4 Steps to Creating Enjoyable Reader Experience on Your Fiction Author Website

About a year ago I decided that I wanted to attract more readers to my website, so I used my mad researching skills on the internet to learn more. What I learned is that there are thousands of articles on the subject and very few that have any useful information or helpful advice.

There was write about what you are passionate about, but don’t write about writing. Readers don’t read blogs. Fans come to websites looking for more books and blog posts are not our books so they aren’t interested. Pick a niche or topic to blog about, however be aware that readers of our niche blogs might not be interested in our fiction or that our fans might still be uninterested in reading our blog.

After the initial shock of “What the He!!” are we suppose to put on our empty websites wore off. I started to think that either no one has found the secret to attracting readers or we’re all doing it wrong. I felt so confused and stressed I screamed. Yes, you read that right, I didn’t want to scream, I actually screamed in frustration. Think about it. We’re all told about what we have to have and what we have to do, etc., etc., etc. It’s enough to make a sane person go insane. And I’m not the most sane person to start.

All the research has led me to my newest question. Why blog? I haven’t really found a good, convincing argument for doing it. Changing a blog into a news feed and writing articles seems a better alternative that has all the pros of blogging. It also frees me up to write, post to social media, and update my website articles.

But this post isn’t about blogging so much as creating a friendly and enjoyable reader experience for your fiction author website.


Step 1: Keywords and Readers

Creating a website for fans to enjoy and prolonging the readers experience means that you’ll probably have to throw out all the misinformation you’ve learned over your career and start from scratch. Before you start throwing web pages together I want you to do this exercise.

On a piece of paper create three columns and label them keywords, topics, and readers. Now I’m going to ask you three questions and I want you to list anything that comes to mind. Don’t skip ahead. These are a very important questions that will aid in creating your website.

Column #1: What keywords would you use to describe you and your writing?

Column #2: What topics are you passionate (interested in) about? 

Column #3: Who are your perfect readers?

I’m going to use my answers as an example:

1. What keywords would you use to describe you and your writing? rancher, mother, wife, speculative fiction writer, romantic, mythology, coffee and book lover, randomness and macabre, a seeker of knowledge, crafter, short attention span, and book cover designer.

2. What topics are you passionate about? Cooking, books, mythology, criminology, writing, coffee, ranching, publishing, business, book design, reading, random facts, psychology, religion, and my kids. While I could find people who would love to read about these topics, having them all on one website could make it chaotic. Readers would never know what to expect when they came. Most readers would leave and it would defeat the purpose of a website.

3. Who are your perfect readers? My readers would be women between 25 and 40 who like  romantic and erotic speculative fiction. They like more of a plot with their romances. They are women who like mythology but are tired of the same old story being retold over and over with the same plot. They want to read a myth with a new twist. This is my target audience. I don’t always hit it, but it gives me an idea of who I’m writing for.

So when I combine the results of all three columns and narrow them to the keywords, topics, and reader characteristics common to all three, it means that my blogging topics and author brand should focus on speculative fiction, romance, sex, relationships, and mythology.Yeah, I can occasionally thrown in stuff about being a mother and rancher, my love of coffee, the latest romance or fantasy novel I’ve read, and writing. But focusing my efforts on my brand will bring quicker success.


Step 2: Goals and Brainstorming

Now that you know your keywords and target audience, it time to make goals for your website and blog. Please keep your readers and author brand in mind as you plan, otherwise you’ll lose focus of where you are going and you’ll lose your readership. Also, sometimes you attract the wrong readership to your blog because your talking about mystery novels you love but you write erotica. Unless it’s an erotic mystery, then it could work.

1. What is the goal of your website? Is it to draw readers to you? Is it to share your stories? Is it to sell books? Once you know your goals, brainstorm some things you can do to accomplish this goal. You can using the list of topics you are passionate about and keywords to enhance your goals. The goal is to draw readers to your website and you need to  Brainstorm some ways you can draw your potential visitors to your website and reach your goals.

2. For those who have a website, what can you change to reach the goals for your website? Is there anything you could do better or add to help your readers find what they came to your website to find? Remember, you have seconds to catch and hold your reader’s attention before they click away from your site.


Step 3: Basic Pages for your Website

This can either be the easiest or the hardest part. Write down all the pages of your website you think you need. Blog? Book pages? Store? Links? Biography? Newsletter? Contact me? You can downsize or expand upon this list later.

The five most important pages are:

#1 is the Home Page: The landing page is one of those controversial pages that no one can agree if you need or not. My opinion, you need it. This is the page that should have a welcome message, newest releases, coming soon, and links to various pages on your site. This page is a call to action for your readers.

#2 is the Book Page(s): A page or pages that show your books are a must. You are after all selling a product and your books are that product. There are different ways to set this up. Some writers like all their books on one page. Others like individual pages. Or use some combination of the two.

#3 is Blog or News Page: Either, or, or both. It’s important to have some way for your readers to know what is going on. Periodic updates or insights into your writing helps them.

#4 is the Author Bio: Readers want to know the author behind the books and the blogs. So write a bio. You could do an official bio that is more formal as well as an informal bio that is more friendly. I use both on my website.

#5 is the Contact Me Page: Some readers like to contact writers and you should have a way for them to do this, even if it’s just a form they can fill out.


Step 4: Now its time to Create the “Enjoyable Reader Experience”

As interesting as the other pages are, they won’t be drawing in readers, unless you’re an exceptional blogger. I’m not. The hits on my blog in a year might equal the hits on one of my books in a month. You see readers seek out the author’s website because they want to know more about the book they read. They want to see inside the creation of that book. And I don’t mean a how you wrote the book.

I’m going to share a secret with you and I hope you tell all your writer friends about it. The best way to attract readers to your website is to pattern your website after movie website or DVD.

I don’t mean website design. I mean the content. I know it seems strange. But it works.

So I’ve already gone out and study some of the movie websites in various genre as well as the backs of every DVD in my collection. I found some common threads that I really think works for the websites and blogs of fiction authors and created a list of ideas that can be used as pages or blog posts to enhance the readers experience.

  • About the Series: If you write a series, tell the reader about the series or the mythology. You can also place links to books in the series or covers to…
  • About the book: this is your individual book page. Put more than the blurb and buy links on this page. Think of it like an about the movie page and put links to your special features.
  • Deleted Scenes, Excerpts from the Book, and Book Trailers: these should be on their own pages and linked to the books they belong to. These are like the movie trailers.
  • Behind the scenes, Inside looks, Author’s Notes: What was your inspiration for the book, the characters, and/or the world you created, why did you write a scene or add a character, the facts and fiction behind the story, etc. Think about questions The topics are endless.
  • Freebies: Who doesn’t like a free stuff. Games, trivia, galleries, wallpapers, icons, screensavers, printable stuff, scrapbooks using Pinterest, etc.
  • About the Characters, People, and Places in your world: Fun profiles about your cast of characters, or news updates from the characters posted, like cast and crew blogs for TV series can be fun as long as people know it’s for fun. Interviews. Information about the races in a book or series. A brief about the world it takes place in.

Word of warning, if you are doing behind the scenes/inside looks/author notes, be careful not to over do it. One or two per book is more than enough.



Alright, we’ve come to the end of my long post, still unsure of why I have to blog if no one reads it, and if you are still with me, congratulations, you deserve a reward. I think a Truffle Kiss will be mine, maybe two, I did after all write this long post and edit it so that it was half the size it was and less tangent-y.

To finish, I would like to say that making your website fun for you fans isn’t hard. Use your writing talent and recycle your book research by making it count double for you.Have fun creating your website and if you have a question, ask me. I’d love to help. Or you can tell me what you think in the comments.

The Biggest Blog Mistake

There are plenty of articles out there to tell you how to blog. They offer advice on how to decorate your blog, what links you should include in the sidebars, how to make your blog easily navigable and searchable. There are articles that give you ideas about how often to write, how long the posts should be, what the ideal time is to post, and even what your posts should be about. However, all of this is meaningless if your readers can not subscribe to you.

The point of posting a blog is to get people to read it, and if no one can read it then you’re wasting your time.  You want to make your blog as easy to get access to from as many devices/subscriptions types as you can. It takes a couple of seconds, and there’s no excuse not to.

Most blog hosts offer a default RSS subscription service. All you have to do is make sure that the link to it is visible in your toolbars/widgets.  RSS isn’t the only subscription route. For example, I don’t use RSS and the sad fact is that if I can’t subscribe to a blog via email, I don’t bother, no matter how interesting or entertaining it is. I simply don’t have time to book mark it and randomly check back. I’m not the only one.

If your blog host doesn’t offer an email subscription option (wordpress does – just go to your widgets and drag it over to your widget area), you can use feedburner.com to create one. They will generate code that you can paste into your blog’s sidebar (if you want to see it in action you can check here – look to the right). Feedburner is pretty easy to use, so I won’t go into details unless someone wants me to.

Remember, the point of blogging is to be read – so make it easy for your readers to read – and subscribe – to you, or they might not bother.

Looking for Characters to Interview

A lot of blogs do author interviews, but I thought it would be fun to do character interviews! I’ve been working on this since March (sadly), but since then Ruth Ann Nordin has done something similar on her own blog (Great minds think alike, don’t they?) and I know I’ve really enjoyed reading them!

I’m kicking it off with an interview of one of my own characters today, but I used the same questions to make his interview as I am posting for other authors to answer.  I’ll break them up some and add some variety so each doesn’t seem like a carbon copy.

I am accepting interviews from all genres, as I have a pretty diverse reader base on my blog. Interested authors should send an email with the answers to the questions below to Joleene at JoleeneNaylor dot com – do NOT post them as a comment to this post. Be sure to answer the questions as though your character is answering them, and if some of the questions don’t apply, then just skip those.

If your character is from a book that’s for sale, be sure to include a link(s) to where readers can buy it!

There’s no deadline on this. I plan to do one a week so long as I have one to post and I will let you know before your interview goes live.

Have fun and look forward to your answers!

1- tell me a little about yourself (what do you look like, where do you live, what book are you in)

2- How do you evolve during the course of the story/series?

3 – Do you have an enemy or nemesis? If so, who are they and how did they become an enemy?

4- What is the biggest challenge you face in the story?

5 – What is the one event that you feel has helped to shape your personality?

6-Are you involved in a romance? If so with who and what is it about them that you find appealing?

7 – What is the one thing you want the most in the whole world?

8 – If you could say one thing to your readers, what would it be?

9- If you could say one thing to your author, what would it be?

10-What 2 or 3 questions do you wish I’d asked, and what are your answers to them?

Please send your answers (and any other relevant info) to Joleene at JoleeneNaylor dot com.

Yes, Authors DO Feel….

As writers we tend not to discuss our feelings, but rather to analyze them like a third-party and then hand them off to a character to feel for us; or at least a good portion of us do. To that end, we tend to be in denial,  at least publicly, about many of the emotional ups and downs of publishing, including those terrible book release jitters.

Whether it’s your first book or your third, when you put a book out it’s the same as taking a little piece of yourself and holding it out to the world for approval because, no matter what you write, some part of yourself is embedded in the words.  And what if “the world” doesn’t like it? What if they reject it, or sneer at it, or call it “trite”, “cheesy” or even “terrible”?

Though we smile and say, “oh, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care if no one likes this; I’m writing for me.” We do care.  Just like everyone else, we want to be accepted and loved, and that extends to our words because our words are part of us, and a rejection of those words is a rejection of ourselves, and who wants that?

Even worse, what if we have fans who liked the other book(s) but hate this one and suddenly turn their back and forsake us forever?  What if we lose what fan base we’ve established? What if? What if? What if?

The what-if’s make it the worst. When there are too many possibilities, the imagination can shift into over drive and make up all sorts of terrible scenarios.  After all, that overactive imagination is what prompted us to write that book in the first place, so why shouldn’t it be running full tilt now?  How do you stop it?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t “stop” it, only distract it. I can try to “logic it away” by pointing out that the world won’t end, that it’s unlikely my five fans will hate it so much that they’ll walk away, and if they do, then I can surely go find five more somewhere else. And, just because they don’t like the book doesn’t really mean they don’t like me. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of an author whose every single book I’ve love, love, loved.

But logic can only go so far, and in the end the best way to work through it is to just work through it. Talk about it, write about it, blog about it. Break the “rules” and admit that you’re not an unruffle-able being with a stone heart and skin so thick that every sling and arrow bounces off it. Sure, we might think we’re supposed to be, we might be following the examples of industry leaders who sail on with their perfect persona’s in place, but I’d be willing to bet that even the calmest and coolest of the cool has lain awake at night, staring at the ceiling and wondering “what if?”

After all, as a writer words, and feelings, are our craft, so why are we all trying to hide from them?

Blogging How-To’s : Automated

Stephannie has posted some excellent articles chock full of blogging tips from a writing point of view, so I thought I’d take a little time to discuss the more technical aspects of blogging with some handy tips I’ve discovered.

In the spirit of short blogs, I am breaking this up.


Most WordPress bloggers know how to write engaging posts, embed photos, videos or even polls in their posts, but did you know that you don’t have to publish the post right away? I’m not talking about the save as draft option, I mean that you can set your blog up to post a blog on a specified day, at a specified time, while you’re not even near the computer.

Yeah, I’m doing it now. As this blog is posted, I have no idea where I’ll be, or what I’ll be doing, but WordPress will be auto-posting this for me. Pretty cool, huh?

To post your blog on a future date, simply edit the post date like so:

And then, you walk away, and it posts for you. This can be especially handy if you’re doing a series but want to sit down and write it all in one day, or you’re posting a long piece – like a book chapter – in pieces.

Want even more automation? How would you like some, automatic system to post an update to your Facebook and Twitter that lets the world know you’ve posted?  Sound like an impossible dream? Well it’s not, thanks to TwitterFeed.

How does it work? Go to http://twitterfeed.com/, make an account, and set up a new feed. Name it and then enter your feed address ( the RSS feed address for my WordPress blog is: http://joleenenaylor.wordpress.com/wp-rss2.php – copy this and change the joleenenaylor.wordpress.com to your url  ). Twitterfeed will authenticate it, and then continue to step 2 where you can choose to use this with Twitter, facebook, Stautsnet, Ping.fm, and Hellotxt.

The extra cool thing about this is that you can have more than one feed. Facebook only allows you to sync your account with one blog. For instance, I have it linked to my personal blog, which meant I had to manually post links to my author blog, but now I could actually let twitterfeed handle them all, if I wanted to, or even add another blog.

So, how well does it work?  As of my writing this, it’s posted two posts to my facebook wall, but I imagine there will be more by the time this is posted. (If you want to see for yourself, you can go check it out – http://www.facebook.com/joleene.naylor ) It does put a little yellow icon that says “posted via twitterfeed” after it, and it doesn’t have the thumbnail image that you get when you post the link manually:

a Twitterfeed posting of a link Vs. manually posting the blog link

And here’s the result on Twitter

Lookin' good!

So far, I highly recommend it!

Have you discovered any “automated” services? If so, what are they, and would you recommend them?

Blogging How-To’s : Pages

Stephannie has posted some excellent articles chock full of blogging tips from a writing point of view, so I thought I’d take a little time to discuss the more technical aspects of blogging with some handy tips I’ve discovered.

In the spirit of short blogs, I am breaking this up.


As a WordpPess blogger, you probably know about Pages, but just in case you don’t, they’re worth a mention.  A page is exactly that; an extra page that can have information on it without having to be a blog post. For example here on SPAL we currently have an “our Bios” page and a “Contact us” (listed in the menu bar above the blogroll.)

To make a new page, choose it from the drop down box on the header of your dashboard page:

At this point it works exactly like a blog post except that it has this cool little attributes menu. Here you can choose to have a “Parent” for your page – for example, I have the Help Spread the Word for Shades of Gray (it’s just banners and such)page as a “child” of Shades of Gray.

Why would you want to do that? Mainly for display purposes because in your custom menu it would then list the pages as :

Legacy of Ghosts

Shades of Gray

  • Spread the word

101 Tips…

I don’t have mine displayed that way right now. I wanted the option later, so I went ahead and set it up that way.

Another cool thing you can do with Pages is to change the template – or layout of it. The templates available depend on your blog theme. For instance, on one blog I have only two options: Default and Full Width, while my other blog has four options: Default, Full Width, Archive and Site Map.

So what would you use pages for? A Contact Me page is a good idea, as is one for your Author bio. And why not do a page for each of your books where you can organize the synopsis, trailer(s) and any relevant links, such as where readers can get your book?  You could even use pages for other projects you’re involved in. The possibilities are endless.

More on using WordPress pages

Does anyone else have any cool tips to share about using pages?  Do you have any pages on your blog(s)?  If so, what pages have you made?

Blogging How-To’s : Appearance

Stephannie has posted some excellent articles chock full of blogging tips from a writing point of view, so I thought I’d take a little time to discuss the more technical aspects of blogging with some handy tips I’ve discovered.

In the spirit of short blogs, I will break this up a bit.


When blogging on WordPress, you’ll notice first that you can’t use CSS to customize your blog unless you buy an account. But don’t despair, you can do a lot without it, and it might even be easier.   I mean, who gets CSS, anyway? (This is rhetorical. Obviously someone does. Just not me.)

So how can we get all the fancy “borders” and the layered “box” look? Just make your wallpaper look layered. For instance, here is a snap shot of my blog (so you can see what I mean)

You can see how much of that is actually in the wallpaper

You can see that the wallpaper is a lot “taller” than what you see in the preview – that’s because a monitor with a different resolution may show more, or less, of your wallpaper and because of the WordPress toolbar that runs across the top of the screen and covers up the top of the wallpaper.

To get your elements lined up perfectly (like I did for the sidebar) open your blog and then use full page viewing  by pressing F11 on your keyboard. Then, press the “Print Screen” button (It may say Prt SC or Prnt Scr, the initials vary by keyboard). You’ve now copied your “screen”. Go to your graphics program and paste as a new image, and then, if you have a program that allows for layers, such as GIMP (a free download) make a new layer and draw your “boxes” on that layer. When you’re finished, upload the wallpaper through your  Appearance –  Background menu (the Appearance nodule is on your Dashboard, towards the bottom of the page. You may need to hit a drop down arrow to make the choices show up).

Most themes also allow for custom banners, or headers. When you choose that option in the appearance menu, it will give you the dimensions of your header :

Also be sure to check all of your theme options because some themes have different color schemes and other customizations.

You can also add a “Blog icon” under the Settings – General menu. If, like me, you have no idea what a blog icon is then allow me to show you:

You can see that two of the blog’s I’m involved with have “pictures”, or blog icons, while the middle one just has a Blue W – meaning that no icon has been set. These icons not only show up on the new subscription page, too

More on using Themes from WordPress.

More on WordPress Appearance

Does anyone have any other tips or tricks for customizing the way your WordPress blog looks?