Romance Author’s Web Sites: An Update of Essentials and Fun Extras

Screen shot 2011-11-14 at 2.28.18 PMThree years ago I posted here about romance authors’ Web sites and listed four essentials: (1) a complete listing of the author’s books, and connections for those in a series; (2) news of upcoming books; (3) a brief bio; and (4) a method to contact the author (email link or form). These are all still essentials for me. They can be fairly brief and hopefully require little time for updating. I’ve visited a lot of author Web sites in the intervening three years and have some other essentials I’d like to add. I’ve also discovered some fun new extras at other authors’ Web sites.

First, it’s vital that the Web site be current. I immediately leave an author’s site if I discover that their homepage features as “new” a book that was published one or more books ago while failing to mention their latest release. I expect that a News tab will actually have recent (not necessarily daily or even monthly) news. Even something as simple as news about an upcoming – or recently published – book works here. What doesn’t work is “news” of books published or awards won years earlier.  Many authors have extra sections including one for Appearances or Upcoming Appearances. These are of particular interest to me when I prepare AAR’s monthly booksigning post. However, events that occurred months, or years earlier, don’t really qualify as “upcoming,” and call into question the content of the entire site.

Second, a simple homepage is essential. If I have to guess where I need to click to find out more information, I’m going to leave the site. Book covers or other images that float in and out aren’t helpful; sometimes less is more. Homepages that are brimming with text and photos and flashing images are difficult to navigate. I generally won’t make the effort.

Finally, and related to the second point, is the speed with which the homepage loads. I’ve had  a high speed cable connection to the Internet at home for many years. But every once in a while I encounter an author’s Web site that’s so loaded with flash content, that it takes a long time to load. There’s just too much content on the Web for me to waste my time waiting for images to load.

In my original post, I also talked about some of my favorite “extras” posted on a number of author’s Web sites including the sites of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Lauren Willig, and Tracy Grant. Since that time I’ve encountered some additional fun “extras,” and wanted to share some of them with you.

If you’re a fan of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, you won’t want to miss her Web site; its chock full of goodies. The tab entitled Alexia’s London leads you to a section featuring a wealth of additional information about Alexia’s world and the characters that inhabit it. Especially interesting are the character studies of Alexia, Lord Maccon, Lord Akeldama, and other series regulars. Another interesting section is labeled Steampunk. It features a brief essay on steampunk, and includes numerous links to additional information.

I’m a big fan of book trailers, and was delighted to discover that Jayne Ann Krentz’s Web site has a section devoted to book trailers for her recent books (you’ll find the trailers under the books’ tab). She also has extensive sections devoted to her Arcane and Harmony series, including character profiles and history.

Kelly Armstrong has a useful guide to the demon world presented in her series, labeled Demonology 101. She also has an extensive character list, and a section entitled her Mea Culpa Page, featuring errors she’s made in her books.

I love the photo section on the Web site of JoAnn Ross. She has albums set up for photos that fit her various series including her Shelter Bay series, and my favorite, her Irish series. And then there’s the recipe section, where she features recipes representative of some of her books. She also has a page for video trailers on her site.

Helen Brenna’s Web site has photos of her inspirations for her Mirabelle Island series as well as illustrated maps of the fictional island. And until I visited the site, I wasn’t aware that Mackinac Island was her inspiration.

Rose Lerner’s Web site has DVD-type extras including deleted scenes and “character interviews.” She also has an exclusive short story set in the time of In For a Penny.

Lisa Kleypas has some quizzes on her site, including “Which animal would Beatrix Hathaway think you’re most like?” and “Which Wallflower are you:  Daisy, Annabelle, Lillian or Evie?”  I also like the section featuring Book Hopping Characters such as Derek Craven.

Finally, I discovered an interesting pronunciation guide at the site of a mystery writer I read, Louise Penny. Her series is set in Quebec outside of Montreal, so the books naturally include a lot of French phrases and names. If you click on the book title, you get an MP3 file with Ms. Penny pronouncing various names and terms, and describing some of them in more detail.

Do you ever visit author’s Web sites? If so, what are some of your essentials for a good Web site? Have you discovered any fun extras?

- LinnieGayl AAR

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21 Responses to “Romance Author’s Web Sites: An Update of Essentials and Fun Extras”

  1. maggie b. says:

    I do visit author sites, not for the fun extras but mainly to keep up with the next published work. Sarah Sundin and Deanne Gist both have good ones.

    Shana Abe, on the other hand, almoost never updates. And Linda Howard doesn’t have one (at least that I have ever found.) To me that is kind of silly. I know both these ladies have strong sales and rely on their established reputations but web sites are good marketing tools. A simple one -basically an easy to update blog would be fine. All I want is to keep track of when and what they are publishing.

  2. wenmc says:

    I have an “authors” tab on my favorites that I compiled all my favorite authors for easy access to their websites. Strangely with most authors I can find more information on upcoming books (at least titles and release dates) by going on Amazon or on this website. I like Meljean Brook’s site with her synopsis of her series books and Susan Elizabeth Phillips videos are always entertaining. I joined JR Ward’s blog because she rarely gives glimpses into upcoming books on her website. I agree with maggie b. regarding Linda Howard, don’t understand why she’s never had a website, it would make sense from a marketing standpoint.

  3. Kay says:

    I agree about both Shana Abe and Linda Howard. I really wish Shana Abe would update more often. As for LH, while it is odd she doesn’t have a website, I read on a messageboard (though, not recently) that she had someone stalking her and thus, chose not to have a website. However, she is on Facebook and gives updates often, so I’m wondering if the stalker issue has gone away.

    Johanna Lindsey is another author who doesn’t have an official website. I don’t read her stuff anymore but about 5-10 years ago, when I WAS looking for her newer releases and the reading order of her books, it was quite annoying not to find any official website for her.

  4. Leigh says:

    My wants are pretty simple: list of books with excerpts, list of upcoming releases with excerpts and release dates (if available), list of books in a series, and the correct order to read them.

    There must be an unwritten rule someplace that an author is not allowed to talk about upcoming releases if she has a current book out. Often I read a book, and fall in love with a secondary character, so I want to know if that character will have his/her own book. That information is never found on a web page.

    Right now I a little peeved with Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Readers like myself, who buy her books pretty much on the release date and in hardback, don’t have access to the excerpt for Lucy’s book. Now I realize it probably wasn’t written when the hb was released. And it does make sense to put it in the paperback copy. But sheesh what about us? Put the thing on your web page! I have better things to do then visit a store to read the excerpt.

    This is what she has on her web page:

    I’ll be posting a sneak peek of THE GREAT ESCAPE soon. If you can’t wait, check out the back of the trade paperback edition of CALL ME

  5. Leigh says:

    Robin D. Owens is great about putting excerpts up on her web page. She not afraid to say that this is a rough draft, and it may be changed.

  6. JoAnn says:

    Lauren Willig has the BEST web site!! Besides all the basic must have features (book lists, author bio…) she has a “Diversions” page which lists everything from music she listens to while writing to e-cards to bonus scenes from her novels.

    But my favorite feature is Lauren’s “Weekly Reading Round-Up” where Lauren and her fan’s share what they have been reading…I get some of the best recommendations! Lauren’s site is worth checking every day (LaurenWillig.com)

  7. Carrie says:

    I don’t generally visit author websites except to look up information, such a titles or the order of books in a series, so what I most look for in a website is an organizational structure that makes sense and a really good search feature. I want to know such things as how books relate to one another. I’ve found SEP’s site is good for that, and Karen Rose has a great “how each book relates to others” tree on her website. Meljean Brooks has the best background information and support I’ve ever seen on an author’s website, for both her series. I don’t visit author sites, however, unless I’m looking for specific information.

    The one exception is Jill Shalvis’s blog, which I check almost every week. Her blog entries are generally short and always humorous, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. She gives the readers insights into her family, her home and her pets.

  8. LeeB. says:

    maggie b. and Kay: Shana Abe posts quite often on Facebook. You might want to check her out there.

    LinnieGayl: Great blog! I totally agree with busy websites, especially the kind that show desks or libraries or whatever and you have to figure out which item to click on to find out more information. I don’t go to author websites to exercise my brain! ;)

    And, yeah, I’ve never understood why authors don’t keep their websites up to date, especially regarding new or upcoming releases. Just baffles me.

  9. Kim says:

    Once I discover an author, I always go to their website. One thing I’ve noticed, however, is that some authors now use Twitter and Facebook so much, that they don’t bother with their websites. Julia Quinn, Sherry Thomas and Julie James all have good websites.

  10. LinnieGayl says:

    Wenmc: I like the idea of an author tab for your browser! I’m going to have to create one.

    JoAnn: I love Lauren Willig’s website. She has some wonderful extras in addition to doing everything I consider essential.

    Several of you mentioned SEP’s website, which I do visit regularly.

    I haven’t checked out some of the others – Meljean Brooks, Karen Rose, Jill Shalvis, Sarah Sundin and Deanne Gist – but will be sure to rectify that.
    Thanks!

  11. Leslie says:

    I love Lauren Willig’s website. It’s gorgeous! I try to check in daily.

  12. Kaily says:

    Thanks, this is distinguished work.

  13. Ashley says:

    Elizabeth Hoyt has a very good website!

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