Image: Matthew Loffhagen
The About the Author page is the part of your author website where you introduce and discuss your work and persona as an author. It is incredibly important because it’s often one of the first things visitors see.
Your About page is the hotel foyer of your website. It doesn’t matter how opulent the rooms are, if the first room a guest sees is cramped, badly lit and messy they’ll turn around and go somewhere else.
No professional author can allow that to happen. Not just because it drives away valuable online traffic but because it makes them look bad as a brand.
The author as a brand
Together your body of work and your author’s persona constitute a brand. That brand implies certain qualities present in all your work. It’s the idea of your brand that moves a reader who has happily read your first book to pick up your second. In that act they are counting on the quality and tone of your brand.
There might be a few sites that praise your brand but your site is the only one dedicated solely to it. Your author’s website is the authority on you and your About page is the part of that site specifically focused on telling readers what you’re about.
If the site that speaks about you with the most authority does so sparsely, clumsily or in an unprofessional fashion then that perception will also be applied to your brand. Likewise the days of being able to just ignore your online presence have passed: if you choose not to spend some time crafting an About section it sends the message that you’re not worth talking about.
Writing your About page
Happily it’s not difficult to create the kind of About page that gets readers exploring the rest of your site. In fact since it’s a page about you it’s unlikely you’ll even have to do any research.
Crafting a page that does your brand proud is easy and satisfying, especially if you follow our five tips for a better About page.
1. Write for new arrivals
Because your About page carries such authority it’s the first stop for readers just discovering you. The content of your website might be amazing but new readers will never see it if they find your About page impenetrable.
Introduce yourself and mention your catalogue of work, including your genre. Assume interest but not knowledge: write as if the reader knows nothing about you but is intensely interested in finding out as much as possible.
However when I say ‘you’, I actually mean…
2. Write as an author
The reason it’s so important to understand that every author is a brand is that we’re used to being people. People have all kinds of aspects to their personalities, all kinds of interests, quirks and stories. The About page of a single person could fill a book on its own. You are not, however, writing as a person.
Everything on your About page needs to be relevant to you as an author. Every fact you share needs to presented through the lens of your brand. The implicit question you are answering with your About page is not ‘who are you?’ it’s ‘who are you as an author?’
Allow that addendum to echo in your head for everything you include. Writing about your education? Talk about how it established your genre, tone, love of writing, writing style or inspirations. Talking about your holiday? Talk about how it provided the setting for a story.
As we’ve mentioned before, Ian Rankin is excellent at this. In his background section he details his life history and education while linking everything back to the crime genre and roguish tone that characterizes his brand.
Ian Rankin graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982, and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature.
It may seem harsh at first but your About page is more about your collected works than you as a person. Readers are really asking ‘where do these marvelous books come from?’ and you’re just the person most qualified to answer the question.
What kind of education leads to books like these? What kind of life experiences? What kind of inspirations? How did they come to be?
3. Be generous
With the understanding that these are the kinds of questions you’re answering, you should be as generous as possible with your answers.
If someone has sought out your About page then they’re interested in your brand. There’s no excuse for short-changing someone who’s sought out your promotional materials. Chuck Palahniuk’s About page is a nearly two-thousand word essay on his history, philosophy and childhood. It’s well written, insightful and genuinely engaging for fans of the author.
To avoid letting down your fans make sure you provide these essential aspects:
- Introduction / Greeting
- Writing history
- Relevant hobbies & interests
- Profile Picture/s
- List of works
- Social media links (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
Be reassured that anyone on your About page is a) a willing and curious reader and b) capable of skipping the information they’re not interested in. Everyone struggles to talk about themselves but this isn’t a job interview, it’s the world authority on you as an author.
If you need help understanding what to include and what to leave out try thinking of an author you love. What would you ask them in conversation? This is the way someone feels, or will feel, about your work. Make their day by providing the answers to those questions.
4. Be accessible
Though generous your content needs to be accessible. This is a matter of organizing your page to suit different types of visitor.
Why have one piece of information after another? Don’t feel the need to treat digital space as you would a piece of paper: your body of work, profile picture, social media links and at least the beginning of your biography can all be visible at the same time.
Ayad Akhtar’s website manages to simultaneously present everything it has to offer without feeling cluttered or overwhelming.
Likewise your biography’s first paragraph should be a condensed version of the whole, for the readers who want a little information but won’t read further. The idea is to consider, and present, everything on your About page as an individual piece of content. Make each as accessible as possible so readers know what’s on offer.
5. Use visuals
Content is important but the look of your About page is as important as what’s on it. The visual style of the page communicates a great deal about your brand.
Pictures, whether of you or your work, break up text and make it seem more approachable. Chuck Palahniuk’s About page frequently breaks up its text with relevant, eye catching visuals to compel the reader to keep reading.
Visuals also make a site seem more professional. Unfair though it is the look of your About page can turn visitors off before they’ve read a word. Even well thought out, engaging content looks amateurish on an unreasonably sparse background, so make sure the look of your page is equal to its content.
While these tips outline the way you should engage with visitors every author’s About page is different. If someone has gone to the trouble of finding your About page then they’re interested in your style, so lean into that. Respect and inform your author, make it easy for them to keep up, but try to produce something that’s uniquely you.
For more on establishing a high quality online presence check out The 6 Essential Features of a Fiction Writer’s Website or 7 Simple Steps to Create a Professional Author Facebook Page.