Here's some useful information from bookhitch.com for authors and writers who have websites, or are thinking about creating their own website.
In this day and age, web pages are old news - but does your author website live up to expectations? Is it doing all it can to market your books? Check out these four must-haves for any author's web page.
1) Book details. Showing thumbnail images of your covers helps to establish visual recognition if viewers see your book elsewhere. Short summaries of your books will give your readers the gist of each of them and allow them to decide whether they are interested or not. Lining them up side by side on the same page can introduce readers to your other titles if they're not familiar with all of them. Most importantly, make sure you provide links to where all of your books can be purchased online!
2) Book reviews and excerpts. There's no better place for tooting your own horn than your website. Here you can unabashedly boast by posting the most favorable and full-of-praise book reviews you've received in their entirety, or by highlighting blurbs from other authors. For a potential reader teetering on the fence about whether they will enjoy your book or not, these reviews can be very convincing. Another way to hook a potential reader is by giving them an excerpt, whether it be from the climax of your book, or the introduction to a main character, or even the whole first chapter. Chances are, once they start reading, they won't want to stop. For readers who visit your web page because they are somewhat interested in your books, these items will help to seal the deal.
3) Special features. Give your readers access to additional content online, which will make them feel privileged to be your fans. Think the B-side of a DVD. The possibilities of what can be featured online are essentially limitless, but here are a few suggestions of what to include: illustrations or pictures from your book, character bios and back stories (especially if you write a series in which they recur), or a downloadable audio recording of you reading a passage from the book. You can link to message boards for your fans to discuss your work and ask you questions - this is a simple way to find out what they liked and didn't like, and to get suggestions for your current writing. If your genre is more specialized, like nonfiction, you can post links to some of your research, or if you've written a "how to" book, you can film yourself demonstrating. Children's books authors can have related activities on their website, such as printable coloring pages of book illustrations. And of course, if you have a book video, it belongs front and center!
4) Author Info. That's you! If your readers visit your web page, they probably want to find out more about you as a person! Give them more a more detailed bio than they would find on the back cover of your book, and consider rotating quirky questions (perhaps posed by fans on your message boards) like "What was your first car?" or "Who's your favorite author?" under a "Get to Know Me" section of your website. And if you blog, post the link so that your interested readers can follow it! Keep your readers up-to-date with the latest news about you and your books - post any interviews or press releases, and tell them about any promotional events you have coming up. A mailing list that your readers can sign up for will also help to keep them informed about your events, which can help to generate more support at them. Give your readers a place to contact you via email, snail mail, or both. You'll be able to receive feedback, comments, and questions from them - but of course be wary of the lack of privacy on the good old World Wide Web; you may want to get an email address or P.O. Box to be used just for your author correspondence.
This article written by the editors of bookhitch.com for the bookhitch.com newsletter, reprinted with permission.