A Promo Website should add value, not just promote the book
The book is being proofread, the cover is done, I have most of the starting blocks ready to be stood on, so I better get on with the book's website.
Rightly or wrongly I believe that a book should have its own website in addition to being part of the author's own website or the publishers website. The reason is that a website is an opportunity to offer additional value to the reader over and above what they get through the book itself.
- Additional photos/images
- Character biographies
- Maps and references
- Free, related stories or essays
- Asides, titbits, clues
In fact, it is the chance for the author to expand the world created in the book in a way that would be awkward in the book itself.
With the Stink I am starting with some excerpts from the book, but since this is about a band, I am going to add the usual stuff you get on band websites - biographies of each member of the band, what instrument they play, what their favourite music is and so on.
Also I will add lyrics and if I ever get time, might even record some of the songs.
The book is set against the landscape of North London in the 1970s, so I might also add a bit about that as well, for those that are interested - the location is a character too, of course! As this is set in a real setting and a real period of history there is much that I will not need to explain or expand on, at least not for the first book. But this does not apply to all genres of novels.
What about Fantasy?
I am working on a fantasy series called Dirt that is turning into a bit of an epic.
With fantasy the writer might often be creating not only strange characters but a strange world too, so with the accompanying website there is the opportunity to add all kinds of things that would be cumbersome in the story.
For instance, in my notes for the book I am far more expansive about the political setup and religious background than I am in the book. To the characters, these are just the playing field they are stuck with and they do not spend time describing it in detail; they live in it after all. But that information might be interesting, so I will transfer many of my notes to the website; rewritten obviously!
I will also add extra history and maps in colour.
I will not put character bios up because that would kind of spoil the story - it is a different type of book to The Stink in that regards.
With Dirt the world is so big that I also have the chance to write extra little short stories, so some of those will go up as well.
The WWW is the opportunity to expand information not just replicate it, and so with a book website I think an author is almost obliged to give their fans and new readers something extra, something interesting that not just bolsters and promotes the book, but makes the visitor feel welcomed and appreciated.
And of course, there is also the chance to interact with the fans. With Lord of the Rings, Tolkien produced a wealth of material which has appeared in countless volumes thanks to his son Christopher. But it is a one-way journey. Christopher Tolkien gives his opinion and that is the end of that. No email when the Silmarillion was published!
With Dirt, not only will I be able to give fans extra tit-bits, but answer questions and promote discussions - if I am brave enough!
Of course, this means a lot of extra work, not just to produce the site, but to manage it on an ongoing basis. But this is the world we are now in and fans, if I get any, are probably going to expect more than just the books.
As authors, we have to meet that demand.
Optional Techy Bit
If you are not designing your own site, you may be less interested in this short section.
I have a thing about avoiding Wordpress, especially since so many plugins get hit by security issues or are just badly written and cause problems. There can also be speed and overhead issues with WP sites, even with the heavyweight caching plugins!
Wordpress started out as a blogging platform and although it can now be used for any kind of site, out of the box it is still a blogging platform - you have to bend it and break it to do what you want.
Well, if you are going to go to all that headache, you might as well start with a system that is designed to be malleable in the first place.
There are a lot of good frameworks aimed at serious developers, like Modx, Expression Engine and so on. I am currently using Processwire. It is a CMS and a framework that in its most minimal form, forces you to create your own forms or content types with your own fields and own front end code. This is less complicated than it sounds, but you do need to know some PHP and you should be very comfortable with HTML and CSS.
The framework has no templating system, it just relies on PHP and whatever HTML you know. However, for the serious designer this means they do not have to learn yet another system, they can create fast, serious web designs without huge amounts of plugins and just get back to some good honest coding.
The result is lean, robust, secure and lighting fast. Well recommended. http://processwire.com
End of Techy
So, now the website is up with excerpts, some band profiles and a few other nuggets. The site will expand once the book is out there and will grow again when I write the sequel.
Are you creating specific websites for your books? Are you giving your fans extra information about characters and places?
I would love to know!