The Promotional Value of Author Websites

Robin Cody’s author website is simple. The front page brings visitors to a picture of a man skipping rocks across a lake, an image accompanied by a quote from fellow author Brian Doyle praising Cody’s abilities (as a storyteller, not a rock skipper), and links to the pages for Cody’s specific works. Each of these links is marked by a book-shaped icon in a shade of green that complements the color of the lake in the picture above. A white stripe on the left side of the page replicates those links and provides navigation to the site’s other pages. Each page has a warm yellow background and simple sans serif text detailing Cody’s biography and works. It’s not overburdened with moving GIFs or stylistic fonts, instead relying on the content and clean design to reach out to readers.

Simplicity may seem a poor approach to standing out in the expansive internet, but websites can be one of an author’s most useful tools in book and career promotion, and it doesn’t take much to effectively connect with an audience. For example, Cody’s site only contains six pages, which might not keep a casual internet surfer there for long but contains detailed information about his books that increases the visibility of those titles beyond what they generate sitting on a bookstore shelf. The page for Ricochet River includes not only the book’s cover art and synopsis but quotes praising Ricochet River from reputable critics, a history of Cody’s journey writing the book, a link to the book’s study guide (hosted on our own Ooligan Press website), and a brief reflection on Ricochet River’s place in schools. More than just repeating the same synopsis for the book available on Amazon, Cody’s site brings together a treasure trove of information relating to Ricochet River. For potential readers who arrive on Cody’s site with no prior knowledge of Ricochet River, this collection of information provides more for them to sink their teeth into and become invested in, which might convince them to give it a read. For loyal fans, the additional content on Cody’s site not only rewards them but exposes them to his other works, Voyage and Another Way the River Has. His site offers something to potential and current readers alike.

Cody’s approach to his author website is fairly straightforward, including only a few pictures of his book covers and from his personal life along with the textual content related to his books and career, requiring little upkeep except when he releases a new book. Other authors use their websites to host ongoing blogs, update information about book signings, link to their social media feeds, alert readers when their books go on sale, and otherwise keep their websites a dynamic setting. This keeps readers invested in the site even when publication news is quiet.

Neither this approach nor Cody’s is necessarily better. Both provide authors opportunities to connect with their readers and communicate a clear identity as an author. For Cody, this identity matches the image of the man skipping stones across a lake. Quiet, simple, easy-going, in-touch with nature. A potential new reader knows what to expect from Ricochet River after visiting Cody’s site even without reading the synopsis. An author or book website, aside from just providing another link to the book’s Amazon.com listing, is a chance for an author to present the character and spirit of their body of work and give their books a life beyond what is printed on the page.

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