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After wading through over a thousand author websites, here's some stuff I've learned:

(1) Don't have a site that takes time to load. Potential visitors might not be that patient. Corollary: get a reliable hosting company. If your page doesn't load at all, no one can visit it.

(2) Don't have a splash page. You're asking your visitor to click one more link just to see what you have to offer.

(3) Have buy-it online store links to (at least) your latest book on the first page a visitor goes to.

(4) Don't have too much content on your first page. Keep it simple.

(5) Corollary to (4): don't have a non-content design that is too busy or cluttered. It makes it difficult for visitors to find what they're looking for.

(6) Corollary 2 to (4): don't overload your front page with text. You have something to say? (of course you do, you're a writer), that's what a blog and content-specific pages are for. Get to the point on the main page, and provide a link for more information.

Corollary to the corollary: I have mixed feelings about having your blog *ve* your main page. If people visit your site mostly for your blog, then cool. But it's probably best to have each entry excerpted with the full text of the entry available with a link.

(7) Keep it simple, but do have something of your personality on the main page. Generic websites don't sell authors.

(8) Don't put real personal stuff on your main page or your blog. If you want to talk about personal experiences in your blog which might be interesting to your readers, cool. But don't post candid pictures of you at that male strip club you went to last night unless that's the kind of book you're selling. It just looks unprofessional.

(9) I hate, Hate, HATE the word "branding." Most writers did not get a business or marketing degree in college and find that kind of terminology alien. I eagerly await the day it falls out of self-help books. That wasn't really a website tip, just an aside.

(10) Clickable picture links are cool, but make it clear that's what they are. Don't make it hard for your visitor to move beyond the first page.

(11) Pay your friggin' bill. Going to a website and seeing a "this website suspended" looks really bad. So does ending up on one of those generic, linky "this domain for sale" pages. Who else could possibly want YourName.com? Not many.

(12) Flash is cool, but a lot of people have crickety old computers from before the turn of the century. No, really. That said, do make your website look like it wasn't programmed before the turn of the century. Pure HTML doesn't impress anyone anymore. Take it from someone who knows.

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( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 3rd, 2012 09:09 pm (UTC)
Good points.

I'd suggest artwork relating to the work(s) too, like your icon of the woman with her feet up on the desk rather than stray doilies, arbitrary snow flakes, random cute kittens or whatever. Those are more for personal blogs. Seeing something that reinforces what you have to offer is always good, I think.

Edited at 2012-05-03 09:11 pm (UTC)
May. 3rd, 2012 09:30 pm (UTC)
The cutesy sites drive me batty, too, but when they are for children's book authors, they can be appropriate.
May. 3rd, 2012 09:27 pm (UTC)
I'm looking forward to more of your adventures in publishing. Fifty Shades of Masq!

Are there any author websites that you think are absolutely stellar? I can think of Neil Gaiman's site off the top of my head but can't recall anything else memorable.
May. 3rd, 2012 09:31 pm (UTC)
After wading through 1,000+ sites, Neil's didn't impress me that much. I am still narrowing down the ones that wowed. I gotta admit, the flash sites are cool, though I wouldn't get one for myself for the above stated reasons.

I will post links later when I have some good'uns.
May. 4th, 2012 02:11 am (UTC)
very valid points. I would add music files that play the moment you click on the url are so 1999 and annoying as hell.
May. 4th, 2012 02:39 am (UTC)
Oh, I *hate* that. Sure-fire way to send your visitors packing.
May. 4th, 2012 03:43 am (UTC)
I don't run across it too often any more but occasionally...(and recently but I can't remember which author that was, one of the ones on the plaform building thing)
May. 4th, 2012 12:52 pm (UTC)
one of the ones on the plaform building thing)

Yikes. They're obviously an "expert."
May. 4th, 2012 07:51 pm (UTC)
well no not really. most of the people participating in these workshops are not even published or self published
May. 4th, 2012 07:56 pm (UTC)
Okay, thought that was coming from one of the info-dispensing participants.
May. 4th, 2012 08:46 pm (UTC)
no, though I'm not guaranteeing theirs is much better. mostly I've only looked at blogs
(Deleted comment)
May. 4th, 2012 02:32 pm (UTC)
Cute, but who gives a frig about what's on her desk. I suppose a rabid fan, maybe.

There's a fine line between, "this is my website that celebrates Me!" and an author's platform meant to be useful to potential agents, publishers, and readers.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )