Today I'm honored to share an interview with Katharine Lamoureux, who was kind enough to sit down and walk us through the process of building an author website. She gives out a lot of good tips and advice regarding the benefits of having a website and the process of creating one. I hope you enjoy!
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi all, I’m Katharine Lamoureux. I spend my days chasing after my foam-sword-swinging toddler and brainstorming ways to transform our house into Bag End (my husband, bless his heart, usually humors me); before the quarantine, I also worked part time as a board certified music therapist. I’m currently working on an adult contemporary fantasy, Amidst the Shadows: Awakenings, the first in a planned trilogy. When I need to replenish my creative well, I dabble in drawing, watercolor, and photography, and I’m a classically trained violinist and dancer.
What inspired you to build a website for your platform?
It’s important to have a professional presence online, regardless of your publishing path. A website is a portal to you – among other things, it gives people a glimpse into who you are, entices people to sign up for your newsletter, directs attention to social media, and tells people where to purchase your work. And if you’re pursuing traditional publishing, as I intend to, potential agents and publishers will look at a website. Never underestimate the power of a good impression.
Can you walk us through your process?
I’d already created a website about a year past for my music therapy business, so I had an idea of what was involved. With that process, I’d done a good deal of research about hosts and such and knew I wanted to stick with Bluehost and use the Divi theme (a WordPress theme) that I’d purchased through Elegant Themes for use on my business website. Divi is user-friendly (with great tutorials) and yields beautiful results – one of my favorite things is a feature called the ‘visual builder,’ where you can construct your site on the web page itself, instead of on the back end through the dashboard. Another feature I love about Divi is the ability to see what your website will look like on a phone versus a tablet versus a computer – very helpful when looking at layout and functionality of your website. What works for me, however, may not be the best option for you; there are a number of hosts and ways to make a website – do your research and weigh the pros and cons.
Before I even sat down with my website, I thought about the impression I wanted to make. Remember, this is as much about marketing as it is about your words (or art or whatever it may be). I wrote out a blurb detailing the vibe I aim to project and how to achieve that through design and then ran it past friends to hear their thoughts on my vibe and if they felt my design ideas would convey what I wanted. It’s also important to keep checking in with this vision as your website evolves.
A note on design: color scheme, fonts, and photos all contribute to the overall feel of your website. Cool fonts and flashy layouts are neat, but at the end of the day, clean and easy to use is the best bet. You don’t want people squinting to read your text or struggling to figure out how to navigate your site. Be consistent and judicious in your font choices and be sure your color scheme not only speaks to your vibe but won’t distract from your content – which is, of course, where you want people to focus.
Next I figured out the pages and information I wanted to have, which for me includes an author bio with an author photo, information about my work in progress and samples of my writing (flash fiction for me), a bit about my editing services, a way to contact me (including the all-important newsletter sign-up), and links to social media. Then I started working on copy and made sure I had quality photos. I can’t speak to the process of finding suitable photos that are public domain, because I took my own. I have a Nikon digital camera on hand, but with the technology in today’s phones, you may well be able to use those photos; just be sure the image quality won’t suffer if the scale is increased. Another option is to consider your contacts – is there someone who might be willing to help you out, perhaps in an exchange of services? Regardless of how you get your photos, reformatting them is going to help your website run more smoothly. I use http://webresizer.com/ to do this, which (at the time of this interview) is a free service.
Back to copy – one of the most important elements of your website is your author bio. Remember that good impression I mentioned? This is your chance. A well-crafted author bio will let your personality shine and entice readers to pick up your books – know how to write a good one. Rather than take up space here, I’m going to point you to https://self-publishingschool.com/author-bio/ – it’s a concise article that highlights a number of important points and provides examples. Now to your work: people often wonder if they ought to include examples of their work (particularly if they’re unpublished), and the answer is yes, with a caveat: if you’re aiming for traditional publishing, you don’t want much from your work(s) in progress on your website. If you’re going the indie route, share away (and check out The Self-Publishers Legal Handbook by Helen Sedwick for information on copyright and such; it’s a great resource regardless of your aims with traditional vs. indie). A last note on copy: proofread. Check for mistakes, typos, etc. If that’s not your strength, get another pair of eyes. Remember, you’re making an impression.
Once I had all my copy written and photos where I wanted them, it was a matter of making sure all the tech worked (links, plug-ins for social media, contact form, newsletter sign-up, etc.), tinkering with layout, and fine-tuning details.
What are your future plans for the website?
Currently, my website is: 1) a professional online presence, 2) a way to connect and interact with readers (the newsletter is a vital piece for that), and 3) a means to direct attention to my social media accounts (currently that’s just Instagram, but I’ll be delving into Twitter soon). Once I have works available for purchase, my website will also provide links so people know where to purchase. I’ll add to the flash fiction section as I write more, because it’s a good way for people to get an idea of my writing without posting excerpts. I chose not to have a blog, because Instagram basically functions as a blog for me (and I don’t need unnecessary work), though I may in the future decide I want to share thoughts about the creative process or my querying journey or the like, which I’d add as articles and not a blog.
Do you have any advice for authors, or any creatives, on the fence about creating a website?
Take the dive! Remember, it doesn’t have to be complicated or flashy; simple and polished is effective. Know your talents and your limitations. If you get into the process and realize there’s no way you can do this by yourself, that’s okay. There are plenty of resources out there, and if it comes down to hiring someone, there’s a variety of options at different price points.
Anything else you would like to add?
Play to your strengths, and don’t hesitate to ask for help.
If you’d like to follow my creative journey, you can find me on Instagram @katharine.lamoureux and at my website: www.katharinelamoureux.com
Follow Katharine on Instagram: @katharine.lamoureux