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« The Graphic Novels Guy | Main | THE DOCTOR IS IN »

March 26, 2008


Katherine Howell

Great post, Ad Man! Thanks for listing the good and not-so-good sites, and the reasons why they work or don't.
Am I really the first commenter??


Thanks for this useful information (and examples). I plan to forward it along to my authors.

gregory huffstutter

Thumbs up on your site. I could immediately tell you dealt in the edgy, thriller category. Well designed and great use of fonts.

My only suggestion -- and this is a personal preference -- is that you change your bio to the 3rd person. To me, 3rd person bios come across as more professional, like it was written ABOUT you by your publishing house or your team of invisible PR flacks.

1st person bio are softer, and come across like you're speaking directly to your readers -- but can appear amateurish.

Ask yourself, would Michael Connelly's website have his bio in 1st person? You may not have as many bestsellers as Mr. Connelly, but advertising is often about positioning yourself as successful before you actually are.

Katherine Howell

Thanks Gregory! Will fix that up.


I think mine has been aching for a make over for a while now. I find myself advertising for other people more than I do for myself.

Stephen D. Rogers

Hey Gregory,

Great commentary.

I'm at and appreciate any thoughts.

What I found difficult was knowing what to emphasize.


gregory huffstutter

Michele & Steven:

The main thing missing from your respective sites is a unifying design theme. Something to tie all the pages together and create a 'mood' around your work.

The first commenter, Katherine, has a very nice design theme, with the ambulance light trails, and edgy type fonts. Notice how that's played out on every one of her subsequent pages.

For writers who cross a lot of genres, I'd focus the design theme around you as the author, instead of the stories themselves. I've used this example before, but Patry Francis does a nice job of keeping her site genre-neutral, while still having a unified design:

Don't expect to do this yourselves, hire a professional!

Michele - My additional recommendations would be:
* Update and expand on the design you have on your homepage (with the blacked-out sun), then carry it through all pages.
* The navigation bar could have better spacing and be more interesting.
* On your bio page, I'd get rid of the 'Causes' that aren't related to your writing career. Animal rescue may mean a lot to you personally, but this site should help sell your work. I'm sure Lee Child has several charities he feels passionately about, but I wouldn't expect to find them on his site either.
* On your "For Writers", I'd advise against putting your submission stats. I understand you want to provide a 'reality check' for aspiring writers, but I think that info should be reserved for your blog, not your author website. If I'm a publishing house or magazine editor, and I see those stats, I think: "Wow, she sure gets rejected a lot. Maybe what I just read wasn't as good as I thought. Better play it safe and give it an easy no." Your author site should be selling yourself, celebrating your publishing successes, not planting seeds of doubt in potential editors.

Steven - My additional recommendations would be:
* Your homepage should not read like your bio. Move anything except the latest news to your "about the author" page.
* In order to focus your site, figure out it's #1 purpose. Is it to sell more short stories? Get hired as a writing teacher? Get more sign-ups for your non-profit? If it's sell more short stories, then your homepage should have cover shots of the last 3 magazines you've been published in, and everything else should be moved deeper into your site.
* I would take out the 'leave a tip' button. Unless you're getting enough money from that function to retire on, it brands you as an amateur. Would you rather be a street musician or Paul McCartney? Part of being successful is acting like you don't need charity.

Hope this helps!

Mrs. Ad Man

Great article! (But, of course, I'm biased.)

Just to add one point to the hubby's post, in case you don't know where to start:

The best way to go about building or revamping your site is to first hire a copywriter to edit, rewrite and organize the content.

Something we copywriters do that is vitally important, but oft overlooked, is help our clients parse out the info on the site's various web pages. We try to look at the site as a whole, and give the entire thing organic information "flow."

So go with a copywriter first, and let us help you focus, get organized and give a voice to your brand. Then, pass the copy along to a fabulous web designer who will use it (and hopefully the glorious photos you provide) as a creative springboard to develop a compelling "look".

Basically, when it comes to websites, the design is the draw, but the copy makes the sale. Both are vital to success.


Stephen D. Rogers

Thanks Gregory,

Will do.


DeAnna Cameron

I just came across your post. Really good info, and so timely for me. I've spent the past week trying to overhaul my Web site to reflect the tone and era (1893) of my novel, which was just bought by Berkley Books. Is it too late to get in on your offer to evaluate?
I love your Web site, and would really appreciate any help...

Rebecca Cantrell

Thanks for all the great advice! I just came across the page today and hope I'm not too late to get feedback on my author web site too. I have some time to get it perfect before the launch, so any and all comments welcome.


Rebecca Cantrell

gregory huffstutter


I would give your site a solid C. I like the type treatment at the top and historical imagry.

But you could really take it further. More historical photographs, a site map or program from the 1893 World's Fair. What if you did an instructional video on how to belly dance like an Egyptian in 5 easy steps?

Similarly, with your bio, usually people write too much about themselves and it comes across as puffery. In your case, I found it to be too little information. Give us a little more info, infused with your personality. Refer back to my example of the Michael Flocker bio.

On your front page, I'd get rid of the famous quotes. They may be inspirational to you, but what do they have to do with 'The Belly Dancer' or 'DeAnna Cameron'? That might be a good spot to put a cut-out from the World's Fair program, or blurbs from people who've read your book.

I'd actually have a page for your 'contact me', instead of having that link directly to an e-mail message. That way you can list your agent's contact info as well -- which could be important if you have people inquiring about foreign/film rights.

You're off to a good start. But I'd recommend hiring a web designer to tweak your template and give it the finishing touches that will give your site a professional feel.

Hope that helps.

gregory huffstutter

Not too late. Thanks for being willing to hold it up for review.
Give me the weekend to review it and I'll leave my feedback soon.

Rebecca Cantrell

Thank you! That would be wonderful.

DeAnna Cameron

Thanks a bunch, Gregory --
I've chucked the whole site and started again. I think I have a better idea what to do now.

gregory huffstutter


Your site is really close.

What I liked:
* You lead with a blurb from Jimmy Rollins. That's a huge coup and worth highlighting the way you did.
* Clear organization, and your navigation is easy with the drop-down menus.
* The slideshow with historical pictures of Berlin, espcially your commentary adding flavor
* You included a "How To Buy" page
* Professional head-shot

What I didn't:
* Your header with the pen and "Rebecca Cantrell, Author" is -- to be blunt -- boring. From the rest of your site, I can tell you have the design sense and wherewithal to do better. What if you adapted those compelling images of "Spree and Dom" or "News Stand" to spruce up your headers? Don't feel like you have to stay within that black box.
* You might want to add a link to your excerpt of "A Taste Of Smoke" to your drop-down menu for that book. It's on your homepage, but if you don't see it there, it seems hard to find.
* Might be nice on your home page if you could click on the cover to "A Taste Of Smoke" and have it blow up.

A few minor tweaks and a little design polish on your header, and you've got yourself a fully-functional author page. Good luck with it!

Rebecca Cantrell

Thank you for doing such a thorough evaluation. Great suggestions! I appreciate you taking the time to do this. I'll be tweaking it soon...

The comments to this entry are closed.

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