Author websites

I just finished a totally awesome book called THE HEIRESS IN HIS BED by Tamara Lejeune. She’s written some hilarious, off-kilter historical romances. I’d call them farce because of the mad-cap adventures and nonsensical plots, but they’re also sweet and sexy. I’ve read everything this author has ever written. I’m looking forward to her next book. If there is one. See, I have no idea what’s coming down the pike from her because SHE HAS NO WEBSITE.

Unless you’re a total rockstar of an author like Linda Howard, you need a website. You do. Seriously. People need a place where they can find out when your books are coming out, at the very least. And because I’m in that sort of a mood, I will establish my list of demands for said site.

    Don’t do it on a black background. It may look all cool and moody but it’s hard as hell to read. Dark background, pale print gives me a headache.

    If you have auto-play music, I will click away before I read anything.

    If your site is flash-heavy and I can’t skip your intro that cost you a gazillion dollars, but just annoys people who want one piece of info, I will click away before I read anything.

    If your menu is incomprehensible because you’ve come up with super-cute names for all your sections and I can’t figure out what I’m looking at… well, I think you know.

    If your website is all style and no function…

Here’s what I want in an author website:

    To be able to find information quickly

    Not to spend five minutes loading it

    A bio page that tells me something about you. Some authors think it’s cute to make up a bunch of shit like: Sarah J Author was a CIA spy, and a supermodel, and a rockstar who toured all over the world before inventing the flu vaccine. Then she climbed Mt Everest and wrote a rock opera that she starred in. She’s currently incognito living in Paris. You know what? That shit pisses me off. I went to your page because I loved your book enough to want to know a little more about the person who wrote something so awesome, and sadly, now I know you’re a dipwad who likes wasting my time.

    Not to be forced to watch slides of you posing with a motorcycle or a sports car or a half-naked dude and your dog or cat or monkey. If you want to have a photo gallery, by all means, but please, please do not make this your intro page with no way for anyone to escape but the back button.

    Regular updates

Finally, if you can’t afford a big design, I’d much rather you take a simple WordPress template and customize it than to cobble together some hoopty HTML that looks like your webpage escaped from Geocities 1994, and is now fleeing its rightful time period. Likewise, too many blingy sparkly gizmos will scare me off. Give me a clean, simple, elegant template with good information, solidly organized, and I will visit often.

And I’m spent. What are your peeves?

Posted in rant

32 Responses to Author websites

  1. TJ says:

    Geocities 1994, ah those were the days.

    And, back then, I really did think that bright pink looked good on that green background…

  2. Mad says:

    Outdated websites drive me INSANE. Went looking for an author’s website the other day…shoot, can’t remember who it is now, just know she’s a category author, and her website hadn’t been updated since 2006…yet she’s had SEVERAL books come out between 2006 and now. WTF?

  3. Jaci Burton says:

    I want to be able to find an author’s books, including coming soon books. And blurbs. And excerpts. And buy links. You know, the simple stuff. You’d be amazed (well, you probably wouldn’t) how many authors DON’T have these basic things on their sites. Gah!

  4. First of all, I thought I was the only one who used the word hoopty so yay for that word!

    My pet peeve? In all seriousness, it irritates the righteousness out of me that false eyelashes are allowed in print campaigns for mascara. Oh. I cannot accurately describe how insane this makes me. So I won’t even try.

    Yes, I know that’s not related to websites, but it’s still a pet peeve.

  5. Ann Aguirre says:

    LOL, I remember when the style was brighter = better, and webpages weren’t divided. Like, EVERYTHING was listed on one page, divided by bars or something. You’d just scroll and scroll and scroll.

    Mad, that so irks me. I realize updating the website isn’t fun, but if you keep up with it, it’s only one book or one page at time. I do all my own updates, and I think I have a pretty nice site. Easy to find what you’re looking for, not annoying, etc.

    • TJ says:

      Remember how revolutionary FRAMES and IMAGE MAPS were?

      …On all my websites, I had a ridiculous amount of image maps, as soon as I figured them out. Plus the horrifically and unreadably bright text/background…

      Oh yes. And remember how everyone and their mother had the sparkly stars background that was a moving .gif?

      Then again. Maybe it’s good most of us have grown out of the Geocities era. ;)

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  7. One of the first things I invested in when I decided to seriously pursue publication was a nice website that I could then maintain myself.

    I try to make things easy to find and recognizable with all the information I want when I look at the webpage of an author I really enjoy.

    And I completely agree on the auto-play of music as well as flash intros. It’s a way to make sure I never visit you again.

    Great post!

  8. I agree, a website is a must for authors. Heck aren’t they a must for most anyone? LOL. And I also agree with you on the auto play music (especially if it’s country). I hate websites and emails with music.

  9. I agree with everything you’ve said.

    As a reader, I want to get information easily without a lot of bells, whistles, and headaches.

    As a writer, I want my readers to be able to access the information easily that brought them to the site in the first place.

    Great advice.

  10. katiebabs says:

    Some authors need to update their pictures. Some still have those pictures with high hair and bangs from the 90’s and is twenty years out of date. Go to Sears and get some pictures taken. They do a pretty nice job.

  11. Lou says:

    Ann, you said it all. :grin:

    I hate it when I can’t find information about an author’s upcoming books and there is a website available, but nobody updates it!!!! One that I was complaining about a few weeks back on twitter was Judith McNaught.

    Her newest: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You was, originally, supposed to be released in 07 and it’s kept being pushed back and back. The only reason I know this is due to Amazon. Not because of the author’s website, because she doesn’t update. Never eva! Last time it was updated was 2006.

    My latest pet peeve, currently, at this very moment, is having a stinky dog who flattens their whole body and drops like a dead weight onto the floor, who then digs their nails into said floor so you can’t physically move them to get them into a bath.

  12. Ann Aguirre says:

    My daughter took my official author photo, and I love it. We shot it in our front garden. If you have a decent digital camera, there’s no reason to mess with a studio anymore.

  13. Barbara Elness says:

    I totally agree. I’ve come across authors that are new to me, and the first thing I do is check out their website to see what they’ve written, read an excerpt or two, read a bio to find out a little more about them, etc. If I don’t find any of that, it’s not likely I’m going to be buying that author’s books.

  14. Evan says:

    Dead on, Ann. It’s amazing how many authors don’t even bother with a simple “what I’m working on” blog or a list of the books they have written. Don’t agents and editors pull them aside to talk about this at some point?

  15. :eek: light pink and light grey on a white background and i am out of there. i have old eyes and don’t need the eye strain.

    o, and those blinky things in the side bar while i am trying to read make me nuts!

    and if you have a blog and i want to follow you, will you please, please put up a way to follow you via email!

  16. Ann Aguirre says:

    I have proven my own point. Last night, I decided to test my claim that one can create a simple, nice, clean website for free using WordPress. Money is no factor. I spent no money at all last night, and I present Exhibit A.

    And I would ALWAYS prefer a site like this to something where I can’t find anything.

  17. Mandi says:

    Two things I immediately want when I go to an authors site are – A listing of their books sorted by series and order in which they should be read and news of upcoming books. I don’t understand why some authors take forever to update their sites.

  18. azteclady says:

    I have a pet peeve that is going to come across as raging, unadulterated bitchiness…

    but then, I can be a bitch, so, so be it.

    I hate those “obligation” gifts that some people feel bound to give each and every acquaintance for b-days or Xmas or whatever. I mean, those little afterthought things that seem to be bought by the dozen and kept in a closet for “emergency gift giving”.

    Show the recipient you know them at least a bit, dammit!

    Such as giving big, costume jewelry to a woman who doesn’t even have her ears pierced. Or a cookbook to a person who hates cooking. Or a dress to the teenager who you have never seen in anything but jeans.

    Honestly, I’d rather get a hug, or a handshake, or a sincere smile and a “happy b-day!” than one of those.

    /rant

  19. Ann Aguirre says:

    Oh, I totally agree! I would much rather have a homemade anything, that was made especially for me, over a storebought gift that they obviously bought because it was fast or whatever.

    I know people say “it’s the thought that counts” but I totally disagree. If you’re going to buy me a present, then it needs to reflect some knowledge of me as a person. It needs to show you do, in fact, know and care about me, and that you want the gift to reflect that. If you buy me the first random thing you find, then understand I’m gonna give it away to someone I think will actually like it. I would much prefer no gift to one that shows no understanding and no respect for me as a person. I know that sounds mean, but if the gift giver doesn’t care enough to spend the time getting to know me and what I’d actually enjoy, then why the hell is he or she buying me a gift?

  20. ;) here’s another one… don’t use day-glo neon pink/orange/green/yellow.

    If you use it…use it sparingly.

    Any website that uses day-glo as a background gets one response from-click away, no matter how interested I am.

    I like my retinas unsinged.

  21. Jacqueline L. says:

    Amen to ALL that!

    Also,
    – fancy shmancy cursors with a stream of sparkles or stars or butterflies or whatever following you around
    – severely image or video-heavy main pages that take forever to load
    – incomplete websites! Like when you click on some of the pages off the menu(ie.Tour Dates, Bio, etc.) and you get a placeholder message like “Under Construction” or “Coming Soon”
    – lack of book cover images.
    – lack of synopses. An excerpt or a link to the book on Amazon isn’t a substitute for a book blurb. How do I know if I want to read the excerpt if I don’t know what the book’s about? And if I wanted to look it up on Amazon, I’d have gone there.

    I’m going to stop there before the list gets any longer. :)

  22. I find mostly white background with very black print very hard to read. Too much light makes my head hurt (the I have a migraine and can’t look at anything bright).

    I actually like the dark background with light print but then it goes with the avoid brightness.

  23. Christine says:

    I concur with everything you cited in your post, Ann. Then I read the comments and concur even more.

    I gasped when I read Kristan Painter’s peeve about the fake eyelashes. In all seriousness, shouldn’t that be illegal? It’s false representation for sure!

    Oh, azteclady. You had to mention those “obligation” and “emergency” gifts! Ugh! I can’t stand them and unfortunately have received an overdose of those over the years from my husband’s relatives. The first year I celebrated with them, I was just so touched that they thought of me at all, so I didn’t care. But after 15-20 years… UGH! You’d think they’d know a little bit about me by now? /rant

    Exhibit A!?! My apologies if I missed an announcement, Ann. Congratulations to you and Carrie on the inception of Ellen Connor! How exciting! :grin:

  24. Christine says:

    I meant Kristen Painter. Sorry for the misspelling in my comment above.

  25. An says:

    I really hate mail-to. Instead of having an email address, it’s a link to your computer’s email program and it automatically brings up a new message box. ARRRGH!

    I also hate when really famous authors have crappy websites with hard to read backgrounds and weird fairy cursors. Hard to read? Just say no! Weird sparkliness? Run!

    I’ve heard that the ideal difference between text and background colour is 80%. So never bright white and black, because that is 100%, but light gray and black, or something similar.

    • Ann Aguirre says:

      Now that, I don’t mind. The mailto, thing. I just copy it from there and paste into my gmail. I understand the reason for using it; it prevents bots from harvesting your email so easily, especially if paired with a scrambler.

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