Or is it? I’ve had a lot to think about in redesigning my site, spent several months researching what I wanted and how I wanted to do it, and I’ve come to realize that Dan Gillmor is right when he says in Mediactive, “You’ll never be finished…Your home base will always be a work in progress because you are a work in progress.” It’s a concept that certainly applies to authors who are designing web homes, but it overflows into our work* as well, and it also applies to readers, in a sense**. This concept of being works-in-progress has broad significance.
But my question for today is, what is it to build a home base–an author website–that reflects oure evolving personas? And since an author’s primary motive in having a website is to build a following of people who will buy her books (in the future, in my case!), we must next ask how we can be true to these personas while attracting readers to our books from our sites. The key, I think, is honesty–in our goals, in our tone, in our committments. And the ability to decide for oursieves what we should or shouldn’t include on our sites. If we decide to blog twice a week because it’s standard advice, we’re not being honest, are we? Our false enthusiasm, our scouring for something–anything–to write about, trying to fit into the author mold…this is something I and many others have done before. It is honesty in a sense; it is an exploration of the images we want to project. But as we grow, we should strive for greater honesty.
Some author websites will be extensive. Others will merely act as portals to our presences on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and the like. What’s important is not only to decide which suits us best, but to recognize that what suits us now may not suit us a year from now. A successful website should be flexible enough to accomodate our ever-changing personas.
What makes a website flexible? First, we must keep in mind that our website is our base of operations. People can come here to learn about you, from you. That said, there are a plethera or ways people can learn about you, even if all you’re doing in some cases is directing visitors to your Facebook or Twitter feeds. The point is, directing people to go there from your website tells teh something abotu you in and of itself–it tells them which media you update most frequently, for one. There are lots of things you can do inside this box. You can use your site’s blog for brief news and updates whenever these crop up, a place for monthly musings, a place for giveaways, as a daily sounding board, or whatever fits the way you live online. You can include links to your other online activities in a sidebar, or if it’s extensive, you can put these on a separate page on your site. you can use a features page to discuss your favorite writing resources or your favorite authors or as a link list containing your other essays and articles. you can write a long bio for your about page or a short one with a link to your group blog as “a way to learn more” about you.
We know that an author website contains four or five basic parts–a home page, an about page, a writing page, contact info, and sometmes a page or section to share miscellaneous info relevant to you and your work. As you can see from above, this basic format offers a lot of flexibility. Your site’s actual content can be long or short, but it must be thorough, and it must be accurate. This, I believe, is the key to a good website rather than a rigid formula that dictates exactly what to include and when. Once more teh focus is on quality, not quantity, of content. Not all author sites fit this requirement–how many times have you visited an author blog or site and left disappointed in its lack of good information? A good website should be thorough by answering the readers’ basic questions: who are you, what have you written, why did you write it, when did you write it or when can they get it, where can they get it or where is it set. You can be as succinct or expansive as you want, but when you use the 5 Ws, that’s a good start to quality content.
And to that end, I do hope you’ll find this site’s latest evolution to be thorough, accurate, informative, and sometimes entertaining. Please let me know ifyou have any suggestions fo improving the site. I’m also interested in any links or other resources (or your own advice) about successful author websites. A work-in-progress (like me and this site!), after all, can only change for the better by being open to new ideas, to learning all there is to know.
* Since writing is a reflection of ourselves the changes we undergo as people will reflect in our work. Thus, while each individual novel will at some point cease to be a work-in-progress an author’s body of work will shift in mood, tone, and theme as the author matures.
** People are not static, so as they grow, their reading tastes may change. They may continue to read in one particular genre, but there’s a lot of variety within each genre–especially now, as subgenres blossom and fade and genres meet and mingle in fascinating new ways. Book reviewers, then, provide a valuable service by helping readers identify the traits they enjoy in a book at this stage of their lives. I once wrote a brief post relating to this idea.