Part of the advice I got from the San Francisco Writers Conference was to make my author website more visual. When I first put it up most of the content was text. I had a placeholder cover for the novel that I had never been 100% happy with, but I didn't think that mattered, because I was seeking to have my novel traditionally published anyway.
However, when I spoke with Cali Gilbert about marketing strategy and author platform for my novel, she (and many others) told me that even if I wasn't targeting my eventual readers with my website right now, it still would help to make it more visual.
I decided to listen to the experts and hired Fiona Jayde Media (recommended to me by Jim Azevedo from Smashwords). I initially commissioned Fiona to do artwork for 4 of my characters (my main character plus the 3 main supporting characters). After I saw how great her work was, I doubled her commission and asked her to create branding for the two main powers on Earth in my story (the ZPK and the UAA), as well as social media branding, and other fun stuff to do with the character artwork.
Why am I doing all of this when I am seeking traditional publishing for my novel, and I won't get to pick my book cover anyway? Two reasons: (1) It shows all industry professionals I am serious about this. I am not joking around, I am not doing this on a lark, I am 100% invested in doing this, and willing to put my money where my mouth is. (2) I think it's fun, and it allows me to use the artwork on social media to promote my novel (which I will still be doing even with a traditional publishing deal), and it makes my author website a lot nicer to look at.
I want to show you just how talented Fiona is. Below is the entire set of information I gave her about my main character (Aila), and from that text, she created the awesome character art now on the front page of this website. When I look at Aila in that image, I see the young woman I have been writing about for so long. It's like looking at a photo I misplaced for a long time.Aila Solas
Role: Main Character
Complexion: Fair with barely noticeable freckling
Height: 5'5" (1.68m)
Hair-style: Long & wavy, usually in a ponytail
Rank: Navy Ensign (military space defense force)
Intelligence: Extremely high
Envisioned Pose: I see her either looking up guiltily from fiddling with her personal communication device on her left wrist (when she should have been paying attention), or sitting in front of a bank of computer equipment looking over it up/at us.
Envisioned clothing: If she is shown on the bridge, she'll need to be in uniform. If she isn't on the bridge, she can be in casual clothes.
Envisioned Background: Computers/technology/bridge of a (space) navy ship. AIs are real in her world, and they can use holographic projectors to show avatars humans can see, and everyone has one. So having one in the background standing on a computer console doing something like pointing at her or at a screen of information would be a nice touch. Maybe that can work into her pose as well so she is holding up a hand or something telling it to wait while she deals with us, the viewer?