Domain of One’s Own by Erin Elizabeth Long

March 26, 2013

Every writer needs a website. This is non-negotiable, and especially critical for indie authors. Even if you don’t have web design expertise (or a publishing house willing to build a snazzy site for you), you can create an attractive, effective site in a weekend for less than $20.

Choosing a Domain

A .com address is best. It’s the oldest and most common top level domain; most people assume that a website is a .com. You can purchase one for less than $12 a year from somewhere like Godaddy.com.

Try to get yourname.com or as close as possible. If your name (or pen name) is already taken, you may have to get slightly creative. Example: belindawilliamsbooks.com.

WordPress/Blogger or Self-Hosted?

I started off as girlnone.wordpress.com. Then I shelled out $18 for a custom URL and became girlnone.com. Then I got tired of ads and a lack of custom plugins and switched over to self-hosting with Bluehost using the wordpress.org platform. There are tons of articles weighing the pros and cons of self-hosting, and I won’t try to replicate them here.

It comes down to how involved you want to be with the technical aspect of running your site. I like to tinker, and I don’t like being limited in what I can do with my own site. During  the Discover Indie Authors blog hop, a couple of the participants were frustrated because they couldn’t embed the rafflecopter giveaway directly into the post. WordPress.com blogs don’t allow you to embed custom HTML or Javascript.

If you’re not particularly tech savvy, your best bet is going through wordpress.com and adding on a custom domain. You can still make your site look like website rather than a blog (check out YA author Brenna Yovanoff’s wordpress-hosted site), remain plugged into a network of other bloggers, and allow wordpress to do all the heavy lifting.

Elements of a Great Author Site

The Bare Minimum:

  • A list of your books (including reading order, if you write series) and links to buy them on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
  • Your picture and a short biography
  • Other ways to connect with you (Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, etc)

Even Better:

  • A regularly updated blog that gives readers a glimpse of your everyday life and creative process without verging into TMI. Nobody wants to peek behind the curtain only to learn about the Great and Powerful Oz’s bunions.
  • A digital press kit with high-resolution images of your book covers and author photo, a sell sheet for each of your books, sample interview questions, reading guides, etc.
  • Contests, giveaways, or free content for fans such as advance chapters or short stories.

Design Tips:

Aww, look! The dolphins are friends!

Keep it simple yet aesthetically pleasing.

Fit in with your genre. If you write sexy urban fantasy or erudite historical thrillers, then your site shouldn’t look like a Lisa Frank Trapper-Keeper.

Integrate design elements or color palettes from your most popular book or series.

The navigation should be easy to find (a bar at the top of the page, for example) and intuitive to use.

Feature your books prominently; don’t make visitors dig.

Common Mistakes

Amateurish design. If your site looks like a relic from the mid-90s, it’s probably time to redesign your site. If you don’t know how, hire someone to do it for you. Check out this gallery of terrible fantasy author websites.

Too many bells and whistles. Flash animation looks cool, but it can also take a long time to load or fail to display at all. The longer visitors have to wait for something load, the more likely it is they’ll simply leave.

Don’t add sounds, music, or videos that auto-play. People hate that.

Excessive self-promotion turns people off. You should offer value to your visitors–insight into your life, news about upcoming events, freebies related to your books, or information related to the subjects you write about. If all you’re saying is BUY MY BOOK IT’S AWESOME BUY IT NOW!, you’re more likely to lose readers than gain them.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Author Websites

Oh dear. I know that Suzanne Collins–author of The Hunger Games–or her publisher can afford a better site than this, so the question remains: Why is her site so dreadful?

Stephen King’s website is very clean, professional and easy to use. My only complaint is that it’s not, well, scary.

Eclectic and vintage-inspired without being fussy, Rachel King’s website is a nice balance of aesthetics and functionality.

Philip Reeves’ site looks amazing but the amount of flash animation makes it difficult to navigate and slow to load.

Mega-bestselling author Patricia Cornwell’s site looks cool, but it’s hard to navigate and it makes lots of annoying noises.

I really dig Lesley MM Blume’s site with its eclectic typography and Erte-inspired illustrations.

Fantasy author Garth Nix’s homemade website is…not good. The publisher-created sites for his series are much more professional.

Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin’s website is embarrassingly dated and inexplicably periwinkle.

Kami Garcia’s site perfectly captures the Southern Gothic charm of Beautiful Creatures series she co-authored with Margaret Stohl.

Leigh Fallon’s site is lovely, simple, and easy to navigate. Then again, I’m a sucker for anything with a crow on it.

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You can find more information about the author and the original post on Erin Elizabeth Long’s website.

graphology4

Dark Knight in Disguise I ~ Sandra Ross

  • Title: Dark Knight in Disguise I
  • Author: Sandra Ross
  • Series: Earthbound Angels #1
  • Genre: Erotica, PNR
  • Format: e-book
  • Source: Author
  • Reviewed by: Erica, Guest Reviewer
  • Rating: 1 out of 5

Description:  Erick Angell was an angel who had protested too many about the human race and been thrown in the world as a human. And he’s just one among men who’d been cursed with the living flesh and still could not be able to shake their nature as angels, defender of the light in a world full of blight.

Erick Angell wore a mask. A rich man, he sounded full of himself when Hollianne Talbot first talked to him on the phone. But she was instantly mesmerized when she finally met him and saw how beautiful he was. He seemed like an angel. What was more, he provided her with the chance to start a new life at a time when nothing was going on for her. He literally saved her. Like a guardian angel.

Erick wanted to be an angel to Holliane. Unfortunately, the feelings she was invoking on him weren’t entirely angel-like. For the first time in his life as a man, he felt stirrings of sexual awareness. What was more, he was feeling emotions. He was protective of her, he wanted to take care of her… and it wasn’t like anything he felt with the people he encountered in his other life as a dark knight.

Which was another story.

Can’t stand the suspense? Download and find out what happens next!

READER ADVISORY: This story contains content that may include sex and has erotic themes. All of the characters are 18 years of age or older.

Review: 
This isn’t a novel. It’s not even a novella or a short story, it’s an extended prologue at best.

Erick Angell is an angel cast down to earth for complaining to God about humans too much. Hollianne Talbot is an on-demand writer who has just lost her partner to an accident. Erick hires her as a live-in writer to write his autobiography, but going by the steamy cover art this is just a thinly veiled excuse to get jiggy with her. I’m guessing at that, because nothing actually happens – the above covers pretty much everything that happens in this volume.

Now, I’ve already established that this ‘book’ is short, but to illustrate just how short it is I’ll say that I finished it in about fifteen minutes. At this point my Kindle said I was 62% through, and a quick flick through the further pages revealed that the remaining 38% was promotional material for the author’s other books. Not this series, mind you, but another one.

Some further research on Amazon reveals three further parts to this series, and each of those subsequent parts is priced at around £2/$3. Amazon also gives an estimated page count for each of these parts, and they all come in at about 50 pages or so. To me this says that this whole thing is one novel (and not a very long one at that) released in four parts. The first part is free at the time of writing this, but I’m not sure that Amazon allows books to be free permanently, so the total price if you want the whole thing is at least £6/$9. To me, this would only be acceptable if it was made clear to the reader that this is the case, but I can’t really find anything in the description that does so. The only clue is in the fact that all four parts have exactly the same cover art.

Unfortunately there is more, because the writing itself needs work. There are no spelling mistakes, but the tense is all over the place. I think the author’s intention was for this book to be written in the past tense, but she constantly drifts into present tense, often using both tenses within the same sentence. Almost every sentence is a paragraph all by itself, and even the longer paragraphs don’t have more than three sentences at most. Chapter breaks seem to have been determined arbitrarily, often happening in the middle of an action.

This book could have potential, if the author hired an editor and combined all separate parts into one. As it stands I cannot give it more than one star.