For such creative people, writers are responsible for some of the most snore-worthy content on the internet. I’m talking of About pages. Why do we authors feel the need to cram these unsuspecting pages (and our hapless visitors’ heads) with bland facts that have the character of library paste? Failing to optimize the About page at your author website is a mistake, but producing one so boring no one will read it elevates error into senselessness.
Is Your Author Website ‘About Page’ Drop-Dead Boring?
Why does this happen? I have theories. I’ll use the About Janalyn Voigt page at my author website to illustrate my points.
We don’t know who we are.
Author branding sounds abstract and possibly extraneous, but not having a brand will come home to roost. Substitute the word ‘personality’ for ‘branding,’ and the concept might be easier to grasp. Readers gravitate toward authors with strong brands and clear voices.
I know how hard it can be to determine your brand. It took years, the help of a publicist, and a lot of prayer before I understood my own. I am a storyteller in the classic sense, which is why my books don’t align strictly to genre. The challenge then became how best to communicate this in a literary world that likes neat categories. I’ll explain the process, as an example of how to discover your author brand.
Compliments on my world-building, received in reviews of my books, and my branding team describing me with the word ‘guide’ were big clues. The fact that my stories often contain epic journeys melded with my personal love of travel to suggest a solution. I am an author who guides readers into fictional worlds. I had to step out of myself and look at myself from a reader’s point of view to come up with my author tagline, “escape into creative worlds of fiction.”
I’ll offer a word of caution here. Don’t try to copy anyone else’s brand. At best, others will see you as derivative. You won’t be able to pull branding as someone you’re not over the long haul. Find the brand that resonates with you and highlights your uniqueness.
My website theme of ‘travel into books’ play out on my About Janalyn Voigt page. My logo symbol, the lantern that pegs me as a guide into fictional worlds, shows up in the background image, the navigation menu, and my logo. Readers who visit the page will find a quote from Tolkien about travel and an invitation to travel into fiction with me.
For more help with branding, read Author Branding in 4 Steps.
We don’t trust our writing.
It’s hard to write about yourself at the best of times, let alone when you feel like you’re applying for a job. When faced with readers, hanging a sign around your neck might seem in order. ‘Author — will work for subscribers.’ My advice? Let go and be your genuine self. That matters more than trying to impress. Casually mention your credentials and provide opportunities for readers, but don’t overdo it. The most effective approach is to tell a story about yourself and let the caliber of your writing persuade reader.
If you need an example of this, you’ll find one on the About Janalyn Voigt page at my site. I offer links to my books and newsletter, but in a laid-back way readers shouldn’t find off-putting. If I had a sign-up incentive (note to self: attend to this), I’d mention it briefly. I invite social media follows in the footer. That is enough. Loading an About page with too many options moves readers into overwhelm, which most often means they will choose none.
Trusting in my competence as a writer was a hard road for me but worth pushing past my insecurities. If you suspect, despite all evidence to the contrary, that you’re pretending to be a writer and don’t deserve success, read Do You Suffer from Impostor Syndrome?
We forget we’re talking to readers.
Social media has made being a writer a lot less lonely. How refreshing to connect with other writers who think and feel as we do. While it’s normal to gravitate toward other writers, they usually aren’t our main audience. The person who will most often read your About page is your reader. Bear this in mind when you write it. Agents or publishers might glance at your website if you’ve submitted to them, but they most want to know how well you’re engaging readers.
It’s impossible to communicate with readers when you don’t know who they are. Figuring out your readership is one of the hardest things a writer has to do. It takes effort but is not impossible. Ask yourself who would benefit from your books. The answer can’t be everyone, even if your books have wide appeal. Trying to please everyone at once is the surest way to sideline your books. In that case, break your audience into categories and reach out to a few at a time. Otherwise, you’ll spread your marketing resources too thin.
Some people won’t like your writing, and that’s all right. We’re all different. Knowing your audience empowers you to reach it. Take the time to know the people who will spend time with your books. It’s the least you can do, since they are half the storytelling equation. What would an author be without readers? If you want an in-depth look at how to discover your readers and connect with them, take the free Live Write Breathe Readership Challenge.
Going back to my About Janalyn Voigt page, please notice that I’ve written on a nonfiction topic (my writing journey) using fiction skills. Telling a story appeals to readers better than a dry recitation of my qualifications could. It lets them know who I am, and that establishes an emotional bond.
Final Thoughts from Janalyn
As a writer, you are a creative artist. Your About page is the place to prove this to those considering whether to take a chance on your writing. The latest website software plugin won’t win you subscribers as much as giving readers a taste of your writing.