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What Makes a Good Author’s Website?

09-07-17, Good Authors Website Recently I have been pondering on just how unfit Shack’s Comings and Goings is when it is considered as an author’s website.

Every author and aspiring author is now encouraged to have their own platform and a good author’s website would be one of the main linking factors in a diverse range of activities that the author uses to build his or her platform.

In this Sunday’s Wash-up there are two posts devoted to what makes a good author’s website. In all, fourteen separate points are covered that, according to the posts, are “must have”. Both of these posts come from top sources so I should be treating the advice as gospel. The sub-titles in the advice are;

Publishing house
Contact information (authors)
Contact information publicist and lecture agent
Contact information literary agent
A media room
Additional information about yourself and the books(s)
Permalinks
Buy links
A community/discussion function
Announcements section
Social media links
Search engine presence
Professional design
Your work

Note; the list above is transcribed from these two articles in the order that they were posted. It was not my choice to put “your work” at the bottom of the list and one of the posts managed to forget it all together.

Before I go on, let me make it clear that I am NOT DISMISSING the value of the individual items of advice in these two posts.

Now as you read the list above, just who would you think that the website is designed for? The fans are in the bottom third of the list (your work and community), you as the author are a middling concern (as it ought to be), whilst the top is dominated by publishers, agents, publicists and media. By now you should be screaming at the screen.

An author’s platform is the collection of events built around a central information core that could be Facebook , MySpace, a blog or a dedicated website. This information then passes out to the fans of the author’s work, those who appreciate his or her art. A platform is built upon pleasing your fans and the new fans that they bring to you. A platform is not about friends, peer writers, family, followers, FB friends, they all are platform irrelevant. An effective platform is a collection of people who love your work.

What is wrong with Shack’s Comings and Goings? Well, as a website for my author’s platform it sucks. I never address content to anyone who might become a fan and who would then read my work just for enjoyment. To be honest, Shack’s C&Gs is written for writers and it will stay that way. Any personal ‘fan’ I might have would quickly leave due to boredom, it simply doesn’t serve their needs. (I know this as a fact).

My biggest gripe about the list above is that it is upside down. Next I become irritated by content for the fans being so undervalued. Put your fans at the top of the queue. When they arrive at the landing page of your site, let the first thing they see be artwork of your characters, scenes, and world. Use the back story that had no place in your novel into interesting info pages and other tit-bits scattered on your website. Pod cast chapters and teasers of your work. Produce more info pages of author’s commentary about the development of each character.

Use YOUR imagination and ENTERTAIN your fans with your art and about your art.

Oh, and then leave some personal information tucked under a button somewhere.

If you entertain enough people, eventually you will grow a loyal fan base that either like or have grown an interest in your art. Think of it as a numbers game, entertain a hundred and gain one fan, repeat and repeat, again and again, until the following starts to grow by word of mouth (or Twitter).

Once you have people who want to spend their money on your art, then that button tucked up and away but prominently displayed, becomes important. The button marked “All Contact Information”, the one that leads to the industry focused pages.

Always bear in mind who will be reaching inside their pockets to buy your Art.

 

If you can’t wait until Sunday, these are the two posts that were the muse for this rant.

What to include on author websites
Guest Blog Week: The Top 7 Things Every Aspiring Author’s Website Must Have

Photo The young Fan cc Fuad

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6 comments to What Makes a Good Author’s Website?

  • great article, Andy. I think maybe in a lot of cases, people get caught up in the “Should have” and “Should not have” declarations of others. Necessary bits are one thing (I like the fact that Nathan Bransford only goes to far as point out relevant items that should not be missing from a writer’s page – most of which boils down to common sense)but determining how we want to approach visitors to our sites is another matter entirely.

    I agree with your view, that focusing on gaining the interest readers or a potential audience, winds up being more beneficial/satisfying than only pandering to industry professionals who may or may not even visit your site. Then again, this also depends on the individual, how you perceive readers and what one hopes to gain from the self-image you present. It’s one thing to keep in mind when reading those advice articles. What works for one individual, doesn’t necessarily work for another, so take what others say with a grain of salt and respect your own instincts.

    • Tonya, Totally agree with your last sentence. So important, so very important.
      I hope my respect for both Nathan, Jordan who penned for him and Yen, was apparent in the post. If not I’ll just have to take the flack as I know Nathan has a huge and devoted fan base. Fingers crossed.

  • Ha! I change my blog based on advice like the above, only to find my hits and comments dropped to almost nothing. About to go back to the way it was. Apparently my readers aren’t interested in actual content; they prefer my wittering. Who knew?

    And also agree with Tonya’s last sentence!

  • Merrilee, Is not the world indeed a strange and wondrous place? Where well considered actions, produce unexpected reactions. It makes me wonder what exactly happened there, who were your fickle readers and what exactly were their needs?

    Obviously from their reaction they wanted your ‘wittering’ but since they don’t like your content, and if your content is a reflection of your books. Then will they buy your books?

    (Just me applying Tonya’s first law.)

  • Well, since I’m unpublished the question of whether they’d buy my books is moot, as the new content wasn’t about my writing.

    My readers are mostly other writers, and I guess there was a feeling of camaraderie there, as most of my wittering was about the craft, difficulties I was facing and things I learned. Really it was just a writing journal.

    What I find funny is that I had more followers when I wrote for myself than when I changed and wrote for them (or what I thought would interest them – posts on writing techniques and reviews).

    Maybe my wittering was just more real, and the ‘content’ I provided after the change just wasn’t anything different from what you find on a dozen other blogs.

    Anyway, going back to writing for myself, journaling and just enjoying the blog as I used to. At least I’ll be happy then!

    But.

    If I was a published author, or about to be one, then I would think much more seriously about what sort of content to put up. At least from the exercise I’ve learned what NOT to put up.

    Honestly, there are a couple of things that bring me back to blogs, and content is only one. Voice, viewpoint, and writing about what interests me is what makes me hit the subscribe button. And of those, I think voice is one of the most important.

  • Outstanding post, Shack. When I was building my blog, I looked at a lot of advice and thought “nonsense”. There’s already too much marketing and pandering to the big businesses on web sites: an author’s site should be about THEM and the fans.

    Yes, some people will visit to pick up the book(s), but most will go to Amazon. Visitors to the personal site expect just that – a personal site. Stuff about what the author’s thinking, what they’re doing, who they are, their thoughts, what other fans are saying, how the author is a real person and not a stuck-up, snobby, scumbag who’s only interested in sales. :)

    One question: where do your fans go for the photos of an oiled-up Shack posing, eh?