I attended a seminar at the Northwest Book Fest about websites. The speaker said a website is an author’s home out in the internet, and a place where the author has control and doesn’t have to worry about a host disappearing or changing rules. I understand all of that, plus all his other points.
When I like an author, I look them up online and visit their website just to get a feel for who they are. I rarely purchase books directly from their websites, and should probably rethink that, to keep funds local rather than automatically going to Amazon. Some of those sites actually add to my interest in purchasing a book. Some websites are awful, and leave me thinking if the author can’t put more effort in than that, why should I bother to buy? Especially if it’s an author that I haven’t read yet. That always makes me feel guilty, rather like judging a person by their appearance, which I know better than to do.
As I look at websites by authors, I realize the ones I like are the ones that feel like visiting a friend, a place to hang out, a place with interesting things to read. The ones I don’t like are the ones that simply shout ‘Buy my book! Now!’
I attempted a website once. As far as I know, it’s floating around out there somewhere, lonely and forgotten. Why? Because I paid someone I knew $200 to build it for me, and when I tried to research how to optimize search engine results, realized I didn’t own the domain name and so couldn’t do any work or make any changes. When I went back to the web builder, she never responded to any of my queries. A failed attempt and a learning experience.
Now I’m debating the merits of having a professional website built. By a reputable company, with options for continuing to work with me after the site is built, for doing research and search engine optimization for me, and so on. Starting at around $6,000. Those of you who know me, know I am cheap. Hence the $200 website. And look where that got me. Yet I’m torn.
Are websites really that valuable? Are they as necessary as people believe, to get your name and work out there? Do you, as readers and authors, look at author websites? I know one fellow author doesn’t feel websites are valuable, but then her blog has her name as a title, so people can find her if they type in her name. This blog doesn’t have my name on it, so there’s no ‘home’. But I like the name of my blog and don’t want to change it.
Ah, the dilemma. Ah, the cost.
3 thoughts on “A Presence on the Web”
Hmm, interesting questions. I don’t visit author websites, generally, though there are some exceptions. Those are because they offer extras about the stories/characters (notes on earlier drafts, for instance), or provide an easily navigable guide to, say, the order of books in a series (and sometimes Wikipedia is enough for that). But mostly, the book jacket or back flap bio of the author is enough for me. I’ve seen some stunning author sites (JK Rowling used to have a gorgeous and interactive one, but then, money is no issue for her) and also some that were very simple blogs. I don’t mind either as long as the site is well done and feels better than generic. But I am all for breaking all the rules of “should.” Erik is a programmer, so you might think his tech presence would be better than average, but no. His website contains nothing but his email address on a white background (not even in a pretty font!), and somehow that works for him.
I also like those sites that have things about early drafts, the writing process, etc. It’s like being in a special circle, an insider, a different connection than as just the reader. I guess one thing I keep wondering about, is that in the billions and billions of websites out there, and all the authors out there, how do you stand out without being in someone’s face?
I would add a related question, too: how do you stand out for longer than two minutes? Especially on the internet, but also in general, I feel that people’s enthusiasms often don’t last. I don’t want to be an artist whose website goes viral and then no one revisits it two months later; I want my work to be a relationship, the way my favorite books have played a meaningful role in my life. I guess that might be an answer (to your “how do you stand out?”) as well as another question.