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Saturday, 19 February 2011

What do you want on a writer's site?


Suzanna Burke

Soooz is known by most of you for her fantastic Weekly Article on the AOS Blog. We are thrilled that she has agreed to also become a fully fledged team member and to have her own page on here as well. A very talented author in her own right, she is known for her selfless promotion of fellow writers and does some brilliant interviews on her blog Soooz Says Stuff.. To see more of her and where to buy her book Empty Chairs, click on the links below.
Empty Chairs in now available to buy:
CLICK TO BUY THIS BOOK - on Amazon Kindle
CLICK TO BUY THIS BOOK -  in paperback
Soooz Asks: What do you want on a writer's site?
In preparation for this article I contacted several authors who's work I admire, and I asked them the question..."What do you look for on a writer's site/blog" The results are printed below. My thanks to these lovely people for taking the time out of their busy schedules to respond in such detail.

Robb Grindstaff

There are so many different things I look for in websites and blogs about writing and the writing business. I don't think any single site could provide the full range of content and do it well. I look at sites that provide information about the craft of writing, the art of writing, the business of publishing, the promotion of published authors, writing contests, sites that showcase cutting edge short stories and flash fiction by emerging writers, articles about trends in books and literature, information about literary agents and agencies, critique sites, even sites with vigorous debates over the proper use of semicolons. On and on and on.
I read the blogs of dozens of my favorite writers -- published, self-published, emerging and struggling -- as well as participate in online writer communities. I find these important to stay connected to other writers, to learn from their struggles and mistakes, to share my own and get advice from those who've been there, and to share in the celebration of the occasional, joyful success of others. And, hopefully, share my own occasional, joyful success with other writers. How much fun would it be to land a publishing contract and not have a circle of writer friends to blather to about it? No one else would understand the elation of getting a $5000 advance on a novel you've spent years writing.
For writer promotion, I come to this from one particular perspective. I'm seeking an agent and the traditional publishing route for commercial/literary novels, so what I need for promotion will be completely different than someone who already has an agent and/or a published book, and different still from someone who is self-publishing.
I want to build a circle, a network, of writers from whom I can learn, as well as make connections in the hopes of landing an agent. Additionally, I'd love to build a core group of readers, a small fan base if you like, that can become a platform from which to kickstart promotion of a book if/when I eventually land that publishing contract.
I think this last part is crucial, and it's the one key ingredient I haven't found anywhere yet. It seems all the websites geared to promoting writers is aimed at, populated by, and read by other writers. That's great, but where does an unpublished writer go to get feedback from people who aren't writers? To attempt to build a reader base? Even the promotion of my many friends who have self-published books seems aimed almost exclusively at those within the writing community. How do we reach beyond our insular writer circles into the larger audience of people who enjoy reading?
That's what I want in an author-promotion website: readers who aren't writers (in addition to my wonderful writer friends). I already have hundreds of places where I connect with other writers.
I guess that's why I still seek the elusive golden ring of traditional publishing in this day of digital, self, on-demand, instant gratification, anyone-can-be-a-published-writer. I want readers. Lots of 'em.
Robb Grindstaff
Formerly a newspaper editor and publisher, Robb Grindstaff now writes and edits fiction full-time. His newspaper career took him from small towns in North Carolina and Texas to Washington, D.C., and five years in Tokyo. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
Robb writes commercial and literary novels, and currently seeks agency representation for two manuscripts while working on two more. His short stories and flash fiction pieces have appeared in print anthologies and e-zines. He has had numerous articles on the craft of fiction writing published by professional writers' magazines and websites, and is a contributing writers to the American Independent Writers Association (AIW) upcoming book, "35 Years Of Writing Essentials."
Robb has edited novels and non-fiction manuscripts for published, agented, and self-published authoris from the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Europe.
See samples of his writing and learn about his editing services at He can be reached at


1. obviously, uncontroversially, navigability and as few clicks as possible to do things - which works outside as well as inside the site, so lots of links to the exact places that have a "buy the book" button rather than just linking to the author's website from which you can go to their Amazon page from which you can go to the book's page etc. That means a thumbnail of the book cover, a brief synopsis, and a "buy as ebook" and "buy as paperback" link, with pricing.
2. specificity - there are lots of sites out there promoting authors, and lots of generic ebook sites, and unless it's incredibly easy to get listed (here's my press pack, thank you so much) or the site has a recognised high impact (ebooks just published for example) I avoid anything that deals in more than one or two genres other than mine, simply because my intended audience wouldn't go there. The kind of people who do go there, if they did find my book, probably wouldn't be that interested, and anyone who was likely to be a fan who stumbled there would wonder what I was doing on that kind of site and think twice about looking further
3. I would avoid a  "no erotica, excessive sex, violence or bad language or material we find offensive" policy. I absolutely understand it would be essential for many writers, but anyone likely to buy eight cuts books would click straight through. I'd also be very wary of a site that didn't want, say, any swear words in the posted extracts
4. which leads to - extracts. Really important, but once an author has more than one book or even an interesting bio it can get cluttered, so in an ideal site they'd have a basic "area" rather than just one page. My absolute favourite for extracts would be being able to use a bookbuzzr wdiget on the page for each book
5. similar - YouTube embeds would be really handy with more and more people having trailers, readings, vlogs etc
6. most important of all is vetting - *the* major failing of most indie ebook sites and author sites is the desire to promote anything indie because it's indie. Imagine a really influential reader (someone with a popular blog for Kindle readers say) comes along and samples a couple of books - would you be delighted for them to do so, whatever they chose, or would you want to steer them towards certain titles?
7. I think you would have to decide about published/unpublished - as in, are you helping authors get an agent, or are you helping authors sell books
8. spotlight sections - these are essential on any such blog - but they would need to be done on an impartial basis, first come first served as it were, be for a reasonable length of time whilst traffic was building, and everyone would have a shot
9. Review sites - REALLY handy would be to work with the creme de la creme of review blogs for p- and e-books - Dove Grey Reader for example, and facilitate reviews for books form the site with them.

George Polley

For promotion of a person’s work, I like a website that is uncluttered, easy to read and easy to navigate around in. That said, I don't think my author's website, does very well, but the website for my books does ( I also like your "Empty Chairs" website, which I visited a day or so ago.
Another website is, that I find similarly attractive and easy to navigate around and spend some time in.
All three sites are clear, easy to navigate, and offer samples of the work presented. On mine, I offer samples of my two books, plus stories from a work-in-progress about the dog named Bear, plus a few other grandfather stories from an e-book that is no longer available.
The sites I like the best are the ones that compel me to leave with copies of the book or other product that I can take home and enjoy.
George Polley’s site

Mandy Ward

It is almost impossible to cater for everyone's tastes in creating a website that caters to everyone. Someone is bound to get left out and be upset! I had the same vision when I set up "Welcome to Wherever..."and I quickly found out that if you are too vague in your creation then you inevitably don't get any visitors at all. That's why I changed things slightly for the new year. For myself, when I go to a new writer's website, I want to be able to settle in without feeling left out of the fun, so an active forum is always welcome. I like to be able to read member's work and get help on my own without being too heavily criticised or not critiqued enough. I don't care about ranking systems and I don't want to be forced to read things that I don't like just to get my own work read. In a way, Authonomy was fine until they changed the site and I couldn't get on properly. Then the trolls took over the forum and I wasn't having any fun when I did get on - Facebook was more fun and I didn't have to worry about where my book was - I can post stuff and tag who I like to come and give me help. So that's where I migrated to and that's what I look for - as yet, I haven't found a writer's site as good as what I have on FB!!/Tiger.priestess

Greta Van Der Rohl

I don't think one size fits all which is why there are so many different ones.
I like the idea of being able to access courses. I've recently joined a sote called Savvy Authors - American and mainly romance but vibrant, active, with lots of on-line courses, of which I've done 3. Well - done 2, in the middle of a third. The thing about these is you get one-on-one feedback from someone who knows what she's talking about. They do cost, but not much The editing one I'm doing now is $25US.
I liked your interviews and reviews but reviews can be dangerous if you didn't like the book and don't wish to risk offending the author.
The idea of a weekly showcase is good.
I guess what we're all trying to do on a website is to get our books noticed. That's difficult. I wish I knew how. There are so many sites out there, authors blogs and so on, all trying to catch a publisher/agent/reader eye.
My blog:
Well, 'Die a Dry Death' is available right now
Book depository:
Amazon US:
Amazon UK:
You can see a book trailer here:
You can read an excerpt from 'Morgan's Choice' which will be published this (US) spring, here:

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