Oct 23 2006
This past week readers have been talking websites and how we really like them. Author websites provide us with information on what is next, what you’ve written in the past and whether we will like your books if you are new to us. Essentially, they are an online sales brochure which help convince eager readers to buy, buy, buy.
During the Nalini Singh viral blogging experiment, I visited alot of blogs. I visited the blogs that linked here and then I would visit sites that were linked to the blog I visited. I’ve visited websites of virtually every author I’ve read and every author that I am somewhat interested in. Let me say that like the writing, the quality of the website/blog varies a great deal from very amateurish to very professional. I’ve seen very good websites for bad authors and very bad websites for good authors.
Some authors, like Sylvia Day, are dismissive of the need for an online presence.
Right now, yes, because so few romance readers are online. The majority of them don’t participate in the online romance community.
It is true that the number of readers who post, blog, buy at Amazon are a small percentage of overall readership. However, to ignore the internet’s ability to create consumer recognition and assist in creating the authorial brand is shortsighted. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project report in November of 2005, 2/3 of American adults are online. This translates into about 137 million people. Certain groups lag behind such as those 65 and older. Parsed out into more discrete segments and the numbers are more telling.
Online by age
- 26% of Americans age 65 and older
- 67% of those age 50-64
- 80% of those age 30-49
- 84% of those age 18-29
Online by education
- 29% of those who have not graduated from high school have access
- 61% of high school graduates
- 89% of college graduate
88% of those online use it on a DAILY basis.
What are the demographics of the romance buying public?
- 70% are 64 and under
- 66% have some post secondary education
How many books do you need to sell in the space of a week to make it on the bestseller list? Tess Gerritsen blogged that it took around 21,000 copies to make number 12 for the hardcover release of Body Double. According to Book Standard, Nora Roberts’ Dream Makers, which was a reprint of Untamed and Less of A Stranger, debuted a No.5 and sold 21,000 copies according to Nielson ratings. Are there 21,000 readers online? You bet. Doing the math, failure to have an internet presence, particularly for a new or unestablished author, seems, well, you can insert your own adjective.
Sarah McCarty posted
Personally, I have yet to meet an editor or publicist that hasn’t felt a strong web presence isn’t vital for an author. Word of mouth is still the best selling tool for an author and there’s no better place for getting that going than the internet.
When I first started out in business, the casual dress philosophy was sweeping white collar industries. Khakis, open toed shoes, bare legs under skirts all began appearing. One of my mentors who never gave in to the casual dress mantra told me something I would never forget. You dress for the position you want, not the one you have. So authors, I tell you that you should dress your website for the position on the bestseller lists that you want, not the one that you have.
You want to be a New York Times bestselling author like Nora Roberts? Christine Feehan? Debbie Macomber? Lori Foster? Have you been to those websites? Do they look professional to you or do they look like something a third grader put together in computer arts class? If you look professional and successful, people who visit your website will think you are professional and successful and that your books are good. If you look sloppy and childish, people who visit your website will think you are sloppy and childish and that your writing is too. Please, though, do not use Suzanne Brockmann, as a template. Hers would fall under one of the worst designed websites.
As as time marches forward, will the internet have a stronger influence on sales or less? Besides Linda Howard, name one big name romance author who does not have a website. If the web is so unimportant, I would think the website would be the first thing to go. Or do those Bestselling authors know something?
Here’s a list of five things every author website must have within 1 click.
- Booklist, both with covers and a printable list
- Where to buy the books (especially important for OOP or ebook authors)
- What’s Next (even if you haven’t sold anything, tell us what you would like to see in print soon)
- Contact (only if you are going to reply)
- Behind the scenes stuff
- Message Board. Even though these types of things may foster the crazy fangirls, I don’t think you can discount their power in creating a loyal fan base.
If you do not have a website under your own name such as Jane Author.com, you are not professional. It costs $6.00 or less to reserve your website name and less than $100 per year to host a website. If you can’t afford to spend that money on promoting your writing you must not be serious about your career. I don’t think it is sufficient to have a blog because blogs rarely give me the information I need in an immediate fashion. There are many, many, many blogs that do not tell the reader what books you write and where to buy them. For example, there is a regency writer who has a blog presence and I went to her blog to find out what she wrote. I spent 5 minutes there, clicking around trying to find the name of her book. It was nowhere to be found on her blog. I finally figured out her name, googled her and found the information but why make it so hard on a reader?
If you don’t reserve the name now, some squatter might buy your name and hold it hostage for some ridiculous sum of money which is what I assume is happening with Janet Evanovich. Having your own website name also helps to ensure that your website is the first one that shows up in google and not some other website that may have a negative review of your book.
What I hate:
- Starry backgrounds. Please enough with the freaking starry backgrounds. First, it is hard to read. Second, it just screams of unprofessionalism. Unless, of course, your entire series of books relies on stars or is somehow related to starry backgrounds.
- Too cute stuff like hearts and flowers? Not unless you are a flower shop. Cough and gag
- Graphic intensive. Many people still are on dialup. Do you know how long it takes for your website to load for a reader on dialup? If it takes more than 10 seconds or so, I am moving on.
- Mazelike interface. I don’t like to have to go to more than two links to find out the information I need. Please don’t direct me to some special site made for your characters just so I can find out book info. It’s more than irritating, it’s rude.
To those readers who are online (but maybe not interactive), the website may be the only contact a reader has with your books, your product. Why not make sure the contact is exactly the way you want it to be? Meljean Brook, the author of upcoming book Demon Angel which was so good I was unable to read another fantasy book for a week, noted that she changed her website because the graphic didn’t fit with the type of books she was writing.
I don’t know of a reader who has been unhappy that authors have websites. I have heard alot of complaints from readers about authors who do NOT have websites.
Next week: Who is at fault for the demise of historicals? Authors, publishers or readers?