A Reader’s Suggestions to Authors

Admit it – what with all those Social Media for Social Good and guest posts, it was just getting a bit too nice. You were getting twitchy, and wondering what happened to me, right? 😉 After all, the tagline to the blog is “A Little Bit Tart” first, before “A Little Bit Sweet.” We all know I’m not that nice.

I know there are a lot of social media things out there – workshops, speakers, gurus, books, and on and on. There’s a lot of great advice out there. There is of course, also some bad. You of course don’t have to listen to me, as these are just my opinions. And I’m just a lowly reader. (The last said tongue in cheek. Cuz you know – I’m that person who also buys your books, and talks about them…) There are more like me, obviously, I’m just one who doesn’t know how to keep her mouth shut. And while I do have tumblr… I don’t use it. So you know, take away my social media card right now.

Some of this has been said before. I did a similar post at TGTBTU… and I’m pretty sure every blog has done a “Do’s and Don’ts” post at one time or another. It’s likely near and dear to our hearts, because we still see issues. Here are my gripes. (And of course this applies to other types of sites as well, but, my target here is authors, because it’s all about me, and what I like.)

First, do not, do not, do NOT have music that loads automatically on your site. Don’t do it. Just don’t. You know how you hate those company sites that make you go through an intro, and have various types of music, muzak, or strange house techno? Yeah. That reaction. Oftentimes it sends people running away from your page – and do you really want that red “x” clicked before anyone checks out the info on your awesome books? I hope not.

Next, newsletters. They can be great. Sometimes I read them, sometimes I don’t. I admit it. Perhaps I’ve missed out on the ones I deleted. But do not, and I repeat do not automatically subscribe people to your newsletters. There are some I’ve never signed up for, that I’ve been added to. Lucky for you, I’m flaky otherwise I’d be calling you out. Really, it’s okay not to send one out if you have nothing to say. It’ll stop people from unsubscribing, I’ll bet. I’m much happier to receive a newsletter with substance than a monthly one just for the sake of continuity. But then, I’m picky. (Blogging on the other hand, thrives on continuity… so you see? No “rule” can be applied across the board.)

Along those lines, however, please have a way for people to unsubscribe safely from your newsletter. There are one or two that don’t have that lovely “unsubscribe” link. I know it hurts, and you don’t like to see people leave you, but give them the choice. Otherwise, they’ll start reporting you as spam. (And yes, I know some readers do that automatically, without bothering to unsubscribe. Well, some people just suck, okay?)

Websites. Don’t have a flash based site. Just don’t do it. Regardless of what gadget you use to get online, it’s just annoying, even for flash enabled devices or computers. Probably the most widely used example would be Rachel Gibson’s site. I like her books. I love some of her books. I hate her site. Rumor has it her site is being updated, and I really hope so. I hope the flash is murderized. So flash and intros? Do your best to avoid them.

Now websites – have one. Look for deals for hosting, go in with a friend and split the domain. Something. I don’t know. And you know what? It’s not for me to know – but if you’re a professional, which as a published author you now are, there’s a certain standard expected of you. Don’t have a blogspot.com or wordpress.com site as your main site. A blog is not a website.

Make sure you have a book page. I’m zealous about asking for a book page, book blurbs, and an excerpt. Quite demanding, but it matters. Nine times out of ten – even nine point nine nine times out of ten, if there’s no excerpt on a website? I won’t buy the book I was considering. I can’t imagine I’m the only one out there who does that. Some authors have this part down, which is awesome. Now, this is something I didn’t even think I’d have to mention… but… also make sure your website is updated. If you’ve got a new book coming out soon, make sure it’s on your webpage. Ideally as soon as you know and can put it up… but at least three months before the release date. That seems reasonable, yes?

A hint? What with the digitizing of back lists? Please don’t take book information off your website. Why would you do that? Even before, when print was unavailable, someone might get your book at a library, or used book store, then look for other books. Just… leave that information there. It’s precious, and frankly the best selling point for your books – aside from the books itself. Not social media that you do.

Now here, I’m going to say something new. Have a comprehensive book list. I cannot emphasize this enough. Some authors have taken to listing books by series, which is nice. But how about this – I’m book browsing, and something looks interesting. Say, B&N, Amazon, word of mouth, has brought a book to my attention. It’s a few years old, but available for sale, in print or digital. I go to the author website… and I can’t find the damn book.

I don’t know the genre, I don’t know what series it’s part of. It’s not a damn scavenger hunt, and I shouldn’t get pissed off in the process of trying to give you my money. I try to wipe such things from my mind, because I’m angry enough as is. But this has happened at least a dozen times, when I wanted to buy a book, but got so annoyed I couldn’t find anything about it, I just gave up and bought something else. Or played Plants vs. Zombies.

With twitter? Talk to people. If someone tags you in a response, or asks you a question, respond! Sometimes it takes a few times, or you might miss a message. Twitter is rather ephemeral. But if your entire timeline is just you re-tweeting people talking about your books… not only will I not follow you (or unfollow you)… I’ll probably move your books down my “to be read” pile. Regardless of how much other people are gushing about it. This isn’t a post about twitter though – I’ve tried that before.

Now with books – have excerpts. I don’t know how many books I’ve bought because the excerpts got me. And take advantage of other situations and links! The more information, the better! (For once – usually, the caution is against over sharing. You know, I don’t… well there are things about you I just don’t want to know. Books, however, are an entirely different animal.)

A number of sites and blogs now share “exclusive excerpts.” Link to them on your webpage! A special scene might just be that little thing that pushes someone to click that “buy” button.

You might consider mentioning your activities – if you’re going to a signing, a conference, a blog tour. This last one, however, is less important to me personally. Have a way for people to contact you though. On your website – have your email address, or a form. And if someone asks you a relevant question about your book, do your best to answer! There are actually awards given away by certain conferences or groups for “most accessible author.” Not only that, but readers talk.

And there are a lot of nice people out there, who will buy your books – all your books – simply because you were nice to him or her. I know a number of them, in fact. (Sorry to crush your illusions, but I’m not one. Alas.) I will, however, talk up people I think are nice, just because they’re so awesome. Positivity breeds good things!

So there you have it. My opinionated little … rant? About what I’d like to see – or not see – from authors. Maybe one day I’ll do a shout out and point out the author sites etc I think are great. They do exist.

What about you? What do you like to see? What do you hate on sites? And, if you’re an author, if you want me to “grade” your site- leave a comment. I promise to respond (er, in regards to your site only if you ask me to check out your site). Even if you don’t want me to. :X

0 thoughts on “A Reader’s Suggestions to Authors

  1. carly m.

    ” I shouldn’t get pissed off in the process of trying to give you my money.” — I think this should be paramount in author’s minds when thinking about their websites. Websites are marketing tools to sell a product. Yes, that makes one feel less like an artiste, but this is a business. And if your business makes my life more difficult, I’ll go spend my dollars at someone else’s business. And yes, I expect something professional, even if the author is digital first or or only has two or three books. If a website looks like something I could whip up in an afternoon with my limited html experience, I assume (very unfairly, but it is what it is) that same lack of carefulness went into the craft of the book.

    Reply
    1. Limecello Post author

      Carly,

      What you said makes a lot of sense, and I generally agree. I don’t necessarily think about the writing part… well exactly, but I do think of the website as a representation of the author. Which… I mean, it is to the digital/internet world. And if you don’t care about that, or your page looks like my 7th grade geocities page… I’m going to think you don’t care about me as the reader, or being very professional. Which then may or may not be reflected in your (the author’s) book.

      Reply
  2. Mary M.

    Lime, I totally agree with you about a comprehensive book list. And about authors being nice…. just ask any of the authors at Lori’s get together about the number of books i bought from authors who I first met and spoke with there!
    My pet peeve aside from the music that you mentioned is something I do not know the term for but drives me nuts. I reach an author’s website and when I move the cursor some moving graphic is generated along the path my mouse takes… like a butterfly or a flying bat, etc. I’m sure it looked cute when they set it up but it just drives me crazy! All I ask is a site that gives me the info I need, shows me that this is a writer who cares about their readers, and is not decorated in clashing neon colors with text that runs over itself, bringing on a migraine.

    What a great idea, Lime…….”Let Mistress Limecello grade your site” and post a link on your blog to the best ones.

    Reply
    1. Limecello Post author

      Mary –

      HAHAHHAHA. I don’t think anyone has called or referred to me as “Mistress” before. :X Goodness.

      And, hm, yes – good point on the “cutesy graphics” or special effects. They were fun in the 90s when you could change your cursor image but not so much now. I’m actually surprised to hear there are websites that have it.

      Reply
  3. caroline

    Wow, Limecello, really enjoyed your post. I have to say I was a bit nervous as I read it, ticking off the points you made in my mind as I thought of my own site. Thankfully, there were only a couple of things I have to revamp. I take your comments seriously. YOU’RE a READER! I need to listen. Anyhow, just thought I’d drop in and say, “Hi.” A fellow author on twitter suggest I follow you. I’m glad I took her advice….

    I have a new book coming out soon and I need to get that information posted. Just as soon as I have the cover, (hopefully not more than a couple more days) I’ll do that.

    Have a super day…

    ~Caroline

    Reply
    1. Limecello Post author

      Caroline,

      Well thank you for following me! I hope I don’t disappoint :X I do talk rather a lot on twitter.
      And I went to your site – I like the clean look and how the links are right there, and your book information is listed as well. The potpourri section is so cute! It reminded me I’ve got to get one of my walks done – I’m sure the pup will appreciate that. 😉

      Reply
  4. Juniper Bell

    I really appreciate this post. As an author who feels like I’m bumbling around half the time, this feedback is gold! I have a question for you — is a link to an excerpt okay, or must the excerpt actually be on the site? If you want to check out my site (http://JuniperBell.com) I would love that. No flash or music, don’t worry. But could it be more clear? Your eagle eye would be most welcome!

    Best,

    Juniper

    Reply
    1. Limecello Post author

      Juniper – links to excerpts are perfectly okay. (In fact, I said – take advantage of all excerpts posted across the board. Link to websites, etc.)
      I like the links at the top – and how you have all your books listed on your book page.

      What I’m not in love with – and this is personal preference – how all information is in that little “window” for lack of a better word. You’re using only about 25% of the screen, so all the rest of your website is just… negative space. (Only not because it’s got your background.) The scrolling can be a little annoying, especially since your “main/outside” page scrolls as well.

      It might also be an issue for the vision impaired? I hadn’t thought about that until one of my fellow reviewers at TGTBTU who is mentioned it – which leads me to the excerpts opening in that pop up type window. But that’s definitely better than a pdf. I don’t like those. So, those are my off the top of my head thoughts.

      Hope that’s helpful, and that it made at least some sense!

      Reply
  5. Julia Hughes (@tinkertoldmeto)

    lacking both money & IT savvy I went for sweet and simple. I also keep faith with Amazon who are fantastic at presenting potential readers with details of books similiar to the one they’ve just purchased & making related suggestions.

    Reply
    1. Limecello Post author

      Julia – sweet and simple definitely wins over bells and whistles and drag in my book. And yes – amazon is very good at the “spend more money! here are books you might like!” thing. 😉

      Reply
  6. librarypat

    Excellent points. I find nothing wrong with any of them. I don’t know much about flash, so I checked Rachel Gibson’s site. I don’t mind the format. As for music, I want the option to click on a playlist type menu for the option to have music or not. There are some sites that have music I like, but if you click away from the page, it stops. I don’t like hanging around on a page just to finish a song.

    All great suggestions for authors. I might add, that non-authors that have blogs should also follow many of these suggestions. There are a couple I follow that have no way to contact the blogger. There may be an issue or comment I would like to make that I don’t want to post in the blog.

    Thanks for a thoughtful post.

    Reply
    1. Limecello Post author

      Pat –
      Well good! You might be in the majority? I don’t know, but I had the clicking and whirring from Rachel’s site, and how it’s slow, and there’s no information and I have to wait for all her little whizzy graphics etc before I can get to any information I want. It just irks me – but I am impatient.
      And yes – optional music is fine, but not when it auto-plays.

      And I agree for the contact form! I made sure I figured out to have one. I’d love to also not be a wordpress.com site… but I sadly can’t afford it. Maybe one day when I finally have a job. >.<

      Reply
  7. C. Allyn Pierson

    Excellent points, thank you, and I agree completely with the music and fancy graphics. I’ve tried to make mine look professional but lean and uncluttered so the information is easy to find. I have not had excerpts on my site (it’s difficult to know which excerpt and how long and avoid giving away too much), but I will see what I can come up with, because I think you are right. I certainly find that I use the sample function at Amazon for my Kindle when looking at an author I don’t know.

    Reply
    1. Limecello Post author

      C. – 😉

      Good luck putting the excerpts on your site! I know it’s time consuming, and difficult to think what would be the best draw… but I think it’s still better than not having it.
      I think something at least enough to give the reader an idea of your writing style. A hook – you don’t need to show the plot or premise, because the book blurb covers it. At least, that’s my opinion.

      Reply
  8. Michelle McCleod

    Oh I hate music on websites. Totally blows your cover at work!

    I am on blogger and probably will stay there for a while. I don’t even have a header design because…well, I really want to dress up my dogs as unicorns and take some photos to make one.

    Friends who love me, refuse to let me do this, so no header until the unicorn dog fetish passes.

    But I will post excerpts!

    M

    Reply
    1. Limecello Post author

      Michelle – hahah YES! Work, school, the library… anywhere you’re supposed to be quiet.

      Hm… yeah I’m gonna agree with your friends on the dog-unicorn header, but you know, feel free to post those in your about, FAQs, or blog! 😉

      Reply
  9. Mari Carr

    Awesome blog. Really enjoyed reading your insights! I’d love to have your opinion of my website (www.maricarr.com) – I’m the least visual/graphic person on the planet and I know it. Any and all advice is welcome. 🙂

    No flash. No music. And I’m afraid–like you mentioned on Juniper’s–I’m not using my space effectively.

    Reply
    1. Limecello Post author

      Mari –

      Sorry this took so long! I really like your “in progress” page, so your readers can keep tabs on what to look forward to.
      I get the concept of the bulletin board background… but I don’t … I’m not in love with it. Especially since it’s just “there” you know? And the rest doesn’t quite connect or have anything to do with it.
      I like the links at the top, how everything is broken up nicely into categories.
      There seems to be inconsistencies in your book pages, however. I randomly clicked a few, and some were very detailed, but others had … well… only the book cover, really.
      I also think your book pages where the series are there, the books need to be separated more clearly. That, and I’d like it more if you had excerpts for each one. Perhaps publication dates somewhere as well, on the more detailed page? Does that make sense at all?

      Reply
  10. Landra Graf

    Lime,
    Lot’s of great pointers and tips. I have to agree with all of them as a reader and I’m frustrated the most by author websites that are not updated or easy to navigate. I understand that graphics are pretty and sometimes authors want to stand out from others, but it appears that clear and concise work best on me.
    Your bit about the Amazon suggestions and then the website has nothing are definitely something that irks me too.
    I think overall I just want to know the name, what the book’s about, and when I get snag it up.
    When I finally get a website going I will definitely ask you to grade me. Heck you should have a little badge made up that author’s can put on their blogs or websites directly lol!
    Have a great weekend!

    Reply
    1. Limecello Post author

      Landra,

      I think we often think the same things, but… either we think it’s implied or… I don’t know – those people giving the workshops and advice don’t think of it or don’t care? I have no idea.

      Hahaha a button. 😉 Cute.

      Reply
    1. Limecello Post author

      Hah! Shiloh, that totally made me snicker. Pot calling the kettle black right here! More like… Pot calling the pan, cuz I’m definitely not as bad as you! *angelface* <3

      Reply
    1. Limecello Post author

      Woohoo! Yay for updates 😀 Your site has a nice clean look. I might try to have less negative space, however, if at all possible. But I’m picky. Too many art classes. It has a rather “blog” like look.
      Of course, I don’t know anything web-wise, these days, so I don’t know if you do your page or have someone make changes for you, and how hard that’d be.

      Reply
  11. Julie Leto

    Thanks, Lime. I went through my website and I think it fits all your rules. I used to have a black site with white writing and learned my lesson on that one. 🙂 Not sure what you mean by “comprehensive book list.” I have a booklist that is printable. It’s divided by current books and backlist, which is divided by series. Is that what you mean?

    Reply
    1. Limecello Post author

      Julie – I LOVE your avatar! And, I really love your printable booklist as well. That’s so helpful, to have all the information, and the series separated out, but to have everything there. I also like how you have the formats listed for your books – that’s something new, and definitely nice.
      I like that all the covers are reading. One thing is you can’t do a ctrl+search feature on your book page for covers… but that’s for lazy people, and it’s not that big an issue.
      I’m glad you have a specific book page for each one, and your older Temptations as well. With Harlequin releasing oldies in e-format, do you think you’ll put excerpts on those pages too if/when they’re available?
      Love the colors, and clean look of your site, and the picture you have up of you and the plotmonkeys is adorable!
      :X Sorry it took me so long to respond!

      Reply
      1. Julie Leto

        Hey, a lime is a key ingredient in a mojito, so I know why you like my avatar, LOL!

        I may put up excerpts of old books as they become available in e-format. I hadn’t really thought about it. I think all my books are now available digitally, but I’m not sure. I will think about it.

        Glad you like the site. It’s a huge change from my old one, which was very dark. I like a clean website where it’s simply easy to find stuff. And because it’s a WordPress site, I can do a ton of updates myself…and that’s a nice feature!

        Thanks so much for your advise!

        Reply
  12. Mary Froelich

    Great suggestions Lime. The only thing that doesn’t bother me much on your list is the music.

    The updated printable booklist is a must.

    Reply
    1. Limecello Post author

      Mary – true. Do you mind if the printable book list is a pdf that opens? I don’t really like that, and tend to avoid them. :X Perhaps I might find more information, but… enh pdf.

      Reply
  13. Carey A. Bligard

    Thanks for your comments…I would like to get rid of some of that negative space too, but the templates are pretty defined (although if I knew anything about computers, maybe I could get around that!). I also don’t like that the longer items, like the excerpt, look like they are shoved over to the right once you get below the tabs, but c’est la vie! I don’t have a book list, since it would only have one item on it, but I think it is a very good idea- I always like those when I go looking at used book sales for the books I am missing in a series. In the mystery genre there is a website called Stop you’re killing me that has all mystery authors, and lists of their books, in chronologic order, and divided into which series they are in. It’s a great resource for mystery lovers! You can search by author, title, or main character’s name. The URL is: http://www.stopyourekillingme.com Thanks again for your comments on my website, it is great to have an outsider’s opinion on what is needed.

    Reply

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