Monday, 15 October 2012

What does an author website need? Your input.

It's an unfortunate truth that a lot (maybe most) writers' websites tend to be rather awful. Not necessarily in their appearance (although many do look bad), but in the way they function and what they contain.

This isn't a surprise and it's not the fault of the writers, because getting a professional website can be a really expensive option, far beyond what most writers can justify paying. That leaves writers with three real options:
  1. Build it yourself
    Which is great if you're a web designer. Which most writers, of course, are not. If you're not a pro and you build the site for yourself anyway, it may be okay, but it won't be working for you in the way you might want.
  2. Pay someone cheap to do it for you
    Cheap is generally not great. Seriously. Even with the best intentions, someone who is only charging you a few hundred dollars just isn't going to be able to put in the time to make the website as good as you need it to be, not unless they intend to go out of business or starve within the year. 
  3. Use an existing template or theme
    If you sign up with wordpress.com, you can choose a professionally-designed template (theme), change certain elements, and create your website there. For free. You can even have your own web address showing on it. You can do a similar thing on blogspot (although the result won't be as good). But your choices will be limited, and none are set up with the needs of writers in mind. They are generic, and they mostly designed to be blogs, with a few pages attached.
None of these are at all satisfactory, in my opinion. They're not going to get you readers or promote you.

As a writer, having an effective way to present your books, build an audience, and sell what you've written is absolutely essential.

So, I've decided to start a project. I'm going to build a WordPress template / theme that is designed specifically for writers to use. Something simple, that can be 'branded' to match the needs of the individual writer. I'm going to make it free to use, modify, hack apart and reassemble, or (almost) whatever else you might want to do with it.

Before I do, though, I want to be sure I'm including everything important.

A while back, I wrote a post called '10 Things Every Author's Website Should Include'. But I want to know what you think.

If you're an author, what do you want in a website?

If you're a reader, what do you expect or want to find on your favourite writer's website?

I'm going to try to include all the important things I can. So, what would you want to see?

By the way, if you want to keep on the progress of this project and find out when it's released, I'll post updates here or you can follow me on twitter.

12 comments:

Stephanie Burgis said...

The most important things I look for as a reader are details of which books they've written, excerpts from the books (so I know whether or not to order them), and the dates of any upcoming books! After that, I'd put reviews, "about the author" pages, contact info, etc.

Denise Jaden said...

The thing I like most about author pages I visit is an easy to find news page. Chances are, when I visit their website, I'm there because I'm interested in any new news.

As for my own author website, I like having a book page, complete with a praise section and resources like discussion guides for each book. I have my blog linked to my website, but I'm not crazy about websites that have the blog on the main welcome page of a site. It's also important to have an about me section with contact information.

Hope that helps!

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

--Bio
--Author photo
--List of publications, with information about each publication (synopsis, blurbs/review snippets, reader guides), and links to where they can be bought
--Any info on upcoming publications (especially release date!)
--Calendar of author appearances
--CONTACT INFORMATION!!!!! (it's incredibly frustrating not to find this on a website)
--Info about whether the author does school visits or other appearances, and how to go about booking him/her
--Date the website was last updated (so we can tell how current the info is)
--Optional: links, press kit, photos, book trailers and other special features

sheela-chari said...

I agree that having a news section, preferably right there on the first page, which can be easily updated, which is separate from a blog, is a must for a writer.

As someone curious about an author, I like to be able to access a list of events/appearances, in case that author will be coming to a venue somewhere near me.

Bottom line is that the first page, the home page, should have as much relevant information as possible (name, titles, links to events, visits and contact info)without looking cluttered or be hard to navigate. I think a lot of users who come to a web site often look at that first page and then move on.

Patrick Samphire said...

Thanks for the input, everyone! I should definitely be able to figure out a way in include that stuff. Much appreciated!

Terri-Lynne said...

Without looking at anyone else's responses, I would say:
--latest news, like upcoming or recently released novels
--links to published books
--reviews
--author bio
--I like insider trivia, a sort of "did you know that X is an advocate for the rights of ardvaarks everywhere?" Something extra, and fun.

Ilana Waters said...

SELLER LINKS! Don't forget the seller links. Tell me every online and offline location where the book can be purchased. Have those links take me directly to the site's page so I can buy the book in minimal clicks. As a reader, I know that's what I'd want. :-) Good luck with your website project--I think it's a fantastic idea.

Beth Revis said...

As a reader, the most important things to me are:
-contact page, with ALL contact info (email *and* social media links, easily accessible)
-book page, with ALL books (not just the most recent)...but also presented in a logical way
-a place where I can find a short bio (like a sentence or two)
-something fun that will show me the author's personality (such as a longer, fun bio, pictures, links about context of the book, etc.)
-I appreciate, but do not expect, links for readers that give extra insider info on the books and/or links for writers that help other writers.
-a logical url (i.e. bethrevis.com, not bethrevisauthor2584935789.freespace.fun.org)
-a non-flash based option (preferably NO flash)

As an author, what I need in my webpage:
-no limit on the number of pages I can have
-complete control of the content--I like that my guy made a template that I can then change (keeping in mind I do know basic CSS and html)
-easy formatting, so that I don't have to spend a lot of time fiddling with CSS and html
-the ability to grow--either a template that's easy to expand, or a logical organization that allows for the creation of new pages as needed.

Beth Revis said...

And I'll repeat what Ilana above me said: seller links with each book (and not just Amazon, but BN, GoodReads, and Indiebound). Also, information on how to get a signed copy if that's an option.

Patrick Samphire said...

Thanks, everyone. I'm making a note of all of these, and hopefully as many as possible will make it into the theme.

Marjorie said...

A news section is good - to include things such as release dates, any appearances at bookshops, festivals or cons.

Clear bibliography, preferably with links to where the books can be bought, extracts from the books etc.

If the books are part of a series then it's handy to have a list of the books in reading / internal chronological order, as well as order of publication.

Also, it needs to be easy to find your way around - I've seen sites where someone has got a little too clever, and every section of the site has a cryptic title, so you have to try to guess what each section actually contains, which mostly means I'll just move on.

Contact info is good, including links to the writer's twitter / facebook page etc. if they have them.

I quite enjoy galleries of cover art but this needs to be separate from (for instance) the list of books - I've seen sites where you have top find the cover of a specific book, click on it, and go through to another page to get any information about that book - incredibly frustrating if what you mostly want to work out is whether book A comes before or after book 3, or whether books have been given different titles in different countries.

I like writers blogs, but I agree that this isn't the ideal landing page

Hope this helps

Patrick Samphire said...

Thanks for the input, Marjorie. I really appreciate it.