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« BookReporter to Spitzer: Or You Could Spend it on Books! | Main | THE DOCTOR IS IN »

March 13, 2008



Lots of good points, but I'm surprised by a couple of your examples.

The Laura Caldwell books page is a strange design that limits her display of books. I think she should ditch the useless "Select a book" on the right and the repeated (static) book covers on the bottom that force the user to scroll unnecessarily.

On your site, sorry, but splash screens often make me click away. If there's some content in the splash, that's one thing, but an intro that I can't skip or interact with is a big turnoff. Splash screens especially prevent me from being a repeat visitor--if I've already seen the splash once, I don't need to see it again. I'm not a short-attention-span browser, BTW; I'm happy to linger at a site and read excerpts. But in my mind those are "content", whereas most splash pages are "non-content" time wasters that stand between me and the content.

gregory huffstutter

Re: Laura Caldwell design... you are correct that she *could* ditch the scrolling bar and show all her book covers at once.

But sometimes less is more. Her design concept is very clean, with lots of open space. That makes it easy on the eye, and brings focus on the few things on the page that pop with color, ike a red couch in a white room.

In Caldwell's case, it's her initial four book covers, with a hint of the next two books underneath, which leads you to scroll down and see all the novels under her belt.

I've yet to read a Laura Caldwell novel, but from her website's overall look and feel, I can tell she writes in a clean, economical style, with a feminine sensibility.

As for my own website, I agree that a non-functional opening splash page is uninviting for repeat visits. And I would totally change that if I had a book on the shelves, and my website traffic consisted of fans interested in tour stops, bonus material, etc.

But this goes back to my point of knowing what you want to get from your site. Because my novel is currently on submission, right now the only people I REALLY care about reaching are acquisition editors evaluating my manuscript. So this is my job interview, and I'm not looking to drive repeat visits until the book is sold.


Thanks for responding. That is a different focus; I see your point.

Lisa Hendrix

While you raise a lot of good points, I had to laugh when I clicked through to your "bad" example. Ann Rule has logged over 1,165,000 visits to her forum. Why on earth would she want to redesign a site that successful? A smart person doesn't fix what isn't broken.


Facinating! I am curious what you would suggest for a writer who is switching genres/styles. I have published two non-fiction books about Christian spirituality. I am now writing my first novel, which will (hopefully) be categorized as mainstream fiction (think Anne Tyler or Ann Patchett) about a single mother struggling with the toxic influence a wealthy family exerts over her teenage daughter. For my website, I want to show that I understand the publishing biz and that I can successfully pull off a finished product, (which I might achieve by highlighting my two nonfiction books) but while my book mentions religion it's certainly not a major theme, and I am not trying to promote myself as a "Christian" author. Should I just make that part of my writing career a minor part of the site?

gregory huffstutter

Sesgaia: If you are switching genres, my recommendation would be that your website focuses on branding yourself in somewhat generic terms. Here's a good example of an homepage where the author is the focus, and the genre is secondary:

Ann Patchett's own site is similarly vague about the genre, and uses soft colors, lots of white space, and a nice graphic treatment:.

I would use those two sites as your guide, then find the best image of yourself -- something distinctive, not a boring studio portrait -- to use as your dominant image. Then have your designer build a graphic treatment and color palette around that one image.

As for your work in Christian non-fiction , I would briefly mention them in your bio and put the covers on your "books" page, similar to how Patchett does here:

But I wouldn't make them a central focus, since that's not where you are trying to make your current sale.


Lisa: Coming from someone who's personally worked on the McDonald's business, I can attest that popular does not necessarily equate to well-made.

If I were sitting across the dinner table from Ann Rule, I would congratulate her for her bestsellers and long writing career... then humbly suggest that if her website did a better job of branding herself, she might increase her repeat visits and future book sales. I don't believe her website is 'broken', just in need of a make-over.


Thanks Gregory- very helpful! I'll nudge my photographer husband to take a "distinctive" photo of me :)and, when I get the site up, I'll send you the url...

gregory huffstutter

Lucky you having a photographer in the family.

I'd be happy to take a look at your site once it's up and running.

Good luck!

Owen Carver

Anyone shopping for a new website or website redesign should read this post. Quite accurate and helpful. I'd keep in mind though that the scope of the website really has no set "range" per se, because there is no set limit to the number of features, or customizations someone may want to have. One website that can serve as a general range setter is this:

As a web designer myself, the most important thing is that the designer is communicating accurately with the customer before beginning the project, understanding exactly what the customer wants and "why" they want it, what purpose it will serve for them, and then help them decide on the best thing based on their budget and value of the goals they're trying to achieve.
Thanks again for posting!
Owen ~

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