The Writer’s Web Site: The Do’s and Don’t’s
(NOTE: This is a re-post of a blog article I did for the Seattle Examiner.)
Besides your writing and a new release, an effective web site is the most important marketing tool in a writer’s arsenal. It allows readers to connect with you and find out more about your books, which will hopefully entice them to whip out their credit cards. Sometimes it can be a reader’s first impression of you–and you want to make a good first impression, don’t you?
- Do keep it current. Readers usually visit the web site to find out more about the latest or upcoming releases. Don’t disappoint them.
- Do post your backlist. Even the out-of-print titles so readers can glom you. Once hooked, they’ll get the current releases and keep an eye out for the upcoming ones.
- Do post samples of your writing. Be it excerpts or free stories, letting readers try your writing is a great way to hook them. Excerpts can make them curious enough to want to read the entire story and free stories can let them decide whether or not your writing connects with them.
- Do edit and proofread. Spelling or grammatical errors on a writer’s web site are ironic and, frankly, unprofessional. If a writer can’t get it right on something as simple as a web site, readers will wonder if the full-length novel will be littered with errors.
- Do buy your author domain. http://www.YOURNAME.com is much easier to remember than http://www.188.8.131.52/~anonymouswriter/.
The don’t’s can be summed up with three little words: Keep it simple. (There’s usually another S word tagged on at the end, but I censored myself.) A web site should be fast to upload and easy to navigate because patience is a vanishing virtue. (Or, at least, mine is.)
- Don’t use fixed font sizes. Allow users to decrease or increase the font size as they need to since not everyone has perfect vision.
- Don’t use light text on a dark background. You might write dark and moody paranormals but realize light text on a dark background hurts the eyes and is inherently less readable than dark text on a light background. There’s a reason books are black text on white paper.
- Don’t use large graphics. It increases loading time and usually serve no purpose. If you have a large graphic because you’re using an image map, it’s time to get a new web designer.
- Don’t use the latest and greatest. Not everyone will have the latest plug-ins and add-ons. Forcing readers to download plug-ins to view your web site will test their patience. And they might get distracted by other stuff when they click away from your site to download those plug-ins.
- Don’t use Flash. You’re not a gamer, a musician, or a filmmaker. Readers come to your web site to read about you and your books. More importantly, Flash is annoying, buggy, and enough of a resources hog that most browsers have add-ons to block it and certain mobile devices (e.g. iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, etc.) do not allow it entirely. As of September 2010, Apple sold 120 million iOS devices. Do you want to block these potential readers?
- Don’t use obscure link titles. Most readers will not know “Bower” is the bio page.
- Don’t underline non-linked text. Internet users have been taught from early on that underlined text is a link, thus underlining text that is not a link is both confusing and frustrating.
- Don’t use frames. It’s 2010. Frames are so eighties. Thank God.
- Don’t use scrolling within frames inside a frameset. Don’t compound the sin of using frames by forcing your readers to scroll within the frames. They have to do enough scrolling as it is.
- Don’t use music. You’re a writer, not a musician. And it’s annoying when a web site tries to play over my own playlist.