Top 10 Peeves from Booksellers and Readers about Author Websites
This is a special post by Bookseller Jolie after talking with some other booksellers and readers.
Readers want to buy your books; booksellers want to sell your books. Even though this article is all about the peeves, it’s really about how to help authors get connected to readers. The only way to do that is have a fabulous website where readers and booksellers can find the answers for which they can use in order to buy more books!
#1 – Series links are not easily identifiable. This should be its own special link on the home page!
When readers find a book they like, they want everything they can get their hands on!!! Whether it’s more in that series or another series you may have!
Booksellers want to stock your series, have all the books on hand. 9 times out of 10 a reader will buy all the books in the series, if a bookstore has them. While booksellers are a smart bunch, we can’t know ALL the books that are interconnected! Like the reader, we’ll go to the author’s website for the information.
# 2 Printable booklist – This makes it so easy for the reader to print and take to the bookstore! And makes it even easier for the bookseller!
The list should have all your books listed on one page, series in chronological order and separated, ISBNs, dates!! Prices and publishers optional but it can’t hurt to have that information too!!
I say printable because, when you print it, all the information should be there and not cut off the page. Everyone’s computer is different so making the list simple and easy is best!
Here are some great examples:
- I LOVE Meljean’s – it has everything!!
- Nora’s is great too – Including the anthologies!!! This is especially important to the JD Robb – In Death series, those short stories about Eve and Rourke are what keep us happy in between!!
- Susan Grant’s Printable Book List”I know how difficult it is sometimes to find where a book fits within a series or even if it belongs to one. For your convenience, here is a list of all of my books on a page with no graphics and text in black (with the series the book belongs to and the reading order in parentheses) easily printed for reference. Happy reading!
I couldn’t have said it better!! Thank you Susan!!
#3 A contact the author link should be visible on the home page – it’s the easiest way for us to tell you how great your books are!
Romance readers love to tell you how much they liked your book! They love that connection to a book and its author as well! So do booksellers for that matter. I’m often telling authors how wonderful they are! Psst, here’s another secret –" I may even tell you special tid-bits! Like how you book is doing in our stores or if we’ve got your book placed in special locations, or your book is selected for our promotions!
#4 The most recent book should be featured on front page with sequel links, etc.
Again, it’s all about a reader getting the most out of your website! If we know the information is at our fingertips – that’s the first place we’ll go!
#5 – Everywhere there is a book mentioned, there should be a 13 digit ISBN . . .
The easiest way to locate a book online and in a bookstore is through this handy number. When used, it’s THAT specific book found very quick and easy!! Readers would rather be reading the book than spending too much time looking for it!
#6 – Coming soon should be on the first page as well. And update it often . . . it’s what keeps us coming back!!!
We’ve just finished your latest book and already we’re looking for more! And we want to go directly to the source – YOU! So what’s next???
#7 – Don’t make us work to buy/sell your books! Keep things simple . . .
The easier it is, the quicker it is, the more time we have to read and sell more!! Make the links easy, don’t hyphenate ISBNs, etc.
#8 – Who would you compare your stories to?
Ex: If you like sexy historicals by Sabrina Jeffries, you’ll love my new book. . .
Or compare it to another medium, if you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you’ll love my new paranormal series. . . We may not always agree, but in the end, it gives us a direction and a place of reference to start.
#9 – Let me know future books in a series . . . dates if you have them or general concepts and plans are great too!
Again, when we readers and booksellers find something we love – we want more!!! And if we have to wait for another book, that’s okay, but give us the lowdown about who, what, when, where – please any information!!!
#10 – Toot your horn — let us know of all the awards you’ve won, etc.
I know there was recent debate on this site about this, but what it comes down to is – you’ve been chosen, over others. Readers and booksellers are interested, especially when we’re looking for a new author, new book. And let’s face it, we ALWAYS are!!
This is more importantly the case when sending out promos to booksellers, if we haven’t had the chance to read your book – at least we know SOMEONE did – and LIKED it enough to give it an award!!!
Oops, yeah, promos to booksellers – that’ll have to keep for another time . . . this is about websites!!
Honestly, what it comes down to for a great website is info, info and more info. If readers and booksellers are getting what they need from your website, readers can get in and out of the bookstore that much quicker, will buy MORE and have more time to read great books!!! And in the end, that’s what we all want!
Most Important!! BGI – bordersstores.com and waldenbooks.com should be linked on everyone’s site — they are the leaders in Romance :)
Oh yeah, you all know I work for one of the chains, so I’m outing myself! We are the industry leader for selling romance. Soon to be the leader of online sales as well!! We have the romance top picks flyer that has over 20 titles with $1 off; a free rewards card; and soon we’ll have our own online retail presence.
Number 3 is what makes me go off the wall sometimes. No, having a “email the webmaster at this address” does not count, people.
This is a great post, Bookseller Jolie. :)
Great list. And now I’m smacking my forehead because I forgot the “guide to series and connected books” when putting together the new site. Oops. Off to fix that, now. Will also be sure to add those links to my links page.
Some authors don’t want contact with their fans. Anne Stuart has no email address; neither does Shana Abe.
Lynn Viehl noted on her blog the other day that “The e-mail contact information that I occasionally post here is provided for winners of my contests and giveaways to send me their ship-to(which I specify each time I post it.)”
Great list. I’m doing almost all of it–but I’m hyphenating my ISBNs. Will fix. Thanks. :)
Oh, and maybe my booklists need to be more…printable. I’ll work on that.
And I did notice that this time when I finaled in the RITA, I put a big Whoopie in my Welcome letter–and got a whole bunch of congrats from readers. So I’m getting I should do more horn-tooting.
My own #1 pet peeve isn’t on this list. Maybe it’s too obvious, but I think every author website should contain an excerpt. I shop online a lot, and without being able to see the author’s writing, I won’t buy. Most author websites do contain excerpts, but every once in a while I run into ones that don’t, and that’s frustrating.
Sarah McCarty has a fantastic website with book listings- ordered by genre and series with each book number displayed for its place in the series. She also has a printable book list. When she redesigned her website a few months back, she had asked for reader input, and the end result is fabulous.
My pet peeve, aside from those you listed, too many graphics, especially of the flash sort, and any kind of music that will blare out of your speakers. The graphics just get in the way, and the music makes me leave.
I love sites that have a thorough list of links front and center. Not everyone coming to the site wants the same thing. Having to waste time just alienates this reader.
BTW, a free resource I use for print authors who don’t have websites, etc, is fantastic fiction.
They don’t have everyone but have a good many.
What a great list. Gaaaah!!! Now I have to do another web site update.
Can I just put in a word for remembering that some of your readers are on dialup, and some are disabled. My own site has a very boring colour scheme, but that is because it uses a style sheet that’s designed to be easy for people with poor vision to read. And you can navigate around it using keyboard commands only — no mouse required.
Fabulous list. I’ll definitely keep these things in mind when I do my next web update. Thanks!
I’m printing this out for when I launch a new website later this year. Thanks!
Jules, that’s an important point. When we started implementing the changes for my new site on my blog page, I mentioned that accessibility would be built in. A blind reader commented in my blog about how much this matters. Something like 97% of websites are not accessible.
Great list! Another thing not mentioned that I like when visiting web sites is a bit of story about the book – how it came about, why that setting, I hate the cover but loved writing it etc. etc. It makes me connect more with both the book and the author. A couple of authors who do this are Jo Goodman and Susan Kay Law.
Thanks so mcuh for posting thie list! I’m about to redo my website, and now I have a plan.
As someone who works in this field lets hit the big old “know your customer and gear your site towards them” rules…
DO NOT DO THIS EVER
Music Loaded With The Page.
I do not care if I can turn it off, it should never have been there in the first place.
If you want to share your horrible taste in music put it in a download. That’s what I do.
Over Use Of Animated Graphics And Those Stupid You Tube Videos.
Flash, Videos and Animated gifs are old hat and look fun the first time I visit and then they get in the way of why I am there.
What is the latest book?
Much like the cover of a book you are selling. Clean, crisp, well done, graphics that stay at the top bottom or sides of the page and clear text based information is always the best way to go.
Everything else should be subtle or left in the trash can where it belongs.
Not Using Titles and Alt Titles In Your Book Images.
Text readers and such can not tell what that picture is if you do not input the title of the image.
Amazon.com is horrible for this mess. Think of your blind readers people they want your books too.
The Most Informative Web Page For The Most Readers.
They work for the fewest readers. You want everyone to be able to access what you have written and see what you have to sell so always stick with a clean HTML based solution… ALWAYS.
My Space Pages
You want to turn an intelligent adult way the fuck off to anything you have to say or sell on the internet.
Tell them they have to go to your My Space Web Page for any reason.
Leave that garbage to the troubled teens and Paris Hilton Freaks.
Finally about style … Dark Web Page Backgrounds
Be very very careful and if in doubt always go for a light background.
Dark backgrounds are hard to read for those people with sight problems or me after a few beers.
Sure, Samhain broke the rule and did this one but look at what is highlighted with their dark background.
THEIR BOOKS GLOW ON THE PAGE.
Last but not least…
Test your website and get a lot of opinions you trust before sending the creator or programmer any large sums of money. Most honest people will only ask for maybe a third to one half up front.
PS my good deed for the day…
Crocodesigns,com has done some bang up romance writer websites.
This has been brought to you by pigs who care.
This has been enlightening for me. Thanks to crocodesigns I have a printable list…and in spite of me whining for a darker color, I think TeddyPig’s right. too dark’s not user friendly.
Sorry, but I like my video … don’t have to play it if you don’t like them and the music’s only on when it’s playing. But the site does need some tweaking now that I’ve read all these responses.
I think some authors need to rethink their not safe for work websites and blogs. The time between 10 am and 2 pm is my busiest on the blog. By having a NSFW blog or website prevents visitors during a prime web browsing from visiting.
Charlene: I have repetitive strain injury and at one point had to use speech recognition software for several months — I got to see exactly how many websites out there aren’t accessible. You may insert swearing here…
Some of my friends are on speech recognition software permanently, and there are a couple of blind people in the various places I hang out online. So I got some help from a friend who designs accessible websites for a living. (Don’t blame her for the grotty aspects of my website — she gave me the stylesheet and some useful tips on how to lay out a page so that it’s useable in accessibility browsers, but she didn’t actually design the site.)
Dara Joy had a horrid web site a few years back. (Not the one she has now though that one has its own problems.) It was very graphics heavy and was tricked out with everythng that would render it useless to anyone who did not hve a DSL connection. I particularly remember pages where without warning pictures of boulders would suddenly appear and obscure the page while they fell to the bottom of the screen.
Thanks Anne and Danielle for mentioning my web design favorably. So good to hear because it took me forever to finalize what I wanted. The one feature I wanted, as I’m dyslexic, is enlargeable text. Any text on my site is, with a click of a button as enlargeable as the reader needs or wants. There’s no limit on the large and no limit on the small, Which can make it fun to play with, too. *G*
I wish more sites had this because little type smushed in amidst tons of graphics makes a page unreadable to me. I had more “Thank you” comments from readers about that feature and as it’s just a simple java script, was easy to implement. After putting this on my site and seeing how well it worked, my webdesigner went and put it on her hosting site. (Access Romance) I personally consider it a must have for any site
*hint hint* I wish the Ja(y)nes’ comment creation section here had that. :-)
Sarah in both Internet Explorer or Firefox go to the task bar and click view and text size.
There is no need to code this since it is a feature of the browser.
What a great article. How innovative – an author’s web site should be about the books.
I agree with Janine – excerpts are mandatory. I visit a web site because I’m interested in a book but still on the fence about buying it. An excerpt is the best way to move a book from “might be interesting” to “track this down”.
Links to booksellers are good. But someone recently commented that DA should include ebook links; I would like authors to at least identify is a book is available in digital format(s).
Look at the site with multiple browsers; at least IE and firefox but also a text browser and a PDA/cell phone. Meisha Merlin (an SF&F publisher) recently posted a “we’re closing” notice that is only visible with IE. No wonder they can’t stay in business. Similarly, I was complaining about the appearance of the DA forum in firefox – happened to look at the forum on my palm – wow, what a difference.
Once you’ve chosen your colour scheme, go to the library and check the visibility there (assuming that your library has the same low-end monitors as mine). On my monitor, I can barely read the mauve background/black text at RTB. I no longer visit the site. And, as other posters have said – forget the dark backgrounds.
Forget the front page welcome mat (I’m thinking of Anne Stuart’s new site). I grumble every time I have to click past the first screen.
Man! I already do most of this, so I’m feeling relieved, but I do have one question – as an obsessive website tweaker – how much is too much? My site keeps expanding and growing as I keep adding things. I was afraid it was getting too hard to navigate, so I added a “site map.” Ack! Another page! I already have a page for each book and each contracted book that’s coming soon. I have 4 different genre sections (with themed graphics) apart from the main section, which also has 4 parts.
I’d taken my alt titles out to make my code easier for me to read – yes, I code this sucker myself – but now that I understand why they’re so important, I’ll go through and put them all back in (as time allows). Thanks for explaining that. And in what other specific ways can one make a website “accessible?” Suggestions are welcome.
One thing about putting your email link on your site. I did for a while and got SPAMMED like nobody’s business. I took the link off and won’t put it back until I can figure a way to avoid the spam. I love to hear from readers and put a link to my chat group on my front page instead. I know most people don’t want to have to join a group to talk with an author, but it’s the best I could come up with to avoid getting spammed into the next universe. LOL
Basic design at its most fundamental – information first, everything else last. Way, way last. Think about what you want to say, organize it in the most logical way then put in the bells and whistles to make the most impact. Thing is, you may not even need any bells and whistles to make an impact, depending on the information. That’s especially true when we’re talking about books that have covers that speak for them. Those can be the bells and whistles in most cases.
One of my biggest pet peeves from web sites are unnecessarly false home pages. There are some sites that need those “intro” pages – erotica/erotic romance authors come to mind where they want to warn of potential adult content – but most sites don’t need a false front. Just get to the good stuff already. Pul-lease.
But again, that falls under figuring out what you want to say and organizing it correctly. There is a different flow to different types of information. A lot of sites don’t take those differences into account which is what causes navigation problems for unwary visitors.
Bianca, you might find this website has some useful suggestions on making a site more accessible:
Some other stuff — my site has a site menu and page menu at the top and bottom of every page — and the first item on the menu is “skip menu”. The text that’s hyperlinked includes enough text for it to be clear what the link is if someone is using software that simply reads through a list of links, so that soemone doesn’t have to listen to the whole page read aloud to find the link they want. Alt titles are important, but so is setting the size of the image being displayed, and coding the page so that the text is downloaded first rather than waiting until after all the images have been downloaded.
As LinM says, look at the site in a number of different browsers — including a text-only browser such as Lynx. If your site’s unusable in Lynx, it’s going to be unusable in a lot of specialist accessibility software. Vischeck is useful for seeing what your site looks like to colour-blind people.
Actually Sarah, there is a font change option here at Dear Author. If you look up at the top right of the screen for any individual post, there are three “As” under “adjust font size” which you can click on to go large or small. They appear about halfway down on the right on our “home” page.
Bianca, I don’t post my email address on my site, either, but I have a contact form which anybody can use to send me an email directly. Prevents having my email addy spammed relentlessly and allows communication. : )
Re the “adult” content, I made the decision from the beginning that my site would not be adult-only except in the excerpts. I didn’t want a site that wasn’t work-safe. And the excerpts are labeled “18 and over” (except for the ones that aren’t adult content). So somebody could browse the books, read blurbs, get ISBN’s, click to buy, etc., all without dealing with adult content.
I’ll second (or third or fourth, now) the bit about light text/dark background. Some combinations I’m okay (I don’t have any problem with the RTB site that was mentioned), but those “way cool” black backgrounds with white or yellow text literally give me a headache.
There are a few author blogs I’d visit regularly if I could read them without getting a headache.
I’ll also be the first one to say, I don’t see the point – at all! – of book “trailers”. You know, those little flash “videos” that are supposed to be all the rage right now? I think they’re…well…stupid, to be honest. Give me a picture of the cover, a description of the book, and a link to an excerpt, and I’m satisfied. Go a little further…say, with some backstory for a book or series, and I’m thrilled.
Do like Kelly Armstrong and give me something to read while I’m waiting for the next book to come out? Well, that’s the ultimate for me!
On the spam problem — I have a gmail address which I use openly on my website, with no obfuscation at all. I find that the gmail spam filter does an adequate job of separating the spam from the real stuff, with just the occasional bit of spam getting through. I check the spam bin occasionally in case it’s eaten a real email, but the few times I’ve found real mail in there, it’s because I’ve accidentally marked something as spam so it’s put more email that looks like that in the spambin.
These are good tips. I’m going to have to re-look at my website, dark background and all. Sigh.
Since I’ve been busy at the bookstore . . . I’m a little delayed in posting comments!! Not that you need my comments though . . . ;-)
Janine and LinM – I agree I LOVE seeing excerpts. I think because my research was done through the booksellers and bookstores where the books are literally at your fingertips, no one really commented on excerpts. Now, for online bookstores — absolutely can’t do without them!! Readers want to get a taste of what the story is and what the writing is like!
Bianca — Charlene had a great suggestion for the email — where she has a contact form. It doesn’t give out your email address, but it lets those readers who are too shy to post at your blog a way to get in touch with you.
As for your site, I don’t think you can ever have too much info – unless of course the site is confusing and hard to navigate at the start. (I’ve been to your site and it’s just perfect! ;-))
Miki – the book trailers! I *used* to think the same thing, but you wouldn’t believe the number of customers who are loving them!! We have featured some at My Borders Monthly (Borders romance email) and readers went nuts!!
I agree though, if you have a choice of the cover, a blurb and an excerpt VS a book trailer . . . ALWAYS go for the information, because that is what readers are looking for when they visit an author’s website!!!
Jayne and Ted, it doesn’t enlarge the CREATION box, so even if I see a typo below, I can’t *see* it in the tiny print in the text creation box when I’m typing a commmet which makes it really hard to find the word I need to fix in the comment creation box.
Do you mean the comment box? I could change that. I did just set it up to change the post box but I think it is a fairly easy css fix.
Sarah – give it a try now. I increased the size of the comment box font. I probably need to increase the size of the comment box, but it should be easier.
Hmmm, Jane I don’t know if that fixed it since the comment font still looks small to me. As Sarah says, what we see below in the preview section did increase but not what is typed inside the box.
Do a hard refresh (ctrl + F5) and see if that doesn’t change things.
I hate the ones with music playing.
Sabrina Jeffries has one of the best author sites, imo.
Thanks for the tips, Jolie! After four iterations of my website, I think I have all the things posted as ‘must haves’ for readers when it comes to an author’s website. Even though I’m happy with my website, I think there’s always ways to improve it. I still want to tweak the Novels page to make it even easier to view by series vs genre. All the information is there now, but I’m trying to find the most streamlined way to present it for the readers surfing my website.
Karen Rose has a good website, particularly when it comes to denoting what characters are in what books. She also has a page just for booksellers (although i note that one page has a missing link/image). Julie Garwood’s page is very bad. It’s very graphic intensive and I rarely can find what I am looking for. Sigh.
I agree with everything you all have said. I’ve also noticed that many authors forget the importance of the “behind-the-scenes” stuff. My frustration has often come when I have to employ sophisticated search tactics to find an author’s site. By using better meta tags (or any meta tags *g*), you could help your readers find you when they search for you. Sometimes I look at the source code behind an author’s web site and shake my head. Each one of your pages should have its own meta tags, and you should be careful about the keywords and the like that you choose. There are good articles out there on the net about search engine optimization that would really help authors make some very simple tweaks to their sites that would then help readers find them much more easily. Not every author as an authorname.com site, even though they should!
Patrice – Before I go any further, I have to have a bit of a fan-girl moment – I LOVE your books!! :-D
You’re right, if you categorized your books by series rather than by genre, it would be much easier for readers to find what they’re looking for. While many of us readers read certain genres within romance, most of us are *more* interested in which books are part of a series! Wouldn’t want to miss one, you know. ;-)
Jane – it’s because we keep looking for news of her next historical and well, just don’t find anything to appease us! LOL!
For those not wanting to blatantly post their emails addresses: I was over at C.E. Murphy’s website this evening, and she’s listed her email address (without a direct link) this way:
I had to look at it twice before I saw it was an email address, but then I figured it out. :wink:
Trying the type now. Oh, this is better. THANK YOU!!!!!!
Thank you so much for your compliments on my books! I appreciate the advice on the series vs genre break down. Changing this will be in my next overhaul of my website. I’m always tweaking. :)
Thanks for the comments on accessibility. I’m a totally blind reader myself and while I can usually navigate most websites without a problem, there are definitely sites that I like better than others. And I agree with Teddy’s comments about myspace. Not only does myspace bring to mind hordes of emo teenagers, but the site itself really sucks in the accessibility department.
Read for the first time today. Loved the info. Hope I’ve understood because have changed my site to suit – Tony
As an addition to yesterdays message, If any of you illustrious people would care to look at my web on http://www.anthonyjamesbarnett.co.uk I would be very pleased to have any feedback you might be kind enough to offer. Thanks.
Great article, but what is -"? Is it some code my computer does not recognize, a fake name for a book or what? I found the article hard to read because I kept running into this at odd places, and have no idea what it could mean.
sorry about that. we had some database issues.
Hi, I just wanted to share with you, my romantic mystery, WITHOUT REPROACH, has been published, and I’m still on cloud nine. I just want to know how to bump up the sales. Is there any chance of you people in the know, letting me in on your secrets?
Jules: While I agree that site needs to be accessible for ppl w disabilities, slow connections etc., and that most ppl who make websites are completely ignorant about how to make them so, I have to say that your website bores me to tears.
Yes, it’s highly accessible, but in the online landscape of today, you look like you fell off the wagon 15 years ago and hasn’t found your way back to civilized country again. Sorry, but your website is everything but appealing.
There IS a middle way between accessible and appealing. You just need to find the right balance.
I can see that you are an professional at your field! I’m launching a world-wide-web web site quickly, and your details will most likely be pretty helpful for me.. Thanks for all of your help and wishing you all of the success.
I am a debut author who’s just been picked up by TreasureLine. My website is under construction right now and I’ve been searching author sites to see how mine should behave. ;)
I’m so happy to have come across this one! Thank you SO much for caring about us and telling us what we should provide! I can’t wait to get to my site, now!
YA Paranormal Romance DARKSPELL coming soon!
friend me on facebook!
Agreed! There are so many terrible author sites out there, it’s a wonder these authors sell books. I was one of the fortunate ones for my novel NIGHTWORLD. http://www.maureennoel.com. Just as authors need editors to whittle down their books, it’d be a good idea to take an editor to their websites as well.
Great list. Very practical and to the point. Worthy of an update.
Great information that made me hit my head and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Shame on me, I didn’t. But I’m going back to the drawing board now with my lame website. Many thanks!