Since I am a long time reader, have been a blogger for awhile now and have spent
an obsessive amount some time on the internet, I have seen a lot of author websites. As a blogger, I use them more as a tool to get my reviews ready. Going to them for links, cover art and to see what books are included in a series. As a reader, I use them to stalk future releases and read blog posts. I can’t say how frustrating it is when you go to an author’s website and you can’t find what you are looking for. Or how refreshing it is when you go to a site that is simply set up and has everything you need, in a nice orderly fashion.
I thought we could take a few minutes and talk about what we like and dislike on author sites, both from a reader and blogger perspective.
1. Keep it Simple.
This is more my preference, but I like simple sites. I don’t need the jazzy graphics. Just give me the plain ‘ole facts about the books. I do like that Sherrilyn Kenyon has lots of information about her characters, but she also has a gazillion books out and it helps to keep things straight. So her crazy site is one that I like.
On the other hand, author’s sites need to be updated and easy to read. For example, Rob Thurman’s site is one that is really difficult to read and find information. It is also disappointing when you go to a site for information about a current release, and the 2009 release is still sitting on the front page.
2. Books Listed in Reading Order.
If I read a good book, the very first thing I do is go to the author’s site and see what is planned next. I don’t care if they don’t have a title or release date – I LOVE to know what they have coming up. I think Ann Aguirre does a nice job with this. She simply shows us her series, and then when you click on a cover we are taken to a wonderful information page.
Or, if the book is in the middle of the series, I want to see what I have missed. If there are short stories in anthologies, I like to see where those fit into the reading order too. Yes, OCD runs in my blood ;) Release dates, and blurbs for these books are also a must too!
3. An About/FAQ page
I’m nosey. There I said it. I like to read author’s bios and hear their story to publication. I enjoy getting a little more insight into the people that write my books. This also really helps bloggers when they are doing interviews. The more we know about the authors, the easier it is to ask questions. Links on the About Me page to email, twitter, facebook, etc. are really helpful too!
4. Speaking of Twitter and Facebook….
Being addicted to Twitter, I love it when an author has a Twitter account. Not only can I tweet them (you lucky authors! ;) but I think it helps to have them so accessible. Even if they can’t get on often, when authors tweet tidbits, or contests, or reviews of their books, we are paying attention! I’m not a huge fan of facebook, but I think it is nice to have a page there too.
5. An Author Needs a Website, Not Just a Blog
There are some author’s out there that only have a blog. I love blogs, and I think it is a great way for author’s to network, but if they ONLY have a blog, it makes it hard to get all of the important information out. I see books stuffed over on the sidebar, instead of on a separate page. I’ve even had to scroll through several pages just to find information about an author’s current book.
6. Music and Sound Effects, No Thanks
Again, I like things simple. I don’t need a song to start playing when a page opens or sound effects to go off when I scroll over a link. I’m talking to you Cherry Adair! For one, it loads slower, and sometimes it’s just too cutesy. Seriously, simple is better!! (in my opinion of course :)
7. Big Image of Covers
From a blogging perspective, I need authors to have a large size image of their cover on their site. When I read Money Honey by Susan Sey (which I really enjoyed) the only image on her site of the book was this. It took me a long time to find a regular, “unfancy,” large image.
Sticking with blogging for a minute, Moira Rogers has an entire page just for bloggers. It’s wonderful and I want to have bloggy babies with it.
I have also noticed some authors include their publicist’s name on their site. This makes it easy to request a review and I know I am contacting the correct person.
I love Goodreads – it is the first place I go when I am interested in a book. And as some have pointed out recently, Goodreads gets more ratings/reviews for books than Amazon does. So, for that matter, authors should always have their books listed at Goodreads. I get jittery if I can’t find it on there ;)
From a reading or blogging perspective what do you like and dislike when it comes to author websites?
I love when authors are active on twitter and actually interact with their readers. Just getting simple responses from them makes me giddy.
Goodreads is fantastic! It's also my go-to place for researching books. I haven't had the unfortunate incident of not seeing a book I've read missing from their database though.
I don't like when authors have very fancy sites with flash or a large amount of pictures. With the pictures you have to hover the mouse over them to find out what it links to. No thanks.
Roni Loren says
This is an awesome post for writers to look at. :) It's nice to hear the perspective from a book blogger. I'm so tweeting this.
You hit the nail on the head with these! I like the basics, list of books, excerpts (preferable the first 1 or 2 chapters, not a random section of the book), reviews from popular websites. I’m with you on music and over-animation on a website. And the whole having a blog and not a website, that is a pet peeve for me (yeah, I’m talking to you Lynn Viehl)…
And you know I'm lovin' Goodreads!
Agree with every single point you made!! I rely so much on author' sites to find correct reading order and to get more info.
Sometimes when I visit my favorite author's sites (and I am talk to you WARDen) I just stare and think of all the ways things could be so much improved or enhanced.
As for Twitter – two of my other favorite authors – Lauren Dane and Larissa Ione – totally rock at this! And as a fan I think it is so awesome.
My least favorite thing ever though: is white text on a black background. Does this really work for readers? Who likes this?
Liz Fichera says
Very helpful! Less is more. Definitely.
tori aka ggs_closet says
Great post Mandi. You said everything I would have said had I thought to blog about this. Which I didn't. So I'm glad you did. :P
Edna – I agree it makes me giddy when authors tweet me too :) There have only been a small amount of books I have not been able to find on GR but it really has become my go to place!!
Roni – Thanks :)
Lizzie – including reviews is nice too..and I agree with the excerpts!
Samantha – ugh…the white text (or colored text) on a black background is not good. It hurts your eyes. I need to be soothed ;)
I think JR Ward's new website is a little better…
Liz – yes…less is more!! :)
Tori – lol :)
6. Music and Sound Effects, No Thanks
Yes to #4 and #5! Let us stalk you, authors, and fawn all over you :) We love to love you and know what you're up to :D And, it's nice to go to an author's site that has information on their books, reading order, character info, stuff like that!
Great post, Mandi! I also hate music and slow-to-load sites. And it drives me crazy when you can't find info about the books…that's the whole point of an author page! I also like to have purchase links right next to the books.
I am so glad u posted this. My biggest gripe is when an author does not include the reading order of his/her books. Also, some authors have discussion forums that have way too many folders/sub-folders/tiers,etc! The overly organized forum makes it hard to find things I'm looking for, even when using the search feature. Dumb it down a little guys!
One thing that makes me dislike an authors website is when they have those wonderfull little spoilers or short stories or new info, but you can't find them in the website ou blog, you can only find them in the forum… I hate this. Yes, I'm talking to you Warden and you Kresley Cole!
Melissa – yeah…no good there.
Pamela – LOL..yes – please let us be stalkers! In a good way ;)
Penelope – Good point about purchase links…they are always helpful!
Kristin – Reading order is a MUST. And while I do like forums, I agree – we don't need 578 different threads…really..we don't.
Dani – ooh..good one Dani. It is hard to weed through everything on message boards – plus I have the hardest time remembering my username half the time. If authors post info on their, they should also put it on their regular sites.
Fiction Vixen says
Great post Mandi, I totally agree with you. I wish all authors made it easy for us readers/bloggers to find their book lists and info. Thanks so much to the authors that do. I especially love series lists that I can copy and paste so I can include them with my reviews. Oh and the music thing…big NO.
Janna (ErotRomReader) says
I agree with all of your points, Mandi! It can be so annoying to not find the information you're looking for! And the sites that are not updated recently look very amateurish. Fabulous post. :)
I can't stress how important #2 is!!! I hate when books are not listed in the correct chronological order!
And I also don't like when authors' websites don't have specific tabs so I can find the books section, or if it's labelled under something else (i.e. 'Bibliography' – because that throws me off a bit when I'm scrounging for 'Books'). But I definitely agree with all the other points you listed.
You have pretty much hit the nail on the head with what I like/dislike as well!
As a reader, I LOVE what Meljean did on her site – for "background" information put in a simple, straightforward way. Here is an example of what I mean: http://meljeanbrook.com/books/the-guardian-series/primer/the-origin-of-the-guardians
SO MUCH INFORMATION! I'm torn on Kenyon's site. There are good and not as good parts! LOL
Heather (DarklyReading) says
Great post! I have definitely run across a few author pages where I am literally pulling my hair out trying to figure out what books are in the series or when the next one is coming out or to find a bigger .jpg of a cover…grr..
I do love it when authors list their previous blog interviews with links when I'm doing an interview – makes life so much easier ;)
Great post, Mandi! About all I can think of to add is contact information – having a way to leave a comment or ask a question is really, really helpful… and having that contact info be something other than Facebook or Twitter would be good, because there are actually a lot of us out there who are FB/T free. :)
Funny I was just complaining about the lack of newsletter updates on author's websites. Not that I need to be spammed with every little thing the author is doing but I like to be notified if there is a new excerpt, new release, new cover etc. It ticks me off that I have to hunt to find it on Amazon or Goodreads, authors would probably see an increase in pre-ordered books if they offered their readers a subscribe to my book upadte newsletter thingy. Karen Marie Moning kicks ass with her newsletters.
Excellent conversation on author websites.
Also, nothing flashing, twirling, etc., at me. Or so many graphics that it takes forever to load. Too much black background is a turn off.
A Buckeye Girl Reads says
This is a great post! I totally agree with you about the About/Faq page. I'm also nosy, and when making out guest posts, it's nice to have some additional info to include.
Agree, agree and agree with everything. Especially the Goodreads and the Twitter parts. I check Goodreads for everything! Great post Mandi!
Patti (Book Addict) says
Great post! I also want to know, if an author does more than one series, which books fit into which series. Something else that I've seen once or twice – a character family tree – that was interesting and fun to see how everyone was related!
Oh – and ditch the "cutesy" names for the links on your blog – how am I supposed to know "lair" is your backlist and "parlor" is your blog?
I also like Kelley Armstrong's page for the fact that she has practical answers to frequently asked questions. Like with her 'Women of the Otherworld' series, she lists each book's narrator and says which books can be read as stand-alone and out-of-order. I love that! No doubt as an author she'd like to say "read all my books!" but she accomodates fickle fans. Love it!
Great post! I agree with everything you have written. Except I don't care if its a website or a blog.
Updated information is a must.
Books listed in reading order – blurbs and as a blogger I apreciate a good quality cover image.
If a book has been retitled or has a differnt cover for international publication I appreciate a note of that.
I like someones idea of having a publicist contact link.
Just making info clear and easy to find is essential
Cherry Adair says
Excellent comments. Ack! I hear you and will (almost) obey. My new website goes live on November 1st. Unlike just about everyone here (sorry) I love, love love a well done, interesting FLASH web site. Which is why I spent ten billion dollars to make mine that way. Sometimes an author (me) just wants fun things that amuse said author (me) But I hear everyone on the easy to access booklists (yes, yes. Got it. In reading order. Coming right up.) So I'm simplifying, and making things much easier to find. Half my readers love my site, a quarter freaking hate it, and the other quarter doesn't give a rats ass what I have on there one way or the other. lol I can't please everyone all the time. Music can be turned off on your keyboard or on the site itself easily enough. Cutsey name on tabs – out. Got it. It shall be done.
Check out my website now http://www.cherryadair.com (feel free to e mail me your suggestion, but make it FAST!) then check back when the new site goes live on Nov. 1st and let me know what you think. Good God, now I'm completely paranoid, and right in the middle of Deadline Dementia, too! lol
Katiebabs/ KB says
I don't visit Julie Garwood's website because of all the EFX and bells and whistles. Keep it simple, much like a blog, IMO.
I think Meljean Brook and Jennifer Estep have awesome websites that are pretty easy to navigate.
FV – Yay for lists! ;)
Janna – Thanks!
Sandy – Yes…reading order is an absolute must and keep it simple!
Jen – Oh yes – Meljean did a nice job! I know Kenyon is on the verge of chaos..LOL. But, compared to her old site, this one is better. She has TONS of info on there. But it is a little scary :)
Heather – A list of links does really help us out.
Chris – Gasp – twitter and fb free?;) No, that is a very good point!
KC – That is a good idea..I was just thinking only receive a few newsletters (KMM and Larissa Ione stand out) and I love it when I get them.
Artemis – yes, yes and yes
Buckeye – :)
Julie – Goodreads is the best.
Patti – Yes – a character family tree. Mary Balogh does something kind of like this on her site…I love that. (and parlor and lair…haha)
Danielle – oh cool…that is a nice page.
Bookdout – nice point about retitle and diff international covers.
Cherry – You must please us ALL..it's an order ;) no, kidding…I'm sure there are tons of people that love music on sites…will definitely be checking out your new site :)
KB – J. Estep does have a nice site :)
Jennifer Estep says
KB and Mandi — Thanks! I appreciate that. ;-)
I try to put as much info on my site as I can (character bios, FAQs, info about the magic/world building, excerpts) so folks really get a sense of what the books are about.
Sometimes, though, I do wonder if anyone reads it all but me, especially all the character details. LOL.
Jess Haines says
I'll have to take some of those points into consideration for my site… err… *shifty eyes*
Shiloh Walker says
Music. Shudder. I loathe music.
And black font on red/blue sites/or vice versa.
I so agree with all of those points! Every author needs to read this.
Though I must add one more – Canadians? We read. If your book's being published in North America, it's available in more than just the States. There is NOTHING that pisses me off more than going to an author's site that's wonderfully, beautifully designed, has a ton of buy links… and not one of them is to a store I can buy books from. It feels like they're telling me they could care less whether I read their book or not, and if I'm unsure as to whether I'm planning on doing so or not, it generally tips me over to the "not" side. Notice me, notice me!!!
There are tons of websites that simply make stupid information,but yours are different , I am so happy to read your post.2