There’s no need to ask, ‘Do I need an author website?’ The answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ A simple, easily searchable website is one of the most potent tools in an indie author’s marketing arsenal.

Whether an author goes it alone or hires a web designer, the essential site features remain the same. Authors need to make sure readers can visit an easy to find, easy to read, informative website. After all, every visit is a potential book sale. Here's a checklist of things you should include on your author website.

Essential Elements

While authors can get creative, no website is complete without certain basic ingredients.

An author page should ideally contain a relevant bio and a headshot, although writers who use a pen name or whose identity is a secret can leave the photo off to keep the mystery alive.

“I know a lot of authors are shy about photos, but most readers love to catch of a glimpse of what an author looks like,” says Midge Raymond, cofounder of Oregon-based independent publishing house Ashland Creek Press and author of Everyday Book Marketing. “Readers also love personal details, so make sure to include some in the bio, but try and keep it related to your writing -- that’s what the readers are there for.”

An events page should list any and all personal appearances, including readings, library visits, and blog tours -- and always in reverse chronological order, with the most recent events at the top.

“So many authors make the mistake of putting their events in chronological order, with the newest events at the very bottom,” Raymond says. “It’s frustrating for people who actually want to come and see you. And it makes your site look old.”

A books page should include all the books an author has written, with their covers, along with excerpts and a pithy, enticing description of each. Adding downloadable PDFs of the first chapter doesn’t hurt either.

“It’s always good to give readers and potential reviewers a taste of what you do,” Raymond says.

Reviews can go on the books page. But if an author is lucky enough to have numerous positive reviews, she might consider putting them on a separate page.

Blogging is a great way to attract more visitors and to keep site content fresh with short weekly or bi-monthly updates.

“Blogs are a popular way to get found; a lot of people actually come to an author’s website through their blog,” Raymond says. “You don’t publish a book everyday, but you can write a blog post everyday if you want to.”

Readers and reviewers need an easy way to get in touch with authors, so don’t leave them hanging. Make sure to incorporate a contact form or email address somewhere on the site.

Most important, don’t forget to add links to where people can buy books – the more the merrier.

“Don’t make it hard for people to find those links or hide them in a corner somewhere,” Raymond says. “And make sure to include every link you can, from Amazon to the local indie bookstore.”

And an author should make sure her name appears on every page of the site.

“Many times I’ve followed links to the back pages of websites, especially blog-type websites, only to land on a page that tells me nothing about who the website belongs to,” says Linda Nagata, a self-published author of sci-fi and fantasy with nine years of professional web development experience. “Include at least your name in the header or in a repeating sidebar.”

If an author has a social media presence, also include those links as another touchpoint for fans.

Of course, an indie author needs to weigh goals and objectives to determine which of the above elements are right for her website. Depending on marketing plans, social media presence, and other factors, an author can create a site that best suits her needs and serves as a basic marketing tool to help garner new readers and spread the word about her work.