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Some Thoughts on Practices for Author Websites

Journal Entry: Fri Dec 21, 2012, 10:50 PM
Marcus's Tower at Sunset Promotional Poster by merrak

My latest endeavor has been putting together a website for A Foundation in Wisdom. This is the sort of task that is hard the first time, because I need to work out a formula. Once I find something that works, I can copy it for the next three books.

I'll call this part 1 of "Getting the Word Out on the Internet".

The problem with publishing is that so many tasks depend on the successful completion of previous tasks. In the software world, this is called dependency Hell.

Relevant example: In order to design my website, I needed to come up with content for it - including a sample of the novel. This is something Amazon will do for you automatically, but there's one problem with their preview. It's automatic.

So, the first question on the topic of samples is how much to give away... and what? Since all I found on the internet were contradictory responses, I asked the folks on the literature forum for their thoughts, and received quite a few helpful replies.

The common consensus was:
1. Give away a significant portion... something that could stand as a story
2. Pick from the beginning.

I've linked to the thread if you want to view the conversations.

So while I wrestle with the question of where to cut off the sample, I designed the framework for my site. Here are some thoughts. I'll have to see how the site affects sales before I can report on how it works. As usual, please share your experiences.

The author websites I've found seem to be designed to give existing readers some insight on the author or the book, and not necessarily gain new readers. From what I've seen, this general formula seems to hold for both established authors, and new, self-published authors.

In my design, I tried to think about what turns readers off of purchasing books online. The best answer I found (and is in the thread above) is that a reader can't flip through the entire book online. Also, reading a long text on a screen can be a hassle.

I can't really address the first point very well. Since my work is a series, I could simply give away the first book for free, hoping I can hook people on the rest of the series. I'm not ready to go down that road yet.

I can, though, address the second issue. And it's relatively simple. For Kindles, you can use Kindle Personal Documents Service to email PDF and Kindle-formatted e-texts. Many e-readers and tablets also have email capability.

So, I have designed the site as closely as possible in line with what someone would do at a bookstore. From the cover, go to the blurb. On the blurb page is a link to "email sample to your kindle/Nook/whatever". Of course, there's a "download here" option.

I've tried to focus less on myself because... well... who's going to care who I am? Let's try to keep the site as simple as possible. The more distractions there are, the more opportunities there will be for a visitor to get sidetracked from the one task I really want them to accomplish: checking out my book.

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