critical for author websites – summary!

So I got about forty responses from my question a few weeks ago about what was critical to have on an author website, and the overwhelming response was that these, in more or less this order, are what readers are looking for:

  • What’s New
  • What’s Next
  • Reading Order, particularly if that’s different from the publication order

Okay, so this was pretty interesting! I’m gonna go into some of these more, and then touch on some of the less-widely-asked-for-but-still-requested features!

  • WHAT’S NEW – well, this is pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it? Readers want this front and centre.
  • WHAT’S NEXT – the most interesting thing about this to me was people asking for as much lead time as possible on this. It’s probable that people who are coming to your author website are the most likely to preorder things, so if something’s available for them to preorder, they want to do that NOW!
  • ALL THE BOOKS – also pretty self-explanatory, but subclasses of this include:
    • Books listed by series
    • Notification of whether a series is complete! I wouldn’t have thought of this, probably because I know, but this makes sense. Readers want to know whether there are more stories coming or whether a series has wrapped up, or perhaps ended prematurely.
    • Maybe short blurbs for each title, to remind readers where they are in a series
  • READING ORDER – Listed by series is clearly great, but a lot of readers would like actual reading order, particularly if the author’s recommended reading order isn’t the same as the publication order.
    • This includes short stories/bonus material/etc at the correct chronological points, and if series intertwine, a notification of when and where this happens along with a recommended reading order (ie, the author recommends you start with Series X, read up to Book 5, read Series Y up through book 7 where they cross over, and then continue with whichever series you want to, or whatever).
  • CURRENT INFORMATION – this is really critical. A lot of respondees said it was incredibly frustrating to go to an author’s website to discover the last time it was updated was 4 books ago, which, of course, yeah. I also get really frustrated when I go to an author’s site and find out it’s not current. :)

Beyond those things, other things that readers said would be nice to see were:

  • Social media links – including newsletters and patreons! – one reader specifically said, “If there’s ways to get bonus content, tell me about it. So I’d add a link to your Patreon with a copy/paste of the lowest tier description that includes bonus/early content access. Then tell me what I get by signing up for your newsletter. You’ve posted a pitch elsewhere, copy/paste it to the sign up page here.”
  • Other bonus material – maps, short stories; for writers who do sprawling things across a lot of books and a long timeline, maybe a timeline (which dovetails with ‘reading order’), ‘drabbles’
  • Blog posts, but really only if they’re current
  • Author appearances, ideally with as much lead time as possible

There was also clearly a strong preference for authors having websites that were updated regularly so people could just go there to find out what they were missing. Readers (correctly, IMHO) felt that a regularly-updated website is much, much more reliable than anything Goodreads, Amazon, Wiki, whatever, might provide in terms of this kind of information, and by all appearances everybody responding really appreciated author websites.

Another writer did suggest that the “what’s new” especially should be an invitation/link/insisting on JOINING OUR NEWSLETTERS (that’s a subtle link to mine!), which is a very, very good idea, because our newsletters are the one way we have to absolutely for sure at least GET information to you (whether you read it or not, that’s between you and your gods, and let’s be real, between me and mine for the newsletters I’m signed up for), but also, look, the truth is, I personally am in fact more likely to go to a writer’s website than sign up for their newsletter, so I’m going to look for a happy medium on that one somehow, because I don’t want to punish readers who aren’t on my newsletter. So I’ll think on that one.

Anyway, overall, this was REALLY HELPFUL and interesting, and I really appreciate everybody who took the time to respond!

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