Lots of people find out about new authors and series through the Internet these days, so it’s a good idea for authors to have an online presence. That of course means a website or blog page that will attract readers. Now, I’m no technology wizard, and it is important to make exactly the right impression with a web site. So I decided it might be a good idea to talk to an expert about revamping my site. After all, never let it be said that I am unwilling to take helpful advice.
I contacted Carrie Onn of Make You Shine Web Solutions and she assured me they would come up with the perfect web site design for me. ‘Just send me your book covers, a bio, you know, that sort of thing. We’ll take it from there.’
Three weeks later, Carrie called to tell me my site design was ready and we made an appointment. When I got to her office she was all ready for me and excitedly waved me to one of two seats in front of her computer.
‘You’re gonna love this,’ she promised.
‘I’m sure it’ll be great,’ I said.
Carrie clicked on her design and almost immediately I heard an ear-piercing scream. I jumped a little in my seat and gasped, ‘What was that?’
‘Oh, that’s the sound effect people will hear when they click on your site. Isn’t it amazing?’
‘To be honest, I think it’s a bit much. I don’t want readers to have heart attacks when they visit.’
‘But you need their attention. Right away. You know you do. And you write mysteries, so a scream – well, it fits.’
I didn’t want to be difficult and besides, you do need to get people’s attention these days. We could talk about the shriek later. For now I said, ‘Let’s see what the site looks like.’
Carrie grinned and pointed to the computer screen where the design was now fully loaded. It showed an old ivy-covered building at night. So far, so good. My mysteries take place in a university town and often at a university campus. Then all of sudden the screen showed a very handsome young man in torn jeans and a muscle shirt running towards the building brandishing a gun. ‘Who’s that?’ I asked.
‘That’s Joel Williams.’
‘I’m sorry but that’s not what Joel Williams looks like. He’s in his fifties, and that’s really not the way he dresses. Besides, Williams doesn’t carry a gun. This guy looks more like an action hero.’
‘Look, I know what you’re saying but your web site needs sex appeal. He’s hot.’
‘He’s definitely handsome, but he’s not Joel Williams.’
‘Just wait a sec and see what happens next.’
I turned back to the screen and watched as the door of the building opened and a beautiful young woman wearing a short skirt, a cropped top and stiletto heels ran out. She and the young man rushed into each other’s arms. A second later the young man stepped in front of her and aimed a barrage of bullets at the building. Then the building burst into flames.
I’d had enough of that scene, so I turned back to Carrie. ‘This isn’t anything like my books,’ I said.
‘That was just to get people watching,’ she said. ‘It’s like a trailer. Now your other stuff comes up.’
I hoped so but by now I wasn’t sure. I looked again at the computer screen where my name and the words ‘Author of Mysteries and Suspense Novels’ appeared in bright red letters simulated to look like blood. Beneath those words was the invitation ‘Click to Enter.’ I clicked and two options appeared in the same red letters on a background that looked like thunderclouds with lightning: ‘Buy the Books,’ and ‘Sign Up for Updates.’
‘I’m probably missing something but I don’t see any place where a reader could contact me.’
‘Oh, come on, you don’t want readers to contact you, do you? What a pain that would be! This way they can’t. See? No email address.’
‘You know, I really would like you to at least add a contact form link.’
‘OK, but it’s your funeral. What do you think of the rest?’
‘Well…I also don’t see any blog link.’
‘A blog? You don’t want to give the impression that you have time for a blog. You want readers to know that you’re far too busy and far too important to blog. Then they’ll know that you’re A-list enough for them to buy your books. Seriously.’
I thought of something else. ‘What about people who use tablets and smartphones? Will the site load on those?’
‘Well, we’re working on that. Right now they get a ‘Coming Soon’ message and an invitation to check the site out on a PC or Mac.’
‘So anyone who tried to access this on a tablet or smartphone wouldn’t be able to see it? That sounds really frustrating.’
‘But doesn’t this killer site make up for that?’
I looked at the web page for a few moments. Then I said, ‘It looks as though there’s no real way for readers to get a sense of my books before they buy.’
‘That’s the idea. Hook ‘em in with a show and then tell them to buy the books.’
‘But that’s the problem. A lot of readers wouldn’t be able to see it. And even if they can, this show isn’t anything like the books. Isn’t it misleading?’
‘What it is, is eye-catching. Sexy. Clickable.’ That’s what you want. You want eyes and clicks. That’s what gets you sales. No disrespect or anything but – um – you aren’t exactly a household word. You need all the help you can get.’
Carrie was right about that. But that wasn’t the kind of help I wanted. ‘Let me think about it, OK?’
‘Sure, that’s no problem. But don’t take too long. You want to be out there as soon as possible. And the more impact your web site has, the more sales you get.’
I think I’ll try to come up with some other ideas to reach out to readers…