So, Gentle Reader, jtglover asked me a question in yesterday’s blog that made me think so hard, I decided it would make a great post. So here it is: his question, my response, and a deviation into my entirely unscientific study on the subject of author websites and web presence . . .
Do you have any opinion, as a reviewer, as to your first stop when searching for an author’s web presence being a LiveJournal (or similar) vs. a proper website? One of my New Year’s resolutions was to have a site up by the end of the year, but I haven’t gotten there yet. Most people seem to say website, but I’m reluctant to put up a quick, horrible site.
Very quickly, if there is a website dedicated to the author I will always go there first. It usually has the information I need organized in a more accessible manner than on a blog. It will also tell me a lot (especially with a first-time author) about that author’s level of professionalism, approachability, and tech savvy. (This, coincidentally, usually tells me something about their age, income, and personality.)
That said, I agree with the general view that no site is better than a crappy site (so long as the author does have a good strong current blog or other significant web presence). An author’s site reflects on their branding skill and professionalism. I can code, but not good enough, so I hired both a designer and a builder and used a portion of my book advance to pay them with. Now that the code is in place all I need to do is basic maintenance with Dreamweaver. I’m convinced my attitude and willingness to put my best online foot forward has help my career in significant ways. There are certainly authors out there who have lost my respect because their web sites are so very awful, or gained it because they are good.
Now, on to the second part of the question. As a reviewer, I only care that I can find an author quickly (i.e. in a google search, one of the first 3 links should be to either author web page, current blog, or facebook/myspace page updated regularly) and contact said author easily. Once he or she becomes an established author, and is looking to make public appearances, I don’t think a blog really works sufficiently anymore. It’s too difficult to extract the presskit or contact info needed.
It is possible, with skill and creativity, to build a website cheap and fast and not have it be embarrassing. Some of the best examples I’ve seen out there belong to the podcasting community (see Dan or Chris), who don’t have much money, rely heavily on wordpress, have a tech savvy audience, and seem generally pretty darn good at getting the necessary information out there as simply and clearly as possible. There are high-earning well-known authors out there who could really learn a thing or two from this group.
It seems to me that the best temporary stopgap until an author is established, is to buy a domain, and have a very simple web page that shadows a blog on the first page, and has good bio, presskit, and contact info on the second. Seeing something like that, I would assume “this author is still relatively new to the game, but is at least on the ball.”
If a webpage is still not feasible, here’s a breakdown to help choose venue of approach. As a new author, I’ve had press/interested bloggers contact me over the past 2 months via livejournal 4x, facebook 2x, my website’s “calling card” feature 2x, and from a convention 1x. That’s a remarkably even spread, with the website getting about 15 hits a day, and no better than the blog. That said, an author’s readership and subgenre will correlate to a demographic breakdown on the internet, so it helps to know who you are trying to reach. Urban fantasy, paranormal, and romance markets have a really strong blogger presence, while hard core SF seems to hang out more in tech forums. LJ is known for hosting lots of fantasy authors. Myspace caters to a 20-something crowd. The younger your audience, the more important your online presence and choice of venue. A new YA author, for example, unequivocally MUST have a strong online presence, older more established authors for the adult market don’t seem to care munch, and the new godlings (like Gaiman or Doctorow) master it all.
Someone really should do a marketing study on this.
Gail’s Daily Dose
Your Infusion of Cute:
Animai, Managa, and Gothic Lolita Cosplay under the cherry trees in Brooklyn check out the photos. I wish I were young enough to immerse myself in this particular fashion trend.
Your Tisane of Smart:
Stargate Universe to have gay characters – on the SciFi Channel, no less. It’s about time.
Your Writerly Tinctures:
Borders changing its approach, things looking up? Trying to ‘make’ literary hits. (Jamie and I happen to share an agent.)
CAKE in Space: Finished Draft 2.
Soulless: Awaiting ARC distribution.
Steampunk short: Out with Gamma.
Changeless: Gone poof. Starting to gather corrections.
Quote of the Day:
“When we read, we start at the beginning and continue until we reach the end. When we write, we start in the middle and fight our way out.”
~ Vickie Karp