Last week I profiled the websites of four amazing authors. This week I’ll be at it again. These are teen novelists who are immensely popular, bestselling authors. Most, if not all, of them are traditionally published. My goal is to see how the pros do it, and apply the things I learn to my own platform.
We’l be starting with a personal favorite of mine...
Jenny Han (dearjennyhan.com)
Overview: Okay, I’ll admit it, somehow I haven’t yet gotten around to reading P.S. I Still Love You, but it’s not because Ms. Han has a bad site. Her site is awesome. I love everything about it. I love how adorable and playful it is while still being professional. There is no questions who her target audience is, she has tailor made this site for teenage girls.
Breakdown: Jenny Han has seven tabs, because she keep her kids and teen book separate, which is probably a really good idea so her readers aren’t frustrated by scrolling through tons of books looking for the one they want. I love her Bio page a lot, its short, but with lots of little personal touches and the use of font as a design element is really well done. She uses her blog for fan art and it is now my goal to have fan art of my book. There are gifs and picture collages and just everything I loved when I was a teenager (and still do) and her fans must really enjoy being noticed.
Takeaway: I tried to get to the bottom of why I love this site so much and it comes down to a couple of things. She has a specific color scheme she uses and does not deviate from that. There is also a very consistent feel across the pages of the site, its like being inside the bedroom of the girl we see on the home page. I imagine if the internet had smell, dearjennyhan.com would smell like a Bath & Body Works. If an author platform should tell a story, we can all learn something from Jenny Han.
John Green (johngreenbooks.com)
Overview: John Green, the author of one of the most popular teen books of the past decade. Aside from Twilight and The Hunger Games, theres probably no other teen romance thats been talked about more than the one in The Fault in Our Stars. So…why the lame author site?
Breakdown: Okay, maybe thats harsh. Maybe my standards are too high after Jenny Han’s site. But the site is very sparse, a white background with black type and very few interactive elements. He has a vlog, which is a pretty cool alternative to a blog and allows his fans to see him face to face, but he misses a big opportunity with the bio. It reads like it was written by a publicist, not very personal. One thing I do like is that the covers of his books are listed in the sides, and when you click on them you get a synopsis, awards, reviews and comments on the book.
Takeaway: Mr. Green is the only guy on my list, maybe thats where the difference lies. Or maybe he just prefers a more late nineties looking website. Either way, its his site and it does what it should. It tells you about his books and where to buy them, updates you on events and gives ways to contact him.
Susan Ee (susanee.com)
Overview: The author of fantasy books such as Angel Fall, Susan Ee has a lot going for her on her site. Her banner and sides are fantastic, they are eye catching while still giving a feel for the types of books she writes. The banner may have to be updated once she’s done with her Angel series, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Breakdown: There are a lot of tabs on this site (all done in that blue color with the underline link style…you know how I feel about that) but at least two of them take you to free chapters from her books. This is a great strategy for getting people hooked, especially since she has two trilogies available. I also like that when you click on her cover art on the home page, it takes you right to the buy page on Amazon. Remember, the fewer clicks you readers go through, the better!
Takeaway: I like the sides she has consistently through the site, which include an email sign up, social media icons and a link to buy her books. She also has a tab called ‘Sign up to be on Susan’s SPECIAL LIST’ that takes you to a sign up page to be notified when a new book is ready. The fact that she portrays it as special and exclusive makes it intriguing, more likely to get clicks.
Sarah Dessen (sarahdessen.com)
Overview: This site is all about the books and its got a lot less content than some other author sites. There are only three tabs, where the home page and the books page are the same thing: a collage of cover art. This is pretty effective, but I originally found it off-putting, because I thought the page had loaded wrong. And my tablet has a hard time putting all the images in an order that doesn’t leave gaps, so it doesn’t make for the best viewing experience in places other than the desktop/laptop.
Breakdown: One thing I love about this site is the blog and bio pages. They are tastefully simple, but still quite personal. She uses her blog to update readers on events and upcoming news, but also uses it in a more traditional diary style. I read a really gripping entry about her family at the beach when her aunt almost drowned and she had to give her cpr. Her books page is unique in that, when you click on the cover, you get all the usual information, and then she also has a little explanation of how she got the idea and went about writing the book. This is a cool ‘behind the scenes’ element for readers.
Takeaway: Theres something to be said for the simple approach. But I can’t help but wonder if this mostly hands off approach would work for an indie author. Ms. Dessen has a huge catalog of books, her readers know exactly what to expect form her and she already has a following. The rest of us have to work a little harder to get and keep our readers. Bonus content, pictures, playlists, free chapters and the like are super important for indie authors.
When I started this project I had a few things in mind. I knew I wanted to make my website better, as professional as it can be before I launch my book and it (hopefully) starts getting a lot more traffic.
What I found was that websites, and author blogs, are as varied as the authors that use them. But that doesn’t mean theres not a few things that make a website successful. I profiled eight top selling author sites and five indie authors who responded to my call for input on Facebook. I found the bestselling authors by looking through the top 100 top selling teen authors on Amazon and picked out the first eight who’s work I’d read or heard of, and who’s work was also not too dissimilar to mine.
I decided to take notes on the strengths and weakness of the site, as well as elements I want to emulate or avoid. All of this keeping in mind, of course, that they are bestselling authors and have the luxury of not having to build an audience.
I created my feedback with the thinking that, if I want to be a bestselling author, I should do my best to be a bestselling author. With all that said, lets start with...
I’m one of those 'this comma is terrible, no wait why is there no comma here? Ugh, grammar sucks. I definitely need a comma here' types of people. For me, the beauty is in the edit.
I used to think the beauty was in the writing, but I’m also one of those people who have these tidal waves of words that crash into me and if I don’t get them down as fast as possible, they wash away. Which means theres not a lot of time for fleshing out characters, adding minor character arcs, mirroring plot points, try-fail cycles and other things that actually make a book worth reading.
Thats where the edit comes in.
This process is going to look a little bit different for everyone. Some people may like to do the copy editing first, or be their own alpha reader. But I thought I would share the process that works for me.
“Write your first draft with your heart. Edit it with your checkbook and a red pen.”
“Critiques are a necessary evil...but they don't have to be evil.” -Tweet This
I have a book full of quotes, many of them about writing, that I’ve been collecting for over a decade. But of all of them, this one has probably defined me as a writer the most. It gave me permission to be the author I wanted to be, it relieved my anxiety about writing at a time when I was taking it very seriously and trying very hard to get published. It didn’t happen then. But I kept writing. I didn’t worry about who would like it, or if it was any good (okay, I didn’t worry a lot). Because somehow knowing that you can’t predict what people will want to read gave me the freedom to write whatever I wanted.
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"Fiction gives the human soul a voice." - Helen Benedict
My thoughts on books, writing, inspiration, motivation and my incredible chosen proffession.