Making the Most of an Author Website

This is something that I come across time and time again, and with some of my favorite authors: horrid websites. As a computer scientist and amature web designer, it just breaks my heart to see websites with no style, no definite design, and therefore, not much attracting new fans. This isn’t to say I’m an expert at awesome websites. I change my layout often enough when I learn a new coding trick. But let me say this: there are certain websites that just turn me off to the author.

In this technologically-run world, when a reader finds a book that touched them, they almost immediately go online and search for the author’s website, hoping to find more books. When I find websites that look like this (for not being able to turn off the music!!), this (it’s all centered, with no easy way to jump around the website), or this (all the webring links on the main page), it turns me off. It’s almost as though the author doesn’t care enough to maintain this easily accessible, easily maintainable means of advertising and connecting with the reader.

What are some websites I love? Stephanie Barron‘s, for one. I’ve never read her books (even though I keep meaning to because, well, anything with Jane Austen will at least have my initial approval), but the slick style of her websites, along with her beautiful book covers, keeps me going back for more.

And then there is Cathy Yardley, whose colors and sharp lines make it obvious her books are chick lit. There is a lot one can tell from the style of the website about the author, the books, and how much the author cares about her audience.

(Though, I don’t mean to say that authors with what I consider bad websites absolutely don’t care about their readers. That would defeat the purpose of writing. Instead, I mean to say that writers should be a little more careful about what their websites are saying to their readers. Put as much care into your website as you do your writing!)

I also love Jeanette Winterson‘s website: it just looks so crisp, so clean, so easy to navigate! And yet it keeps my attention, as every good writer should. And you really can’t go wrong with Julia Quinn! Called today’s Jane Austen, I read two of her books this summer because you can’t make a claim like that around me without backing it up. I very sheepishly say that I can see why reviewers came up with the comparison.

Here is a list of websites I suggest you writers model your own after. If you can find the link at the bottom, go to the website of the people who designed it for the author (believe me, most authors don’t code their own websites, they pay for it!) Go and look at the web designer’s gallery, and make notes on what you like and don’t like about each design. It will only help you.

Kathryn Smith
Marne Davis Kellogg
Philip Pullman
Young wizards website (by Diane Duane)
Barry Eisler