Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Guest Blog Week: The Top 7 Things Every Aspiring Author's Website Must Have

By: Jordan McCollum

Nathan has blogged about author websites, and everything he says is spot on—but, as he freely admits, professional opinions on author websites vary even within the publishing world.

But so far, I'm on the outside of the publishing world. My day job involves learning how to get the most out of your website. So from the perspective of Internet marketing, here are the top seven things every aspiring author's website should have.

7. A blog. All right, all right. I'm a little partial to blogs, but not everyone likes blogs or is good at blogging. And that's okay. If you want to call it an "announcements" section, or call it your "articles," that's fine. But do have at least one section of your site where you can post your news—anything from finishing your latest work in progress to selling a short story. This is also a great place to start gathering a following, especially if you like to connect with other people, share your research and discuss the process of writing.

Free advice: If you already have a blog, you can integrate it with your website. Check out Blogger's Custom Domain feature and host it at http://blog.YOURWEBSITE.com to make sure everyone linking to you is pointing those links to your domain.

6. Social media. This doesn't mean you need to run out and join every social networking site you've never heard of. But it's always a good idea to give your website visitors potential ways to connect with you. So if you're already on MySpace, Facebook or Twitter, or any other large social network, list those somewhere on your site—somewhere easy to find.

5. Search engine presence. Unless your name is John Doe or Mary Smith, it should be fairly easy to find your website by searching for your name in the major search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing). One good way to start with this is to buy YourName.com. If YourName.com (and YourName.net and YourName.org) is taken, experiment with middle initials, maiden names, hyphens, etc. Still nothing? Maybe you should consider a pen name that would be easier for your readers to remember, too.

Free advice: If you have some competition for your name in search results, put in a little extra legwork to find places to get links back to your site, especially from related sites—guest blogging, article writing, etc. I mean, we are writers here, aren't we?

4. Professional design. For real. This doesn't mean you need to run out and hire a $10,000 website designer, or that your website has to look as awesome as J.K. Rowling's. You don't have to dress like a fashion model to pitch to an agent at a conference.

At the same time, you're not going to wear your ratty jeans and wife beater to a business meeting. Just like your nice pleated khakis, your website needs to look professional: clean, polished, easy to read (spell checked!), easy to navigate. Make it easy for your visitors to find the important stuff on your website (see #1, 2, 3, and 7, at least).

3. An about page. Most of us have an urge to list our friends, spouses, pets, children, favorite television shows, other hobbies, and small collectibles in our query letter. Hopefully, if you're reading Nathan's blog, you'll forbear and omit this paragraph from your query. But your website about page is exactly where you should put all that information. After all, if someone visiting your website wants to know more about you, why not tell them?

2. Your work. No, you probably shouldn't slap your whole manuscript on your website. But you should at least have a short summary of your work on your site. You might also consider a short excerpt—a chapter or less—in addition to your extremely engaging summary. This is also a good place to put your writing credentials (if not under #3 already).

telephone1. A contact page. You'd be amazed how often both aspiring and published authors forget (or don't want) to give their website visitors a way to contact them. Now, odds are low that a literary agent, editor or publisher is going to use your contact page to send you a desperate "Please, please, work with me! Your brilliance makes me cower in inferiority, but I cannot bear the thought of anyone else tainting your work!" note—but there's always the possibility.

Free advice: Use a simple web form instead of listing your email address to avoid spam email harvesters.

What do you think? What else should an aspiring author have on his/her website?

In addition to being an aspiring author herself, Jordan McCollum works in Internet marketing. She is the editor of an Internet marketing news blog, Marketing Pilgrim, as well as the author of a blog on finding fulfillment in motherhood, MamaBlogga. She blogs about writing technique at JordanMcCollum.com. If ever she says anything about starting another blog, please shoot her!

Photo credits: Microphone—RAWKUS; binoculars—Joël Dietlé; telephone—Maria Li






157 comments:

Steve Fuller said...

First comment. I win.

Steve Fuller said...

Now a serious comment. This is good advice. I do think one mistake most people make is creating an online presence that is so boring that no one would ever want to visit. Most people don't care about the writing process or our next project or how many times your kid poops on the big boy toilet.

The best thing a writer can do is write interesting stuff, which may have nothing to do with your actual books. Get people wanting to come back. Create an online community (like Nathan has done). The rest will follow.

RW said...

Jordan, I heard that publishers are anxious to see that a new author has some kind of legit web presence before they sign with them. Perhaps that applies more to nonfiction work by experts, but assuming we're talking about fiction, what are some good examples of how unpublished writers have lay good groundwork on the web before they got their first contract?

TERI REES WANG said...

Blog ...check.

..everything else...to follow.
May we all fare well.

carolinestarr said...

Really appreciate this.

Deb Salisbury said...

This is very helpful advice. I've been wondering where to start, or if I should create a writer's site, since I have only published non-fiction. (I market that under my small business site.)

Jordan McCollum said...

@RW—Um, off the top of my head . . . Kaye Dacus. She's been blogging about writing since long before she sold her first book, and she has a strong community around her blog. I don't know if that helped her in the publication process, though.

@Deb—If you're planning of branching out into other areas, there's no time like the present to get your website up!

susiej said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yat-Yee said...

Thanks, Jordan. Working to get there. I'm looking into setting up a website, one that looks decent. I know I'll have to invest the time, but whatever time I have, I really want to write.

Anyone with web design expertise who is willing to barter?

susiej said...

Thanks- this is very informative but doesn't make my eyes roll back in my head the way tech advice usually does.

I have a question- does a LiveJournal page count as a blog?

Ryan Millar said...

I'm a writer, I have a blog. So far so good...

Now I'd like to put together a simple website. What's a good free or cheap platform for newbies to build a site on?
Thanks.

Marybeth Poppins said...

Bonus having a husband who is a professional web designer!!! I have all these things taken care of. And even though my name IS Mary Smith...but putting in the name my mother has always called me "Marybeth" I am number one in the search engines with Marybeth Smith!!! Bonus again. Now if only I had more people checking it out. LOL.

I do have to say that I absolutely ADORE my design though :)

Jordan McCollum said...

SusieJ—Yeah, a LiveJournal can count as a blog.

Ryan—I've used BlueHost. It's <$10/month (you do pay a year or two up front, though) and the tech support has always been super helpful. I use WordPress as the backend and I've been planning to make an easy guide to setting up WordPress on BlueHost. I'll send over the guide to anyone who signs up for BlueHost through my affiliate link -->sign up for BlueHost . (Just email me after you sign up and tell me the domain name—blog at mamablogga.com.)
</shameless plug>

Jordan McCollum said...

Marybeth—Woot! I like your design, too :D .

Whirlochre said...

The urge to write drivel has to be seriously suppressed. Left to my own devices, I'd happily talk about what I've had for my tea and how badly my underwear chafes my inner thighs in the sun.

Keeping the comments trail alive seems to be a good thing — as this site so clearly demonstrates.

Alexis Grant said...

I've got a blog, but I also wanted a Web site (that links to my blog). I didn't have the skills to build one myself (or time to learn how, since I'm writing a book), so I hired a Web designer who did an awesome job at a very reasonable price. Full disclosure: he's a friend (and former colleague). But my point here is that, like the author of this post suggests, it doesn't have to be super expensive.

My Web site was built by Upstatement.

Thanks for a great guest post!

Jordan McCollum said...

Whirlochre—participating in the comments is vital to establishing a community on a blog!

Alexis—awesome site, and good point—if we look hard enough, we can find even professional design affordably.

Mira said...

Jordan - this is excellent advice. Very detailed and helpful, thank you!

I hope Nathan links this in the writing advice database. Very informative.

Jordan McCollum said...

Thanks, Mira!

Word validation: pokingsh. I think that's fairly self-explanatory.

Lupina said...

Wowsers, more advice we could not, should not live without! And Jordan, you have stellar credentials on this topic.

I currently have two full-blown websites, a Myspace blog and a Wordpress blog. I'm starting to feel like the big websites are money-and-time-sucking-vampire-dinosaurs, and I get much more bang for my buck with the free blogs.

Anyone have any opinions on that?

Cadence said...

This is all really good advice.

If you're looking into building a page, or having one built, I'd like to suggest the hilarious http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/ for ideas on what *not* to do.

I used to look at the daily sucker, well, er, daily, and eventually found that I could see why some website don't work well, and ideas about what would need to be done to fix them. And I didn't even know I was learning anything!

Alexis, your page does look great!

Matilda McCloud said...

This is great advice, especially about having the site professionally designed. My site for my nonfiction kid's books was designed by a professional (a friend--she's wonderful!) and it really makes a huge difference.

I have been wondering, though, if it's really necessary to have a website if you're an aspiring novelist without solid fiction credentials. I haven't done this yet because I'm not sure what I'd put on the site (another writing blog??)... I'm not 100% convinced that unpublished fiction writers need websites (but I do think it's a necessity for anyone hoping to publish nonfiction).

Rick Daley said...

I have a background in sales and marketing and I have some tips on search engine optimization (SEO) that might be a nice addition to Jordan's post.

One thing that is key in SEO is the frequency of information posted to a site. The major search engines have bots that crawl through the web constantly, and they remember what changes and what doesn't. If your site doesn't change over time, it will not maintain a high ranking (assuming, of course, you had one to start with).

Blogging is an excellent way keep posting original content. You want to refresh the content with key words...these are the terms you expect people searching for you to use, be it your name, book title, thematic elements you work addresses, etc.

I'm going to get slightly technical here, but when you set your site up (and your blog for that matter) make sure each page is its own page, and is not just content that changes in a frame for a single page. The more individual pages with your keywords on the web (that are updated often) the better your SEO will be.

Also, the more links from other sites that point back to your site, the better your SEO will be. This is an area where social networking can play a huge role.

SEO is especially important if you share a name with a high-profile individual. For example, I have to fight for SEO against a former and present mayors of Chicago, the former being quite famous for his role in the 1968 Democratic Convention.

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

I grabbed a passing teen or two and demanded that they make me a website (this usually works when I want to solve a problem involving anything technological). They said it was tricky - that was the first time I appreciated that it wasn't easy and might require specialist input.
As you can see I had to work to overcome the fact that my name is not an uncommon one.

Anonymous said...

Very informative post. Nice choice Nathan.

Jessie said...

Good stuff! Thanks, Jordan.

Jenny Brown said...

Hi,

I'm posting from my new blogging profile which goes to the new blog I started to support my first novel which will be published by Avon next year. Some of you may recognize me as I've been posting as "Jenny" on this blog for a couple of years.

I've sold a lot of nonfiction via a web presence, and the advice I'd pass on is this: It's really important that you never forget what your web site is for. It's to let your reader know how much they'll love your new book.

Think carefully about everything you post and what message it gives about you and your book. Your goal with each post is to connect with the reader, not to tell them more than they want to know about you. You want your readers to feel like you are a friend, but that doesn't mean you should dump your problems on them or bore them with the details of your vacation, marriage, new house, etc.

If you want to read a brilliant blog that manages to make you feel like a personal friend of the author while simultaneously making you want to read his book check out Rob Rummel-Hudson's blog: Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords. Rob is the best writer/blogger I know. He stays on topic with every post, but in a way that makes each one worth reading. I'd make a special trip just to hear him speak, and I gather so will hundreds of other people. Read back and see how he blogged before his book came out. Very instructive!

Amy said...

Hey Jordan,

This is great! I have to admit, I've been writing three years and I have no web site. Maybe this is the kick in the pants I needed.

Thanks for contributing! AK

careann said...

Good information, Jordan. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have never ever bought a book because of an author's website. Does anybody? I find it hard to believe. Maybe a website is good for industry types, but for actually promoting a book, how useful is it? It'd be nice of this was addressed by the blogger.

Kiersten said...

Ah ha ha: "Please shoot her." I had to give up on a couple of my blogs : )

Also, great advice! I was reading it thinking, crap, did I do that? Do I do that? Do I have that? Pretty sure I do...fabulous information, and great delivery!

And like you said about names, I'm so glad my parents stuck an extra "e" in Kiersten.

I've noticed a lot of people wondering how to build a website. Mine is pretty basic, but I did it all myself through Yahoo! web hosting. I'm not at all tech-savvy and had no problem setting it all up and managing it. It's only like fifteen dollars a year, and I don't think it looks too bad.

Of course, Jordan can always tell me if I'm wrong...

Jordan McCollum said...

Lupina—Thanks! I find it difficult to divide my time among my blogs.

As for "bang for your buck," it all depends on what you're looking for—and what you're putting into it—and less on whether or not it's paid. I think Blogger is becoming a stronger and stronger platform, but I love my self-hosted WordPress.

Cadence—That's an awesome way to learn about good websites! (It's how I've learned about query letters, with many thanks to Nathan and other agents!)

Matilda—I think, as others have pointed out and Nathan has pointed out before, that having a website even if you're unpublished as a fiction author, can be a major help. You can blog about your research subject (baseball, ancient Scotland, the law, etc.), you can just be utterly hilarious, you can try to build a community—but like I said in the article, you don't really have to blog. It's nice to have that interactivity, though.

Back to having a site as an unpubbed author. Even in fiction, it can be part of your platform. Having a good, professional-looking website with search engine rankings in place before you're published shows that you're serious about your career, and puts you in great position for pre-launch publicity.

Rick—Fantastic advice!

Elaine—Uh, yeah, you've got some stiff competition. Do you have a middle or maiden name (other than "still writing" ;) ?

Marybeth Poppins said...

Thanks Jordan :)

Jordan McCollum said...

Jenny—Great advice. I think the message "Think carefully about everything you post and what message it gives about you" is vital to the professionalism of a website.

And as for not telling them more than they want to know about you—I think a lot of readers do want to know about authors on a personal level. But like you said, the intimate details of your life really aren't what they're looking for!

Anon @ 9:49—Personally, I've bought books because of websites, and I know other people who have. I think, though, that sometimes websites are less for getting the first book sold and more for making your book's readers into your fans.

But websites are also key in promoting your book through other media. They're a place to gather all your marketing materials and information.

Kiersten—Actually, I do think your website looks nice. It's a great example of a simple, to-the-point, lovely, personable pre-published author site.

See? You don't have to pay big bucks for a professional-looking design. It's nice if you can get a real pro to do it, but there are ways to get a good-looking site without that!

ElanaJ said...

Jordan, excellent, excellent advice. And I'm so happy that I have all seven of those on my website. I do need to check out the custom blogger thing; that's something I didn't know about.

Thank you!

Jordan McCollum said...

Elana: here are Google's instructions on custom domains for Blogger!

It's a little technical, but it's not too hard to figure out.

Bane of Anubis said...

As an up and coming author, I think it's more critical (valuable?) to have a web presence on other, more frequented blogs (e.g., NB) and websites (e.g., AW)... Once you start making a name for yourself or have taken that next step or 2, then the personal website comes into play... Now, I just need to figure a way for publishers to let me publish under the moniker "Bane of Anubis" -- hey, if rappers can do it, why not writers :)

Jordan McCollum said...

@Bane—I agree that it's important to network and get your name out there. I think you can do both at once, though. Good luck on the pseudonym ;) !

Icy Roses said...

Very helpful. The hardest part about keeping a blog is writing about things that are interesting to others.

And that sometimes does not include your day to day life. Because let's be honest: my life is not all that interesting. That's why I write books. Woo for vicarious living! :-)

Jordan McCollum said...

Icy Roses—agreed. I'd love to see a type of serial flash fiction take hold on writer's blogs. (Or maybe I'd just like the lazy way out!)

AM said...

Wow!

I am enjoying "Guest Blog Week"!

Jordan,
This was very informative - Thank you.

Marybeth,
Your site is memorable. Tell your husband that you two did a great job.

I enjoyed "I feel like my novel wants to break up with me!"

Thanks to all of the contributors.

KellieS said...

Thank you Jordan for your insightful advice. I am currently growing a blog for women that is basically a platform to write what I believe women need. Though, it has nothing to do with my recently completed novel that is a crime thriller.

I haven't started a website for the book yet; however, you have given me some great ideas. It will come...

Thermocline said...

Jordan, Thank you for this post. I've seen book websites (TITLE.com) in addition to author websites and have been wondering about the value of these. I can see how it is additional marketing but don't know if the double dipping is worth the effort.

Any thoughts?

Jordan McCollum said...

Thermocline—That is a great question—and one I think we're still working on answers to in publishing and in Internet marketing. I think it's not a bad idea to at least reserve YourTitle.com (as long as you've set it with a publisher!).

In my opinion, I want most of my content and links going back to my main website (to keep it popular, etc.) So I could see a thin-content website at YourTitle.com (possibly just the main page, and the rest links back to pages on your main site).

You could even use domain masking (sorry to get technical on ya) for a page on your site.

Lisa Schroeder said...

The contact me page is my FAVORITE page!! I love getting notes from readers!!!

SM Schmidt said...

Thank you ever so much for addressing the many blog problem! They are like eating the "fun size" candies. You think just one will be good then are left wanting to create another and another. One blog as a professional and another for personal, etc. until you realize the blogs are getting in the way of the "serious" manuscript writing.

The worst part is as a someday future published Scifi author, I hate coding websites. It's hard when your genre demands something you just associate with visiting the dentist.

Jordan McCollum said...

@SM—Oh. Man. At least I'm not the boss at my work blog. But as other commenters have mentioned, it seems wise to separate the personal from the professional. From the side-job of writing.

I think the only reason why it's worked so well for the last few months is that I'm heavily into editing and not drafting these days. I'll have to figure out something else when I start my next book!

Dolores said...

I like this. Helpful. Thanks.

Dawn Maria said...

I have my website and blog through iWeb. Thoughts on that? I'm pretty low-tech, so it's been great, plus I've read that it's better to have the same host for your web page and blog, so people aren't leaving the site altogether.

What goes into a $1000++++ site that I can't get from iWeb that I need right now if I've got everything on your list?

Jordan McCollum said...

@Dawn—Note that I didn't say get a professional to design your site; I said get a site that looks professional.

My site design was absolutely free. I customized the header myself. Had to buy a font to do it, but that's my own fault for falling in love with a non-free font. So $20. I have hosting for about $7-8 a month total for all of my websites.

But I try to make them look professional, or as I put it above, "clean, polished, easy to read (spell checked!), easy to navigate."

Jordan McCollum said...

@Dawn Maria again—Oh, and yes, it's good to have your blog on your domain, like I said in the post, then all your links are pointing back to your site, instead of divided between your site and a blog hosted somewhere else.

Designers can give you more interactivity, cooler bells and whistles, etc. Better code. Cleaner layouts. Awesome graphics. Flash. Etc. I'm not denigrating designers; you can usually tell if a site has had pro design. But they're not always necessary for our purposes.

If you've got everything on the list and your site is working for you, then you're set! When your book is about to launch, however, you'll probably want to look at your site with a more critical eye, of course. It's good to do that periodically.

Kathleen MacIver said...

This is a very nice summary! I'm a web designer, and I have two thoughts/comments.

1) Having a form does NOT keep your email address from harvesters. Even the most secure form usually has your email address embedded in the form code. However, you can "encode" your email address. As of right now, the spam harvesters still haven't found a way around that. Just google email encoders to find sites with the free little encoders.

2) If you're wondering what content to put on your author website, or what to blog about, try thinking of things that your potential readers will be interested in. Do you write true crime? Include a page or blog posts about crime detection techniques that you find fascinating, or famous cases in history. Do you write Western Romance? Share neat facts about the old west. Is your fiction based in India? Share Flickr photos of India that you find inspiring. Sci-fi? How about linking to really cool technological advances that other sci-fi readers will find fascinating.

All too often, author blogs are geared toward other authors. That's fine, to a point, but that's not going to help you gain readership, and ultimately, isn't that what an author website is for?

http://www.KathleenMacIver.com
http://www.KatieDidDesign.com

ClothDragon said...

Alright, I haven't tried this yet, so I can't really recommend, but I hear that google is doing free website hosting now, except there will be a google footer or ad or something on the page. I think google and blogspot are linked, so many of you probably already have a google account. Just click on the "site" link and poke through. I'd love to know if it's as easily created as the rest of the google pages, but I haven't had time to do it.

Anonymous said...

Nathan,

If by any chance you are checking in, I hope your week is going well.

Thinking of you, as we enjoy the bloggers you've left us with.

Marsha Sigman said...

This is great! I just started my blog and I am having a lot of fun with it. I don't think I am ready for a full blown website yet but this is great advice.

I think I am one of those people that will struggle to stay on topic though. I tend to ramble.

Danyelle Ferguson said...

This is an excellent posting! Thank you, Jordan! I'm going to be emailing you later to pick your brain further!!!

Kristi said...

Great post - I finally sucked it up and joined Facebook after reading multiple things stating the importance of social media for writers. In addition to researching agents as a means of procrastination, I can add finding out useful information on Facebook like what my friends ate for breakfast.

Rick Daley - thanks for that SEO info. As someone who has only been blogging since March, I'm not very familiar with search optimization and loved your tips. You've inspired me to do a new post tonight! :)

Marnee Jo said...

Jordan, great advice and great blog! :)

I know you're who I'm going to talk to when I'm ready for all this stuff.

Jordan McCollum said...

Kathleen—Dang. I just knew someone was going to call me on that. I actually use form generators to avoid that. Great ideas on what to blog about—that's exactly what I mean when I say blogging your research!

@Kristi—LOL. Yeah, social media can be a serious time suck. But I also know of an editor who found a friend's website through Facebook, read a summary of her work and requested pages.

@Danyelle and Marnee—looking forward to it, ladies!

Marybeth Poppins said...

Thanks AM! I am glad everyone is enjoying it!

Jordan McCollum said...

@ClothDragon—I believe another of the guest posters actually just used Google sites to make her website. Steph, are you out there?

Jordan McCollum said...

@Kathleen again—how would you answer Dawn Maria's question?

I think I would add that web designers can create something custom to match you and your works, and do it more easily and prettily than most of us can.

JDW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Noble M Standing said...

Jordan, excellent advise. I'm so glad you made the cut!

I have a simple website I built at yolasite, it's free, and you have the option to "buy" your domain for under 20.00 bucks a year. The thing I liked the most was the ease of design, it was mostly click and drag.

Michelle

Chrissy said...

I always laugh when people who want to write for a living gripe over blogging and networking because they "don't have that much to say."

Do you open your query letters with that line? I prefer books with um... stuff in em.

Victoria Dixon said...

Thanks, Jordan! Great blog. Now I just need the website. Sigh. I think I'll see if my bionically enhanced and computer graphic-obsessed husband would like to help with some of that. At least then we can both have a page!

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm in the minority here, but I disagree that aan "aspiring author" needs a web preence at all. Apsiring authors need to learn how to write well enough to sell their first book, that's what they need! Forget everything else.

The time to start setting up a web presence is the day after you sign your first contract. There's a long wait time between signing and publication, and that's the perfect time to get the web stuff going, in between editing. Until then, an aspirant doesn't need the web, s/he needs to sell their first work!

Forget the web and write. Then, when you sell, forget the writing and market!

Victoria Dixon said...

I wonder if Nathan will consider doing this again? Hmmmm.

Katie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sara Ohlin said...

Jordan, extremely helpful advice! Thank you so much for the information. I will definitely reference your post again, as well as some of the helpful comments.

Katie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jordan McCollum said...

Anon @ 1:53—I used to think the same thing. And yes, if you don't have a website, there is plenty of time between contract and launch to create one.

However, I have actually seen an editor request pages from an aspiring author's website. I've seen many agents, Nathan included ( http://nathanbransford.blogspot.com/2006/11/anatomy-of-good-query-letter.html ), impressed by the fact that an aspiring author has taken the time to create a web presence. It shows that this person is serious about this career, that they're in it for the long haul.

Nathan himself said a while back ( http://nathanbransford.blogspot.com/2008/08/author-websites.html ), "every author out there is doing themselves a disservice if they don't have some sort of a Google-able web presence with an e-mail address." I agree.

@Katie—Thank you! Well said. And as for links affecting your rankings with your blog hosted on another domain—more links for your domain are almost always better than having some of your links pointing to the blogspot.com domain. Like I said, the Custom Domain option in Blogger can take care of that.

Word verification: Mints. An actual word!

Kathleen MacIver said...

@Dawn Maria (since Jordan asked)

First, you asked about having your blog and website on the same domain.

My answer: I'm honestly not sure what difference it will make in your rankings, if they're on different sites. As far as your readers are concerned, however, it is DEFINITELY an advantage to have them seamlessly integrated, design-wise. For example, The Knight Agency's website. www.knightagency.net You'll find "Blog" in their navigation menu. When you click on it, it LOOKS like you're on the same site. You even have the same navigation menu. But a look at the URL shows that you've been moved to Blogger. I did this with my inspirational website, integrating a website, a Blogger blog, and my myspace page through design. www.HopeIsCalling.com It takes skills in HTML, CSS, and graphics to do this, though.

Second question: What goes into a $1000++++ site that I can't get from iWeb that I need right now if I've got everything on your list?

Very few authors need a $1000++++ website. Yes, there are designers who are so extremely skilled in multiple programming languages, that they charge high dollars for even simple sites, simply because their time is worth that much. But there are plenty of us who are perfectly willing to design an author website for a couple hundred dollars, or less.

For some authors, the value is in the eye that a good designer will have. Some authors aren't good with colors and balance and can't use iweb as successfully as you have. Let's take your site as an example.

You've done well with color and balance. I don't know if you just selected a template, or if you chose those yourself, but they work well for you, as long as you are pleased. However, they don't give the visitor that instant impression of what genre and style of book you write. An unpublished author might not have or need that yet, but a published author definitely needs that. Imagine your site as a book cover...what if you wandered into a bookstore where all the book genres were mixed up. That's the Internet. What would you use to search for books you'd like to read? The covers first. If you like sexy romance, then you'd look for covers with "that look." If you like horror, then you'd look for those types of covers. When you found the type of cover that reflects the genre you like to read, THEN you'd turn to the back blurbs and a sampling of text from the inside.

So, for an author who wants their site to reflect their writing, what do they do if a template isn't offered that reflects those, and they don't know enough about website design to customize one that is offered? A professional is their own choice.

Next, layout. You've also done well in this area, with one exception. Your home page has almost all of your information "below the fold." Very few viewers will scroll down to see what's down there, unless something "above the fold" has already captured their attention enough to make them reach for the scrollbar. You're not a professional, so you most likely haven't thought about that. Many authors might unwittingly make many more "mistakes" that might make their website ineffective. For an unpublished author who isn't trying to drive sales for their book, this might not be an issue worth spending money to fix. For a published author, however, this is crucial, and is well worth spending two or three hundred dollars to make sure those errors aren't driving visitors away and ruining all their promotion efforts.

(To be finished in another post, since I've exceeded blogger's comment limit.)well worth spending two or three hundred dollars to make sure those errors aren't driving visitors away and ruining all their promotion efforts.

(To be finished in another post, since I've exceeded blogger's comment limit.)

Kathleen MacIver said...

(Continued)

The decision in when to hire a professional is going to be different for each author. It's going to depend primarily upon three things: 1) Her finances 2) Whether or not she's published, ie: how important that website really is. And 3) her familiarity and level of comfort in using the Internet and designing anything. There are plenty of people who are overwhelmed by the mere prospect of matching two colors up. There are also people who are the design equivalent of preschoolers, even if they think they could pass the GED test. These people need someone who knows the answers to questions they don't even know need to be asked.


Very few people really need a $1000+++ site, though. If you want an example of who might, check out
Sherilyn Kenyon's: www.dark-hunter.com. She has a very defined brand and millions of fans who probably inundate her with email and demand more from her than a simple website. They want a forum where they can meet each other, maps of her world, email loops for news, profiles on each character in her world, dark-hunter t-shirts and who-knows-what-else, and plenty more. Nothing other than a custom-designed website can provide all of that, graphically-tailored to fit with her look. But it pays off for her...the fans visit, become even more immersed in her world, and that much more determined to buy the next book as soon as it comes out, catapulting yet another story onto the NYT list.

Does that answer your question?

I'm reading more of the comments, so I'll add a bit more.

Q. Does anyone ever buy a book because of a website?

A. An Anon asked this, and yes! Lots of us do! In fact, when I hear of a new-to-me author, the first thing I do is check to see if they have a website. If they do, I look for something about their books and a writing sample. This is the online version of what we do in bookstores when we read the back of a book and open to a page inside. Anyone who asks this question evidently doesn't realize just how wired and digitalized millions of us are. I haven't gone inside a real bookstore for anything other than to pick up a book I found out about online or from a friend in...uh...six years, maybe? How do you think today's kids, who LIVE on the internet and cell phones, and who are going to colleges that are now starting to use e-textbooks, are going to find out about your book?

Q. Is it necessary for an aspiring novelist to have a website?

A. IMO, you need to start a website when your book sells, at the very latest. So no, it's not necessary when you're still writing your first (or eighth) unsold book. It can still help with networking, though. Having a website that people can visit is kind-of liking having a dorm room you can invite your new college acquaintance over to. The more your website, blogger avatar, live journal avatar, WordPress avatar, and forum avatars match and work together, the easier it is for others online to get to know you. And since networking has led to 90% of my writing and publishing related knowledge, many peoples long-term critique partners, and since it helps a large percentage of book sales, it's a good idea, whenever you can manage a good one. (Bad websites help no one.)


-Katie aka: Kathleen MacIver
http://www.KathleenMacIver.com
http://www.KatieDidDesign.com

beth said...

Nathan: So many agents have given very helpful advice on critiquing queries and synopsis and first pages...ever thought about critiquing an aspiring author's webpage or blog? (You can use me if you want! But honestly--I'd love to see an agent's take on a webpage blog on anyone)

I've asked before from other agents on Twitter, and I get a lot of the same information I can find on the web: what NOT to do (such as bash agents or whine about not being published or post pics of the cat), but there's so little out there about what DOES work.

I LOVE the advice that Jordan's put forth here---but I'm a visual girl and could really use some examples.

Jordan McCollum said...

Oh, Kathleen/Katie—Threw me for a loop there. But like I said, well said!

Jordan McCollum said...

@Beth—You know, that's a great idea! I'd love to do that, but of course we'd only want to do this on a volunteer basis.

Any takers? And Kathleen, I'd love to have your input, too!

AM said...

Anon @ 1:53 -

I agree that an aspiring author should focus on learning and developing his craft. Too much time can be spent (e.g. lost) on websites, blogs, etc.

However, when an author is ready to submit his manuscript to agents, then he should considing taking the time to develop a simple but professional website.

Jordan McCollum said...

@AM—That's what I should have said. Thanks!

Carol/Careann said...

Jordan, after I left my comment earlier today I went on to other things, but your blogging and Rick Daley's comments stuck with me. I finally went to my own blog and made some changes. It's still a blog, not a professional website, but hopefully the changes will help it serve me better. The help that is available here is awesome! Thanks again to you and the others who offered useful suggestions.

Minnette Meador said...

What a wonderful post.What is your opinion on blog vs. web page? It seems that people are gravitating toward doing blogs rather than informative web pages and I would LOVE to only have to maintain one. Thoughts, anyone?

Beth Terrell said...

Thank you for sharing this, Jordan. It's invaluable information. I plan to update my website this weekend, and I plan to use this post as a reference when I do.

Rick, Kathleen, thanks for adding to the excellent advice.

CathrynG said...

@Jordan - I'd love to volunteer my blog, flash fiction blog and website for critique.

My WordPress blog & Flash Fiction blog link off my site: http://www.cathryngrant.com

Trish said...

Great, this makes me feel better about my blog. I use it to get my character Molly Mavis Gumnut out there. I don't post chapters, but add the titles of my many Molly Gumnut chapter books.

I also show pictures of the place where Molly lives, the river where she goes fishing and the bush track where she rides her bike. The valley and all the critters and the Australian wildlife in the stories.

This is aslo my world and I add the wildlife surrounding me. I voluneer for a wildlife rescue, so I add links to animal welfare and links to exotics vets.

And of course Molly's guinea pigs too.

Thanks so much, Jordan. This is great advice. It helps heaps.

Trish.

annerallen said...

I agree with AM and Anon 1:53. Jumping into a website before you're REALLY ready can 1) waste time you should spend writing (and reading!) 2) embarrass the hell out of your older and wiser self.

Jordan McCollum said...

Carol/Careann—Awesome! Glad to have helped!

Minnette Meador—Blog vs. webpage—it depends on your desire and ability to update, I think. If you're not going to blog at least weekly, stick with a regular website. On the other hand, if you're willing up update the site, some blog software is set up specifically to cover the capabilities of both a website and a blog, especially WordPress. I use WP for my blog/website—I get to post blog posts and I also have permanent pages for my contact, about, works, etc. For me, they haven't required a ton of maintenance.

Beth Terrell—Good luck! Hope we helped!

CathrynG—I'll put you in the queue for next month on my blog!

Trish—Sounds like you have a good handle on what to blog about. I bet American readers would find that especially informative!

Jordan McCollum said...

@annerallen—You can always update your website. I sincerely doubt people are going to dig through archive.org to see how ugly/amateur/etc. your website used to be. This list is designed to help make sure that you don't embarrass yourself. You can't start building your search engine and web presence on nothing!

Note that I never said you have to spend 200 hours building a website from scratch instead of writing and editing. You can get a good-looking website together in under a week.

After you've spent all that time polishing your work and your query, why not take a few extra days for that added extra? It may not take a bad query to a good one, but it can help to make a good query even more impressive and make an author look more committed and professional.

Rachelle said...

Jordan,
Thanks for all the great advice. I'm going to have to keep reading all of these comments too because I'm learning all kinds of great things. Thanks for keeping us on our toes!

Laura Martone said...

Hi, all!

I just got home from a long day at the Cherry Festival, so I'm completely pooped... but I just wanted to say "Thanks, Jordan!"

Although I already have a writing-related website (with a blog, contact info, novel excerpts, etc.), I found this post quite helpful. Especially Thing #5 - right now, my website address is the main setting of my novel (www.rubyhollow.com) - mostly, because I hope to write other novels about this place... but I have plans, as you suggest, to create an author website, using my full name.

So, thanks again, Jordan. This is very good advice - I'm simply too lazy (I mean, busy) to implement it at the moment. Another task for the not-too-distant future. :-)

--Laura

P.S. I visited Marybeth Smith's website, and I agree with you, Jordan - it looks great!

Laura Martone said...

Oh, and I just checked out Alexis Grant's website (which is also terrific) and discovered we both graduated from Northwestern. Cool! Go, Wildcats!

jo said...

Thanks Jordan, this was very helpful!

Victoria Mixon said...

Jordan,

Thanks for putting the information so simply and clearly. It's just like a query letter, isn't it? Make it interesting, make it complete, make it easy to find you.

Great job!

best,
Victoria

annerallen said...

Jordan, I found this post full of incredibly valuable information. Thanks much.

I didn't mean to discourage anybody from a putting time and money into a website if they have it--but if you're a beginner, your writing will (I trust) improve. Posting the opening chapters of that fledgling first novel for all to see at this point may make you cringe later on down the road.

Been there; done that.

FinePrint agent Janet Reid has recently blogged about how a first novel is generally not ready for the query process. I think that goes for posting it on a website as well.

Vacuum Queen said...

I agree about the important content listed in this post, but I have to say...I follow many blogs, and I have no need for them to have a website. Their blogs have contact info, general personal info, updates on what's new with their projects, and updated entries. Seems to me that it functions like a website.

Yes, since I've got a bakery in my mg novel, I suppose it would be fun to get a site with a bakery in it and if you click on the snoozeberry muffins you'd find out where my character sleeps. But unless it's a huge hit, it's probably more than I will ever need. But, Hmmmm.... um, now I want that interactive bakery.

Kia said...

Yay, I get 7/7. Though, the 'professional design' is subjective, plus I update the blog so rarely, it barely qualifies...

Thanks for a great post, Jordan.

Oh, and my site is here:
www.kia-abdullah.com (purely for verification purposes you understand - not a shameless plug at all).

Kia said...

PS. And it's great being called 'Kia Abdullah'. The closest search engine competition is King Abdullah of Jordan :)

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Thanks so much, Jordan. This is very helpful!

Etiquette Bitch said...

Jordan - great advice!

Another tip-talk to potential readers/clients/friends to find out how they would google/search for someone like you or your writing. use those terms for SEO.

I was mistakenly thinking people would search for my blog by its title (see my name) until a reader told me that he googles "manners" when he wants etiquette advice.

Etiquette Bitch said...

I also agree with the need for professional web design. I finally found an excellent designer in Chicago, if anyone is interested. Eat Paint Studios, www.eatpaintstudio.com

Anonymous said...

As you say "Think carefully about everything you post and what message it gives about you," I am really surprised that you use the words "tatty jeans and wifebeater". This is demeaning to both men and women, in the image it brings up. Attention to language is vital.

Lori A. May said...

Great post, Jordan.

This is a great reminder of why web presence is key and I really like your ideas on how to work the web to your best advantage, even when doing your own website, blog, etc. It really does take little money and effort to put ourselves out there in a professional manner. Great work!

Lori A. May
www.loriamay.com
http://loriamay.blogspot.com
http://twitter.com/loriamay

Robena Grant said...

Thanks, Jordan. Great post. Also thanks to the other "guest bloggers" I've caught up on all of the posts for the week and found them very interesting. I can see why you were all chosen.

Jordan McCollum said...

@annerallen—Oh, I thought you meant the whole website! Yeah, definitely hold off on posting an excerpt until it's in at least decent shape. (I had my first five pages fairly polished for a context when I was getting my site ready for a conference, so I went ahead and posted them.) Like I said, though, you can always update it. (And I have.)

@Vacuum Queen—These "must haves," of course, can be applied to a blog. I think I'm spoiled by my blog/website—it's all at the same place!

@EB—Another great point that goes right along with Rick Daley's advice! I started out in SEO, so I can attest to its effectiveness!

@Anon @ 5:40—If I've offended, I apologize. Where I come from that phrase the term "wife beater" is used so often as clothing that it's lost its association with its true meaning. I didn't care for the word for many years myself. (I assume the "ratty jeans" part isn't what's bothering you?)

BookEnds, LLC said...

I could make a list and since I didn't read the comments it's quite possible others have already added, but here are a few additional thoughts:

a high resolution, downloadable jpeg of your author photo in both color and b&w and your most recent cover or even a picture of all of your books together. this makes it easy for journalists to pull information/photos at the last minute if they need to

make it obvious what you're selling. the home page should feature information about your books and easy to find links to other pages.

KISS--Keep it simple stupid. don't get too hung up on fancy graphics or tons of information on one page. web sites that work for me are very simple and easy to navigate

update, update, update. I can't stress the importance of (reiterating what you said) adding 'news' notices of what's going on. this is really what fans love if you are active on facebook have your status updates link to your web page

good article!

--jessica faust

Jordan McCollum said...

Noticed by Nathan AND Jessica Faust?! Holy crap, what a week!

Great advice, Jessica (of course)! Thanks for adding to the conversation, since you're part of the target audience of these sites. Your tips also apply to published authors especially.

B. Jason Roer said...

Great advice. I created my website a month or so ago after I'd been to the BEA Writer's Conference and heard I should get crackin' on my web presence. You can do it yourself if you have just a hint of patience. It really isn't terribly difficult. Whenever I couldn't figure out how to do something, I googled it and the answer popped up.

I used Dreamweaver for my software and I got the site hosted on godaddy.com. They're very helpful in all the setup stuff.

Anyway - I hope this helps. I also highly recommend using social networking sites. I've made some incredible connections and people have been so incredibly helpful.

Cheers,

Jason

Jerry W Stewart said...

This is a great post. I can check off everything but the work section. I need to put some of my work up on my site, but I haven't gotten around to that just yet. I've had my site up for a couple of months and I'm trying to build my following. It seems like a slow and painful process. It's building, but I wish I could speed it up. Hopefully patience and diligence will pay off. Thanks for the post.

Cynthia 40 said...

Thank you for the tips. This really helped me to realize that I can't get around not having my own website. I'm going to start working on it today!

Kathleen MacIver said...

@BethRevis You asked for a website critique. Here, in my humble opinion, are my thoughts...

Your blog graphics aren't generic, and that's good. (I'm assuming you picked the graphics because they reflect what you write in some way.) They make me think that you probably write paranormal...maybe YA paranormal. That's just a guess, though. The look does rule out horror, true crime, chic-lit, erotica, literary, sci-fi, and probably mystery as well. If your writing focuses on one genre, then you'll eventually want a visitor to know at first glance what you write, without having to read anything more than, perhaps, a tagline. Introducing that tagline or an element to your graphics might be something you'd like to add during your next update.

Your website, however, doesn't give me any sense of what you write. It's also not coordinated with your blog. At the very least, I would add a very noticeable link to your website at the TOP of your sidebar in your blog (if you can't add it to the little menu in the upper left). And add a tab that leads to your blog on your website. You should also see if you can use the same graphics on both sites. I looked at your blog background image, and I see that the top of your sidebar is part of it. That makes it much more difficult for someone that doesn't know coding and graphics (I don't know if that's you or not) to use on another website...but eventually you'll want both to use the same images, so it's easy for visitors to know that they're on the same site.

My only other thought is that, once you sell your book, you'll want your homepage to hook the visitor in the same way that you want your first paragraph to hook your reader. No reader would be sucked in by a story that started out, "Hi! This story is about a little girl..." No, your paragraph starts in your world. In order for your website to be used for promotional purposes, you want it to work the same way. You want that first page to be IN your story, or your world, or focus on whatever is totally unique about your writing. Something that makes a potential reader go, "Wow! This looks interesting!" In general, readers aren't the slightest bit interested in meeting the author until AFTER they fall in love with your writing. That's why it's generally not a good idea for your homepage to be an author introduction. How about an introduction to your main character? Or how about using your pitch for the very first text a website visitor reads?

I hope this helps!

-Katie/Kathleen MacIver
http://www.KathleenMacIver.com
http://www.KatieDidDesign.com

Kathleen MacIver said...

@Cathryn Grant

Your site is nice and clean and not cluttered up. Congratulations on avoiding the worst mistake people sometimes make! :-) Your graphics aren't fancy, but the crow, combined with your nice big header make it quite clear what genre you write, so that's excellent also.

What would I suggest for your next website update?

Well...the nice grey border that's around your header image doesn't continue down the page. That would be about five minutes of time for someone who knows coding (I don't know if that's you, or not), but your site look would be more "complete" if that border continued to the very bottom of the page. As an added bonus, it would reduce the line length of your paragraphs on your pages, which is much easier to read. (60-80 characters/line is what you want to aim for.)

The only other problem with your header is that it shoves almost all of your text "Below the fold." You have less than 2 seconds to grab the attention of most website visitors. You also don't want them to have to scroll down before they can enjoy your website content every time they click on a page. Imagine if the grocery store put nice beautiful huge pictures covering every shelf from eye-level to hip level on every single aisle, so you had to constantly squat down to get your things off the bottom shelves. It would get really annoying after an item or two! That's what Internet users feel like when they have to scroll down past the same image on every single page of a website. I would try cropping that header image so there's a little less image above the crow's head, and nothing below the neck. Then, since that will make your heading look crowded, I'd make it a little smaller to give it more breathing room. I'd also take out about 1/2 of the "white space" around your navigation menu. All of that, combined, should cut your image height by 1/2 and show that much more content when the pages load.

Finally, read the advice I gave Beth about the type of content that you'll want on your home page when you start using your website for promotional purposes.

I hope this is the type of information you were hoping for!

-Katie/Kathleen MacIver
http://www.KathleenMacIver.com
http://www.KatieDidDesign.com

Kathleen MacIver said...

@Laura Martone

FANTASTIC SITE CONCEPT! I don't know if you wanted a site critique or not...but I will mention that, in Firefox, your "Click Here" box is off the page to the right...and it doesn't lead anywhere. That needs to be fixed, so we don't have to scroll to the right, and so it actually leads to whatever page will have the information the box advertises.

(Note: Of the two browsers, Firefox shows code the way it should, while some versions of MSIE do not. Always check your page in both, and you can use www.browsershots.org to do the check.)

Everyone else...if you want to know what I mean by an author website that pulls you right into their world, take a look at her site:
http://www.rubyhollow.com

-Katie/Kathleen MacIver
http://www.KathleenMacIver.com
http://www.KatieDidDesign.com

B. Jason Roer said...

Hey there, Kathleen. While you're giving out advice, I thought I might jump on the bandwagon and see what you thought about my site. I don't have much experience with creating websites, but I did everything myself. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. I'd love to make it better. Thanks so much! http://www.bjasonroer.com

Jordan McCollum said...

@Kathleen—great advice! Though with Laura's site I did have something come up with I clicked on the "click here" box. It, like the other links opened in new popup windows—a major pet peeve of mine (and many other developers; it clutters our computers and breaks the back button).

Phil Tolhurst said...

It strikes me that Wordpress is almost perfect for those that haven't got a website and would like to create one.

I'm currently creating an alternate business website for one of my other lives and then I'll do my writing one. It's on the next of my to do lists I already own philtolhurst.com and .co.uk

One problem I do have is my Facebook site is practically a homage to my daughter I think I'll need to scale it back a bit.

Also once you have something like a Facebook page that people can view you would need to really watch what you post on updates.

What about anyone else that has Facebook site do you consciously think about what you are posting etc?

Trish said...

I'm very careful of what I post on Facebook. I don't use it much because I have so many relatives and who knows what they'll come out with, true or false.

I usually stick with my blog and Twitter and as from today I post on Blogged.

Trish.

B. Jason Roer said...

Yes Phil. I was a filmmaker before I ventured into writing children's fantasy/adventure books and when I made the switch, I had to completely change my twitter, facebook, and myspace pages to keep in line with what I was doing. I'd made everything from scifi to horror to teen sex comedies in film, so my language was quite - colorful - we'll say. Can't have that when writing for children.

So, yes, you have to tailor what you say to the market you are trying to reach. I find it no biggie though and if anything - this style of writing is much more natural for me. I do find that every once in a while, where I would have written a humorous tidbit in response to someone's comment back in the old days on say twitter, I now have to hold myself back. In those situations, I just chuckle quietly by my lonesome or tell my wife and leave it at that.

Cheers,

Jason

Jordan McCollum said...

@Phil—One of Facebook's greatest strengths is its levels of privacy. (This is also about to get a lot more granular, too!)

You can filter which of your friends can see what parts of your profile using friend lists. People who aren't yet your friends can see a very limited version of your profile, while people you put on a "fellow writers" or "fans" list will see less (say, you hold back your photos from them) than your "work friends" or "immediate family" lists.

Carpy said...

Jordan, great info. I confess I've never blogged, but that's about to change, and I will link it to a website I've been working on for several months. My question is whether or not to add my poetry, articles I've written, and short stories or if that would detract from the fictional series I'm writing? Most of my articles relate to the series, but much of my poetry and short stories do not. Thanks for your wonderful blog!

Jordan McCollum said...

@Carpy—IMO, I'd include the articles but not the other works. Not only are the articles more on-topic, nonfiction just comes off as more professional than full works of short fiction or poetry posted on a website.

However, if you've had the other works published elsewhere, I'd include them in a list of publishing credits (hello, About page!).

Good luck with your blog!

Kathleen MacIver said...

I figured the pop-up probably would work for some people, since it obviously worked for her. It could be Firefox, or it could be my browser settings which stop many pop-ups (although it didn't stop the links on the left side of her screen.)

I would recommend that she turn all of those links into regular ones, rather than pop-up ones, to solve this problem and keep from ticking people off. :-)

@B.Jason... your site looks nice, and it has the information arranged nicely. Since you write MG fiction, it's probably not quite as much to your advantage for you to design your site with your readers in mind. (I don't know how many middle-schoolers would google an author's site.) So what you have is suitable.

My only caveat would be, again, the fact that you have to scroll down to find any website content on the home page. It's excellent that you've condensed the photo and links on the other pages. I'd simply consider doing that on the home page, too.

My only other idea might be to change out that background image with something that reflects the world of your books...something that looks like a scene out of it, so parents checking your site out will quickly know what type of world your books are based in. You can set one image to show on the left, another to show on the right, and set both not to scroll with the page. That'll look nice. (The non-scrolling won't work with MSIE 6.0, if I remember right...it'll repeat and scroll...but fewer and fewer people use that brower because of all its bugs.)

B. Jason Roer said...

Thanks, Kathleen!

Mariana said...

Fantastic advice. Thank you!

Jordan McCollum said...

@Kathleen—I use FF, too, and I have the popup blocker on (and I have it set to force target="_blank" to open in a new tab, so I don't know what happened there).

I actually DO think some MG readers will visit an author's website (depending on the genre), but they're probably going to be the ones that are more into reading, IYKWIM. It might be nice to have a specific section of the website for kids, too.

Rick Chesler said...

Good post.

http://RickChesler.com

Rick Chesler said...

Clickable:

WiredKingdom author website

Trish said...

This is a great website, Jordan.

I hope MG readers do follow websites and younger readers too. I write children’s chapter books for confident readers aged seven to nine. I do have some older followers too as my characters are bold and mischievous. I post regular updates with different animals that feature in my stories. They are pictures of animals that live in my garden or the ones that I’ve cared for after injuries. Plus, my pet guinea pigs of course. Children love to see animal pictures.

I’m hoping that when I do eventually get published, I’ll already have a large following of young readers.

Those Pop-ups can be a pain though. If ever I have trouble, I hold down the shift key while pressing the link. That works, but most people don’t know that and end up not bothering to post a comment. Any suggestions?

Thanks so much,

Trish.

Misti J said...

This blog was wextremely helpful. Thank you so much. I was atempting to produce my own website when I got the email about another comment fron Nathan's blog. I opened and my prayers were answered when I saw what the topic was about. I am almost completed with my website now. Thank you so much for this.Misti J

Jordan McCollum said...

@Trish—Well, the popups on the site we were talking about are coded into the JavaScript that way. If you mean popup comment windows on Blogger blogs, I hate those, too, but I'm used to them. (Though for a while there, my browser did NOT get along with them. Made it almost impossible to comment.) There are two other options on Blogger: the embeddable comment form, which I see you use on your blog, or the separate post comments page, which Nathan uses here.

I'm not sure I'm answering your question, though. Am I?

@Misti—glad to help!

Trish said...

Ye,Jordan, thank you, you've answered my questions. I like the separate post comments page, which Nathan uses better. Am I able to change to that one? It's easier to use.

I would like to make it easier for people to leave a comment. Especially if they're children.

I've only had a blog for a short while and I'm still learning how it all works.

Recently I changed from one Antivirus server to another and I couldn't use pop-ups on blogs at all. As soon as I changed back to the old one, I had no trouble.

Thanks, Jordan.

Jordan McCollum said...

@Trish—Personally, I find the embedded comments box a little more user-friendly (esp. if you don't have the word verification turned on). If your visitors have to click on another link to comment, it lowers the likelihood that they'll make the comment.

To change between your comment forms in Blogger, go to Settings>Comments—Comment Form Placement. Remember to save changes!

Trish said...

Jordan, that’s fantastic. *You rock* I followed your instructions, now I don’t have a Pop-up window to post comments. Yay! That will make it so much easier for people to leave a message.

Thanks heaps, Jordan, and thanks, Nathan. This is a great web page. I’m so happy I will go and hug myself. (I’m having a second childhood.)

Trish.

Jordan McCollum said...

Thanks to everyone who commented; you're welcome to everyone who thanked me, and most of all, thanks to Nathan for opening up the blog!

Heather Justesen said...

I need to have my (awesome web- designer) husband put a link to my Facebook page on my site below the one for Twitter, but everything else is there. Great pointers in simple language, Jordan.

And yes, I had almost all of that in place BEFORE I got my first contract. It's a good way to fill in some of the extra time while you're waiting for agents/publishers to respond to your submission. =)

You know, besides working on your *next* book.

A misinterpreted wave said...

Thanks heaps, I found this really helpful. Don't think that I've mastered all the steps, but I'm working on it. It was good to see that I was already on the right track

AM said...

Rick,

Nice site!

Laura Martone said...

Kathleen & Jordan - Thank you both so much for the advice re: my website! I'm sorry that I'm only thanking you now... but I'd failed to check back on this post. Oops. That'll teach me to do other things with my weekend!

I must admit that my website is a work-in-progress at the moment - as I'm still working on the edit of my novel - but I'm happy that the vibe of the site has garnered such positive feedback, and I appreciate the tips re: my buttons and separate windows (and the previous advice re: blogs having a similar look as the website, which mine doesn't at the moment). As soon as I'm done with my edit, I plan to revise the RH site, with these guidelines in mind.

So, thanks again to you both (and everyone else who contributed so many wonderful ideas re: author websites).

--Laura

Haarlson Phillipps said...

Links! That's what every web or blog has to have. Links. Otherwise you're shouting into a bucket in the dark.

Donna said...

Thanks Jordan; I know I'm late in posting a reply. I've been told many, many times that having a website and a blog is the best way to attract a agent/publisher. So, I looked for your answer to Matilda's question (do you have to have a website) before sending my own post.
Here's the deal: I'm what could be called a "Lurker". I lurk in blog- land, reading the advise and posts, sometimes having a thing or two to say. After reading everyone else's posts, whatever questions or comments I might pose have been answered. I'm satisfied. So, I wouldn't know what to do with a blog of my own, or if someone actually made a comment about what was posted on the web site. It's really scary - at least to me - not just posting an unfinished, or unpublished, novel excerpt or thought out there in cyberland. I mean, I follow this blog, but haven't subscribed because I'm not sure exactly what I'm doing with even this much.

Got any advice for "Lurkers"?

And thanks; this was a very informative post.

LJ Charleston said...

thanks for the great advice Jordan. I think I made the mistake of only having my email address instead of a form copy as it has really multiplied the amount of spam I've been getting!

Jacqui said...

OK. I graded my website (which is my blog) against your list and failed. Now I'm depressed. Don't worry. I'll be OK.

Jordan McCollum said...

@Donna—Advice for lurkers: just stop lurking! Just like when you go to your first writers' conference&dash;go up and talk to someone. No one's going to say, "Ugh, you have no right to be here, talking to me!"

Networking can be really, really powerful in this industry (as in any other). Did you see how many people mentioned that friends did their website design for free? There are all kinds of mutual benefits to networking.

As for jumping in with your own blog, yeah, it's possible that you might say something that might have already been said. But wherever you saw it last probably wasn't the first time it was said, either, and sometimes things bear repeating. I love the advice here that you should blog about your research, or your world building. You can also take the opportunity to mention good writerly news—selling a story, meeting a new writing buddy, a good critique session—or to have discussions on problems, plotting, etc., etc.

As for posting an excerpt of your novel, it's up to you. Note that I said, "you should at least have a short summary of your work on your site. You might also consider a short excerpt." Is it mandatory? No. But when you feel you're ready to begin querying, and your work is ready to go before agents, I think it's probably ready to put the first couple pages on the Internet.

Donna said...

Jordan:
Thanks for your support and advice. It is very much appreciated.

D.I. Telbat said...

Wow, great post! And lots of helpful comments too. Thank you so much Jordan and Nathan!

Caroline Lawrence (AKA Flavia) said...

A page of silliness is also good, like the DORMOUSE page on my website!

Jordan McCollum said...

Just an update for those interested: Kathleen MacIver and I will be doing full reviews of (aspiring) author websites on my blog. If you'd like your site reviewed, please sign up: http://jordanmccollum.com/2009/07/website-reviewed/

Elise Logan said...

I'd like to address a point I saw in the comments. An anonymous poster asked if anyone ever buys based on author web sites, and I want to say that the answer is a resounding YES. The way this usually happens is that Author Bob puts out a new book, and Joe Reader loves it. Joe goes to Author Bob's web site and looks up his backlist. Then goes out and buys off the backlist.

Also, another little tip. Make sure your website has work safe graphics. I realize this seems like a silly thing to say, but there are a huge number of romance and sci-fi/fantasy author sites that have a number of graphics that aren't work safe. I think it's okay for content to be a bit dodgy, but you don't want Joe Reader clicking on the link to your website and opening a page that gets him in the middle of a lawsuit.

Chris Sheehan said...

Thank you for the tips. In the process of putting together a site at the moment, will definitely be keeping this list in the back of my head throughout the process.

Thanks again!

Detroit Girl said...

Great advice! I tried to make my blog different from other aspiring writers or bloggers by sharing the ups, downs and all the emotions and drama that come along with trying to make it in this crazy field. I hope it draws more people to the sight. I am really candid and I do blog frequently. I really enjoyed your blog post and I hope to use some of your advice when I begin building my website. Feel free to check out my blog at www.vivalassam.blogspot.com.

Thank you.
Sam White

Detroit Girl said...

Great advice! I tried to make my blog different from other aspiring writers or bloggers by sharing the ups, downs and all the emotions and drama that come along with trying to make it in this crazy field. I hope it draws more people to the sight. I am really candid and I do blog frequently. I really enjoyed your blog post and I hope to use some of your advice when I begin building my website. Feel free to check out my blog at www.vivalassam.blogspot.com.

Thank you.
Sam White

AussieWebmaster said...

so you know links to blog.domain.com will not pass lift to domain.com - unless through links from it to the domain

Jordan McCollum said...

That's not entirely accurate. As I said in the article, I work in Internet marketing. The prevailing wisdom in SEO is that good links pointing to a domain, even on a subdomain, increase the authority of the root domain in search engines' eyes. It's not about passing "link juice" or lift directly to the domain (a far more slippery topic), it's about accumulating authority for the domain overall.

Maureen Noel said...

There are so many terrible author sites out there, it's a wonder these authors sell books. I was one of the fortunate ones for my novel Nightworld. maureennoel.com. Just as authors need editors to whittle down their books, it'd be a good idea to take an editor to their websites as well.

Unknown said...

Hi Nathan- I am a web designer and WordPress Expert and I work with mostly Authors. You covered some of the important items, but if anyone would like to learn more for free, I have a webinar up on Author Solutions for free called 8 Must-Have Elements For Your Author Website. You can watch it for free or watch it live again in Dec 2011.
Good luck to all of you aspiring authors!

Spook SEO said...

I agree with you Nathan, it is exactly like this and most of the time people create boring posts that no one like to read even if he they have good quality stuff in it. The first thing is always using the best theme that improves the quality of your post in the eyes of the innovative readers then it comes to your other points that are also valid and great to have while writing a post or site.

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My Connected Classroom said...

Thanks so much for this post, Nathan! I used some of your suggestions while creating my website: jamesmtilton.com. I'd love for your to check it out and let me know what you think. Either way, thank you for the helpful tips!

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