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(this is not a post; it’s literally a drive-by musing)

It is a sad thing indeed when a reader looking to figure out how novels are connected fares better looking at their fantastic fiction page rather than the author’s own site.

And it’s not as if readers haven’t blogged before about these things–see the Book Binge‘s Reader’s Guide to Authors Websites; or The Good, The Bad and The Unread‘s Authors’ Online Presence. Or from the way back machine, check out Dear Author‘s What Every Author’s Website Should Contain (please note the date, closing in on three years, and we are still begging authors for these things).

But if readers’ needs and preferences are not enough incentive, perhaps reading what some booksellers had to say would motivate at least a few more authors to do something about their slow, clunky, cluttered, uninformative websites.

Thank you.
begging kitty


  • medumb
    August 24
    8:07 am

    I second your drive by musing!
    As a bookseller and avid reader, can not understand an author not having an up to date website.
    (insert scream here)


  • I confess. I let my website go, unchanged, for nearly two years. In my defense, every time I looked at it, it made me feel even sicker because I had nothing new to add to it. The whole thing felt like a slap in the face, reminding me that I should be writing, even though I physically and mentally could not at that particular point in time, in my life.

    However, as soon as I was able, I did come back and update it and recently several other sites (blog, Myspace to name a couple), and explained why it went so long being unchanged.

    I guess what I’m saying is that sometimes, there’s a very good reason why a website goes untouched, though I can’t speak for anyone other than myself.


  • Janet W
    August 24
    4:12 pm

    I am truly not doing the dance of seven veils when I say I can’t remember this author’s name but I’ve spent a lot of time over at the new Book Chat website at Borders (I’m mesmerized by Sue Grimshaw’s video reviews … she’s so professional and enthusiastic and crumb, what a job: buyer of Romance books for Borders!!) … so anyhow, tons of the commenters have links to their various author websites and one author commented, linked and it was FOREVER out of date and I was thinking lady, better not to link than link to last year or the year before content.

    And there may be very good reasons for not updating but where’s the good reason for not taking it down until you have time for it?

    On the Good the Bad and the Ugly someone complimented Mary Balogh on her website and it truly is one of the best best best: very simple but incredibly informative. All the linked series. Excerpts. Family stuff. And she only updates it 2, 3 times a year and she doesn’t answer stuff there — she has a yahoo user group. What I’m trying to say is that an author website doesn’t have to be updated constantly (use marybalogh.com as a model) but it can’t have dust balls and spider webs all over it either. Mary included her webmistress’s name too.

    Nice muse-by AZ!


  • Ms Holland, I understand having a website with no updates when there is nothing to update it with–but, as Janet W says, it’s not only about updates, it’s about layout, information, ease of navigation.

    When I click on an author’s website link, I don’t want three intro screens before I can get to the meat of the site.

    I definitely DO NOT WANT music on. (Quick rant: I have seen this mentioned EVERYWHERE, repeatedly–and I still see debut authors having music playing automatically in their shiny new websites. Please, please, please: pay attention to the feedback we are giving you. Please.)

    I do not want cutesy button names that tell me nothing about what the link is for–and for the love of all that’s holy, do not use flash animation for everything.

    These days fewer readers are on dial-up, so the loading speed is less of an issue for most than it used to be. That is no reason to make readers jump through hoops trying to find out something as simple as reading order in a series, or which books are linked.


  • Alexandra
    August 24
    4:56 pm

    I never go to an author’s website nowadays–I go to wikipedia or fantastic fiction. I just don’t want to deal with the clutter of trying to find a book list, or figure out which book comes first in a series. (An aside: I really wish publishers would label books in a series, as in “book 1” “book 2” etc.) I don’t want a list of reprints, or when the HC and PB versions came out. I want to know what order they’re in!

    Although the worst website I had been to, I couldn’t find the book list! There were three links labeled books, and I had to search through all of them to find the author’s list.


  • Looking at it from the content point of view and not necessarily an update one, I can see where you’re coming from.

    I agree on the no music and cutesy buttons and forever and a day and multiple screens to get into a website. I don’t like those mouse trailer things either and I’m not a fan of the big fancy flash ads. Yes, they are impressive to look at, but when in a hurry, they’re also annoying to deal with. These are some of my biggest issues with MySpace. Some of those pages are so graphics heavy that even on DSL, they load about as slow as a snail. And the music on those suckers ALWAYS loads first before it loads enough to turn the mess off. When I’m already listening to music and the two blend, it makes me want to pull my hair out.

    Yes, a website that is unable to be updated could have been taken down, but the books were still available and honestly, taking it down never occurred to me, than again, most of those 2 years I was MIA are nothing more than one big blur.

    I am, however, making notes here. There’s always room for improvement and learning is a part of the game. Off to tinker some.


  • I disagree with Janet W on the idea of taking down a website when there are no updates–as you said, Ms Holland, the books are still available, it doesn’t make sense to make it harder for the readers to find them.

    And I also understand life (particularly health) getting in the way of writing and updating.

    What puzzles me (more than it’s healthy, I’m sure) is when writers have books coming out, sometimes two or three a year, yet the website has not been updated in three or four years. (Yes, I do have a particular author in mind. No, I’m not naming her.)

    Oh and Ms Holland? When I click on then link to your website from the comments thread, it takes me to the website for a second, then it blinks over to your blog, and doesn’t let me get back to the website.


  • Hmm, redirect must not be working correctly. I’ll look into it and see what I can figure out.


  • This subject really resonates with me, as I have worked hard to have a nice looking, informative website on a shoestring budget. It’s literally taken years for me to get the layout and information correct, and I try to update at least once a month, sometimes 2 if I’m doing something like a blog tour. I invite people to visit and drop me a line if they see something that needs improvement.

    Thank you for the links to suggestions that can help an author improve their site. I am heading there now.


  • Janet W
    August 24
    6:14 pm

    I bow to Azteclady’s superior knowledge of the author website world … why take down a website where the info is still valid? I can see that. That being said, blogs are tricky beasts that need to be fed :). I just ran across this blog last week —


    … it has some good tips!


  • *chuckle* c’mon, Janet! I don’t claim superior knowledge, I just think that it makes more sense to keep the site up as long as the books are available.

    It makes “coming back” easier as well–you have something to build on, you know? A sound foundation, if you will.


  • Janet W
    August 24
    7:10 pm

    Last comment, really truly and no, Mary Balogh isn’t paying me to say this … you can have a classy website that is extremely informative without updating it all that often. What you can’t have is a blog or a twitter or a very “chatty component” concurrently because that needs to be updated. Unless updating it is something you want to do frequently and some people excell at that.

    I subscribe to KISS (keep it simple stupid) and add on slowly because you want to be in control of your info output, not the other way around.


  • Hate music, never understood why authors do that. If you want to have it on the site, great some readers might like to know what you listen to while writing, what inspires you or whatever but give the reader a choice to turn it on. Don’t make us turn it off.

    2 or 3 books in a year… hmmm off to check some websites *eg*


  • What I really, really, really hate is when a prolific author does not list all their books, but only select ones.

    FictionDB and FantasticFiction ought not to have more complete information on an author’s oeuvre than their own website!

    Not to talk about when they do not explain which books are related or the bookshelf/booklist link is harder to find than a 3 karat diamond on the beach.

    And, dear me, please, if you do update or have somebody do the updates, make sure that the book pictured and referenced under ‘just out’ is really the newest release. Nothing more off-turning than to see the book from 3 releases ago first thing on the website under ‘coming soon’.

    I understand being busy to the point of having barely time to breathe, but an author website is their window into the world and it ought to be a professional one, and really, it does not take more than 15 minutes to write a quick summary about what’s going on and what’s coming out and plug it into an existing html template.

    I’m getting more and more annoyed when I go to a particular author’s site and the ‘news’ is from last summer and all the while the author is commenting multiple times a week on her yahoo group on peoples’ work and family sob stories, etc.

    At this point in time I’ll be buying the new book at the UBS just to make a point. I guess I could send a sob story to the list about my life and get attention, but I’d much rather have my questions about future releases and new projects answered. Silly me!


  • Danah495
    August 25
    1:31 am

    Yes to all of this! I hate having to search the internet for series information. It’s even more annoying when authors don’t have a website.

    I’ve been wanting to read Susan Carroll’s historical fantasy series, but she doesn’t have a website and I can’t quite figure out if the books are a trilogy with some spin off books, or if it’s just one series or two different series. So I still haven’t read them. (I’m weird like this, I hate reading books out of order.)

    Also, I wish authors would clearly state where short stories from anthologies falls in a series. Jim Butcher does a great job on his website, listing all the short stories that’s a part of the Dresden series and the order in which they should be read.


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