Thursday, April 22, 2010

Author websites

by Stacey

An author recently asked me to take a look at her revamped, updated, and exciting new website. It got me thinking about what a good website entails, which author sites are worth seeking out, and what readers are looking for when they visit an author website. My research took me to this old but interesting piece written by the head of Thomas Nelson which offers some ideas about tools to rank your website's success, and some, as he calls them, surprising conclusions about traffic to author websites.

All of this author website talk now turns to you, our blog readers, to find out what you want to see when you visit an author's website? Is it personal information about the author, videos of interviews, excerpts from their book(s), contests? I'd love some feedback from you on what's of personal interest to get some perspective and perhaps allow us to better inform our authors of things they can do to make their websites more appealing to readers and fans. It would also be helpful to know some of your favorite websites, ones you keep going back to over and over. Thanks!!

15 comments:

  1. if i go to an authors website i want to see a few things:

    1. FAQ section
    2. Bio
    3. Bibliography- including the order if it's a series. There's a few series i read and it does my head in when i go to the authors site to find out the next book in a series and the order isn't clearly set out!

    other than that i don't look at anything else, including book extracts, usually i'd only go to an author's website if i've already read one of their books and liked it.

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  2. I sort of think that the coolest author sites are like the specials features on dvds. I tend to be interested in the authors of the books I really, really like, so I tend to like author sites that tell me about the person as well as information about their books. I regularly read the Robin McKinley blog, both because I like her books and find her interesting. I bought a book from John Scalzi because I read part of the first chapter on his website and had to read the rest. Things like authors who do podcasts and blog and post interviews tend to make me frequent their sites because I'm interested. Right now the internet, blogs and twitter are where I get the bulk of my reading suggestions.

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  3. As a reader I like the bios. I like to know what led them to write the things they do. I also like to know if they have any projects in the works or exciting news about current books (signings, movies, etc.)

    As a writer I like to learn a little about their writing process and their journey to publication.

    I don't visit many author sites on a regular basis.

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  4. I agree with WriterGirl. If an author has a series it's important for him/her to have the order in which they should be read.

    I like to see tour dates of where the author might be signing, or speaking. Even blog tour info is nice to add, or what website or newspaper/magazine the author might be interviewed at.

    Bio and FAQ site as well as Contact Me info for devoted fans who want to write to the author.

    Any links to a blog or other website the author recently contributes to. Links to a Twitter or Facebook (fan) page.

    Perhaps a few personal pics where the author shows herself (or family, pets) off. A fan likes a brief glance into the world of the author whose books they buy.

    Perhaps a page devoted to their fans who aspire to become a writer themselves, offering tips and maybe their own story of how they came find an agent and become published.

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  5. Ooh, bookmarking that for the day I (hope I) need an author website.

    The most important things for me are are the bio section (which hopefully will have some random and interesting tidbits instead of just detailing birthplace, education, and where they live now), a bibliography, and some sort of FAQ or interactive section where authors answer questions about inspirations, etc. (This could be done on a blog as well, and if it is, I hope there is some sort of roster or tagging system so it's easy to find those posts.) I also like a "recent updates" section where they can list new stories, upcoming appearances, etc.

    EDIT: My word verification was "imbibes", and I always feel a need to point it out when the verification forms an actual word.

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  6. Also book trailers are so sweet. Even if it's just a scan of book covers from their collection to some music that reflects the mood of the stories is cool. Teresa Medeiros has a trailer like that and it put a smile on my face.

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  7. I'm a sucker for biographies. It's nice to know where a person came from, or how that might have influenced their writing.

    Also, excerpts from books are always good. I've purchased many a book based on excerpts I found on author websites.

    I've noticed a lot of people have been posting playlists for their stories lately. As I do this myself, and am a notorious music whore, I enjoy seeing what others feel suit their books.

    Also, I agree with WriterGirl - it's nice when an entire series is listed in publication order, so I don't miss anything.

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  8. As a reader, I like to read bios, faqs and author blogs. I don't often go look at much more than that. I also like when they have their books listed, then I can see what ones I've missed.

    I've never seen playlists, but have one of my 'writing tunes' on my blog. That's cool. I'm not crazy about personal information such as what they cooked for dinner last night or how cute their dog is when he does this or that.

    Information about writing and publishing, tips and stuff like that is always interesting to me too.

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  9. In my experience, a fancy site doesn't make or break how I feel about the author - except when it bogs me down.

    A landing page that has too many bells and whistles turns me off. It slows the process of reaching the following chunks of info I'm in pursuit of:

    Author Bio
    FAQs
    Overview of Stories
    Blog Link
    Excerpts

    In particular, I like to know the author's story - where they grew up, how they found their calling, details of their first deal, etc.

    - Julie Duck

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  11. I love when an author's website is unique, yet organized and professional. One example of this is Erynn Mangum's website, www.erynnmangum.com. I like the design of her website and how it expresses herself.

    I think an author's website should be that way. I also like it when they have up video interviews, as well as FAQ, their contact information, their journey through publishing, advice, and summaries on their books.

    Tessa

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  12. I agree with everything that's been posted so far, with the addition that I love seeing extra stuff, fun things like quizzes or games that relate to the author's books.

    For instance, Stephenie Meyer's book playlists and extras are fun to look at; Gail Carriger has a really cool link to a place where you can dress up her main character; and Jacqueline Carey has an amazing gallery of fan tattoos, which relate to her books. I think stuff like that is so great, because it gives you more than you're looking for, and entertains you. It makes you keep going back to their website and read about their new projects, etc.

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  13. I think it's also a good idea for unpublished authors to have a website. It can make you look professional, and it certainly can't hurt when prospective agents/publishers see it. Also, through facebook etc., you can keep tabs on people who want to read your book (if it ever gets published), so that you can hit them all when your book makes it to the shelves. I even put a sample chapter up to keep people interested.

    As an added bonus, it really makes your book feel real. When I finished my book, there was a horrible anticlimax. I think I was expecting champagne corks popping, and Mexican trumpets somewhere in the distance, not to be wandering around the house, kicking furniture. When I put the website up, it felt really good.

    It can be done very cheaply too, my friend did mine for me, he said he would have charged about $400 for it to a regular customer. You can see it here as an example of a simple website:

    www.davidgaughran.com

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  14. I think the number one thing I want to see from an author's website, and I really don't see it often enough, is a printable backlist, with series books in order. That way I can just print it out and take it to my library or bookstore.

    I'm not big on long drawn out author bios, but I'd like to see a little something to give me a feel for the author. Blogs are always good, but I don't have enough time to wander author blogs like I'd like to.

    Also, I love deleted scenes, snippets, excerpts, ect. Like Rachel Caine has a bunch of free short stories on her website and even lists where in the series the stories are set. Love it. I spent hours reading those stories. They keep me sane between her books.

    Another important item on an author website is who to contact to request interviews. I have a part time book blog and it's time consuming to try to surf author websites to find out where to go to request an interview.

    I think the thing to consider is the author wants it to look clean and professional and not amateurish. It's an online business card.

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  15. Thanks for the comments, folks. They are really interesting and very helpful. Keep up the good work!

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