Web Sites: Wrap-Up

The web site series:

* All About Web Sites (MM blog)
* Website Series, Day 1: Message & Image
* Website Series, Day 1: Follow-Up Q & A
* Website Series, Day 2: Marketing
* Website Series, Day 3: User Interaction & Content
* Website Series, Day 4: Aesthetics & Usability
* Website Series, Day 5: Hosting & Technology
* Website Series, Day 6: Administration

Today I’m going to round off the web site series with answering questions from comments. These were asked on Monday’s post, but if you have more questions, feel free to keep asking at any time (whether or not that day’s post has anything to do with web sites.)

What would an author’s ideal web site look like?

Ah, that is the point of the entire Creative Brief! It is a very personal decision, based entirely on your goals. The ideal layout and infrastructure changes dramatically depending on audience, content, and purpose.

One page per book? Or all books on one page?

The infamous “depends” comes again. In my professional opinion, this answer depends entirely on the amount and quality of the content provided for each title.

If the content is simply to consist of an image of the book cover and a one paragraph blurb, then it is silly to have 20 different such pages, when they could be, say, split by series, with a link for each of your 3 series and 5-7 short blurbs (with click-to-order covers! *g) on each page.

On the other hand, if you will be providing complete back-cover text, reviews, deleted scenes, character interviews, genealogy charts, maps of your story world, excerpts, etc, etc, then you may want one or more pages per book.

In a nutshell, if there is too little content on a page, it looks like the site has nothing to offer. On the other hand, if the reader is overwhelmed by content on a page or must scroll extensively, they will be turned off and not bother reading anything at all.

A “Meet the Author” bio page?

Definitely a good idea. While this is a page that may not often change and most visitors will only visit a single time, it is crucial information for anyone seeking to write about you, whether in a press release, news article, workshop intro, blog post, etc, etc.

When I’m at a chapter meeting and the emcee announces a speaker, oftentimes that text comes straight from the author’s web site, no changes made. If it’s good enough for the author…, right? And if it’s not there, who has time to to hunt for information to cobble together a googled biography? Nobody.

So, yes. Readers, news writers, and emcees alike will appreciate a bio page.

A PayPal or secure order page for those who want to order personalized copies directly from you?

If that is the only way to order your books, then absolutely. Wherever your books are sold–be it Amazon, an e-press, national book chains, the trunk of your car, etc–definitely link each title to a place where the web visitor can easily order a copy.

Pimp links to your author friends’ pages?

A very personal decision, and another “it depends”. Friends or not, I would caution you to link only to web sites that satisfy two key criteria: 1) sites with content relevanct to your readers, and 2) sites which do not reflect badly on yourself.

Relevancy: If you write fantasy novels and you happen to be BFF with Anne McCaffery, then by all means, link away. Add a nice photo of the two of you clinking champagne glasses or whatever. Totally fine content. As is linking blog-to-blog, even if the blog topics are different. Blog readers’ goal of seeking entertainment often outweighs predilections toward any specific content genre. However, if your BFF is a pro-wrestler or a writer of recipe collections called Cooking With Cardamom, readers who click from your non-blog professional web site will mumble wtf to themselves and move on.

Reflection: If your friends write similar content (be it blog-to-blog or romance-to-romance or what-have-you) but their web site either 1) looks like crap, 2) is impossible to navigate, or 3) contains offensive, controversial, or highly polarizing content, you may wish to consider carefully before providing the link. Even if you do not support the prompt beheading of runaway children, if your self-proclaimed BFF has a web site in favor, readers will draw their own conclusions.

A discussion/blog page about things you’ve read or topics you want to share?

An excellent idea. ANY potentially entertaining and/or informative (and relevant!) content you can dream up should definitely go on your web site.

I heard someone at a workshop say you should never have more than six items in your main menu. Is this standard advice?

In a word, no. Barnes & Noble‘s web site, for example, has considerably more. The key to effective navigation is to be 1) uncluttered, 2) intuitive, and 3) easy.

Uncluttered, so the user can find what they’re looking for. Intuitive, so if you have many pages or categories (like Powell’s Books) the different sections/topics are obvious. Easy, so the user has to neither scroll nor hunt to find what they’re looking for.

I have seen sites with only a few links that were difficult to navigate, typically because I had to scroll side-to-side or all the way to the bottom to access what I was looking for. (Particularly, do not bury your Contact link/information.)

YOUR TURN: Any other questions? I will be checking back to answer questions, reply to comments/snarkage, and do general mythbusting. I hope you enjoyed the series!


  1. Bill Clark - Reply

    click-to-order covers

    What a great idea! No wonder you’re such a guru in the field!

  2. Vicki - Reply

    Loved the series. I’m thinking you should do this at one of the TARA meetings. 😀

    Really, thank you for sharing this with us.

  3. Katrina Stonoff - Reply

    Wow, Erica. This whole series was fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise.

    I love the idea of deleted scenes. Plus, it makes it easier to kill the little darlings if I know they’ll at least be able to take a few breaths online before they die.

    I think I’m going to do bloopers too. It will be harder than deleted scenes, obviously, but I do have some funny stories, several of which come from changing character’s names halfway through the book with a computer “Search and Replace.”

  4. Bill Clark - Reply

    if you have many pages or categories (like Powell’s Books)

    Forgot to mention I visited them in Portland in April. Overwhelming!

    Anybody else been there?

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Erica Ridley