Website Essentials

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Having done final, final, final edits for my agent on my latest novel (all smiles here on that front – and no small measure of relief!),  I am focusing on a much needed update to my author website (very much overdue I fear!) but, horror of horrors,  I’ve realized that the book world has altered so much since I set up my website, I am now at sea as to what changes I really should be making.  Sure, I have all the obvious tabs: Author bio, appearances, book news, links to blogs, excerpts/readings and ‘what’s new’, but what I really need is to focus on what additional elements that truly add value to my readers (and yes, I also know I need to update my news/appearances too…)

As a reader I know I enjoy websites that are beautifully designed, visually appealing, easy to read (no weird fonts or jarring colors) and which offer lots of value added information that keep me coming back. That being said, it’s often hard to translate that into what is needed for your own website (and also, it’s a slippery slope, I don’t want to spend all my time writing website content rather than novels!).

So as I so often do, I am turning to you, the Kill Zone experts to find out what you think works/doesn’t work on author websites. 

Here are some of the ideas/questions I am currently mulling over:

1. As I am venturing into YA territory should I have a separate tab for this on my current website or should I have an entirely different website designed – given that these are two separate genres?

2. How much ‘value added’ content is worthwhile including on a website. Given that I write historical fiction (for both my mysteries and YA books) does giving  information on the period provide a useful value add or would links to other websites and resources be sufficient. It’s always hard to know just exactly how much information/effort an authors should give to what is essentially background information.

3. Are giveaways and competitions really worthwhile?

4. What about books trailers or videos?

5. Do you (as a reader) appreciate any other value added elements/information on an author website?

And finally, have you got an examples of what you think are truly first-class author websites or ones which just don’t meet the mark?


18 thoughts on “Website Essentials

  1. Hmmm . . .

    What I like to see on an author’s website is:

    1. Current information about books (with easy purchase links). Excerpts. I would keep your genres on one website for now under separate tabs, unless something really breaks out and goes wild. But, that’s just me.

    2. Current information about appearances at cons or signings. Sooper important. I’ve found out that fav writers would be in KC, the day after it happened and it torqued me. Ability to sign up for announcements.

    3. Evidence of interaction. You are interactive here, so links to your posts here. Links to books you like and recommend. The historical resources.

    4. I do like contests, but that is me.

    5. Then, just the basics. Easy to navigate, no music or floating cursors, no dead links. Appropriate colors and graphics. Stuff like that.

    Can’t wait to see it. Terri

  2. Clare,
    One question before I comment. Do you get any statistical feedback from your webmaster as to what is already working — or not — on your site in terms of page views?

  3. I like learning about the author– who are you? So many times I go to an author’s web site and it’s all hype and noise– contests, book hype, blurbs. I get it, but I won’t come back nor will it compel me to buy a book. Maybe trying to please everyone is impossible. Best to you as you develop your site.

    • The author bio is great – and I wonder if posting interviews is also a good way for readers to get to know authors. I agree though – if it’s all hype it’s a turn off.

    • If I look at an author’s site, it’s because I’m interested in the person (really the author’s particular persona). As in a story, I’m looking for that “connection” with the author. So I’m not really interested in the author’s awards and boy-howdys collected over the years. In my view, it’s always about the magic.

  4. A short author bio is a must. I didn’t think anyone would be interested in me personally but I get a lot of people checking the bio because they are curious about the origin/pronunciation of my first name and other details. Readers are curious people, after all, so give them answers they can’t find elsewhere.

    All the elements you mentioned are good, and a general impression that it is an active, frequently updated website.

  5. Here are some writer sites I like – I like different things about them (& some of the same as Terri listed first off)..
    All the basics- slick- fun – even has extras on there like mini extra stories, I’ve seen her prompt fan fiction, etc. Fun and informative.
    Fun! And it really does match the personality of her books – she has info, give-aways, interaction, blogs, and games – “What’s your biker witch name” – silly but fun hangout and you feel like you’re in the know.
    Jordan split’s her’s right off the front page- Adult fiction or YA fiction – all the stuff you want there – plus as a writer extras- I love Jordan’s “For Writers” area.
    Not quite as flashy as the above (but he’s a guy and guys aren’t into flashy much).. regular good stuff, a few extra “short” stories. He also has his news info on the first page, a forum where fans can discuss books, characters, etc. and if you can find it- he has a really good writer’s blog with some great tips.

    Angie Fox And Darynda Jones also have something called “Street Teams” they have private Facebook groups for fans which help them do their marketing for them virally. They’ll ask the team to go post a review on one of the books – or to tweet or fb about it. etc. I’m not in Darynda’s but Angie’s team gets b-day and xmas cards, a packet full of goodies as a new street team member- a signed book, a bunch of signed chapter excerpts and bookmarks for her new books (so you can have one and share the rest with friends, bookstores, libraries, etc.) You get the first “inside” upcoming news on releases and story ideas, etc. Angie also has some fun give-aways. She has always been very personal and interactive- she has some fun ideas & I’ve been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of some of them. When I think of putting my stuff together I honestly think a lot of her and how she does things.

  6. If you are well-known already, place a world link to “where it all started” on your webpage. It is your fictional world. If you’re not well-known already, create a website with a home page which invites the reader into the world of your characters.

    Once they’re hooked, they’ll look for an author link to find out more about you and subsequent materials. When this happens often enough, your home page should become that world link on your author page.

  7. One thing to consider it setting up a account. They’re free and you can link them to your site to automatically keep statistics on who is visiting your site. of course you will see just how many spambots are lurking and searching the web from around the world, but also can find out exactly how many hits your site gets.

    I am thinking of doing a total revamp of my own website as the original was designed as an active blog and aimed more at a podcast audience than strictly my books and audiobooks.

  8. Hi Clare. Late in replying…sorry! I like your site. It’s visually appealing and easy to navigate (first criterion imo). The only thing I would add is a media page. I’ve done a lot of programs and stuff (Edgars, SleuthFest) and have had to go to MANY author websites to get their photos and bios. I am surprised and dismayed at how many do not have either. Every author should have a quality jpeg for download and a SHORT BIO. Libraries, conferences, people who book you for an event need this. It’s a little thing but important.

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