reviewcoffee After seeing LinnieGayl’s piece on author websites, I started thinking not just about author’s sites, but about publisher’s websites as well. I’ve been reading romance off and on since I was in middle school, but I didn’t start following it online until after college. The websites I remember from the late 90s were fairly spartan. Some had lists of authors, a few featured cover blurb information on various books, but features such as blogs and online ordering seemed almost unheard of. For someone looking for book ideas and information, it was very frustrating!

Things have come a long way, though. Several years ago, Harlequin started making its website much more streamlined and customer-friendly. It still has information about authors, but now there are online reader boards, I can order books from the site(something Dorchester has had for years, to my delight), and see a few months’ worth of upcoming releases. Avon has also recently added a “Browse Inside” feature to let readers preview books as well as a feature similar to our “If You Like…” lists that suggests other authors that a fan of one writer might like. These are all great features, and I’ve seen them spreading to other publisher’s websites. It’s becoming a much more user-friendly world out there, and I really appreciate it.

In addition to the features being added to the websites themselves, more and more publishers are putting information out there in blogs. The crew at Avon has a fun, informative blog and several of the Harlequin lines also have blogs. Some, such as the Harlequin Historical authors’ blog, are author driven, but others such as I Heart Presents and the Paranormal Romance Blog, were created (at least in part) by folks who work for Harlequin. Leah Hultenschmidt over at Dorchester also has a good blog that not only gives good information from the editor’s perspective, but also features several months’s worth of upcoming book summaries – a feature I love when I’m planning what I want to read!

So, what do I look for most from publisher sites? The bottom line would be information. I want a site with lots of book/author information that is organized and easy to navigate. I like to see:
– online ordering
– information on books by a particular author
– summaries of current and backlist books, extra points if there are summaries of a few months’ of upcoming books
– a searchable database – it’s frustrating to go to a site and just find all of the books in one giant list

Some of the other features out there such as the blogs, the informational pieces found on some websites and the interactive features created by some publishers on Facebook, Shelfari or similar sites definitely make browsing much more pleasurable, but well-organized information is the necessity for me. So, when you’re out there browsing, what do you like to see on publishers’ websites?

– Lynn Spencer