Why are Authors’ Websites So Boring?

by | Sep 6, 2011 | Notes while surfing | 1 comment

I recently was asked to revamp an author’s website. I’m going to be converting it from a static HTML site to a CMS website. Yeah me! The author is a very easy going sort of fellow so he’s not likely to put a lot of pressure on me or be hard to deal with. I can basically design to my hearts’ content without fear of rejection from him.
Even so, I’m feeling “pressure,” and its not coming from him. Its in my own head. I love books. When Rachel Bloom came out with the Youtube hit: F#@k me Ray Bradbury, I could totally identify with her passion for the author. When I say I love books, I mean I really love them. But, even so, I’m not a big fan of authors’ websites.
Let’s face it, all author’s websites are basically the same.
Why aren’t author’s websites interesting? 
Most of the time, the sites are a rehash of all the other author’s websites. Typically they look like online brochures. You see a small bio; descriptions of the book(s); a Reviews Page; and links to where you can purchase the books. Sometimes, you can read an excerpt of the book, but that’s about it.
I’m not happy with that. I don’t want to develop ‘just another author’s website.’ First, because this author’s books are too important. And, second, because of my own ego, I don’t want to create a boring website.
When I start any web development project I ask my client (and myself) ‘what are the goals of the project?’ His goals were simple: sell more books. Oh, and “sell more books.”

Stephen King, American author best known for h...

Stephen King, Image via Wikipedia

I also asked myself: ‘Self, what author’s websites have you visited more than once?’ And, was stunned at the answer. I have only revisited one author’s website. Well, I have to qualify that answer. I have purchased books from people I have ‘followed’ but I was a follower long before I bought their books, so that doesn’t count.
The only author’s website that I have ever repeatedly gone back to was Stephen King‘s. So, the next question was “Why? What reason did I have to go back to his site?”
I’m embarrassed to say that its because I’m cheap. The reason was to check up on a give-away contest. I forgot what book it was for, but the way the contest worked was if you did “step 1 and step 2” you could enter your name to receive the upcoming book for free. The contest worked because I found myself intrigued enough to come back time and again to see the latest news on his website, find out what he’s up to these days, read all the tweets being said about the books, and follow other fans of Stephen King.
I went back today, and found out there’s another contest, this one sponsored by Klout, and I can win a copy of his newest book Mile 81, if I mention his book on social media sites. I didn’t read the fine print–but I’m assuming you also have to register on Klout so they can track your “mentions”.
So, for me anyway, the “hook” that lead me in was a special offer and the reason I stuck around was the interaction.

Looking at websites for other authors, I noticed a lot more were using blogs as a tool to offer reader-interaction.
Chelsea Cain‘s website has a personal feel where you can read her blog about her day-to-day experiences. It really offers readers the opportunity to feel like they know her.
Jay Asher’s website for his book “Th2rteen R3asons Why” provides an online scrapbook for readers to post how the book affected their lives.
Nicholas Evans, author of the Horse Whisperer, has an interesting site. Rather than a straight blog, you subscribe to a monthly newsletter with updates about what he’s working on. I especially liked that you can watch a video interview with the author.

Another tool that author’s are increasingly using is to link them with social media sites. I’m not just talking about Facebook and Twitter, though they all have that. But, also sites that appeal to readers like Goodreads and Book Daily. Both offer book lovers and writers a great way to keep up with what’s being read and what’s being written.  You can easily add feeds of your Goodreads posts to your own website making it easier to show your website visitors what you are reading.
Authors can also offer their fans more interraction with polls, guestbooks, book signings, and videos. I’m interested in hearing any ideas.

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