Ten More Author Websites That do the Business

Simon Appleby

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Simon Appleby, director of digital agency Bookswarm, highlights ten more websites that do their authors justice on the web.

Back in 2013, I blogged for The Writing Platform about ten author websites I really liked. They were my personal picks – I was interested in sites for how they looked, how they worked or what they said, and I tried to choose a range to illustrate that there is no single right way to do an author website well.

Web design conventions have moved on and we thought it was time to come back for another round.

Let me know what you think of my choices in the comments.


Roald Dahl 

Why we like it

Straight away this site asks you if you’re a teacher, a kid or a grown-up – and then takes you to content that’s likely to be appropriate for your needs and interests. There’s a great wealth of content available, but the site avoids any unnecessary visual whizbanggery (or as the BFG might possibly have said, bangwhizzery), eschewing animation and sound and not going too overboard on using Quentin Blake’s characteristic illustrations. It also does a great job of allowing visitors to explore Dahl’s comparatively neglected writing for adults.

Black marks

There’s no doubt that the Roald Dah’s Marvellous Children’s Charity is indeed marvellous but we did wonder if it would be better for the main site and the Charity to have two separate, mutually supportive websites rather than having the charity as a subsection of the main site.

http://www.roalddahl.com/


Laline Paull

Why we like it

Simple and elegant, this site feels very much on brand to promote Laline’s debut novel, The Bees. Everything from the content to the colour scheme supports the need to talk about and engage with readers of the novel, and it collects a good range of content (video and text) to give the visitor more than they could get from a retailer’s website.

Black marks

Literary Awards information and links to social media are only available from the home page and we almost missed them the first time around. And not a black mark as such, but unless Laline’s next book is a bee-themed sequel, the site may need redesigning sooner rather than later.

http://www.lalinepaull.com/


Shannon Selin 

Why we like it

I should say that Shannon is a Bookswarm client and this is a site we designed and built – but that’s not the reason for choosing it. Shannon’s single-minded content marketing approach has seen her write well over 100 blog posts on Napoleon and all things Napoleonic since we launched her site in November 2013. She publishes them once per week, and faithfully e-mails her growing list of subscribers every Friday with details of her latest post. Not only are her well-researched writings of genuine interest to her readership, but they’re great for search engines too, giving her opportunities to connect with new readers.

Black marks

This is a toughie – the only thing that occurs to me is that with a long interval between publication of her first novel and its sequel, the website could do more to give interested readers a sense of when their craving for more Napoleon in America might be satisfied.

http://www.shannonselin.com


Haruki Muarakami 

Why we like it

This is the US site for Haruki Murakami and the design embraces the aesthetic of his book cover designs. The Community section is a good way to involve users around a specific call to action (for example, “tell us your favourite scene”), which works well for a popular and established author. We like the chance to see Haruki’s desk, and there’s great depth of content in the Resources section.

Black marks

The slightly experimental home page doesn’t really do justice to the depth of content in the site, and some users could find it slightly discouraging.

http://www.harukimurakami.com/


Gillian Flynn 

Why we like it

Where an author is still overwhelmingly known for one particular book, their website can have a role to play in broadening their appeal and making sure their readers know about their other writing. This website was in our last round-up but has been updated as the focus has moved on from Gone Girl, with the ‘takeover’ of the masthead by her latest book, The Grownup (we really like the clever masthead scroll effect), and there’s a wealth of content for all of her books.

Black marks

Literally a black mark – I’m not a fan of white body copy with a very dark background, as it makes my eyes go funny!

http://gillian-flynn.com/


Anthony Horowitz 

Why we like it

Anthony’s site was in our last round-up as well, but it’s been completely redesigned since then. It’s much lighter and more welcoming, with nice big book jackets (US and UK covers and shown prominently side by side) – definitely much more fresh and engaging.

Black marks

The new site retains its forum, a feature which only the most intrepid author commits themselves to – it’s possibly because it’s early days, but at this stage the forum feels like it’s mostly being used as a way of contacting the author, rather than facilitating discussion between fans.

http://www.anthonyhorowitz.com/


Conn Iggulden 

Why we like it

As the author of multiple series, set in different periods of history (and some children’s books on the side), Conn Iggulden’s site has work to do in making sure his readers are clear on all his output. It does this effectively, with a section for each series, including a whizzy ‘World of…’ section for The Wars of the Roses, which includes book trailers, character profiles and maps.

Black marks

Blog posts are sporadic and the most recent one is over a year old. Any author who doubts their ability to regularly update a blog should search their soul about having one, even if they have sold millions of books!

http://www.conniggulden.com/


Chris Cleave 

Why we like it

One of the comments on our previous post three years ago was about how many of the chosen sites the authors had made with their own fair hands, without outside help. It’s a fair question – so here’s a site that demonstrates how, with WordPress and an off-the-shelf theme, you can make a site that had good content and a high level of engagement with its audience. Chris has experimented across the years with various themes for his site, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the friendly approach to comments and the frequency with which he replies; another is the wealth of information about the research that goes in to each of Chris’s very different novels.

Black marks

Chris’s current choice of theme doesn’t actually feature his name at all in the masthead area – which could be a little confusing for some visitors.

http://chriscleave.com/


Nick Harkaway 

Why we like it

Just like one of Nick’s books, this is a website that draws the visitor in – the slightly anarchic, off-kilter red ‘pathways’ that run through the site are really eye-catching, and Nick’s blog entries are funny and perfectly geared to his geek persona. It even features his notoriously bushy eyebrows in a supporting role.

Black marks

Somewhat surprisingly, the site is not responsive (mobile friendly) – more ‘high concept’ designs can be harder to boil down to work well on mobile.

http://www.nickharkaway.com/


Joe Wicks 

Why we like it

I realise this has been a list dominated by novelists. Perhaps because non-fiction writers have more strings to their bow (broadcasting, TV, politics, academia), books can often be relegated to a smaller part of their web presences. Indeed, non-fiction books can often be brand extensions, but even if that’s true, it’s hard to find fault with publishing sensation Joe Wicks’ site. There’s an immediate inducement to sign up for free fat loss advice via e-mail, clear calls-to-action to buy the books, free recipes and a blog, all wrapped up in a very clean, modern and inspirational package. It’s selling all the way, and that’s no bad thing.

Black marks

The main menu is accessed by means of the so-called ‘hamburger’ icon at the top left – even when the site is viewed on a very large screen. While many people understand this visual convention, not all users will.

http://www.thebodycoach.co.uk/

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