Website Help!

In my last day job, I was a web editor – so you’d think I’d know what I was doing. But now that I’m about to publish my first book, it’s time to me to write copy for my brand-new website (not yet launched),¬† and I’m suddenly running up against some really big questions. What should be on an author’s website? And what shouldn’t be?

Here¬† are some elements I personally consider essential as a reader, when I look at other authors’ websites:

  • an author photo (yeah, maybe I’m shallow, but I really do want to be able to put a face to the name)
  • info about when the next book will be out (especially if there’s an ongoing series)
  • excerpts from any books that are currently for sale (this is particularly crucial to me since most of the books I read are American and therefore not on sale at my local English bookstores, which takes away all my physical browsing opportunities – so I really need to read an excerpt online to know whether it’s worth going ahead and buying the book from Amazon.co.uk)

What am I forgetting? What do you guys look for when you click onto an author website, either before or after you’ve read one of their books? And are there any elements that are Really Irritating and ought to be avoided? Help!

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There are 12 comments. Get the RSS feed for comments on this entry.

  1. 1. Jim C. Hines

    A quick and easy way to contact you is probably the most important thing, IMHO.

    Looking at my Google stats, the most popular pages seem to be:

    1. The main page, of course
    2. The blog
    3. Complete bibliography – short fiction and novels
    4. About Jim
    5. Press kit (sadly, mine has only some high-resolution pics right now. I need to add more.)
    6. Detailed information about the goblin and princess books

  2. 2. Stephanie Burgis

    Ooh, those stats are really useful. Thanks, Jim!

  3. 3. Kathleen Foucart

    This isn’t really essential, but I really love when authors have “extras”- pictures of the characters (not necessarily by the author!), “deleted” scenes or alternate/extended versions of scenes from the book, stuff that didn’t make it in the book but is fun to know… I love J. K. Rowling’s calendar that says “Happy Birthday” if it happens to be the birthday of any of her characters.

    In terms of what I expect to see… If the author has a blog, I want to see a link to it. A page for “appearances” is helpful, though it could be part of an “about me” or “news” page. I like front pages to keep track of updated information, so I can tell right away if something new is going.

    If I think of anything else, I’ll let you know!

  4. 4. Dana

    What I don’t like to see — on an author site or any website — is clutter, backgrounds that make the content hard to read, and especially a lot of animated gifs. If it moves, KILL IT! It should load easily in deference to older computers. If there’s audio on the site it shouldn’t start automatically. Links to an author’s blog, Twitter etc. are a big plus.

  5. 5. Karen Wester Newton

    There’s all kinds of information out there on this. From what I have heard, the critical things are:

    Update frequently! if you don’t people have no reason to come back.

    Have enough visual elements to make an intersecting page, but nothing flashing or hugely graphic (i.e., slow to load).

    Have links on how to find you on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

    Have an email link for readers to contact you.

    Congrats on the book launch!

  6. 6. Phoebe

    I agree with what’s been said. Books, press kit, links, and news/events are musts.

    A few pet peeves: glam shots, music, hard-to-navigate site (for example, if events is nested within news which is a subheading of about me it’s going to be too hard to find), tell-all blogs.

    As far as what makes a “nice extra” (and every author site needs a few nice extras), I think it all depends on the tone that fits you as an author.

    For example, if you are a funny, whimsical writer then maybe it adds value to have Easter Eggs (hidden links that make it fun to mouse over the site) or an off the wall FAQ containing hilarious questions no one would seriously ask.

    Or, if you’re more a serious type, then it might be cool to podcast essays or include copies of speeches given.

    And of course an author could easily be both funny and serious–in fact, all my favorites are. :)

  7. 7. Naomi

    I have an abiding hatred for author sites which only contain an author bio, a list of their books, and where to buy them. GAH! If I’m a fan, I already know that crap. If I’m not, I don’t care.

    Interaction. Feedback, forum, messagebox, some way for fans to contact you personally and have you talk back.

    New material of some sort, weekly or monthly. A newsletter or blog.

    Bonus material is a great idea. Short stories, linked to your books or not.

    No-nos? Flash. Biggest PITA around for anyone with less-than-perfect computer and internet access, AND it’s limiting. Looks pretty, I’ll grant, but not worth it.

    Now that I’ve said all that, I guess the first part of designing an author website is asking – Is this site for existing fans, or are you hoping to gain new ones via the site? Because the answer to that question changes what you need to do with it.

  8. 8. Stephanie Burgis

    These are all really, really helpful responses. Thank you guys!!!

  9. 9. Simon Haynes

    Definitely a ‘Press’ page where you can put a bio, high-res author pic, hi-res cover shot, etc, etc all in one place. The number of times I’ve sent people to my Press page is incredible, from people organising school visits to journalists doing a feature. And they all really appreciate having the info to hand.

  10. 10. Simon Haynes

    BTW I’d suggest a google or Yahoo group for announcements – much better than messing with integrating blogs into your site. You can post to the group whenever you like and people are free to join or leave as they wish.

    I use a separate page for each new news item related to the books, and I never change links or use dynamic content. Google loves static pages.

    http://www.spacejock.com.au if you want to take a look.

  11. 11. Stephanie Burgis

    Ooh, thank you, Simon! Those are really, really good points.

  12. 12. Barbara E Martin

    These are wonderful comments for anyone starting up a website. What I was going to say has already been covered.

Author Information

Stephanie Burgis

Stephanie Burgis is an American writer who lives in Yorkshire, England, with her husband, fellow writer Patrick Samphire, their son "Mr Darcy", and their crazy-sweet border collie mix, Maya. Her Regency fantasy trilogy for kids, The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson, will be published by Atheneum Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, in 2010, 2011, and 2012, beginning with Book One: A Most Improper Magick. She has also published short stories in a variety of magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, including Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Escape Pod. You can find out more, or read/listen to her published stories online, at her website. Visit site.

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