As many of you know I recently sold my book The Surrender Of Lacy Morgan to Ellora's Cave. While waiting for the release date, I'm busy doing things like working on the next book and trying to form a web presence so people will have a place to find out about the book. (My yelling it from the mountain tops aside!)
So I've hired a young IT web designer to develop a webpage for me. She's smart and has a background in both art and design, so I'm looking forward to collaborating with her on this. One of the things she's asked me to do is review other romance authors' websites and see what details I like or want in mine and what font I'd like to showcase in the title and page bullets.
No problem. Right? I'm a woman and a romance reader. I won't mind shopping through the sites.
Do you know how many romance sites there are?!?! I stopped counting at 1500! And I was like in the P's. But undaunted, I started clicking each and everyone open.
Here's what I discovered:
1) There are a multitude of genres and combinations of what authors can write if they choose more than one.
2) Some authors like subtle colors, while others like deep, dark colors and still others choose rather wild, vibrant combinations. (My eyes are not happy with some of the neon color combos!)
3) Some authors have highly professional looking home pages, while others look as if they were done at home with a template from the 80's. And others have fancy gizmos like flash movies and scrolling banners, hearts and flowers.
4) Some work....some don't. Some just plain need to be removed because the host site is no longer in use and the reader can't access the author's webpage at all. (But that'a a whole other discussion.)
So, since many of the Bandits are in Orlando for the National Romance Writer's conference, moi included, I thought I'd keep y'all busy with a little tour to see what sites I found that I thought "worked". Keep in mind the Bandits don't do snark, so no "didn't work" sites are listed...and there have to be 2000 or more sites all together, so I picked only a handful or two to share!
First, let's get my definition of what a good website should do:
1. SELL THE BOOK.
2. SELL THE AUTHOR
3. SELL THE GENRE
4. DON'T HURT MY EYES
So, here's my first example, and it's our Anna Campbell's: http://www.annacampbell.info/
What I like about Anna's is the prominent cover of her newest book, in this case My Reckless Surrender. You don't have to look for what she's selling. She wants you to buy her newest book and features it. Also, the color and style of the site tells you it's historical but with a dark edgy feel. Anna writes Regency noir books. You know what you're getting when you look at this site.
Here's my friend Jane Graves site: http://janegraves.com/
Can you tell what Jane writes from this home page? Yep, contemporary romances. The colors are bold and eye catching, Izzy her cat adds the element of fun you can find in Jane's books. Jane has her name and newest release, Black Ties and Lullabies prominently showcased. And her photo also gives you that friendly, fun and welcoming feel you get from her books. By the way, Jane's site was created and designed by Jane, herself. Not something I'd recommend for the average author to attempt, but Jane has mad computer skills so it works for her.
Next up is our Bandita Joan Kayse: http://www.joankayse.com/home.html
What is great about Joan's is the banner. Such nice eye candy! You know Joan writes about sexy Romans's and that her website and work are historicals. Since she's waiting for a very smart editor to snatch up her great Roman-era books, this site is important because it advertises Joan and her works to potential editors, agents and future fans!
Here's my critique partner, Jo Davis' site: http://jodavis.net/
Jo currently has two sub genres of romance to advertise. Her website does that successfully. Her name is front and center. You can't miss the books either! The newest firefighter story, Line Of Fire, is larger than the others, which are flashing slowly beside it. The two on the right are her erotic romantic suspenses, the latest, I Spy A Wicked Sin. And the side columns with the sexy men let you know you're in for a sexy good read should you click on the books and order them.
**A side note here. Please note that while there are lots of great critical reviews for Jo's books, they're on the lower half of the page that you have to scroll down to get to. On my tour I noticed many authors putting these at the top or crowding them into the top sidesbars. Remember Suz's rule #1...SELL THE BOOK. The books should always be first! Rule #4 DON'T HURT MY EYES clutter hurts as much as neon!**
Let's look at Bandita Susan Sey's new site: http://www.susansey.com/pages.php?ID=9
First thing you see is it's light and clean feeling. A contemporary font announces it's Susan's site. Her picture is cute and tells you she's fun. Her brand spanking new book, Money, Honey, is right there for the reader to see and who could resist not looking for what story this great cover holds? The critics' comments and reviews are in the lower part of the scroll, (see the above side note). Great job, Susan!
Here's Geri Krotow's site: http://www.gerikrotow.com
I don't personally know Geri and haven't YET read her books. But her site grabbed my attention and I think it really works for her. Why? See the colors and style of her banner? Now look at the colors of the SuperRomance book she has displayed. She took the colors from the book, muted them slightly and inverted them, mirror imaging what she's selling. Her name is very visible, as is her picture, and the font is contemporary. Great marketing. Does it work? I intend to buy this book just from the website!
Bandita Trish Milburn addresses a double genre with her site: http://www.trishmilburn.com/You know Trish writes both contemporary romance and YA romances. She chose to let the browsing reader know this by showing both her adult and YA inner selves on the front page. Her books, The Family Man and Winter Longing, the newest for each subgenre, are on the opening page, not at the top, but not too far down with the scroll! Trish lets her readers know what she's tweeting about in the side bar, but the look and feel of this isn't too cluttered and encourages all her readers to participate in both her subgenres!
Diann Mills is another new author to me: http://www.diannmills.com/
Her site is unique and I think it works because of the theme. There's an oldfashioned map as the background. The personal pictures Diann uses suggests the theme of travel and adventure. Her opening letter and by line talk about adventure. And while her book covers are smaller than those I've shown you on other sites, they're visible at the bottom and it's fun to see them light up as you scroll across them. Think I'll be checking them out, too!
Let's look at Bandita Jeanne Adams updated site: http://www.jeanneadams.com/
First, it's beautiful. The colors are bold, the images sexy and those big guns...well, can we say, BOOM any louder? This is romantic supense, and not much black, a color seen on lots of the suspense pages. Nice use of negative space, great showcase of her newest release, Deadly Little Secrets. Jeanne...A+!
Here's a brand new Bandita site: http://www.inarascott.com/
Inara's debut release Delacroix Academey. The Candidates is a suspenseful YA paranormal book. Doesn't this opening page give you that feeling AND make you want to see what the book and series is all about? I'm betting many a young adult reader and probably their mother will, too! We Bandits can't wait for THIS book to hit the stands!
Author Cathy McDavid's site: http://www.cathymcdavid.com/ caught my eye.
Cathy writes for Harlequin American. Her site says American in a big bold way! The colors are red, white and blue, but so are the Harlequin American books! She's got American symbols and sexy images in the banner pictures. Her name is very easy to find, and with a short scroll, there is her newest release. Great job, Cathy!
**And yet another side note. Scrolls. Don't make me work. I might be a reader who is browsing for new books or authors during my 15 minute break at work. Don't make me have to scroll down the home page to find stuff. A home page shouldn't scroll much. No longer than one quick swipe of my finger on the mouse. I'm a big girl, I can click on the page buttons if I want to read all the other stuff you want on your site. And those pages can be longer. Rule #1 SELL THE BOOK.** (Can I get an "amen sister!" on these side notes, y'all?!?)
Okay, I've shown you some of what I like. Now it's your turn!
Take a look at the RWA list @ http://www.rwanational.org/cs/rwa_author_web_sites
and let me know who you think has a great site and why. Also, maybe you can help me. I'm looking for the following things to give as examples to my IT girl:
1. Sexy, but not porno sexy
2. Western, but no cows please
3. Strong font.
4. Great design or colors
Please copy and paste your favorite URL's in the comments so I can take a look. Tell me why you like it. Why you think it works. What you think will work for me. No negative ones, please! Remember, Bandits don't do snark!
At this point, I'll take all the help I can get, even from that dang rooster!