Writers: You’ve got many options for the homepage of your author website, as we described in a previous article. Your homepage text can be a particularly challenging element of your Web site, in part because it’s your reader’s first impression. As a writer, you want the text of your website to lure in cyber passersby with some serious curb appeal.
One of the best ways to bring out your personality is to write a Dear Reader letter. Although it sounds like a Dear Reader letter might be a kind of Dear Abby for writers, you don’t have to talk about publishing industry etiquette or which spoon to use when you’re at a writing conference.
You just have to talk about yourself or your writing—which, let’s face it, is something we writers like to do anyway. Put yourself in your potential readers’ shoes. The things that you want to know when you visit your favorite writer’s website are the same things your potential readers want to know about you. Your Dear Reader letter is a welcome letter. It can tackle any or all of the topics below.
TIP: Print this page and number these questions in order of importance based on the goals you have for your website. Then, see the template below, answer the questions, and POOF! You’ve got your Dear Reader welcome letter.
- What are you writing now?
- In general, how would you describe your writing, your themes and concerns?
- How can readers stay in contact with you (should they sign up for your email list or follow you on social media?)
- What incentives do you offer readers who follow/friend/fan you on social networks?
- What’s going on in your life right now (writing accolades? a new baby? learning to fiddle?)?
- What is your most recent publication (give some backstory and offer a link)?
- What are your goals at the moment?
- What do you do when you’re not writing?
The Anatomy Of The Dear Reader Letter
Salutation: “Dear Reader” is customary. Duh!
Welcome: You might want to take a “pull up a chair” approach, in your own unique way, to invite the reader to kick back and look around.
Body: Include answers to the questions above.
Call to action: In your last paragraphs, give your reader a specific direction. What should he/she do next? Click your bio page? Read samples of your works? Sign up for your mailing list? Buy a copy of your book? You can offer many options to readers, but it’s best to suggest only the one action that you most want readers to take next.
Signature: You can either type your name or use a graphic of your signature of your first name (you can include your full signature if you want to, but keep in mind that these are the days of identity theft).
Tip: If you use a graphic, be sure that the image is saved with your name as the file name (my_name.jpg), with the title of the image as your name, and with alternate text and description also including your name. That way, Google will associate the image with—you guessed it—your name!
Before You Post Your Dear Reader Letter On Your Homepage
You may want to have a friend or professional proofreader take a look at your Dear Reader letter before posting in on your site. Since it’s the first thing people see, typos on this page can be especially embarrassing.
QUESTION: What do you like to see in a Dear Reader letter when you visit an author’s website?