There’s no way to subscribe in eBook format. The people are clamoring :)

I note that Amazon and Barnes & Noble are still not as helpful as they could be with subscriptions. Looks like many small press mags are in their systems, just not as subscribable entities. And certainly not with the fancy layout that the glossy magazines get (not that this is needed).

All this leads me to wonder how many people do subscribe to these zines, why, and what their experience is like. I’m just curious. We’ve moved into a time where tons of people can get content digitally, easily, for not too much money. How do lit mags fit into the stream of information coming at you?

And if you don’t subscribe to the magazines you read online: why?

Selfies With Books and other things I do for my job

In addition to my weekly short fiction recs over at io9 I have some summer reading recs over at xoJane, too. There I did novels and short story collections/anthologies so everyone is covered. And I took selfies with a lot of books. This is becoming a theme in my life: selfies with products.

Selfies with books

The other day I stopped in a hipster electronics store to take a selfie with some headphones since the pair I owned were stolen from me a while back. The poor guy working in the store was really confused because I walked in, asked after some headphones onthe wall, took a bunch of pictures of myself wearing them, then left. As I was going out the door he was all “Uh, can I help you…?”

“Nope!” I said cheerfully as I sailed away. I’m sure he thought I was loopy. But whatever, this is New York City. He should be used to much stranger stuff than this.

Other than headphones and books, what other products should I give the selfie treatment? I don’t look good in hats. Despite the overwhelming number of beads in my house I don’t wear jewelry much. Any suggestions?

Towards A Database of Workshops


My post the other week about writers of color and greater access to workshops generated much discussion both on the post itself and on social media. Out of these discussions came some great ideas and the hazy outline of a plan. A plan I hope to recruit a few of you to in the near future.

Several people pointed out that in additional to local in-person workshops and online classes there are also workshops at conventions. And Claire had some great thoughts on how non-profit organizations can create workshops that are free or low cost. All of this made me realize that the first step is to create a database of existing writing workshops for speculative authors. This would include all kinds of workshops from the boot-camp style 6 week ones ala Clarion to the online ones that happen either via video chat or email and message boards.

The database would include not only basic information about the workshops but also any information about financial aid or slots specifically set aside for writers from certain backgrounds (POC, LGBT, disabled, low-income, etc.). This is not a requirement for being in the database, but it will help people when searching. I spoke to Mary Anne Mohanraj and she agreed to let us host this on the Speculative Literature Foundation’s website. There are some workshops listed there already, though that info isn’t as comprehensive as this database will be and the goal is to keep it updated regularly.

Creating a database like this will take some technical expertise as well as some other volunteer effort. I think there’s a way to use a Google Docs spreadsheet as a queryable database, which would make gathering the information on the workshops easier. Just create an online form for workshop admins or authors or teachers to fill out to populate the database, then make it searchable. Thing is, I don’t know if this is truly possible, so I would love to hear from those who do. Help setting this all up would be amazing.

This project will also need volunteers to help keep the data current and correct and to run the second part I envision: the mailing list. The list will be for keeping people up to date on new workshops, workshop deadlines, and scholarship/financial aid deadlines. To keep it simple, it only need to go out once per month, and it will rely on information from the database and provided by those offering workshops.

Overall, this project will probably take a significant chunk of time to set up and then very little time to maintain once it’s done. I’m able to head up something like this, especially once we get into April. However, I don’t have the time (or spoons) to run it on my own. So I’m officially looking for volunteers. Even if you can only do a small chunk (like helping set up the database or running the mailing list for 3 months) that would be amazing. If we get enough volunteers, then everyone will only have small, manageable tasks.

Once the database is set up and there’s a clear picture of how many workshops are available, where they’re available, and what financial aid is on offer, it’ll be easier to plan the next phase: getting more writers of color to these workshops.

Another kind of backup

Viggo Mortensen's Journal

New post over on the tech blog that will be of interest to you writer types:

“As I was in the process of moving from one house to another… someone broke into the passenger side window of my car and grabbed the backpack containing several notebooks I’d filled, since early 2001, with handwritten stories and poems. The backpack also contained a couple of journals, two screenplays, my passport, and two half-read books. The hardest losses were the stories and poems in the notebooks. I had been looking forward, in particular, to reviewing and fine-tuning hundreds of pages of, for me, uncharacteristically long and unguarded poetry that had been written during a series of very quiet nights spent in the Sahara Desert in late 2002.  

“…I spent a lot of time and effort in the following weeks scouring my part of town, looking through trash cans and alleyways, offering no-questions-asked rewards, doing anything I could think of to find what was irreplaceable for me and probably completely useless to whoever had stolen it. Finally, I let most of it go…”

–Viggo Mortensen

The specific thing that made me recall that story was testing Evernote’s Page Capture feature. … The idea of scanning a paper journal to a digital file isn’t exactly new. But with smartphones being so wide-spread and the cameras in them getting better and better, I wonder if it’s now just convenient enough that writers would spend a couple of minutes every day adding their journals to Evernote and if that would end up being an effective backup system?

Click here for the full post & discussion.

Social Media Resources for Sipping From The Firehose #WisCon36

Social Media Resources for Sipping From The Firehose #WisCon36

Just about to head into my next panel, “Sipping From the Firehose: Managing Writing and Social Media,” and wanted to get this list of resources up for those attending and those who are following along via Twitter. The hashtag for this panel is: #SocialMediaSFF.

This post will change slightly as the discussion goes along, and hopefully there will be a panel report or two from the audience I’ll link to.

Social Networks That Are Useful For Writers

These are in a roughly most useful to least useful configuration, but the relative usefulness also depends on what kind of writing and promoting you do. This is not a prescriptive list — every writer does not need to be on every network. This is just a list to consider. After the panel I’ll try to add context for which networks are good for what kinds of activities.

  • Facebook
  • GoodReads
  • LibraryThing
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter
  • Dreamwidth
  • LinkedIn
  • LiveJournal
  • Delicious
  • Flickr
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • DeviantArt
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Vimeo
  • YouTube

Social Networking Tools

These are services, apps, and plugins that make dealing with social media a bit easier, especially if you have multiple accounts.

  • Hootsuite — A social media dashboard that puts several social networks in one place. See updates from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, and FourSquare from one window. Update multiple accounts at once. Schedule updates for the future. Accessible from any browser and via apps for Android, iPhone and iPad.
  • Tweetchat — Tool that lets you focus on one hashtag at a time. Good for participating in Twitter chats.
  • TweetBot — The best iPhone/iPad Twitter client.
  • TweetCaster — One of the better Twitter clients for Android.
  • RSS Graffiti — Facebook app that posts a status update whenever you update your blog.
  • JournalPress — A WordPress plugin that crossposts to LiveJournal and DreamWidth.

Pictures. Of me. In 2012.

Pictures. Of me. In 2012.

I’m doing this thing wherein I take a picture of myself every day in 2012. I started doing this back in April when I turned 33 thinkign I would take a picture of myself every day of my 33rd year, but then I kept forgetting. Perhaps this will encourage me to keep going.

There’s no big reason why I’m doing this. I just thought it would be interesting. Right now all of the pictures are of my face, but I suppose some full body shots will be ion there, too, especially since i am attempting to get in better shape. I can’t real measure my success by weight since I’m building muscle. I do hope to lose some inches, though.

This morning I was supposed to do a workout but didn’t because I read an article that basically said: if you’re going to the gym and getting on an eliptical or a weight machine, you’re not getting any benefit. So I was like: UM, that’s what i was going to do!

I am encouraged by the suggestion of an awesome weightlifting book, but I’m a little afraid to start doing the lifting without a coach for fear of breaking everything.

This got pretty rambly all of the sudden. Ah well, have a picture of me today:

Clarion West, Money, And Me

Clarion West, Money, And Me

We have just 7 days left before the Butler Scholarship fundraiser ends. I won’t post about this every day, but I’m going to post about it three more times. This is the first.

Here’s a story I’ve told before, but it bears telling again. When I applied to go to Clarion West, I was at the tail end of a very difficult, life-changing year. In 2002 several things happened to me. The first is that I wrote more short stories in one year than I ever had before, thus making me feel like a real writer. The second is that I realized the whole working full-time for a blah job just to pay the bills thing was not cutting it in the keeping myself intact department. The third was that I got cancer, which put thing one and thing two in perspective right quick.

The cancer I had was caught very early, was eliminated by an operation, and thankfully required minimal aftercare to deal with completely. Still, that kind of thing will knock you on your ass in a minute. I decided that I needed to get out of New York and leave my job behind and focus on being a writer. And step one of that focus was to go to Clarion.

I applied to both Clarion and Clarion West. I did not have much money. Certainly not enough to cover tuition. Especially after paying to get out of my lease early, paying for a U-Haul, and leaving behind steady income. I started a “Send Tempest To Clarion” fund, and my generous friends donated. But I still did not have enough to pay tuition. I was willing to take out a loan, even at a high interest rate, because I knew this was important for me to do.

I got accepted to both Clarion and Clarion West. I opted for West because three of my heroes were teaching there that year. I spoke to Neile (one of the co-admins) on the phone and told her that I did need financial assistance if there was any, as I had little money. My thought was that if scholarships could cover just 1/3rd, I could get the rest somehow. Neile called me up shortly after I filed my financial aid application and told me that my entire tuition was covered. Not by the normal scholarships, though. A person had paid my full tuition. Someone who wished to remain anonymous.

I can’t remember if I cried right there on the phone or held it until after, but I did cry.

I do remember asking Neile to convey a huge thank you to that person when she called. I repeated this entreaty when I finally got to Clarion West all those weeks later. And I believe I’ve mentioned it on this blog a few times, too. But it bears repeating again:

Thank you, whoever you are/were. That was such an amazing gift.

Going to either of the Clarions is a giant commitment. Not only do you have the cost for tuition, but many also leave behind jobs, houses, apartments, family, financial obligations. And there’s no guarantee that going to the workshop will result in you getting published or going on to be a full-time writer. Of course, it’s not all about the writing. At the Clarions, students get to meet important people in the community and network, which is important in any career. And you make connections with the other students, who may go on to become great writers as well. Or, at least, really good friends and supporters.

Not every awesome spec fic writer went to Clarion or Clarion West. But it is an opportunity that many decide to avail themselves of and then benefit from.

When that anonymous person paid my tuition, I felt like she or he was saying to me: your voice matters. I believe that enough to give you thousands of dollars. Prove me right.

This is why, ever since its inception, I have been a supporter of the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship. Each year, this fund does for two students of color going to Clarion and Clarion West what that donor did for me, which is to say: your voice matters. It matters so much that we are going to give you thousands of dollars for this chance to improve your writing and meet people in this community who will further support you.

Except this time the money doesn’t come from just one person, it comes from hundreds, maybe thousands. It comes from those of you who have already bought tickets to win an eReader. It comes from those who don’t particularly want an eReader, but are willing to donate directly to the fund. I hope you’re one of those people.

Win An eReader and Support Writers of Color At The Same Time!

Win An eReader and Support Writers of Color At The Same Time!

As some of you know, every year for the past several I’ve done the Clarion West Write-a-thon, a fundraising event for the 6 week writing workshop I attended a few years ago. Usually what I do is split the money I raise between Clarion West and the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship, which assists writers of color who are accepted into Clarion West and Clarion Diego. This year I wasn’t able to do the Write-a-thon because I had no time. But I was feeling very guilty as I raised around $1,900 the last time. I vowed to come up with a fundraising idea that would require a bit less intense commitment from myself but would still raise a nice chunk of change.

Thus, I am pleased to announce that the Carl Brandon Society is holding a prize drawing to support the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund. For those who don’t know, the Carl Brandon Society is an organization dedicated to racial and ethnic diversity in speculative fiction. So it’s fitting that the prizes available consist of three awesome eReaders. Entrants can win one of two Barnes & Noble Nooks, One of two Kobo Readers, and an Alex eReader from Spring Design. And to sweeten the pot even more, all of the eReaders will come pre-loaded with short stories, poems, and books by writers of color.

Tickets cost $1 each and you can buy as many as you want for any of the eReaders you’re interested in. Click here to buy tickets. The drawing began last week and will run through November 22, 2010.

I want to give a shout out to Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Spring Design as they generously donated the devices for this drawing, and also to the authors who are donating stories, poems, books and essays to tempt you. We don’t have the full list of authors yet, but they include: N. K. Jemisin, Nisi Shawl, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Terence Taylor, Ted Chiang, Shweta Narayan, Chesya Burke, Moondancer Drake, Saladin Ahmed, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and more.

One final note: eReaders make awesome holiday gifts. So, even if you’re not interested in one for yourself, I’m sure there’s a book-loving person on your list who would love one. Tickets are just one dollar! And the proceeds go to an awesome cause.

Click here to buy a ticket, and click here to learn more about the Carl Brandon Society.

Not At All Innocent or Hypothetical Question of the Day

Not At All Innocent or Hypothetical Question of the Day

This is for the writers out there. If you were to get the urge to write on a mobile phone (not a whole novel, say, but whenever you needed to bust out some words and it wasn’t practical to do so on a netbook), what qualities would have phone have to have to make you comfortable doing so?

I would imagine a physical keyboard is a must, but that’s because I can’t type very fast with on-screen keyboards. Others are better at it. Regardless of whether it’s physical or not, I definitely feel like a qwerty-style keyboard is a must.

Do you agree? Also, what other aspects of a phone are important? Screen size, operating system, apps?