I Heart Indies

Friday, January 29, 2010

Author's Websites

What do you want on your author's website?
I don't think anyone ever purchased a novel because he saw it on the internet but if you have a book, you need a site nonetheless.
Browsing websites, two that stand out for me are Elizabeth George's and Alexander McCall Smith's.  Smith has a lot more bells and whistles (literally).  When you go to his website, featuring his best-selling No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series, a pleasant musical theme appropriate to his books starts up.  The background is a beige and earth tones suggesting the Botswana landscape where his most popular novels are set.  Through his website you can not only purchase books, follow Smith's tour schedule, and read articles and interviews, there is a feature allowing you to "Ask Mma Ramotswe" where readers send in email queries to the fictional lady detective, and she answers selected questions in her beautifully naive yet wise way.  Smith says he will also respond to selected emails.
Most writers don't have the time or resources to commit to a project such as that, but Smith's approach reminds us that ultimately promotion is an act of generosity; it means an author making himself available to his audience.
Elizabeth George's website, in keeper with her genre of darker crime fiction, is also dark.  Along the left side are links for appearances, a photo gallery, press materials, a biography, and a FAQ pages where George responds to questions frequently asked about her novels and herself as a writer.  Smith's website has more charm, perhaps, but George's site, without being hokey, sets a mood appropriate to her fiction.
Generally, I think, for most authors, less is more.  Your site should be easy to read and navigate, free of clutter, and provide opportunities for readers to know the author if not actually contact him.  Unless you're a mega bestseller, you probably don't need to worry about being deluged with emails if you put a "Contact Me" link on your page.  My own website, still under development, may turn out more like the Alexander McCall Smith site than Elizabeth George's.  Although Adam Newman the character in my forthcoming book isn't part of a series and is unknown, he has a capacity for giving quirky but oddly practical advice that might create an "advice column" similar to Smith's.
Anyway, them's my thoughts.  I'd love to hear about your favorite author websites, so send 'em in.

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