Today, I want to conclude our series on blogging by looking at the sites of ten famous authors. If you’re still looking for ideas to apply to your own site, these might inspire you.
As to the shark… Well, you’ll have to read on to find out.
Rizzoli & Isles author Tess Gerritsen: Clean and fairly easy to navigate, but a bit blah. The blog section has black text on a white background, but the site itself is dark grey with white print. There are two photos of the author but neither is very inviting. The books page fares better with easily readable and accessible links to read about her novels. The purchase link is separate, though. 7/10
Harry Potter author JK Rowling: What works: Aware that her fans are international, you enter by selecting your country option. The colours and fonts are friendly and easy to read. There is a scrolling timeline which can be filtered by Harry Potter, About the Author, etc. Then there are links to ‘About’, ‘News’, and ‘Works’. From a design perspective, and I realise I’m being picky here, the author’s bright orange ensemble in her photo really clashes with the vivid pink on the headers and the ‘what’s new’ text. I hate to admit it, but it comes across as functional and not worthy of Ms Rowling’s imagination. 8/10
Philip Pullman‘s site is one of the best, in my opinion. The opening page delivers a picture of the author, a welcome that says, “Welcome to my website, where you can find information about my books, view my illustrations, check out what people asked in my Q&A section. I hope you enjoy your visit.” Plus links to his illustrations, articles, a Q&A, and much more. It’s a treasure trove of goodies for the Pullman fan. Even if you’re not familiar with his work, this site draws you in and teases you to know more. 10/10
John le Carre‘s site is neatly laid out and completely matches his theme of espionage. For instance, twitter comments appear on the screen with the ones from le Carre himself designated ‘transmitted’, while the ones from fans are listed as ‘intercepted’. This is a rare example of a patterned background with white text that actually works. The links to his books offer full cover blurbs and easy links to make a purchase. The only thing that doesn’t work is the bit about the author: a postage stamp-sized picture and a twee description. It suggests a disconnect between author and designer. 9/10
The site of Anthony Horowitz, author of Foyle’s War and some Sherlock Holmes books (you knew that was coming!) has a cheery picture of the author on the header, and the black text on a pale grey background is easy to read. The subheader is in orange and looks very stylish against the charcoal backing. On offer are news, events, gallery, and even a forum. The ‘shop’ section brings up covers of Horowitz’s books. Click on them and you’re brought directly to their Amazon page. I’m not as wild about the photo of the author on the ‘about’ page. He’s been shot from the opposite end of what looks like a long table, and there’s too much of his domestic environment behind him. Horowitz is dwarfed by all the extraneous stuff, which is unfortunate. Still a good site, though. 9/10
Jim Butcher, author of the Harry Dresden series, has a site as quirky as the man himself. The header shows a picture of the author in action. As a wizard. The site is fun and includes an entertaining account of how Jim finally got his Harry Dresden series published. (If you haven’t met this wizard, then get thee to a book shop. He’s fabulous.) There are more goodies than you can shake a magic stick at, including sample chapters and information about the Dresden Files card game. 10/10
You really can’t beat the site of Sharpe author Bernard Cornwell. The site is crisp, uses stylish graphics that mirror his themes, and offers an engaging photo of the man himself. His introduction reads, “This is my website. There are others devoted to my books and some of them are very good, but this one is the Authorised Version.” I love that. The site offers a place for readers to comment, a reading club, and a place to ask questions. Oh, and the text section has clear, black fonts on a smooth grey surface with a textured background offers some classy contrast. 10/10
Novelist and essayist Will Self is an engaging writer, but I don’t love his site. Yes, the font is black on a white background. Yes, the headers are clearly… uh, no, actually, they’re not. If you enter the site and look at the far right label you’ll see “Books Will Sell for an Event.” Maybe it’s just me. It actually says, “Book Will Self for an Event”, but the font makes the F and the L too similar and your (OK, my) whacky brain does the rest. The header offers ‘Books’ and this brings you to a dropdown list of works. Only the resulting information presumes you already know what you’re looking for. The ‘books’ link on the left of the page is more revealing, with blurbs, reviews and links readily available. I like Will Self. I wish I liked his site more. 6/10
The author of Neverwhere and Good Omens, Neil Gaiman, has an interesting site. He calls his a journal rather than a blog but a rose by any other name, you know? It’s clean, clear, easy to negotiate and contains some decent pictures. My only quibble is the header – I should say headers – seem a bit fussy. Is it necessary to have two? That said, you don’t have to hunt to find what you want. Also, Gaiman’s style of writing is engaging and often very informative. His ‘Cool Stuff’ section includes stories essays and book excerpts. A very nice introduction to the man’s work. 9/10
Marcel Theroux‘s site is very simply laid out. The header isn’t a header as a sort of ‘midder’ with the links set in the middle of the front page. Pages are pared down and to the point, each illustrated with a pen-and-ink cartoon. The ‘books’ page brings up a list of titles. Click on the title and you get a blurb and link to purchase. (It’s possible one of these novels is about Sherlock Holmes’s smarter brother, Mycroft. Say nothing.) It’s a small thing, but I like the option at the bottom of the book page, “click here to see the book on Amazon”. No demands that you buy. Just take a look. 10/10
Now, about that shark…
If you have written a book and are struggling to get it published, you must check out Query Shark. A New York agent who makes Judge Judy look like a kitten, QS is acerbic, opinionated and always right. People send her their query letters and she tears into them. Those who don’t run to the shore improve. They make changes and resubmit their efforts. QS savages them again, but sometimes with some encouragement. Not always, but enough to give the writer hope. Now and then, someone succeeds and gets a great big well done. It’s golden. Check out her site. If you’re brave enough, send her your letter. She’s always looking for more chum.