book talk / geekery

Fellow readers, what do you want from an author website?

My good friend Lee Roland is having her mass market Urban Fantasy Romance debut, Viper Moon, this summer. Since I have a little more web graphics experience than she does, I have been helping her build her author website. That got me thinking about what I, as a reader, like to see on an author’s website.

I think, most importantly, the website needs to convey a tone consistent with the books, provide current information about availability of books and backlist, and—to borrow a phrase from the medical world—do no harm. In its mildest form, harm is simply an unprofessional site that makes the author look absent or amateurish. The nightmare scenario involves any sort of bad behavior on the site: a letter railing about the stupidity of modern readers, inappropriate pictures, etc…  I do want to get to know the author a bit, blogs are a  great way to do this, but there is a limit to what I want to know.

Some of my favorite things I’ve seen on websites have been character interviews. J.R. Ward did a good job with this on her site. Jess Granger did some great ones on her blog. Other stuff I’ve seen: puzzles, screen savers, story behind the story pages, character relationship charts, book chronologies, information on the story world, deleted scenes, forums, and the list goes on… Some of these I’ve found entertaining, others not so much. It can be a bit overwhelming sorting through all of the possibilities. So I turn to my fellow readers.

What things do you most enjoy finding on an author’s website? If you’ve seen some great stuff, please include links.

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15 thoughts on “Fellow readers, what do you want from an author website?

  1. The biggest pluses for me are a book backlist (and if there’s excerpts, then all the better) as well as information about when the next one will be out, or even how the draft is going. If I fall in love with someone’s work, I’ll not only want to read everything else they’ve written, but I want to know when the new stuff is coming out too.

    Ilona and Gordon Andrews (http://www.ilona-andrews.com/) used to have a progress bar on their website, showing how each draft was going, or if they were in edits, how the edits were going, on their blog and have recently taken it down, unfortunately.

    What are essentially “DVD extras’ can be good too, like scenes from books that got cut from the finished novel for whatever reason, a particular scene from a different character’s point of view or a scene that happened ‘off camera’ can be fabulous. Again, the Andrews’ do this with scenes from the male lead’s point of view and they’re great fun to read, if for no other reason than you get to know another character from their books, especially when the novel is written in first person from the female lead.

    Good luck with the website and good luck to your friend for her novel!

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    • Thanks! I’ll have to mention the male point of view idea to her. Viper Moon is all first person from the heroine’s POV. The character, Cas, really comes alive because Lee has an amazing writing voice, but it would be neat to see what she would do writing from Flynn’s POV (the hero) or even Michael (who is the hero of the second book in the series).

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  2. I like everything you mentioned in your last paragraph. Interviews with characters are cool, as are “deleted scenes” from novels. Anything that makes me feel like I’m getting more than what I read in the book, like dvd “extras”, ya know?

    And cute personal stories from the author help make him/her more relatable.

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  3. I know that a lot of readers want to hear about what’s coming from an author but you know what? It can be embarrassing. I’ll give you a personal example. I was writing a story and, if I had been a more outgoing author, I’d have cute little progress bars on my website. All through November, December and January, that word count would have been going up and, of course, I would’ve been blogging about it.

    Well, I submitted the story for an anthology call in mid-January and do you know what happened? I got rejected. If I was the author who had blogged and dutifully updated my word count, I’d be feeling pretty embarrassed/anxious/tense about now. What do I tell my readers? That I’m crap at writing? That the form rejection must have been travelling at the speed of light to hit my Inbox so fast after submission? LOL That I’m crap at writing? You get the gist.

    And that’s why, tbh, I look a little askance at other published author wordcount widgets. Wow, I think to myself, they are THAT confident that that story will sell? Not me.

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    • Hugs, Kaz. Rejection happens at all stages of an author’s career. Even Jayne Ann Krentz still get’s rejections. But it does help when you have a contract. Maybe those authors are tracking stories written under contract.

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  4. I’m sitting back and taking notes since I need to get a website together (should launch sometime this summer). Love everyone’s DVD extras ideas. Out of curiosity, what do you think of newsletters? Do readers tend to sign up for them?

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    • Oh, and Newsletter. I do get a couple and mostly don’t read them. I only use them to pick-up on when a new book is coming out. One of the authors includes links in her newsletter to free venyettes with popular characters. I always scan her NL for those!

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  5. I’m pretty impressed with most author websites, so I guess the few things I do not like stand out. If I visit and find the following, I’ll only return if I know an author personally.
    1. I have to scroll through ten different things before I find the page I want. Even clicking through say…even five pages to find a backlist will bug me.
    2. Bells and whistles. Music. Weird music. Hate. It.
    3. Any type of video/media that pops up and starts playing before I can even view the site.
    5. Difficulty with navigation for any reason, including the above.
    6. Sites that take forever to load. I will rarely return.
    7. Never updating. Just say hello once a week or so.

    So, just me, I guess. I think most authors do a good job, it’s the above issues that bug me to the point of no return.

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  6. I feel bad about this, but I rarely visit author web sites. Unless I’m looking for a backlist, I’m simply not interested in deleted scenes, games, or progress bars.

    I do like when they’ve written thoughtful commentary or articles about their experiences in craft and the business, but other than that, I am woefully neglectful of web sites.

    Blogs are a different matter. It tends to bite some authors in the butt because while they may be excellent wordsmiths, some blog badly, or present themselves in a negative light. –Negative being subjective. 🙂

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  7. I like to see change. Put news or a blog on the first page. And update it!

    Contests are always fun, but not if I have to sign up for a newsletter or something.

    The Viper Moon cover and blurb look amazing. Congratulations, Lee, on the book.

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    • I agree with all your points, Abigail. One problem I’ve had with change on websites is that some authors don’t have a lot of news and aren’t big bloggers. One author I’ve helped in the past only provided me with updates about once a year. Seemed almost counterproductive to have a “news” area on her site. The fab Merrillee Whren, on the other hand, gives me great monthly updates that appear on her front page and I think that contributes to the interaction she sees from her readers. Her fab stories surely play a big roll, too!

      Having a strong site takes work, no doubt about it.

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  8. It sure looks like you have some great input here, Charlie. The websites I like best are the ones that are different. I get tired of all the generic ones out there. As for content, we as authors need to keep updating all the time. (Granted, I’ve sometimes fallen behind in this) I don’t know if anyone really likes it or not– but I tied the ‘look’ of my website to the same ‘look’ on my blog. Since I do write crossover SFR, and some readers may not know the science or SF language I use in my work, I added a page of SF terms. Some I created for certain stories, some are standard. This page was prompted by several questions from others about what a certain term meant– like FTL, or event horizon, etc. Anyway, it looks like you have a good deal to go on here.

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