Posted by: Katie | June 20, 2014

Author websites

Earlier today, I posted two related tweets:

The background for these tweets was that I was trying to find when a particular book was first published for something I was doing at work. I always treat the author’s website as the first source for authoritative information about her/his books. Sadly, not every author agrees with me on this. I was very frustrated because, not only could I not find the information I was looking for, but the website was flat out fugly. It looked like an amateur site from the 1990s, only missing the marquee and blinking text. This is for an author who I know damn well has done very well for herself monetarily if her rabid fans are anything to go by. I could not believe that someone who obviously has built her career up to this point on word of mouth could have such a shitty website. Note, I did not publicly name the author in my tweets, nor will I. Why? Because her website looks just fine on my home computer using the same browser. It’s shitty on my work computer because of various security lockdowns which do not allow the JavaScript in her menu to work as intended. That’s a very different issue from intentional bad design. The only comment I’ll say about that to authors whether you are doing your website yourself or if you’re contracting it out to someone: CSS (cascading style sheets) is your friend.

This all led to my asking on Twitter what information people expected to find on author websites. Here’s a list in no particular order, but I’ve starred the ones I think are especially important as a librarian who expects your website to be the authoritative information source about your work (yes, I’m trying to lay down some Irish Catholic guilt on you):

  • Information about upcoming releases*
  • Publication history about previously published works whether they are currently in print or not* – double points for printable (we librarians have patrons who still really prefer getting a piece of paper from us)
  • Reading order information for series* (this includes “you don’t have to read these in order!”) – again, printable
  • Contact information* – Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, other social media du jour, email (maybe I’d like to book you for a program if I were to book programs for my library), newsletter sign up link/form
  • Biography – @surlyspice suggests two: 1 brief and 1 expanded
  • Excerpts from past, current, and upcoming releases
  • Every cover that your book has ever had*
  • Direct links to where to buy your books

I especially liked this response:

Another common refrain in the responses is to keep your site updated. For example, on your upcoming releases list, the most recently announced book is from 2012. Really? Build it in to your schedule to update your website at least every six months, but you should really be doing it any time any information about your books changes.

For those who are considering building or rebuilding a website, I hope you find this information useful. My fellow librarians and I (as well as *your readers*) thank you.



  1. […] couple of days later, Katie Dunneback asked the same thing with the intent to write a piece on the results. She and I more or less got the same responses which could best be summed up […]

  2. I think it’s important to note that if book has been reverted by the publisher, authors usually aren’t permitted to use the cover image. The publisher owns that, not the author. Also, if a publisher recovers the book, they may require the author to use the updated cover. That one is out of our hands often much of the time.

    • Very good points! I would counter that if this is the case, the author consider doing a list describing the previous covers, or at least noting that it had other covers. I’ve seen many a complaint of a reader re-buying a book they’ve already read (and had no intention of rereading) due to a different cover and that is what they remember.

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