Thursday, June 17, 2010

How Does Social Networking Work for You

Not too long ago I did a post on how social networking can be damaging if not used properly and I want to thank everyone who contributed. It really turned out to be a fabulous discussion.

A couple of comments caught my eye and made me think further. What do you want to see from authors? In other words, if you’re looking at an author’s web site, blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, whatever, what has worked for you and what hasn’t. Some of you mentioned the need for personal information, but what kind are you looking for and what’s the balance you’ve found that has worked? What hasn’t worked?

What about an author’s Internet presence grabs your attention and impresses you, what turns you off?

I’d love to hear about what you like, what you don’t like, and what makes you go from reader to fan. And I’m not just talking about content. Does design matter as well?


Jessica

63 comments:

Connie said...

I love a web design that's beautiful and mysterious. However, content is what will keep me coming back--blog posts, articles on writing, their story about how they started writing, got published, etc. And I love when they include a photo album--I guess it's because I'm a visual person.

Mac said...

Most importantly to me, is what isn't there. I hate a busy site.

Alexis Grant said...

Personality. I want to get to know more about them as a person, and what works for them both when they write and in life. But not too much personal info or -- and this is where writers sometimes get it wrong -- anything too boring.

Design always matters. We need white space in between text, we need short paragraphs that are easy to read online, we need a photo of you so we can picture the person we're reading about. I associate good design with professionalism.

Sommer said...

I love blogs. The authors I return to regularly are the ones with a distinct online personality that I can connect with. I read mostly YA. YA authors are pretty good at this.

This is such a great new feature of the reading world where you're not just reading books but you get the stories behind the books and you get to follow authors on their journey toward the next book you will fall in love with. As a kid I would have loved to track the daily goings on of R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike. I would have loved to get my hands on countdown widgets, book contests, and playlists the author listened to while writing their book.

On the flip side, one thing that will turn me off is if they have a blog and website and it's all about selling, in content and design. Constant ads for their events and books and nothing else. Chances are I'm already sold on the book if I'm coming to an author's blog, so this is not the content I'm looking for. When I say I want personal information, I'm not talking about details of their personal lives, I'm talking about connecting with me on a personal level. What inspires the author? What books/music/websites are the into? What has the writing journey been like for them?

I also love the authors who are involved in community projects and get their readers involved too.

This is a tall order for authors. I think if they can't deliver with an honest voice, consistant updating, a non-salesman platform, then they should not blog. Design is the same way. The book's website should do the selling, the blog should connect with readers. Those readers are already buying the books. I like when the design ties into the author's personality/subject matter but doesn't beat me over the head with book tie ins.

Sarah N Fisk said...

Instead of describing what I like to see in an author's online presence, I'll just say that I think Maureen Johnson and Laurie Halse Anderson do it perfectly. They have two very different styles but both of them are engaging and open. They have a good mix of talking about their books and many other topics.

wry wryter said...

Years ago when in one night I devoured a book of short stories written by a very...very...famous writer the last few pages were devoted to explaining the impetus of each story. I will not name the author because frankly, I do not like the author's wedsite, to commercial. But because of the author's history I stay connected.

Anyway, what I love is learning the 'backstory' to stories and people's lives. It makes me feel as if I am inside their lives, just a little, and privy to how the miracle of writing moves us.

So...websiter, blogger, agents and sellers of books...let us know the depth of your personal process. I'll pick-up, purchase and read a book and even if I don't like the book, will finish it, if I have that connection to the writer.

This blog for instance, presents a wealth of information and personal agenda, by all. It informs me, and supports what I do even though no one knows who I am.

AH...the mystery of a writer's mind.

On your website 'Show' me with words, present the right visual and I lay down my green and is'nt that what this is all about.

Debra L. Schubert said...

"What about an author’s Internet presence grabs your attention and impresses you...?"

Love it when they tweet not only about their books, but about a myriad of other things. Also, when they tweet back to you. In other words, I like people who are down to earth, not too impressed with themselves, and enjoy communicating with other writers. No one likes an author (or anyone) who is all about, "Me, me, me!"

And, my background is marketing and design, so I'm very much influenced by the design of the website, book covers, etc.

Steve Ulfelder said...

On Twitter and Facebook, it's important for authors to do more than merely self-promote. It's not that the promotion is inappropriate, but if that's all an author does with social media, she comes across as tin-eared and self-important.

Authors who do a great job with social media include (just rattling off a few here) Hank Phillippi Ryan, Bill Cameron, Duayne Swierczynski, Jeff Somers, Courtney Summers, and Patrick Lee.

Kell Bell said...

Hmmm, very interesting questions you've posed Jessica.

If I've read through an entire book and loved it then I will search out the author's website, or social networking profile. Most of the authors I "follow" or respond to via Facebook or Twitter are those whose work inspired me in some way.

Writing a great book isn't just about the words and the way in which they are arranged. They are about creating something meaningful. Those authors who I've felt were successful in that are the ones who also take the time to communicate with their readers.

So, in my opinion, an author's website should reflect their style of writing and their creative personality. For instance, if an author writes primarily fantasy then I would expect to see a corresponding design element. Perhaps an elegant looking font and posts that are a combination of the author's insights and interesting tidbits.

Joseph L. Selby said...

Social media presence is a tightrope. I want a professional looking website that gives me information and resources (the same goes for agents, by the way). For a blog I want a personality but not too much personality. For twitter, I actually want more relevant information than a blog, or at least an interaction that's entertaining.

I follow George Martin's livejournal, but enjoy only 50% of it. I don't mind the football posts. I love the HBO related stuff. But when he starts making excuses for delays in his next book or complaining about how people are mean to him on the internet, I lose interest both in the journal and his pending work.

I used to follow Tad Williams' forum, but his infrequent posting meant it was just a bunch of fans and the topics got repetitive.

I tried following Tad's wife on twitter, but the deluge of tweets that followed made me unfollow just so I could keep up with the other people I follow.

I follow Lois McMaster Bujold on Facebook, but her main posts are on MySpace and who the hell still uses MySpace? And she's an infrequent poster too.

I always forget Diana Gaboldon has a blog because it used to be on compuserve and I think it might have moved to blogger but I don't remember because it was on compuserve so I never bothered looking.

Agents seem to have mastered social media much more than the authors I enjoy reading. Now if agents could just figure out how to make a good website. (I like Book Ends. If you could teach some of your colleagues how to do it, I would appreciate it.)

Chelle818 said...

I like fun and informative. I keep up with maybe a dozen or so blogs. Agents, authors, random funny stuff...

If I read an agents blog it's because I think I'd want the agent to rep me. I'm nosy. I want to know what they're reading, what they're liking from the slush pile. And please, please, please, indulge me with industry info. It makes me feel smart.

I read an author's blog if I really like their books. I want inside scoop on charaters I like. I want snippets of real live, but don't ruin the fantasy. I've since been turned off an entire books series because of an author's blog. The character's voice was never so annoying until I read it over and over again in an author's blog, every freaking boring detail in huge sprawling paragraphs... So, yeah, I don't like that.

Dwight Mannsburden said...

I must say that I think this has been one of the best and most useful discussions to come out of this website so far.

I think it is CRITICAL for a writer to maintain a constant web presence and must continually seek to engage the public. Unless you are an A-lister, the publisher will do anything meaningful for you. You have to do it all yourself

Having said that, I must be the first to admit, I have not been keeping up my end. I have an author's website where I run stuff about my novel. In the last six months I've started getting articles in a local glossy magazine and that has driven some traffic to my site.

But I do not have a blog and I should. There is another author who writes on the same topic that I'm becoming friendly with. He keeps a constant flow of stuff on his site. and I get the feeling he's getting traffic and selling books that way.

My publisher seems to consider my book a dead property, yet won't do anything to sell off the several thousand hardbacks of mine it's keeping boxed up in a warehouse.

I guess I need to start a blog addressing all the incidental things that make up my day to day stoopid life.

I am a collossal ego maniac, but beyond a certain point I don't like writing about myself and though my life has been quite colorful and adventurous, I have no intention of writng a memoir.

Guess I need to change my 'umble Hattitude

Lesli Muir Lytle said...

When stalking agents, I loved seeing (via twitter) that they had a lot more to their job than just staring at my query and imagining me suffering while I waited for a reply. Agents became people...forgiveable.

For authors, I always go to the website. I remember being blown away a few years ago by Julie Garwood's. It just made her more of a rock star to me, but I would have read every word anyway.

If an author has a lack-luster website, she loses a little respect, honestly.

Editors are mostly mysterious creatures that hide from us. I'm glad I now have someone with a deer-tag....

shawn smucker said...

I'm up for just about anything, but what doesn't work for me is when the author continues talking about the subject of their latest book, ad infinitum, in every post, tweet and status update. Especially after I've read the book. I want to feel some evolution to their thinking or it all begins to feel like one long advertisement.

MJR said...

I don't read many author blogs (I do like Jennifer Weiner's fairly infrequent blog), but I will click on an author's website to learn about them after reading a book I liked. The trend now seems to be minimalism--just a very short bio that tells you nothing about the author, info about signings and so on. I like to know where the author grew up, why they wrote the novel, etc. ....I liked Kathryn Stockett's website (author of THE HELP) because it gave me insight into why she wrote the novel and how she researched the period details etc etc.

Kaitlyne said...

There's only one time I've ever looked up an author's website. I'll look up wiki pages before that. On that particular site, I loved the interviews because the author has a really great sense of humor and cracks me up.

Mira said...

The websites I like the most are entertaining. I like J.K. Rowling's website the best of all I've seen so far.

It's an extension of her books. There are secret messages, hidden rooms, games to play. (Yes, I am an adult. You might be wondering at this point.) AND - if you win a game, you get to see a copy of a first draft of a page (enlightening. She writes terrible first drafts. That made me feel MUCH better.)

Anyway, the point is, the website is fun, and an extension of her books. There's some personal information, but most of what she posts is further information about the universe she created.

This is marketing at it's best.

Social networking is such a tricky thing. It seems like a tool that can easily backfire, and I wonder if it's effective. Is there any hard data?

Seems like it would be a good idea to collect some statistics on whether social networking works or not. Sometimes something that looks like it would work - common sense stuff - turns out to be off track. Thinks are weird that way.

So, before authors pour a bunch of time and energy into something that's not writing, it would be good to get some hard data on whether it really works - whether it really results in increased book sales.

Lol. Can you tell I just took a class on conducting research? :)

Anyway, I imagine that's part of your intention with this post, Jessica - to explore the issue. Which I think is really cool.

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

Everything in moderation. I think a balance of personality, writing advice, market information, and so forth is what I'm attracted to. Too much of one thing gets old quickly. I like a simple blog design. The content is what should do the talking.

Marissa

Mira said...

Oh. I thought of a design study.

Okay, you would need a bunch of data from the publisher.

Randomly select a group from a group of authors that social network. Measure their sales at a point prior to social networking and a point post social networking.

Then control with a bunch of authors who don't social network, and measure their sales at the same two points in time.

Do some statistical mumbo jumo, and compare the two groups.

Presto. Data. That would be interesting.

Lorenda said...

Something I saw recently and thought "Hey, that's a good idea." Chloe Neil (I might have spelled this incorrectly) has a widget on her webpage that shows the title of her current WIP and the percentage done. i.e. Book 4 of the XXX series, 600 pages of 60k, 1% complete. It seemed like a really easy way to let your readers cheer you on - plus the always needed push to keep writing, just so you won't embarrass yourself when the line isn't moving.

Oh - and I love stumbling upon excerpts, or unpub'd short stories, etc - even if they aren't the normal genre of the author.

fivecats said...

content, content, content.

as for what type of content, i enjoy reading about their lives (not just their writing life), their interests, the things in life that are important to them.

if i enjoy a book enough to seek out the writer online i'm looking to see what kind of person he or she is.

there's a fine line for me between an author's web site as a sales tool and an information point. i don't want a hard sell and i really don't want much of a sales job on the site at all. if i read about you and come to like you as a person, i'm much more likely to buy your books now and in the future.

...

wonderer said...

The authors whose blogs I follow post frequently on a variety of topics. The topics may or may not be related to what they write, but their personality and voice shine through. They mention when their new books are out, but that's not all they talk about.

The content varies. Some of them post more about the writing process or news in the writing world, others post more about their own lives or thoughts unrelated to writing. Some of them cultivate/encourage a sense of community among their commenters, others don't. Some of them interact more with their commenters than others. There's leeway.

For me, design is far less important than content. I dislike white text on a black background, but I do my blog reading through an RSS feed anyway, so it doesn''t matter much.

Sommer said...

I thought maybe I'd share a couple of names of authors who I think do the "package" very well. Their blogs/sites promote their book but also make that "connection" piece that is so important.

Courtney Summers (someone mentioned her above, I LOVE her site and blog)
Cindy Pon
Jackson Pearce
John Scalzi
Katie Alender
Sarah Rees Brennan
Saundra Mitchell
Kiersten White

The above are all good blogs, but as far as design goes, I think that Cindy Pon, Maureen Johnson, and Scott Westerfeld do design the best. They are both professional and interesting. Not too commercial but relate to the kind of person they are and the kind of writing they do.

I'm also a fan of Cassandra Clare's website about her new Infernal Devices series. It is very commercial though, but interesting and pretty with lots of extras. I do not read her blog, however, so I can't say if it is a good representation.

I don't think we can talk about online personalities though without mentioning John Green, whose blog isn't great because it is not often updated, his website has only been recently overhauled and made to look pretty nice, but he connects to his readers in a way that I don't think any other author has been able to duplicate. He's kind of an author rock star!

ella144 said...

If I'm at a website I'm looking for information: forthcoming or past titles, a summary of the plot(s) and maybe an excerpt (I love excerpts!), signing dates and locations, contact info (including agent and publisher(s)), and/or links to blog, twitter, FaceBook, or anywhere else the writer has an online presence.

Design matters only in that I want to be able to find that information easily (meaning not dig through 10 pages looking for the title of a book). If the design is appropriate for the books/genre/whatever that is great, like icing on a cupcake! The design should NEVER EVER EVER prohibit me from finding content because then I won't go back to that website and most likely won't be encouraged to purchase/read that author's books.

If I'm on Twitter or FaceBook, I'm looking for personality, short announcements, and maybe a bit of personal interaction. I'm looking to get to know the person who wrote the book. Not in a creepy stalker OMG-I-know-all-the-names-of-your-children-and-pets, but in a hey-this-author-is-cool-like-her-books and look-she-recommends-this-other-author-I'll-check-him-out-too way.

Content is everything. Design is a bonus. Be clear, concise, and polite. Be yourself.

The Writers Canvas said...

Great questions, Jessica.

I agree with what many have already commented, particularly Alexis - I want to see online personality. This isn't just true for authors and whether I'll become a reader/fan, but for literary agencies, lit agents on Twitter, etc.

Laurie Halse Anderson does a great blog (one comment referenced her) and I like that she opens up occasional blogs or tweets to take Q&A from readers and writers alike. Her book "Speak" was one of the few I couldn't put down and I read all in one sitting. It's also nice to know more about the library and community activities she's doing too. It gives the audience, whether writers or readers, a chance to see what she's all about. Plus, we see who she is. She isn't the mystical Oz, she's a real human being who had to rewrite Speak 7 times before it got published. That's inspiring.

Sometimes, the online presence helps with familiarity. On a long flight years ago, I picked up one of those airline/sky magazines; there was an interview in there w/Jodi Picoult. I hadn't heard of her, but the Q&A w/her intrigued me. I went home and bought one of her books and instantly became a fan.

As far as sites, nothing too busy or that takes too long to load. 90 seconds of waiting for some graphic to look fancy isn't getting the audience the content it needs...it's just stalling time.

Great and thought provoking post, Jessica :)

Elaine

Jolene said...

Of course design matters. The simpler the better - but that may be just me.
I want to know where a story idea came from, I want to know their writing habits. You don't have to blog everyday to have a successful blog.

Bekah said...

Give me something NO ONE else has.
Agents and pros- I want to read advice or info that I, as an unpublished author, doesn't know.
Other authors- share about you and I'd like to just meet up, chat, and network with others sharing in the same struggles!

Suzi McGowen said...

Design doesn't matter to me one bit. I usually get my updates through a feed, so I can't tell what the site actually looks like. Content is king!

There are two authors that have blogs that I love. Seanan McGuire and Neil Gaiman. It's good mix of book stuff, personal, and humor. I wish my blog was something like those.

Sheila Deeth said...

The author's website's a bit like the back of the book for me. If I'm intrigued I'll delve deeper. If I'm confused I'll probably move on. I like to be able to find the writing, so too much jazzy artwork puts me off. Then I want an idea of the author's plots and style so I can see if I'm interested.

Francis said...

Personally, I like to be able to relative to the writer as much as possible. If she or he can share his story, his inspirations for the novel he/she is writing or has written, it makes it easier to connect. I always enjoy personal stories, pet peeves, query faux-pas or anecdotes!

Then of course, there's always design.

I recently blogged about website/blog design from a writer's perspective, in which I share my 12 years of designing experience and offer tips on how to get a good looking web presence for cheap. If you're interested:
http://blog.franciscossette.com/2010/06/tweet-your-way-to-publication-and.html

Thanks for another interesting entry :)

February Grace said...

Design does matter- easy to read text, please. The colors might be gorgeous on a template but if I have to work to read the words then I won't read as long. It seems a simple enough thing but a lot of people don't seem to think about it.

Pretty or fun pictures are nice too but not too many, they distract from the text after a couple. I seem to be partial to landscape images.

What I do want to see- the author's personality coming through. What I don't want to see: religion or politics.

Just like when I pick up a book, when I go to a blog or website I am seeking to be entertained and to read about the writing not to find out potentially way more than I'd ever want to know about the writer's personal views on those things.

I'd like to know a little about the author's personal life if they care to share it but it's not mandatory.

I'm also put off by author (or even agency) sites that have nothing but cover after cover of books by their friends, clients and colleagues and promote them one after another- I kind of glaze over after the third cover image or so. There is such a thing as too much there too.

Ditto with too many contests. I don't want to scan through a ton of what is really advertising to get to the info I'm seeking.

Thanks for asking!

~bru

Natasha Fondren said...

The number one thing that draws me to a new author is if s/he is real and authentic. It's not unlike what draws a reader to a character in a book.

Something about them has to resonate with me, either a universal or shared desire, a vulnerability that speaks to our common humanity, or a voice and likability that hooks me.

As a personal preference, a person who seems gracious and kind and compassionate will generally get my attention, but if it's a professional polish with no "realness," then it doesn't.

It's true that I connect with more authors via Facebook, but I still buy the most books from blogs.

Design is not that important to me, as I read everything in Google Reader. FEED is top-of-the-list important. I simply don't follow anyone who does not offer a full feed. It's not just the inconvenience. Most partial-feed authors do not title their post and draw me in with that first (and only) sentence to get me to click through. With full feeds, I scan the entire post, and the author has more time to hook me and convince me to click through. And even if I don't click through, I've read what they said.

Anonymous said...

I'm going anon on this so no one comes after me :)

Generally, I like reading personl comments by authors, about their personal lives, on social networks.

But they have to be interesting, too. I don't want to read about a visit to Aunt Nan's (I swear I recently saw this) or a trip to Superfresh to buy maxwell house. I want to read about a hot date, or the new pet monkey, or what new and exciting rare blend of coffee the author is drinking...in other words: embellish. Make it interesting.

I also hate reading political comments, one way or the other. I don't care about their politics.

And what really gets me is when an author starts harping about their health issues. Seriously. There is this one woman author on facebook this week who sounds like she's falling apart at the seams. I want to write: Just jump off cliff already. And then they get into the religious stuff, sending her prayers and hugs. It gets tired. We all have our problems.

I know this a rant, but the boring social network posts turn people off more than help promote books or authors. Think carefully. I spend a few minutes each day "hiding" certain people on facebook because they are just too damn dull to read.

SarannaDeWylde said...

I really dislike the Facebook trend of people suggesting I "like" their fan page. It strikes me as pushy.

I dislike name collectors as well. That's not good marketing, it's playing high school with who is the most popular and those numbers don't always translate to readers.

A friend of mine said that internet marketing for books has gotten to be like walking past a tree of cicadas, there's buzzing coming from so many places, it's hard for one to stand out.

That doesn't mean I'm going to stop buzzing, or even buzz louder, because that's just annoying. It means I should change the cadence of my buzzing or paint my wings a different color. *g*

rerophec said...

Here's an exciting little secret I wouldn't be posting if I wasn't anonymous. I'm not actually looking for books to read. I have books waiting to be read piled in every room in my house. I'm swamped! And the majority of those are long out of print. I absolutely am not linking to authors through social media in the hopes they have written something else to put on my to-read list.

I am, in fact, linking to authors because I think I can learn something from them to apply to my own writing. It doesn't matter whether I've read their stuff or not. I might never, and I won't miss it. But a blog called "Five Weak Words to Watch Out For" is always going to catch my interest. It's thoroughly selfish. I'm doing nothing for the author except slightly boosting her numbers. The chances that I'll get to know her enough to buy her book are very, very small--and frankly, as I "connect with" more and more authors, they're getting smaller.

There are three other reasons I follow or friend an author.

-I already read their stuff, and like it. I'm an existing fan.
-We are at similar points in our writing careers, and I consider them peers.
-They are just stinking hilarious. (See: @maureenjohnson. I have not read her books.)

I wonder whether I'm the only one who doesn't give a damn about the books. I wonder whether anyone is going to go anonymous and agree.

Anonymous said...

I do not twitter or facebook. These things waste my time.
I follow agent blogs so that I learn.
When I love an author or am curious, I google them or their book. I look for a blog or website that can tell me fun things like how it was to make the movie, pictures, and great excerpts. Also what's in the drawer.
The excerpts help me decide to buy their next, last, current book(s).
I have no interest in pal-ing with authors. None. Don't care. I have my own pals.
As a writer, I think, simplicity is best. It's professional. Some of my favorite authors do not social network. We are lucky if they have a website.
Some of the most obnoxious writer friends I have are forever and a day selling, selling, selling. You want to bash them over the head but of course you don't ever say a word because they are so sure this is the right thing to do and it would hurt their feelings. But it is very awkward when you have to "unsubscribe" from a chatty selling friend author.

Sierra Godfrey said...

I like a sense that the author is real, and reachable, if need be. Nothing worse than wanting to reach out to an author and finding no way to connect except an impersonal web form.

RJones said...

Promotions *about* the book.

All day I see promotions on twitter, facebook, etc., like "My newest book is out May 25! So excited." or "Enter to win the contest! You could win book XY."

Neither of those gave me any urge to read the book. Made me happy for the author, yes, but I don't really bother with contests, and often even the long post about the contest does very little to sell the book.

I'm a big fan of promotions with just enough from the book to suck me in... "Angela, corpse by day, vampire by night--either way, it's bloody. Win book!" much more effective to me.

Jeannie said...

@ Saranna

Love the cicada image! ROFL!!!

kalincasey said...

I mostly read author blogs for insights into publishing, but I also enjoy blog and Facebook posts about things that interest and inspire them as creative people. I tend to follow writers who share common interests more closely, and there are people I follow who don't write about the business at all. I think that's less important in a blog, which can really be about anything.

And I don't care for blogs that are all about self-promotion. I can only take so much of that as a reader.

I see the Web site as more of a fancy business card and expect writer sites to look and inform according to the genre or type of work.

I am really put off by meanness and unprofessionalism. Snarky and sarcastic is fine (and usually funny), but the Internet has a certain gang mentality lurking under the surface that is easily stirred into action, whether intentionally or not.

I think Web site design is important. A busy or illegible site is a complete turn-off, whether it's a writer's or an agency's site. Moreso for an agency.

The Ink Gypsy said...

So many comments I agree with:
Design - very important to grab interest & for ease of reading & navigation. (I prefer to read blogs on site to be surrounded by 'atmosphere'/their world)
Content- absolutely vital. Keep me coming back to read you. If I do it's likely that I will support you by spreading the word of your book/promos/etc
Writing insight - I'm a writer too so I visit sites at the beginning to look for insights into your process to see if it will inform mine.
Be genuine & interesting - hard to do but tell me what's occupying your mind. Don't dwell on religion, marketing, politics or bad health (not exclusively anyway). I want to get to know the brain that creates the stories I'm reading.

And have to agree on the 'not (initially) looking for books' comment:

My TBR pile is beyond teetering BUT I will often read updates, articles etc of an author's website over a short period of time and build appreciation for them & their stories. Encourage me to think about your world, ideas etc and there's a good chance I'll get hooked. (Note: I love author interviews by multiple people who ask very different sorts of questions - this really helps flesh out an author from bio to 'being') Eg. I started reading Stacia Kane's blog after seeing a writing-issue headline on a story problem I was tackling, kept reading THEN started buying her books. I now want to support her writing more than other authors whose books I've read for years (because those authors are only names with a summary bio to me and not someone I feel I kinda know). Ms. Kane feels real and accessible and is encouraging to writers, readers and thinkers. The quality of her blog content is excellent. I'm happy to help promote her and eager to read what she has to say, whether on her own blog or elsewhere. I'll also now buy her books just because they're by her. I can learn a lot from her but it's also an enjoyable learning.
A different Eg. Seanan McGuire - I read one of her books. Liked it. Looked up her website to see if she had anything to say about her book and it's a treasure trove of writing insight, amazing creativity, inspiration and off-the-wall humor. To me it gave her book another very real dimension. I also appreciate her book more AND I want to read more of the stuff that comes out of this person's head.

Having a consistent online presence is key even if it isn't happening on your own site all the time. Tweeting/Facebooking in your unique voice helps a lot too. (I really feel for every author who not only has to do all this but has a day-job too - yikes!) And if you can write another book while you're doing all this, you have my respect, support and my suspicions that you're not entirely human... just like I like 'em. :)

scarlettprose said...

I want to throw another question out there, sort of the chicken and the egg scenario. There has been contradicting advice on agents' blogs these days about what should come first: the book deal or the website? A web presence before being published, or create a website after you've sold? Any takers on this debate?

Fragrant Liar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fragrant Liar said...

I seek out a writer's website for information about their upcoming books, tour dates, signings, etc. I do that for authors I'm already a big fan of. I waited for YEARS for Patricia Cornwell to get her website going--it was ALWAYS under construction--and that was so long I never went back. (Is it up now?)

I seek out a writer's blog because, as a writer, I want to make the connection with someone who's already published -- hey, it gives me hope. But I also want to see their real personality there, and I want them to have something real to say. I don't want to read about what coffee they're drinking, exotic or not. But what it's like to get the galleys back or how lunch with the publisher went will draw me in every time.

Either way, the author gets credibility in my mind if he/she has a well-organized and well-designed site. If it looks amateurish, I will turn up my nose, so to speak, and not return.

Naturally, this is the writer in me. How many writers responded to this question? How many "just" readers? That would say a lot right there.

_*rachel*_ said...

The basics: a nice, possibly themed (but tasteful), web page with lists of publications. Descriptions and excerpts are nice, too, and I'm always happy to see if/when the next book is due. Those, plus bits like a bio, are must-haves.

A few authors have had especially nice web options--Jeff Somers had an online game; John Flanagan has music, downloads, and maps. These make the site fun and worth spending time on.

Then there are a few more who have related content. Gail Carson Levine blogs on writing; Paige Shelton does farmer's markets. One of my favorites is Gary Corby's; he combines fun, writing, and tidbits about ancient Greece (which is where his book is set). When these are interesting and have good content, I'll keep up with them and, if I haven't already read the book, will make sure to track it down.

Trading Plan Template said...

I want to see an author's website that's really professionally made. Dan Brown's for instance. However, his website lack something personal about him. Something that I could relate to...perhaps his funny or clumsy side...Stephanie Meyers' site is simple but the personal touch is there...Well, you can't have everything in one package though.

Rik said...

I don't have an author blog or an author website; I have a Rik blog and a Rik website. My books get promoted on both, but the bulk of stuff (especially on the website) is about me having fun with my poetry and my constructed world - my novel is just a tiny part of a much bigger place which I intend to spend the rest of my life exploring (spare time permitting, of course). If others find my website interesting, that makes me happy - but not quite as happy as building and rebuilding the website makes me.

I do not twitter (much). I loathe Twitter with a vengeance.

Anonymous said...

I think a blog shold have helpful posts about writing.

With an author's website, it should be an excellent source of information about the author's books and future work.

Either way, both resources should draw people in.

DUO -
http://duosays.blogspot.com

Watery Tart said...

Navigation ease. I want what I WANT, not the other stuff. If I am looking for information about the books, authors or events--then I want to be able to GO THERE and see, but I will only do any of those things one time and I don't want them shoved in my face after that (sidebar is okay). I will come BACK if there is a blog that has changing information that either 1) helps me as a writer or 2) entertains me. (home run if it does both)

Turn-offs--blogs that are only about the book or selling the book. Blogs that are too clinical (meaning lack humor and stick to content related to the book). I don't mind the TMI/personal life at all, but probably an author wants to see if that fits their genre.

Jill said...

Jodi Picoult has a great website. No blog, which is fine by me, but great content. A page dedicated to all her books, with links to book club discussion questions and excerpts. FAQs and links to interviews.

Jamie Ford is a new writer with a great website. Good design and good content. He has an easy-to-find page with instructions on getting autographed copies of his book. Any writer so willing to please his fans is alright in my book.

Jill said...

Jodi Picoult has a great website. No blog, which is fine by me, but great content. A page dedicated to all her books, with links to book club discussion questions and excerpts. FAQs and links to interviews.

Jamie Ford is a new writer with a great website. Good design and good content. He has an easy-to-find page with instructions on getting autographed copies of his book. Any writer so willing to please his fans is alright in my book.

Joseph L. Selby said...

I will point out the obvious that social media can backfire as well. It's hard sometimes to differentiate your "persona" from you who really are and when creating a brand of yourself, it's essential to be that persona.

There are agents I don't submit to because of their social media. They're not your classic mean or cruel people. But they are themselves and not their personas and our personalities are the exact opposite of each other. After watching for a long time to see if it was just coincidental, I came to the decision that I didn't like them as a person, why would I want to work with them professionally? I found them vapid, snarky, and catty. It felt like I was in a high school rom-com or something. So they got crossed off my list of who I submit to.

Francis said...

Just blogged about the basics of website design for writers! How to make things pretty AND professional, and the best free software to do the job. Gin not included :)

http://blog.franciscossette.com/2010/06/website-design-part-2.html

Levonne said...

I look forward to reading the previous post on social networking. I use Facebook and blog and want to be sure not to do damage to myself as a writer. If you have time, you're invited to drop by and take a look. Two blogs: Levonne's Pretty Pics and A Camp Host Housewife's Meanderings.

Levonne said...

The post about your internet and your career was good. Thank you for that. It is important to remember that public writing is just that - public. Free for future publishers and agents to read. I am hoping to engage an agent to help me develop my current project - my blogs containing my art photographs and stories about my current long-term RV adventure - into a sellable product. Would you stop by and look at my work and let me know if you are in the least bit interested? Thank you.

Pam Vickers said...

Approachability. As a mother of teens, I see how much it means to them to get a response on twitter or facebook from an author they've just read or one they love. But, I am also selfish. As an unpubbed writer, I'm trying to learn from them as well. Just getting the exposure and making connections are key for me right now. Those websites that provide information are the ones I follow rather than the ones just for fans.

Jessica Peter said...

Content I like to see:
- an easy way of navigating the page
- a logically-organized list of published works
- a bio or "about me" section
- some way to contact the author (a dedicated email, a forum, comment section on a blog, etc)
- some way to see the real person behind the writer: a blog (eg. http://blue-succubus.livejournal.com), Twitter (eg. Caitlin Kittredge - @caitkitt), newsletter/journal (eg http://www.kelleyarmstrong.com/mJournal.htm), or basic events listing (eg. http://www.charlaineharris.com/calendar.html)

I don't care for games, sneaky hidden things, book trailers, and all that, but as long as they don't obscure what I'm looking for, I'm okay with them.

As for design, I think a generally bold but simple design with colours/patterns that work with your genre makes the most sense, but again it won't make or break it for me. Eg - from my links above, Kelley Armstrong has a lovely site, and I don't really like the look of Charlaine Harris' site at all.

Linda said...

I have mixed feelings about personal information on the author. On the one hand, the author's context is interesting, by which I mostly mean location and date of writing. But too much can be damaging. I happened to find out that an author whose writing I'd enjoyed in the past had committed a serious crime, and I can't read him any more: his person has intruded between me and his books.

Sara said...

I have only gone to a few author's websites, and only then because I was sufficiently inspired to do so after reading one of their books. My two favorites are Elizabeth Gilbert and Emily Giffin.

I think that both these authors get it right--websites are well-designed and visually appealing, and there is enough information to make it worth logging on.

I found Elizabeth Gilbert's "Thoughts on Writing" to be really inspiring, and I found Emily Giffin's bio and etcetera sections very funny, light, and perfectly-done. In my opinion, both of these authors nailed it! I dare you not to laugh (yes, out loud) and feel inspired!

Robin Allen said...

I prefer writing content over personal content, and agree with a lot of posters that a blog should be easy to navigate and without too much self-promotion. I also like to read someone who posts regularly and often.

One thing that turns me off immediately when I read a blog for the first time is a post that starts with an apology for not posting in a while. It's usually followed by a bunch of irrelevant (to me, a first-time reader) excuses for not writing. If I don't leave right away, I look at dates to see how often the blogger posts. If it's not very often, or if there are more "sorry it's been a while" posts, I'm gone for good. Had the blogger not posted about not blogging, she would have a better chance of keeping me around to read other posts.

Maya said...

One thing I notice is that a lot of writers write about, well, writing. That's fine for me because I am also a writer. But does a fan/reader really want to read about the process of writing? I would think they are more interested in topics related to the novel premise, or tidbits about the characters and world.

Laura Pauling said...

Here's the funny thing. An author, who is branding herself on teaching writers how to market themselves - I skip over her tweets. Because it's always business. Always promoting.

Tom said...

Personally, I think social networking helps folks more than it hurts. Getting your name and work out there might be just the ticket, as long as the writing is good.

Tom Wiseman
http://home.comcast.net/~vern_49/GSA.html