Author Web Sites: Essentials and Fun Extras

I never really visited many authors’ Web sites until I started polling for AAR back in 2006. As part of the Favorite Books by Favorite Authors polling, we compiled lists of books by various authors and the best source was generally the authors’ individual sites. Since that time, I’ve visited many author Web sites, not just in my role as an AAR pollster, but also just as a reader.

Some authors have wonderful sites, while others are less than desirable. But, whether excellent or so-so, there are some features I believe are essential to every author site.  

  • A complete listing of an author’s books. If some books are linked in a series, it’s helpful to see those links, as well as the order in which the stories occur.
  • News of upcoming books. I now routinely visit the websites of some of my favorite authors, to find out when their next books will be published. 
  • A brief bio of the author. It doesn’t have to be extensive, but it just gives me a bit of a feel for the person behind the words. 
  • A method to contact the author, through either an email link or a form.

Most of the sites I’ve visited have all of these basic features. But some authors go way behind the basics and have cooked up all kinds of fun features, ranging from pictures of their characters, to contests, to recipes from their books to message boards where fans can chat with each other, and at times, the author herself.

A number of my favorite Web sites provide sneak peaks at upcoming novels, or special materials published nowhere else. I love Susan Mallery’s site, as she provides excerpts for her books going back to 2003.  Susan Elizabeth Phillips provides an unpublished epilogue to the popular Heaven, Texas on her site. Nora Robert has follow-up short stories to her Ardmore trilogy as well as a follow-up to the original Quinn Brother’s trilogy (pre-Seth’s story).

Julia Quinn’s Web site includes “deleted scenes” from various novels and, similarly, Lauren Willig’s includes “outtakes.” Tracy Grant’s site includes the delightful Fraser Correspondence, which consists of letters written by Charles, Melanie, and others.

I also appreciate supplemental material for historical periods. Tasha Alexander’s Web site has “Emily’s Environs,” featuring links to sites with information about the places Emily (her heroine) goes, as well as reference sites for historical information.  Elizabeth Hoyt also has a fascinating section on her research notes for her historical romances, while Candice Hern has a wonderful section entitled Welcome to Candice’s Regency World filled with information about Regency England.

Several authors provide recipes for foods featured in their books. Susan Elizabeth Phillips includes a number of recipes, including the baked oatmeal cookies featured in This Heart of Mine. Among the food-related links at Julie Ortolon’s site is the recipe for brownies featured in Don’t Tempt Me. Susan Wiggs includes recipes from a number of her books and Carole Matthews has an entire section devoted to recipes from her Chocolate Lovers’ books.

So, what about you?  Are there certain things you look for on author Web sites? What are some of the fun features you’ve discovered? 

-LinnieGayl Kimmel

15 Responses to “Author Web Sites: Essentials and Fun Extras”

  1. Elaine S says:

    Mary Balogh’s website is excellent and meets your criteria – it’s particularly good at connecting her books together and is informative and informal.

  2. LinnieGayl says:

    Thanks, Elaine. I just took a look and Mary Balogh’s website is nice. I like how she not only links the series books, but mentions how the characters are linked in the different entries. She also has a number of extras, including unpublished epilogues.

  3. Donna says:

    Interesting! In the wake of obtaining my domain, I’m going through a complete redesign of my website prior to my upcoming Sourcebooks series that starts with ‘Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark’, and I’m considering some supplemental material, such as a ‘cast of characters’ with brief bios, family tree, photos of Yorkshire and information on the late Georgian era.

    It’s good to know that readers like all of that!

  4. Jane Granville says:

    For my marketing class, my group did a project analyzing Julia Quinn’s (and Avon’s) marketing. Her website really is incredible, if you look at everything she has on it, in addition to the deleted scenes– sound tracks/play lists, links to examples of regency clothing, family trees, a CafePress store where you can buy tshirts and mugs and baby bibs, and that’s just off the top of my head.

  5. LeeB. says:

    I always look to see if an author has included excerpts of their books; that helps me determine whether I will purchase the book or put it on reserve at the library, if the library has it.

    I also think it’s important that authors update their sites at least once a month. It’s frustrating for me as a reader to visit a website that hasn’t been updated in a year or two especially if the author has a new book coming out soon.

  6. Tracy Grant says:

    Thanks so much for mentioning the Fraser Correspondence, LinnieGayl! I love material on author’s websites that take you deeper into the world of the books. Websites are a great way to enrich the world of a book or a series in a non-linear way (I heard an interest segment about this on NPR recently).

    In addition to the ones you’ve mentioned, another site I love is my friend Monica McCarty’s which has a “Special Features” section designed to be like DVD exras. It has cut scenes, a timeline, historical notes, and fabulous pictures of settings in the books (which she had to travel to Scotland to take, poor thing :-).

  7. MaryK says:

    A COMPLETE listing of an author’s books. Even the out of print ones. Sometimes especially the out of print ones.

  8. Karly McCrory says:

    I frequently check out author websites, and the two features I use most are the book list and upcoming releases sections. I consider these must-haves for any site.

    As previous posters have written, the book list should be complete, including all out-of-print books, and any connected books should be marked and listed in order. I am one of those readers who likes to read books in order, so a helpful author website makes this a lot easier to nail down.

    When I find an author I like, I check their website on a regular basis for updates on new releases. I like to know when the author’s next book is coming out, even if it’s a year or more away. Just knowing that a fav author is working on something is welcome.

    And if you’re going to have a website, keep it updated. You’ll frustrate your readers otherwise.

  9. LinnieGayl says:

    Lee and Karly, I agree about the need for regular updates of sites. I too get very frustrated when I know an author has a book coming out in a month or two, visit their site, and find it hasn’t been updated for months.

    Donna, I love the idea of a cast of characters, family tree, etc, very helpful and interesting. And information on the late Georgian period would be great.

    MaryK, yes, definitely yes to including out-of-print books on the site. It’s very frustrating when authors don’t include all their books.

    Tracy, heading over to Monica McCarty’s site now to check it out. Thanks!

  10. Jessa Slade says:

    The comments about keeping a website updated hit home. It’s so hard… and so necessary. I was recently trying to find an author’s backlist and there was only a dry pdf, no links, nothing. I’ll do the extra clicking, but making it easy is, well, easier :)

  11. we always keep track of our family tree because it is exciting to know the family tree *:`

  12. we always keep track of our family tree because it is exciting to know the family tree *;,

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