7 Tips for Publishers’ Websites

By   Jantien Abma 3 min read

Alejandra Rodriguez Creixell was an intern at whitefox and a Publishing MA student at UCL. She is designing a booklet for Waterstones Gower Street and working for Blue Baltic Press, where she is currently promoting Jeremy Thomas’s Santa Monica Suicide Club. Here she shares 7 tips for publishers’ websites, based on key findings from her MA research.

Writing about publisher websites can be as overwhelming as reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. However, with people increasingly consuming content via mobile, not providing a useful service through a website seemed to me like a missed opportunity for publishers to connect with consumers and build their own brands. So I decided to write my Masters dissertation on publisher websites to find out if a good website was worth the effort.

Unfortunately, I cannot publish my dissertation as a blog post. But I can share two things. The first is that whether or not a publisher should spend time and money on their website depends on the specific publisher. The second is that before some publishers start thinking about innovation, they should first consider how to make their websites more efficient. Here’s how:

Below are some tips I gathered that can help publishers, freelancers, and authors alike.

If the aim is to not spend time and money on the website, make something simple. That means keeping content short and concise.  Do: talk about the house’s publishing philosophy or culture. Don’t: treat the website as an ‘online catalogue,’ as one of my interviewees pointed out. If it’s really necessary to display a full list, making a slideshow would be helpful; it’s easier to digest and takes less space.

Take a user-centric approach. If the navigation of your site is complicated and overloaded with content, the audience will flee. Think not only of how to make the navigation easier and smoother (specially for mobile phones), but also how visitors behave, how they access your site, what will make them stay, and how to convince them to keep coming back.

Consider not only what your current and target audiences want, but also the best thing your brand can offer. It can be anything: the best science-fiction community, the best place to find healthy recipes and tips for a healthy lifestyle, the best newsletters, monthly book trailers, advice site for aspiring writers, weekly updates on what goes on at a publisher’s office (pictures and videos included)…

Fit the content to the platform and feel free to break traditional models. For example, it would seem odd for editors to start vlogging, but if the aim of the content is to show the friendly atmosphere at the publishing house, a short video with a mobile phone or a camera can be more effective than a written post.

Have SEO in mind. And, if possible, get creative with it.  Use titles and descriptions that are likely to be used by consumers on search engines when looking for a particular book, but try to stay away from words that are too generic. 

Collaborate. Sometimes, in order to create something unique and extraordinary, you have to create partnerships, even with your own ‘competition’. For example, another one of my interviewees, Damian Horner, proposed: when building a crime community, consider partnering with other publishers and create the biggest crime community there is. This kind of partnership allows for authors to grow their fan base, for publishers to share the time and money expenses of creating an efficient and vibrating community, and for both of them to have access to data (among many other things). Will authors have to compete against each other? Maybe. But, since the main goal would be to get people excited about reading crime, it would be a healthier competition than the one publishers face against other content providers.

Be the absolute master of what you do. This does not only mean having a website with a unique selling point, but also provide your audience with relevant content or platforms that nobody else can provide as well as you can.

All these points have pros and cons, but if the aim is towards efficiency and innovation, these approaches can lead websites in the right direction.