Screen shot 2011-11-14 at 2.28.18 PMThree years ago I posted here about romance authors’ Web sites and listed four essentials: (1) a complete listing of the author’s books, and connections for those in a series; (2) news of upcoming books; (3) a brief bio; and (4) a method to contact the author (email link or form). These are all still essentials for me. They can be fairly brief and hopefully require little time for updating. I’ve visited a lot of author Web sites in the intervening three years and have some other essentials I’d like to add. I’ve also discovered some fun new extras at other authors’ Web sites.

First, it’s vital that the Web site be current. I immediately leave an author’s site if I discover that their homepage features as “new” a book that was published one or more books ago while failing to mention their latest release. I expect that a News tab will actually have recent (not necessarily daily or even monthly) news. Even something as simple as news about an upcoming – or recently published – book works here. What doesn’t work is “news” of books published or awards won years earlier.  Many authors have extra sections including one for Appearances or Upcoming Appearances. These are of particular interest to me when I prepare AAR’s monthly booksigning post. However, events that occurred months, or years earlier, don’t really qualify as “upcoming,” and call into question the content of the entire site.

Second, a simple homepage is essential. If I have to guess where I need to click to find out more information, I’m going to leave the site. Book covers or other images that float in and out aren’t helpful; sometimes less is more. Homepages that are brimming with text and photos and flashing images are difficult to navigate. I generally won’t make the effort.

Finally, and related to the second point, is the speed with which the homepage loads. I’ve had  a high speed cable connection to the Internet at home for many years. But every once in a while I encounter an author’s Web site that’s so loaded with flash content, that it takes a long time to load. There’s just too much content on the Web for me to waste my time waiting for images to load.

In my original post, I also talked about some of my favorite “extras” posted on a number of author’s Web sites including the sites of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Lauren Willig, and Tracy Grant. Since that time I’ve encountered some additional fun “extras,” and wanted to share some of them with you.

If you’re a fan of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, you won’t want to miss her Web site; its chock full of goodies. The tab entitled Alexia’s London leads you to a section featuring a wealth of additional information about Alexia’s world and the characters that inhabit it. Especially interesting are the character studies of Alexia, Lord Maccon, Lord Akeldama, and other series regulars. Another interesting section is labeled Steampunk. It features a brief essay on steampunk, and includes numerous links to additional information.

I’m a big fan of book trailers, and was delighted to discover that Jayne Ann Krentz’s Web site has a section devoted to book trailers for her recent books (you’ll find the trailers under the books’ tab). She also has extensive sections devoted to her Arcane and Harmony series, including character profiles and history.

Kelly Armstrong has a useful guide to the demon world presented in her series, labeled Demonology 101. She also has an extensive character list, and a section entitled her Mea Culpa Page, featuring errors she’s made in her books.

I love the photo section on the Web site of JoAnn Ross. She has albums set up for photos that fit her various series including her Shelter Bay series, and my favorite, her Irish series. And then there’s the recipe section, where she features recipes representative of some of her books. She also has a page for video trailers on her site.

Helen Brenna’s Web site has photos of her inspirations for her Mirabelle Island series as well as illustrated maps of the fictional island. And until I visited the site, I wasn’t aware that Mackinac Island was her inspiration.

Rose Lerner’s Web site has DVD-type extras including deleted scenes and “character interviews.” She also has an exclusive short story set in the time of In For a Penny.

Lisa Kleypas has some quizzes on her site, including “Which animal would Beatrix Hathaway think you’re most like?” and “Which Wallflower are you:  Daisy, Annabelle, Lillian or Evie?”  I also like the section featuring Book Hopping Characters such as Derek Craven.

Finally, I discovered an interesting pronunciation guide at the site of a mystery writer I read, Louise Penny. Her series is set in Quebec outside of Montreal, so the books naturally include a lot of French phrases and names. If you click on the book title, you get an MP3 file with Ms. Penny pronouncing various names and terms, and describing some of them in more detail.

Do you ever visit author’s Web sites? If so, what are some of your essentials for a good Web site? Have you discovered any fun extras?

– LinnieGayl AAR