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:~: Wednesday, September 12, 2007 :~:

Websites for Authors

I’m creating a presentation for my local RWA on website design for authors, and I could use your input.

My life has been steeped in design from art in high school to a design major in college and a career as a designer after college before changing careers to the medical field. Then when I needed to indulge my artsy side once again, I trained in website design.

I worked as a web developer for four years with large corporations and many years, before and after, independently creating more freestyle sites for various companies and individuals.

So, while designing and implementing website style and content comes naturally to me, when I sit down to define the steps of the process so that someone without a technical background can grasp the big picture, I feel like I've slipped on a straight jacket.

Creating an author website is multi-faced, far more complex than creating a business website because while you're selling a product--your book--you're also communicating your personality, your genre, your brand. And I'm struggling to get that big picture and all there is to consider into a helpful snapshot for a 90 minute workshop.

Since those of you who visit here are web-savvy and so many of your either have your own website or blog, I'd love to get your input. If you can answer any of the questions I've listed, I'd appreciate it and will weave your information into my presentation. Once completed, I'll also post the presentation on my website for all to access.

What are some big DOs for an author website?
What are some big DON'Ts for an author website?
How did you create your website (yourself or hired help)?
If yourself, what program did you use and how did you learn it?
If you hired out, what service/company did you use?
If you hired out, what DOs and DON'Ts can you offer regarding the process?
Do you think agents/editors look at author's websites? Can you give examples?
Which author websites do you love? What do you love about them?

Please feel free to offer whatever other information, thoughts, opinions, examples you'd like on the subject.

I'll be adding links to some of my favorite sites and explaining why I feel they are effective in the comments section as well -- so check back for more info.

Thanks for your help!



Anonymous R. Barri Flowers said...

Hello, Joan--as a romance and mystery author, I created my own website with the help of my Internet savvy wife, and consider it to be one of the best author websites out there.

Amongst the DOs for an author website are easy navigation/user friendly, neutral color schemes easy on the eyes, providing just enough book info to entice readers to buy (including short but sweet review blurbs), and giving some sense of who you are through a bio, blog, photos, lists of favorites, etc.

The DON'Ts for an author website include anything offensive, totally unrelated to the main product (books and short stories), and ultra confusing by its presentation or overloaded, causing potential book buyers to tune out.

I like any author websites that can tell me in a concise way what I need to know about the author, books, where to buy, and what's forthcoming.

My next romance novel, CHRISTMAS HEAT (Kimani Romance, 2007), will be released on December 1st.

R. Barri Flowers, writing as Devon Vaughn Archer


11:55 AM  
Blogger Lynn Romaine said...

I received a master's degree in information from Indiana and designed a few web sites starting about ten years back. I've designed three of my own which are in desperate need of upgrades and makeovers right now (www.lynnromaine.com and www.ecosuspense.com) but the major concern I always have about web sites with my degree in information is Usability. Too many sites have too much information on them - they should be simple, (no more than five items on any list or frame since that's all the brain can deal with), they should always be dated as to when they were last updated - it's very frustrating to find a page and be interested, only to find it's seven years old; contact information and any other pertinent data should always be on the home page and finally, if possible avoid scrolling since it takes extra moves. Oh, two more things:
Your web site is great! and never put too much data on any one page - I forget the stat about how long a visitor lingers, but I think it's a matter of seconds before you lose them.
Writing as Lynn Romaine
Leave No Trace - Blind Spot - both available on www.amazon.com

12:09 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...


Thanks for your input. You've touched on a lot of important issues in your DOs and DON'Ts: navigation, color scheme, content.

Congrats on your new release!!

2:37 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...


I'm guilty of the crusty web pages. Life's so busy it's hard to find the time. Also, I never know what to add. I always figure I'll deal with that when I'm published, but I also know it's an important habit to develop now.

Both you and Barri touched on simplicity--which is my mantra when it comes to website design: simple, clean, professional.

Great info on the way people look at lists, etc. too.

2:41 PM  
Blogger B.E. Sanderson said...

my mantra when it comes to website design: simple, clean, professional.

You hit it right there, Joan. The best sites (author and otherwise) all have those qualities.

I, too, have also designed websites in my time - using FrontPage when I first started, and then after I understood how limiting and unprofessional FP can be, I wrote my own code. FP is a great tool for people just getting started, but unless you want a cookie-cutter site, you really need to move away from it.

I don't do webdesign any more, and if I ever get to the point where I need more than my blog, I'll probably pay someone else rather than slog through writing my own code. It's worth it in the long run. Right now I'm just happy with my blog (cookie-cutter and all).

5:35 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...


I understand about sloughing through code.

I actually still use FrontPage -- mainly because I'm lazy -- but I also go into the html tag and tweak almost everything. It's good for getting the basics done fast, everything else I have to mess with and position and alter.

FrontPage also puts in a load of code you don't need, but with today's internet connections, that is really minor when it comes to download times. Besides, it's easy enough to clean up.

Check me out when you get ready for a website...I'm considering designing some for writers -- maybe offering custom designed templates you can pick and choose and just buy right then. Still working on those details.

7:50 PM  
Blogger B.E. Sanderson said...

Ack! I should've been more clear. (Probably why it's a good thing I'm not working on writing today.) I totally agree. FP's great for use as an HTML editor, and I still use it from time to time myself. (Last year I was helping a friend tweak some code for her site.) I was just trying to point out the problem with the cookie-cutter aspect of it. I see too many sites where you can tell it's an FP template. Like the wen designers just relied on the offered code, rather than customizing it for themselves. (Plus, like you mentioned, that darned crud FP sticks in when you're not looking.) Thanks for clarifying, Joan.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Now I remember those FP templates!

Yes, I agree with the whole overused template look. I suppose they're good for practice or a personal page for fun, but not for business.

10:36 PM  
Blogger Marcia James said...

Unlike some of the other commenters here, I’m technically challenged. So I hired a fellow Cerridwen Press author and IT person, Karen McCullough (www.Karenswebworks.com) to handle the technical side of creating my Web site (www.MarciaJames.net). But thanks to my PR/marketing background, I designed my Web site myself and brought most of the visuals to Karen to put into place. I had determined my brand (Hot, Humorous Romances) and wanted a Web site that was fun and eye-catching.

I, too, prefer uncluttered sites that are easy-to-navigate. I also like Web sites without loud music. I’ve heard that music can cause problems for readers who surf the Web at work and don’t want to be caught doing it. ;-) I also like bright colors and striking visuals.

As for editors and agents checking out Web sites, I have heard they do, especially when considering whether or not to purchase an author’s manuscripts. They also check to see if an author has a blog that is negative. Instead of a blog, I opted to have a Sex Advice column “written” by the sex therapist heroine of my current manuscript. ;-)

Joan – “Break a leg” on your Web site design presentation! I’m sure it will be very successful!

-- Marcia James ;-)

6:11 AM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...


Very fresh and funny stuff! I love the idea of a sex column written by your heroine -- very creative and fun!

6:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Joan,

I'm a writer but a technodummy and had no idea how to create a website.

DO get the feel of your writing into your website. I checked out the websites of lots of mystery authors before I decided on one I wanted to emulate. My debut series contains humorous mysteries. I wanted my site to portray that feel.

After checking out numerous sites, I found one I loved. It was by newcomer Candy Calvert. Immediately, I said, "Yes, this is it." I contacted Candy, discovered who designed hers, and contacted Jo at glassslipperwebdesigns.

DO decide what you want your website to say about you. I read the content of many sites, decided what I did and didn't like, and wrote what I wanted on mine.

I'm thrilled with what Jo does with my site. Every couple of months I have her add and delete some things. I believe an author's website is one of the main tools she has for promoting herself and her work.

Good luck to all,

June Shaw, www.juneshaw.com
"Relative Danger has it all-heart, humor and suspense!" Author Metsy Hingle

7:29 PM  

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