posted on April 14, 2015 by Jeanne Devlin

To have or not to have … the author website

square button: typewriterIt may be hard to believe but not even six years ago a lot of big publishing houses still weren’t sure if websites were going to be a thing—much less eBooks (don’t get me started on that).

As for author websites, well, those were considered an indulgence.  So sweet if the author thought she needed one, but something she needed to do on her own if she did.

Book industry guru Mike Shatzkin lamented recently in his popular industry newsletter how little things changed:  most authors, even newbies, may now have their own author website—but readers might be surprised to learn it is rarely paid for by their publisher.

Publishers have been known to create a website dedicated to the book the house was publishing, but since those have proven to be less than popular with readers, most have gone by the wayside in recent years.  About five years ago, publishers started focusing on their own websites, hoping to reap a little of what Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com do in the ways of direct sales to readers.  And, yes, most publishers now expect an author to have her own site now but many get miffed if the author includes books their house didn’t publish.

Shatzkin argues that just proves publishers are still way behind the digital times.

One person who has always been ahead of the curve is Cissy Hartley, founder of Writerspace, who has been a champion of author websites and chat boards for more than twenty years now—all the way back to her graduate school days.  As a reader and fan herself, Cissy knew she wanted to be talking about Jane Krentz not writing her thesis, and she started a chat board so she could do just that.

She also knew there had to be other readers like her, readers who wanted to spend more time with their author not less—who wanted to learn more about the characters and books and authors they loved and to be kept up to date as to what new books from those authors were coming out.  That conviction eventually led to the creation of Writerspace, and she has since become one of the leading author website designers in the process.

Readers, like yourself, proved she was right:  readers want more, not less.

Which begs the question:  What do you like to see in an author website . . . Chapter excerpts?  Character profiles?  Behind-the-scenes tidbits by your author?  Recipes?  Questions-and-answers?  Contests?  Photos?

Maybe there is also something you’ve never seen an author do on an author website, that you would like to see . . . come on, you can tell me.

If you could whisper in your favorite author’s ear, what would you ask her to add to her website—or never remove?

—Jeanne Devlin

 

Jeanne Devlin

Jeanne Devlin

Jeanne Devlin is editor of The RoadRunner Press, an award-winning traditional publishing house based in the American West. An editor of newspapers, magazines, and books for more than thirty years, she has also worked on national marketing and publicity campaigns with such publishers as Simon and Schuster and St. Martin's and for a number of New York Times bestselling authors, including Robyn Carr, Sabrina Jeffries, Debbie Macomber, Linda Lael Miller, and Wendy Corsi Staub. A graduate of the Stanford University Publishing Course, Jeanne is a member of the Children's Book Council, the National Book Critics Circle, and the Oklahoma Center for the Book of the Library of Congress. She also consults with boutique publishers.

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