Time to do blog crafts!

Okay, I need advice. Now that life has calmed down somewhat, I need to do something about this blog. I’m going to be creating a WordPress blog with multiple pages, one that will look more like a serious writer-person website and will also, I hope, appeal to readers.

But I suspect the reasons I visit certain websites are different from the reasons non-writers enjoy (or dislike) particular sites. And since those of you who read this blog are avid readers as well as some of the smartest people I know, I thought I’d ask you:

  • What do you like/dislike about author websites? What features do you enjoy and which just irritate the heck out of you? 
  • What keeps you coming back? What makes you visit the site of a writer you’ve never heard of?
  • Any suggestions for things you think might help me attract new readers (without being annoying)? For instance, I’m thinking about featuring a quarterly email newsletter (with news, duh, but also maybe short stories or an on-going series, perhaps even pictures?) and urging subscribers to share it with friends — do you subscribe to author newsletters and, if so, what do you enjoy/dislike about that? 
  • Is it useful if an author provides sidebar links, do you ever click on them and which ones? 
  • Do you find it entertaining when authors have guest bloggers and why/why not?
  • What am I not considering that I should?

I realize what you probably want most is to know when the book is coming out, and I’m working on that. But I also need to do this and I want to do a good job of it.

Feel free to post links to author sites you particularly love and I’ll go look at them (if you don’t give me a link, I might not be able to find it).

I recently read this blog post by author Ann Aguirre addressing the topic and she covers quite a few of the basics, with more feedback provided in the comments.

And that’s very helpful. But I want to know what you all think. I can promise there won’t be music or things that flash. Or pink. Beyond that, I’m open to suggestions.

Enjoy the word verifications while they last . . .


Filed under blogging, marketing, reader opinion

22 responses to “Time to do blog crafts!

  1. rssasrb

    Most author sites I visit if I read a book of theirs I really loved and want to know how to get in touch to let them know. So an easy contact link so I can send them an email is essential.

    I also go to look and see when their next book is coming out and what they are working on.

    I don't go to many author blogs. I will of course go to yours but I could spend all day going from blog to blog because they are interesting and it's easier to do that than to write.

    I'm on a couple of newsletter lists. Again I want to know when books are coming out, tips on writing or publishing, I personally don't want to read the new book in little bits and pieces but do like scenes that have been deleted or short stories not related to the book.

    I just deleted a newsletter because the format was so cutsie that it made me gag. I have no fears of that here.

    I don't often read guest bloggers for the same reason I don't go to a lot of blogs. It pulls me away from writing. But I'm willing to give it a try.

    So what do I look for: A home page with links to the other pages that is easy to navigate; I like to read the bios of authors I enjoy, so a bio page; a page with info on books author has written, when books are coming out, is he/she working on another one; where will the author be speaking or signing;blog page with easy link but separate from the home page

    Hope this helps.


  2. McB

    I go to blogs usually because I like that author's voice. I come back to the blogs because they are entertaining/informative, the same reason I read their books. Leaving comments can be fun, but it's not necessary to keep me coming back. Regular fresh posts are necessary. Links that are pertinent to a topic or the general theme of the blog are good; links for the sake of links are just clutter.

    I'm not a huge fan of guest bloggers. A special occasion thing, okay; but it's the author's voice I want, not the guest's.

    And the best way to get new people to come to your blog is to comment on other blogs, giving people the chance to follow the breadcrumbs back to your place. Which means you have to be witty and insightful so as to entice them to follow you home. You've got witty and insightful, now you just have to speak up a little more often.

    untrize – a do over.


  3. McB

    Oh, newsletters. The thing is, if you decide to have one then you have to keep it up, otherwise what's the point?


  4. Keziah Fenton

    I'm not a big fan of newsletters. I do like to read snippets of the author's personal life as it pertains to their writing. Links are cool especially if they're relevant to one of the author's books. Definitely a booklist. What do you like on author websites? You're also a reader.


  5. Merry

    I have to agree with the Canadian. Newsletters leave me cold. But authors who share details (on their blog) of the trials and travails of a writer-in-the-trenches, giving Real Life (such as it is) details, that I would listen to attentively.

    Methinks there's a high percentage of the population who Wants To Write. Sharing Real Honest Writer details makes them feel like they've got an insider view of the business. Which will make them want to read your books because They Know You and they want to see how you worked the magic.

    Mind you, when I say they know you, I do not mean they know how often you do laundry or snarl at the neighbor who lets their dog leave his calling card on your lawn. They want to know How To Be a Successful Writer. They probably already know about laundry and irritating neighbors 😉


  6. BCB

    All of these are good points to consider and some I hadn't thought about. I'm really undecided about the newsletter. It would be a LOT of work, but might also be fun. A chance to write short pieces of fiction. And if it reaches more readers, it would be well worth the effort.

    Keziah, I rarely visit blogs as a reader. I go to those that are aimed at and have advice for writers. I don't think I've ever visited the site of an author just because I liked their books. I simply read more of their books. 😉

    But I've found so many great places for writers thanks to twitter. I'll probably create a page just for writers with some of the better ones listed/linked.

    Thanks, guys. All good stuff to ponder.


  7. BCB

    Oh! Hi, Merry. You commented while I was.

    I think if a newsletter contained some of that "insider" information, especially if it were done in an entertaining and humourous manner, it might be worth reading. I'll be sure not to send one to you. 😉

    I've really hesitated to blog about my writing process. Mainly because I don't really have a process yet, but also because at this point it'd just sound like whining. I think it's different if you've had some success and can point to things and say, "This worked for me." Someday…


  8. orangehands

    ok, talked too much, have to break this into two parts:

    Since I think about my future site all the time, here's some ideas:

    Home Page

    Keep it simple, uncluttered, and don't have so much you have to continually scroll down. For an example of what not to do would be Suzanne Brockmann's homepage. It always feels like you have to scroll down forever (and on that, make sure you have your links to all your big pages – for ex: books, author info/bio, news, etc – at the top of your home page). She also has way too much writing/links, and it feels very cluttered.

    Also, I tend to feel simple is best. For ex: JK Rowling and John Marsden (well, all pages except his home page) have a kind of hide and seek in finding all of their different pages/items. A good example of simple would probably be Marsha Qualey (though she has her page tabs at the bottom, you don't scroll and so they are always right there). A more detailed but still simple ex. would be Nora Roberts.

    Books Tab

    I like it when authors offer the cover (or for those who have books planned but don't have covers yet, something like Ann Aguirre does for her future books) and then two links: details/synopsis and excerpt.

    And on that note, have excerpts! I absolutely do not understand why authors don't. Make sure your contract doesn't prohibit it cause it's the biggest turn off for a book page.


  9. orangehands

    What keeps you coming back? What makes you visit the site of a writer you've never heard of?

    A good blog keeps me* coming back. Or a news update about books. Or a promised excerpt. I also come back to check on book news. {It helps if authors update every once in awhile, even if they don't have much new stuff to say. For example Tami Hoag hasn't updated since her last book came out. It doesn't need to be once a month but if I don't hear from an author after three months of silence I stop visiting their site (and therefore forget about them).}

    To visit a new site, I'm usually looking up an author someone told me* about or I clicked on their name after they said something at another site I liked/thought was interesting/made me* think/etc.

    Any suggestions for things you think might help me attract new readers (without being annoying)? – do you subscribe to author newsletters and, if so, what do you enjoy/dislike about that?

    I subscribe to some, mostly for news updates, esp if they don't have a blog. I also do it for an offer of coupons, free stories, a look at an excerpt sooner (sometimes authors offer their subscribers a look at something before they add it to their website), etc. I like how Suzanne Brockmann does her newsletters- she puts an "outline" (with links) at the top so you can skip to the parts you want rather than read through the whole thing of details.

    Is it useful if an author provides sidebar links, do you ever click on them and which ones?

    Some authors have a page of "links" (which I like better than just a list of links on the side) and I tend to enjoy them. I like when they lead to stuff about reading, good blogs, or even authors they follow. I don't think I've ever been turned off from an author just because I don't like/dislike their links. Of course, I've never clicked on a link that took me* to Nazis for Life, so I'm not worried about what the hell is wrong with the author.

    Do you find it entertaining when authors have guest bloggers and why/why not?

    I don't want it all the time (the author should be at least 70% of the blog posts) but have an interesting or informative guest blogger once in awhile and I'd enjoy it. Or for daily blogs, one day a week (or once a month on a certain day, for example) could be devoted to a guest blogger. Even a "meet a different author interview" could be good. But if you have bad guest bloggers than I won't read them and if you have them often I wouldn't send someone to that blog.

    What am I not considering that I should?

    Sometimes a cool graphic (ex: Scott Westerfeld’s homepage) at the top of the homepage can add something.

    Not me* in particular but a lot of readers love freebies- stories (ok, that I love), logos, images, desktops, character quizzes, etc. A lot of YA authors have things like that on their blogs. Ex: Ally Carter (who also has a good homepage). There are more examples, but I'm blanking on them.

    Suzanne Brockmann's homepage: http://www.suzannebrockmann.com/
    JK Rowling: http://www.jkrowling.com/en/index.cfm
    John Marsden: http://www.johnmarsden.com.au/home.html
    Marsha Qualey: http://www.marshaqualey.com/
    Nora Roberts: http://www.noraroberts.com/
    Ann Aguirre’s future books: http://www.annaguirre.com/books/
    Scott Westerfeld’s homepage: http://scottwesterfeld.com/blog/
    Ally Carter: http://allycarter.com/ya_fun.php


  10. OH

    And contests!


  11. BCB

    OH, have I told you lately how amazing I think you are? Because, wow. Thank you so much! I'll check out all those links after work tonight.

    Knowing how much you LOVE Brockmann, it completely cracked me up that you're disapproving of her website. As much as I love her books, I've never once visited it. Maybe I should get out more often…

    And I realize it may be months before you return over here, but I have to ask anyway: contests? Um, I'm clueless. What kind of contests? And what is a worthy prize?


  12. Slave Driver

    Thank you in advance for not having anything flashy or has any kind of glittery stuff on it. Also, please do not have a box that says "Someone has a crush on you, click here to see who!" Because, although I never click on the box, it just looks really bad when my husband walks by and spies over my shoulder at the open browser window.

    No WV? But…but…but…Slave Driver huffs How will future generations develop new slang if we don't get weird spellings and the accompanying definitions?

    Spell check= yes. Muust. Hve. Spel. Chexk.

    Drunk Check(patent pending)= make people blow into a tube for analysis before they post. Remember, "Friends don't let friends comment drunk." (Except me…it's my natural state…)

    And I agree with mumbles behind hand about prizes and give-aways. Cash is always nice. Expired coupons work too. Jewelry, not so much- taste is subjective and one persons treasure is another's gag reflex inciter. (See how lazy I am? I'm too lazy to switch over to the comment page and see who said prizes. Man, I disgust myself sometimes…) Maybe a pony. That's a good prize.

    I visit blogs that entertain me. And like mumble mumble said, contrary to public opinion, I don't actually blog hop too much because it enables my writing avoidance. Of course all that Spider Solitaire does too. Stupid Microsoft.

    Looking forward to the new site. Do not get any ideas from mine, with the exception of: If you blog regularly, people will visit more often. I blog on Mondays and Thursdays, and some weeks the only writing I do is for the Monday or Thursday blog. It'll never win a Pulitzer, but it keeps me off the streets. Sometimes.

    Hope the knee feels better.

    WV=Hylist: The shopping list of pizza, Oreos, Taco Chips and cans of whipped cream one writes while havig a major case of the munchies.

    PS That was a very fancy "Fire Pit" I got at Kohls. Wease rents and would not have appreciated us setting her lawn on fire.


  13. BCB

    SD, Kohl's sells fire pits? I want one! Or a chiminea, those are cool. Or, um, hot.

    And yeah, I'm going to miss seeing what commenters do with the word verifications. Since it's MY blog, I never get one over here.

    A contest with a pony as a prize? Hmm. Actually that sounds more like something you should consider, seeing as how you know a few horses and could maybe, somehow, convince one of them to reproduce. Me, I was thinking maybe B&N gift certificates. And free signed books, once books exist. Yes, VERY long term planning going on here.

    And is there really a box I can click that will tell me who has a crush on me? Okay, this I need to research. I'm sure it will become a regular feature…


  14. Slave Driver

    Yes, Kohls sells patio "things",oddly enough. Mine doubles as a table when we're not practicing arson…


  15. Sonja

    B, I'm stalking your blog comments and using them to improve my site. 😉 I just now added a Contact Me form. Der, why didn't I think of that? So thanks for sharing. 😉


  16. jennifer

    The blog god must not have like what I wrote.
    Will try again a bit later today.


  17. BCB

    Hey, Sonja! Stalk away… But good grief, you're the Goddess of Promo, you seriously didn't have a contact link? That lack is something I've seen a couple agents complain about on their blogs, so maybe it's a common oversight.

    Jen, I'm sorry you're having trouble! I don't even have a spam filter over here, so not sure what happened. Hope you DO try again, your wise insights are always a welcome addition.


  18. orangehands

    LOL. Yep, love Brockmann, HATE her website. Her mailing lists are good, but oh bob, that website. Her message boards (though they were in forum form, which I'm also not a fan of) kept me* coming back more often, as I liked some of the people and what they said over there. But she closed those down…Now I come to see her excerpts/news updates (which I usually get warning about from her mailing list).

    Actually, which reminds me*, one thing she does do that is pretty damn smart is her Countdown: the month (or so) before her newest book is released, she does a post each day (she doesn't have a blog so its a page on her website), and includes things like short stories broken into parts (usually added to the little guide book she gives out for each new book as a promotional tag), interviews with her characters, etc. She has too many filler posts during the countdown, but very quickly and keeps readers excited about her latest release.

    EX: http://www.suzannebrockmann.com/itscountdown.htm

    One year she actually did a short story of two of her characters meeting one of her husband's characters (a little shout-out for crossover fanfic fans), which could be cool.

    Actually, you may or may not want to work with someone else in a similar genre on your blog. Group blogs not only can help you combine readership, but it makes you responsible for only, say one day a week instead of two/three.


    You have the right idea. Free books, coupons, short stories, gift cards, etc. You can do it once a month or for each new book or just random (which keeps people checking back at your site too).


  19. Scope Dope Cherrybomb

    http://www.juliannemaclean.com She is a Canadian writer of historical fiction whom I met at NJRWA conference. I love her site because she has YouTube interviews with her and a book video for Mistress Diaries which I loved reading. I like the set up of her site.

    The other is http://www.nancyherkness.com I sent my first fan letter to Nancy after reading her book A Bridge to Love. I was amazed that it was a first book. I love that her website has different pages for her blog From The Garrett; contests, books; Wisdom of the Tshirt (she collects funny sayings on t-shirts); guestbook; etc.

    Check them out. They may help. BTW Julianne Maclean enticed me back into reading historicals. I never liked them but I love hers.

    consonj- consorts only need jobs.


  20. Anonymous

    Font size. Did anyone mention this? Font size is IMPORTANT to older type Readers (I am sure I could think of one if I tried….) Oh, and if you have book covers, don't have them so small (sense a theme here???) that you can't read the title…or have the title listed underneath. I just saw one that didn't do that (and I forgot the name, dang.) And I think someone mentioned the dark background crud. Hate that. Contests are good. We all love contests. 😉


    pyrovela: A new flu drug for those who feel like they are on fire.
    Don't forget all the usual side effects: nausea, dizziness, headache, dry mouth, loss of vision, loss of hearing, loss of little grey cells…..


  21. Theresa

    First off, blog and website — not the same thing. I tend to find it a bit annoying when an author tries to use a blog to fill the functions of a website. Probably because it just makes it hard to organize everything in a useful way. Blog as part of a website is fine.

    When I visit an author’s website, I am looking for information about their books: book names and backlist, what books are currently available, when new books will be coming out, information about which books are connected or in a series, and EXCERPTS. Excerpts are particularly important, and I want more than just a few paragraphs. If I am looking to try a new author, I am very unlikely to buy her book if I can’t read an excerpt. So many book buyers buy online now. When deciding whether to buy a book in a bookstore, I can read the first few pages to see if it draws me in. When I’m shopping online, I can’t do this unless I can track down an excerpt somewhere.

    Everything else on an author’s website is gravy. It can be very good tasty gravy, and might lead me to poke around a bit. Or bad, lumpy gravy. But it’s still gravy. As a reader, the only thing that really ticks me off is not being able to easily get to the information about the books.


  22. Theresa, I’m wondering whether to tell you that, even though this “looks” like a website, it’s a blog. Really. I love WordPress.

    And I added a page called “Books” after thinking about all the comments over here. I don’t have any actual books yet, but that page serves as a reminder to me that when I do, they need a distinct place of their own where prospective readers can easily find information about them. And yes, there will be excerpts, because I do the same thing in a bookstore. I think that’s why I don’t like to buy online — I can’t “see” the first few pages of the book.

    Thank you again to everyone for the valuable feedback over here!