Thursday, February 24, 2011

Does Your Website Suck? Fix It!

I spend a lot of time looking at author websites. I must say, I am constantly amazed by how many are lacking even the basic necessities--can you say BOOK heading? So, here without further ado, are Penelope's suggestions for putting together a rockin' website. And what to do if your site sucks. Fix it, baby!

1.) If you are an author, there is really only ONE heading that matters. That would be BOOKS. If you don't have the heading BOOKS on your website, for the love of God, put one up. I don't care if you write paranormal, historical and contemporary series and have sub-headings for all of your different lines. You still need ONE HEADING THAT SAYS BOOKS! A master bibliography with all your titles, all LINKED to other pages on your site.

2.) If you write sweet, rated-G Amish romances, don't put pictures of naked guys on your homepage. If you write dark romantic suspense, don't put unicorns and sparkly rainbows on your homepage. And, no matter what you write, please don't put naked pictures of yourself on your homepage. Please. I'm begging you.

3.) Take it easy with the bells and whistles. No music. No hearts floating down the screen. No pop-ups. Keep it clean, simple and easy to navigate. All that fancy stuff takes too long to load and most people get impatient.

4.) If your website looks amateurish and tacky and unprofessional, YOU look amateurish and tacky and unprofessional. Your website IS YOU ONLINE. Make it count. If it looks polished and professional, so do you. Word.

5.) Too much text is bad. People get turned off when they see 10,000 words of text on your homepage. Too many graphics are bad. It's over-stimulating and too crowded and messy. Have a nice balance of text and visuals. Keep it simple. Draw people in with cool graphics.

6.) Next to BOOKS, most important heading is BIO. Tell us something cool about you. Were you an opera singer? A penguin trainer? Do you like knitting, gardening, traveling to Costa Rica? Be sure to include hobbies that establish commonality with your readers (Hey, Nora likes knitting! So do I!), as well as quirky or eccentric tidbits that make you pop (Hey, JR Ward was a contortionist at the circus!). Stuff like that. There is nothing wrong with branding yourself as the "Opera Singer/Romance Writer"--that would be Mia Marlowe, by the way. Makes you unforgettable, and totally cool in my opinion.

7.) Think about the language you use to describe yourself and your work. "Filth" and "smut" sound like  pornography. "Sexy," "edgy," "erotic" sound better. Be thoughtful of your word choice. You want to be respectful of your genre and your readers.

8.) Here's what you need to include about your books. Book Cover--need to establish cover recognition. Book Blurb--so we can decide if this book is our cup of tea. An Excerpt--this is super important if you are a debut author. I won't even consider buying a book from a new writer unless I can see a sample of her writing. Reviews--snippets and links. Did someone I respect read your book and like it? Purchase Link--everywhere it's available for purchase.

9.) Go ahead and include other stuff...just don't overdo it. If you write historicals, include facts about Regency England. If you write steampunk, include fun photos of make-believe steampunk inventions. There's nothing wrong with making your website entertaining, just don't forget that the main focus needs to be on BOOKS.

10.) A website is basically a static on-line reference (as opposed to a blog, which is a high maintenance interactive, dynamic site)...but you still need to keep it updated. Make sure your website has the most up-to-date info about your book releases, purchase links, appearances, etc. A website that has cobwebs growing on it looks neglected, and reflects poorly on you. Don't do it.

Some bitchin' author websites and some less than stellar sites....

Mia Marlowe-- It's gorgeous! Beautiful lay-out, color and design. Easy to navigate. First heading is BOOKS--Yay! Cool extra: Mia's opera singer photo. Just doesn't get any better than this.

Julie Garwood-- Weird gimmicky thing with the office--gives me motion sickness. And I hate the creepy noises, too.  But I love the master list of books.

Kresley Cole -- Nice clean design, easy to navigate.

Christine Feehan-- Way too busy. Totally overwhelming design. No single book heading. Gives me a migraine just looking at it.

Amanda Quick-- A little too busy, but she does have a master bibliography, which is critical for this prolific writer.

Gail Carriger-- Does not have a "book"'s on the side bar, but still! Should be first thing on the top of the homepage. Bonus: the steampunk page kicks ass.

Cara McKenna-- I love the graphics, I love the tagline (Red-Hot Romance, Smart Erotica), it's simple and clean, and very modern and fresh-looking.

Book bloggers...other suggestions? Things that drive you nuts? That you love? Any author websites you think are spot-on or totally missing the mark? Let me know!