Searching for an (Honest) Author Web Site

Bleak.  Dismal.  Vapid.  Why is it an authors who can make you turn pages so quickly you get windburn have such awful Web sites?  I understand that the obligatory stuff has to be there: Bio, Contacts, Books, How to Buy the Books.  But can anyone present this boilerplate in a new way?  (And I don’t mean with crawls, flashing text or typographical excess.)

I’ve been looking at author Web sites out of pure hubris.  Somehow I got it into my head that my fiction would sell.  And the word is that you gotta have a Web site.

To be fair, Scott Turow has a site worth looking at.  Neat.  Clean.  Easy to navigate.  The only problem is that it is very stingy.  Way back when when I was an editor of the “fun” IBM sites, I had an ironclad rule.  The page must be worth the click.  Not the case here.

It is the case with the best overall site I found, Theresa Meyers.  I’ve never read any of her books, but I imagine that her fans are delighted by the excerpts (which are more than the few paragraphs doled out in most author sites), FAQs (that sound like real questions from fans) and her bio (not a resume, for once — the best part of the site).  I’m willing to bet that her site actually sells more books than those who blast their readers with book covers and blurbs.

I do like one site that offers postcards based on the covers.  Another author will provide personally signed bookplates upon request.  I don’t think she even asks for the postage.  These are nice touches for fans.

Many have blogs.  Most are worse than the Web sites.  But, while I can’t say much for her Web site or the design of her blog, I think Monica Burns does the job with her blog.  It don’t plan to follow it myself, but it looks like those who read her books get what they come for.  She actually talks about life as a writer, which is pretty much an exception.  (Though I’ll admit that the one that talked about dipping bras in imported beer caught my attention.)

The best feature on author Web pages, when it is there, is “inspiration.”  This is like the “making of” tracks on DVDs.  It is fun to see the creative process exposed, where problems cropped up, the tenuous connections between characters and real people and the research into locales, professions, etc.  I suspect I like this stuff mostly because I write, but I guess fans like it, too.

It takes a lot of effort to write a book.  Every one of these writers, I’m sure, wants readers (and, yes, probably some fame and fortune).  What a shame it is when the book does not find its audience.  You used to have some chance that the publisher would promote the work effectively, but I think this is more and more in the hands of the author.  Until a career is rolling in a Stephen King way (his site is not terrific, btw), these Web sites (and similar venues) are really essential, so it is a distressing that most are disappointing.

Occasionally, you find a podcast (and YouTube has some nice examples to look at), but where is the interactivity?  I’d like to see some real reader questions, a bulletin board that is active, opportunities to chat with the author.  Do any authors have wikis?  Do the blogs actually cite other blogs?  (Okay, I’m guilty here, too.)  The most I see are pictures of strangers from signing.

Overall, the Amazon pages beat most author Web sites.  I hope to do better.

(If you have favorite sites or parts of sites, please let me know.  Great examples should be honored and shared.)

Notes on what’s up

BIG mistake, my talking about finishing Lucky Numbers.  I’ve been accused since of taking a vacation.  So it is not done, okay?  I still have a two-page epilogue.  And that won’t be written until the last minute, I promise.

I got the full cover proof for Innovation Passport this week.  The back leads with the generous quote by Greg Dawson (which is also on the About Peter Andrews page).  The “rough cut” electronic version is already available via Safari Books.  And folks in India can buy it for 1,530 rupees.  I’m anticipating good things.

Drama took a good turn (at last).  I got some kudos for the dialogue in a piece presented on Monday.  I also got a free bowl of soup for some script doctoring.

…and, the work on the Zeitgeist Rangers graphic novel is developing in a way that pleases me.  I’ve done character descriptions, titled sections and even done some world building.  Enormously challenging, but fun.

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