Monday, January 12, 2009

Author Websites 101

Early in September last year, Liz Beemis of Bemis Promotions presented a Websites 101 workshop to Seattle's Eastside RWA chapter. These are my notes from her talk.

As an author, your website should reflect your personal brand, state your logline, explain what you write, and convey your voice, tone, and image of your books.

For a professional and functional appearance, you want to be sure that
–your colors aren't timid
–the look is clean and uncluttered with easy to read text fonts
–the pages are at most 800 pixels wide
–menus are logical, consistent, and are text-based with hover text or image effects
–every page on the site should be accessible within two clicks via navigational buttons
–new, up-to-date content
–professional headshot(s)
–search capabilities on your website and blog. Google has free search tools that can be added
–all pages are consistent and look relatively alike (same background, same color scheme, same fonts, menu-layout, etc.)
–splash page may be different
–animations kept to a minimum

Find sites you love and you don't like and analyze why that is the case. In your analysis consider: content, theme, colors, fonts, images, overall design, menus, layout, and branding. This is to discern your personal taste. Some good examples are: Jenn Stark, Trish Millburn, Pat White, Toni Blake, and Karen Kendall.

A strong first page is essential and should have a "What's New" section and a "Dear Reader" section. For personal information, photos and blog convey a good sense of your personality. Other essential pages from the main nav bar are articles, links, contact, and media page. An example of a site logline is "Taking you where you want to go..." Book pages should give special insight into your books wth blurbs, excerpts, book trailers, upcoming books, and newsletter signup.

Be sure to register and own alternate domains to your main .com site, such as .net, .biz, .org, and different spellings of your name so that no one else can attempt to hijack your name, brand, and traffic. Registration on Go Daddy for $9. A good hosting service is Brinkster. Track and analyze traffic to your site and blog via Sitemeter.

Marketing your site
–on collective author sites
–via a group blog or guest-blogging
–co-promote with a buddy
–mailing lists and newsltters
–articles for your chapter newsletter
–book trailers
–Facebook, MySpace, or other social networking sites
–reader sites
–reader-author message boards

Book Trailers
–keep it short (Allison Brennan, KILLING FEAR)
–make the viewer feel something (Lisa Gardner, HIDE)
–make it memorable (Diana Holquist, THE SEXIEST MAN ALIVE)
–make sure it selling your product (Meg Cabot)
–remember the medium (Karen Kendall, TAKE ME IF YOU CAN; Elizabeth Bemis, EDGE OF DECEPTION)
–think MOVIE trailer
–use a narrator if possible, narrate in audio, avoid words on a screen
–avoid dialogue, may be one line here and there
–don't use scenes from book; script separately
–avoid bad music
–use upto 36 different images from royalty-free images (like from iStockPhoto)
–making the viewer feel something makes the trailer go viral; scare them like hell
–put them on YouTube

Case Study – Ramona Richards
Before –
–great content
–consistent menus/color/design
–book covers are the perfect size
–all books link to external sites
–great pictures
–site tells a story
–everything within two clicks
–Layout: too wide, doesn't speak to her personal brand, colors are timid, design feels choppy
–Home: doesn't feel like a front page (middle of the story)
–Writing: too much on one page, want to see logical groupings (articles/fiction) on separate pages
Excerpts should be with fictional books, not a separate menu item, one excerpt per page
After –

Learning Resources
BA, W3, Web Monkey
HTML for the World Wide Web by Elizabeth Castro (ISBN 0321130073)
HTML 4 for Dummies by Ed Tittel & Mary Burmeister (ISBN 0764589172)

Web Designers
Bemis Promotions, American Author, Author Bytes, Authors-online, Authors on the Web, Book a Design, Dream Forge Media, Etherweave, Glass Slipper Web Design, Romance and Friends, Romance Designs, Smart Author Sites, Wax Creative, Writerspace

"A shamocrat is someone who pretends to be possessed of wealth, influence, rank, or indeed any quality which is only conspicuous by its absence," according to John Farmer's Americanisms Old and New (1889).