What do Readers Want in an Author Website?

I am a reader as well as an author, so I am questioning what do I, as a reader, look for on a web site of an author that I follow.

As a reader I check out the author sites of those I love to read. But, I only do that once or twice a year. I do not look on publisher sites. I do not follow the agent of the authors. All I want to know is when the next book is going to be available.

I don’t care if the author has or needs a holiday. I don’t care if the author is having trouble working out one of the character traits of the novel they are writing.  It is not that I don’t care. It is just that I can, in no way, change the situation of the author. It is out of my hands, therefore the information is irrelevant to me.

All I want to know is when the next book will be available. Or what other books are available by the author that I have not purchased yet, so I can purchase them when I next log onto the Book Depository or Amazon.

So, from this I realised I only need the following available on my site for my readers:

Page 1] A listing all the books I have available for purchase, with links to purchase, whether ebook or, in the future, POD.

I noticed some authors are now making their novels available to purchase on the author site, as well as Amazon, Smashwords, etc. Weighing up the time involved to monitor and maintain the purchases needs to be weighed against the small amount of fees kept by each book site when my novels are purchased.

I noticed some authors have a donation button, for followers to drop a few coins to the author when the readers visit the site. Whether I would do this, I have not decided.

Page 2] An author blog to announce when my next book is available.

My author blog is different to this writing blog talking about writing. Other writers can and do visit my writing blog and comment. I love my writing blog. I love the comments of other authors. But this does not locate and keep readers, and is separate from my author blog.

Page 3] A bio about me as an author, stating what type of stories, genre, length, etc that I write, with contact information for the readers to ask questions.

This ties in with my Twitter account and the type of reader I wish to attract, or the type of reader I write for.

So, what would make a reader comment on a blog about my stories? I don’t know.

Yes, there are lots of books and free information around on marketing. But, no one has said what the actual statistics and facts are that result from the blog, other then a hand full of authors who sell a million copies, or make a million dollars from their stories. We are only assuming their blogs helped spread the word that the books were available.

I believe if the stories are good enough, the readers tell others and they tell others and so more books get purchased.

All I hear is how Twitter can reach millions of people, and the links placed on the twitter comments can lead back to the blog.

Obviously that handful of authors already making a million sales have the correct niche for their stories worked out.

One blogs about the hero and other characters in the stories, but he also uses twitter to get the word out to the readers. Another blogs about writing the stories, and general life taking time away from writing, then twitters about the blog.

They have both reached enough people via twitter, that “word of mouth” advertising takes off. It is not necessarily the blogs that made the sales. It is more that twitter comments fed the interest. Then Amazon “Also Bought” or “Similiar Books” links helped build the readers of the stories.

Every one talks about niches! So, how do I find my niche?

I hear about niche marketing for non fiction all the time and certainly understand it.  But for fiction? My stories are about humans on other planets, similar but not the same as earth, having adventures, and communicating with aliens.

So, should I blog about surviving on the land? Should I blog on how to weave a fish trap or a dilly bag from dried grasses? I would assume everyone would already know that stuff, and the information is freely available in books around the world.

What I know about surviving on the land I write into my stories. Like how to start a fire? Or how to swim with the current until working my way to the bank to exit the river.

I could write on creating aliens for my stories. The easiest way to explain how to create an intelligent alien, is to look at nature. Look at all the creatures, both on the land and in the oceans on our planet that have different anatomies and life styles. I just give them humanoid limbs with opposable thumbs and logical thought processes rather than instinct, develop a language, and allow them to communicate with my characters.

Should I put the plans of each space ship on a page and discuss the engines or environmental processes to keep oxygen circulating throughout the ship?

Or maps of the continents where the characters reside? Would the readers be interested?

Other things that I have heard are needed for an author website are not really necessary at all. I call them “make work” actions or “time taken away from writing”.

Possible Action 5] A newsletter?

For that I need to collect a list of emails of readers wishing to receive the newsletter. Why? They could visit the blog every few months and learn what they need without a newsletter. That way, my time would be spent working on the stories, not incidental information that has not been proven necessary.

Possible Action 6] Competitions?

Why? To get readers to my site, so they can sign up for a newsletter that is not necessary, because the information is freely given in the blog?

I know everyone says to get your 1000 true followers, you need to collect their names.

The thing is, I don’t give my name to any authors, but I am a true follower of four authors. By this I mean that I have purchased every book they ever wrote.

I also follow one or more series of many other authors, but I do not purchase every story they ever wrote. So, I guess, I am not a true fan of those authors. But I am a reader of some of their stories.

Suggestion 7] Links to other authors who write in the same genre, or other genres that I read?

I include an Indie Author list on my writing blog. I do not include lists of my favourite authors on my readers blog. This is something I could look into.

Suggestion 8] A question and answer page?

I can answer any questions in the comments of the blog entries without expanding the scope of my reading web site.

I guess I need to get my head around the need to collect the email lists of all the readers remotely interested in my stories, taking time away from writing the same stories the readers are waiting for.

I need to get my head around the need to write blogs that attract the readers I hope will be interested in my stories and will purchase the stories when they are finally written and posted on the web sites.

I guess, I need help in understanding this phenomenon that is spreading around the world by all the authors wanting to make a business of Indie publishing needing to attract their true readers.

Back to the original questions. What do readers want in an author web site?

So, as a reader, what would you like to see on my author site? Seriously! Any of the above? All of the above? None of the above?

As an author, what are you doing to make your web site and blog interesting for your readers?


11 comments so far

  1. imotherofpearl on

    I completely agree with you about what I want to see on an author website: when will their next book be out, and do they have other books that I might enjoy?

    Of all the blogs I follow, only a few are authors (Holly Lisle, Neil Gaiman, yours and Norman Spinrad) – and that’s largely because I think they have interesting things to say on subjects other than their fiction. I read their books too, but the blogs have to give me something more.

    • D J Mills on

      Yes, I believe the actual author web sites are going over the top with a lot of maintenance that is not utilised by readers. Or, readers of my age group. Maybe it is all designed for the younger generations, not oldies like me. 🙂 Still, my age group are either soon to retire with time and money to indulge in some reading, or already retired and looking for good books to read.

      As for this writing site, I am trying to keep it interesting in my writing struggles and learning new things. I guess it is working because of the number of visitors, even if only one tenth comment. 🙂 I will never get time to write all the articles Holly has on her site, but I am happy to add links to other sites when I find good strategies or suggestions that helps my writing and publishing.

  2. Angela/Curiocat on

    Hey, Diane. One thing you might add to your author website is freebies or extras such as excerpts or free short stories. Also, I’m not at all sure you should maintain a separate author blog from your writer’s blog. If you do then I would suggest it be about anything you want it to be.

    What interests you? Gardening I know is a keen topic for you and to a lot of people. Any hobbies you have can garner you a following from like minded people. It doesn’t have to be about your books or writing but about what interests you and therefore your following.

    Blogs are hard work and life is short. Make the blog interesting for you, chances are good if it is then it will be fun, too. Your followers do not have to be science fiction readers but if they like you they might buy yours books or recommend them to someone else because they like you.

    • D J Mills on

      Thanks for the good suggestions.

      Short stories under 1.5K length are too short for sale at $0.99 but they could go on the site. Another thought is to merge the writer blog with the author blog like Holly’s site, but I have been keeping them apart because as a reader, I don’t want to read about problems and solutions of the authors I follow.

      I grow some vegetables and preserve or freeze them for later use, but not sure one more gardening blog would garner interest when there are many expert gardeners already blogging about growing vegetables. As for hobbies, for a start I tat and crochet. They are dying crafts. I make my own herbal medicines, but am not qualified to teach others or offer advice. I will have to give some thought to blogging about my hobbies. 🙂 Thanks again for the good suggestions.

      • Angela/Curiocat on

        You’re welcome. Another thing you might think about is to have one blog and just assign a subject to a specific day. For your writing you might put that on Mondays and if you decided to blog about crocheting/tatting or gardening then assign a different day to them.

        Speaking for myself, I’m interested in gardening. I wouldn’t necessarily rule that out. I normally do not follow gardening sites but I would yours because I like you and your work. The same for crocheting/tatting. You see what I’m saying?

  3. liselm on

    Hi Diane,
    One of the main reasons authors are encouraged to blog is so that their readers can get to know the person behind the books. I’m not that type of reader, myself. If I do subscribe to a blog it’s because of one of two reasons: either 1) the blog writer/author writes entertaining posts or 2) the posts are infrequent but interesting when they arrive in my inbox.

    One thing I do find interesting is where writers got their ideas from; what spurred them to write the book/story. Maybe this is my way of getting to know the writer better without needing to know the more personal details of their private lives.

    You’ve mentioned a couple of things above that I would be interested in reading, but I’m not a sci-fi reader, so I’m not a typical member of your readership. The worldbuilding elements you mentioned sound fascinating to me – how you designed your aliens and your spacecraft. Maybe a post that comes out around the time each of your books appears could cover that?

    John Locke’s advice is to write timeless posts, ones that don’t date, no matter when they are being read. And he doesn’t write posts frequently either. I think he suggests once a month?

    • LisaM on

      Ooops. Not sure how I got id’d as Liselm… That comment up above is me, Lisa! 🙂

    • D J Mills on

      Thanks for your thoughts, Lisa. I noted your suggestions re worldbuilding and aliens and transport objectives.

      I was wondering if I should do a survey on what readers want in an author’s blog, and ask readers to respond via Twitter. First I have to work out how surveys work in wordpress, then work out the questions. 🙂

      Yes, I read John Lock’s approach, but I do not feel comfortable with his blogs. Just not me. 😦

  4. ekcarmel on

    It’s hard to separate my reader and writer selves for something like this. I’ve read blogs by authors I love and some are great and some fall flat.

    I’m bored by the ones that just have their books and appearance dates, etc. I like a little personal information (nothing intrusive, however) or about any hobbies or opinions on pop culture, as well as little tidbits about what they are writing (no spoilers, obviously). I like photos of authors too.

    Pages on designing aliens and spaceships is a cool idea. I’m not a hardcore scifi fan, but the few scifi author sites I’ve been to don’t offer those. They do usually have nice-looking background graphics on their websites that I like. (Can you tell I’m a very visual person?) I suspect people who are fans of scifi novels are also fans of scifi tv and movies and would appreciate good graphics as well.

    I’m also speaking as someone who’s still mainly a print reader. You are an ebook writer. I would think the dynamics of that would be different in some ways. It would be interesting to see how a question like this would fall out if asked on, say, ebook readers’ forums or Twitter?

    • D J Mills on

      Thanks for your views on writers blogs. Duly noted the designing aliens and spaceships part. I also got the hint for a photo of the author. 🙂

      I love the suggestion of asking on ebook readers’ forums.

  5. bonniewilliamson on

    Reblogged this on bonniewilliamson.

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