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Anne R. Allen's Blog

...WITH RUTH HARRIS

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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."


Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Is Your Author Website Working Against you? Top 10 Things to Avoid on your Author Site or Blog


I visit a lot of author websites and blogs. Most are delightfully creative. I love how so many of the sites—especially the blogs—express the author’s personality and genre in a unique and clever way.

But then there are the others...

I’m talking about the sites that seem to have forgotten they have a purpose. They don’t offer even basic information. They may have a rant front and center, with no info on who the author is and what he/she writes. Or they may be so hard to read and tech-happy, they scream: “get out now! Save yourself!”

What’s sad is the worst offenders are often the expensive, professionally designed sites.

One of the reasons I suggest that new writers start a blog instead of a static, official-looking website is that a blog is free. But an equally good reason is that free blogs use templates, and templates are harder to screw up.

You have to work harder to make a free Blogger or Wordpress site truly awful because you don’t have the opportunity to make so many bad choices.

What makes a website awful?

Of course it's subjective. What some people love others will hate. I’m not talking about stuff that’s technically “wrong” or out of style with the geekinistas. I’m commenting merely as a frequent Web surfer.

First I should mention some things that work.

There are lots of great websites. A great example of a simple but effective DIY author website is Catherine Ryan Hyde's, and mystery author C. Hope Clark has a lovely professionally-designed site that is friendly, inviting and easy to navigate. Regency romance writer Anne Gallagher has managed to make a free Blogger blog into a gorgeous author website.

My site here is a simple Blogger blog that I’m sure wouldn’t win any design awards. But it’s easy to read and “cozy”—or at least that’s what somebody on Reddit called it when they recommended it a few weeks ago. (Thank you, anonymous Reddit fan!) That’s exactly the tone I hoped to create—a cozy, bookish spot to stop by with a cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon. With a sly hint of dark humor in the books on the shelf.

I created it with a few tweaks to the Blogger Watermark template and a fantastic photo of a shelf in my study taken by the multi-talented Christine Ahern. I chose the green background for the selfish reason that it’s easy on my aging eyes. I tried to choose a green that was pale enough to contrast with the darker text without being too wimpy.  It took me a couple of years to figure out that I could make the link text darker by going to the “advanced” menu on the Blogger template. Thanks much to the readers who helped me out with that.

But most of all, I worked on the principle of less is more. That’s when people screw up—when they try to get too creative with things outside their skill set.

And remember: just because you (or your web designer) CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

Hey, we’re writers. We should save our creativity for our books and stories.

I’m talking here about stuff that makes me feel assaulted, unwelcome, or wastes my time when I land on a page.

If you want more professional advice on what makes websites successful or not, check out Vincent Flanders' Websites that Suck.

Here’s my very subjective list of top ten things NOT to do on your website or blog:

1) GIFs 

 A GIF is a graphic file type invented by Internet pioneer Steve Wilhite. It’s composed of many different images on top of each other, which are compressed, creating the illusion of a mini movie. GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format.  Some people say “jif” like the peanut butter, and others say it with a hard “g.”  But at this year’s WEBBY Awards, he Mr. Wilhite announced that it’s “jif” as in “jiffy”...so, mystery solved.

OK, GIFs can be cool. But not on an author’s website. That's because they're distracting and pull the reader away from your text. Sometimes I have to cover a GIF with a piece of paper so I can concentrate on the text long enough to read it.

Remember: you’re a writer, so text should have priority.

They also take a long time to load. Most readers only have a minute or so to spend on your page. If that time is taken up loading the GIF, they’ll be long gone before they read your immortal prose.

2) Lots of warring colors and unpleasant color combos 

Like pumpkin and mustard. If they wouldn’t taste good together, they probably don’t look good either. Startling color combos might make people take notice, but not in a good way. Remember the point is to make people want to stay and look around.

And unless you’re writing exclusively for tween girls, go easy on the pink/purple/silver-spangles combo.

Ditto lots of large, multi primary-colored text—the kind cheap bargain sales sites use. Three uniformly bright colors don't just look cheesy, they can make it impossible for readers to find the pertinent information because there’s no place for the eye to rest.

When every word you say is shouted, all you produce is noise.

3) Too many pages to click through to get to the content 

I realize it’s very popular these days to have your main page present a menu of your most recent posts. This is great for browsers who have wandered onto your site through a search, but not so good for subscribers who are there to comment on that day's post.

If I really have something to say, I’ll take the extra time to open the current post. But when I then have to click on something else after that to get to the blog… and then to another page…and another… before I get to any actual content, I’m outta there.

One of my favorite bloggers had a site that would to send me into screaming frustration on a regular basis. It could take up to a minute to load and often crashed my computer if I tried to get in at peak hours. (Yeah, I have dorky DSL from the phone company. It’s not cool, but it's cheap when bundled.)

But what's more annoying, once that site finally loaded, all you'd get was a menu. And when you clicked on that...yup, another menu. Then there’d be a link to a whole other site, like a literary magazine. Maybe a great literary magazine—but by then I'd given up a chunk of my morning and never reached the content advertised in her email notification. If she were anybody else, I would have cancelled my subscription. Luckily, she's eliminated some of those endless menus recently. But who knows how many subscribers she lost because of all the hoop-jumping?

Don't limit your audience to the rich and techy. Remember you may have visitors with old computers or who live in places with slow Internet connections. Don't make them spend 10 minutes trying to find your content. They'll give up long before they get to your actual information and you will have lost a reader.

Worst of all—I used to follow a couple of bloggers who put up a separate "teaser" post a few days before they actually posted. This "promise" post had the same header as the real post and went out to subscribers as if it were a notice of actual new content. After at least six visits to the blog only to find a two-sentence teaser for "next Friday's post," I unsubscribed. There is NO reason to do this to your readers. You are not filling them with anticipation for your upcoming post. You are inviting them in for a meal and then serving nothing.

NOTE: "Teasers" in general are a bad idea in this age of instant gratification. Heavily advertising books that aren't available for pre-order is a waste of your readers' time, which will annoy the *@%! out of them. A cover reveal is fine. Ditto a "coming soon" on your book page, but save your major marketing efforts for when you have an actual product to sell.

4) A cluttered home page with too many choices

Beware any design that provides nowhere for the eye to rest. It becomes an unreadable jumble. A visitor can’t find anything because everything is the same and nothing stands out.

I recently was interviewed on a great Internet radio site. The interviewer is savvy and smart and I knew she’d have great questions. But the radio network’s website is so unreadable, I nearly had a panic attack trying to find the button to click to get to her show. There were endless ads, links to numerous shows, interviewer bios, and all manner of irrelevant content, all in text of equal size and intensity in a rainbow of over-bright colors.

It took me several minutes and some deep breathing before I finally found the show, after clicking on everything I could find. It was terrifying. I almost didn’t get on in time for my interview.

There’s no reason to do this to your visitors. Use bolding and larger fonts to point to your most searched-for elements.

5) Big blocks of text

Less is more. On a home page of a website, just offer the basic info, with links to more in-depth information.

And even on your blog, you need lots of white space and headers that draw the reader through the text.

Older writers especially have to relearn a lot of what they thought was “good writing.” If you compose dense, Kierkegaard-wannabe sentences buried in gigantic, impenetrable paragraphs, you’re not going to impress people with your fancy education. You’re going to piss people off.

People who read online are skimmers. They want an overview of what you’ve got to say before they’ll decide to plunge in. You can’t start out with a rambling anecdote and bury your main points in the middle of a 500-word paragraph.

What people are looking for on the Web is information. Give it to them in the easiest possible way to grasp in a glance. Use bolding, bullet points, and lots and lots of white space. Sentence fragments are just fine.

Ditto one-sentence paragraphs.

6) Stuff your web designer thinks is cool

Writers need to avoid flashy gimmicks that show off web designer’s skill at the expense of clarity and ease of navigation.

Weird minimalist designs that involve using teeny tiny fonts for buttons that lead to your actual information aren't clever; they are a big "GO AWAY" sign to any visitor over forty.

And I suggest you avoid what designers call “mystery meat navigation.”

That’s when the links are concealed until you happen to run a mouse over a particular photograph. Or all the information is concealed in a drop-down menu identified by an icon of murky symbolism. Big literary agencies, especially, seem to favor this kind of design. It says “if you’re not cool enough to know the secret code to get into my website, you’re not cool enough to query me.”

And then they complain you didn’t read the guidelines.

This kind of stuff also happens when you ask your nephew who’s studying web design to build your website for you. He’s dying to show off all the FUN!! FLASHY!! stuff he knows how to do, but he has no sense of empathy with the readers who might actually visit your site.

Beware anything that obscures the information your visitors are there to find out, like your name, bio, contact information, and book titles.

7) The pop-up window that says “are you sure you want to leave this site?” and won’t let a visitor close the window

You click on a website and a GIF practically jumps out of the screen to grab you by the collar. Then there's a sudden blast of noise: maybe a fanfare by Richard Strauss, and suddenly an infomercial voice screams at you about how you can CHANGE YOUR LIFE by reading this book!!!

Yikes. You desperately try to close the window to turn off the assault on the senses of the entire office. Meanwhile, your supervisor starts stomping over to your cube to see what the h**! is going on.

That's when this insulting little window comes up. "Are you sure you want to leave this site? You're losing your chance to find out about the miracle snake oil that will cure cancer, get you laid, and make your hair bouncy and shiny!"

 All you want is a button that says, “Click here to send the owner of this site to Hades for Eternity.”

It’s usually nonfic writers—ones who hire marketing companies—who do this. The kind who write books with titles like MAKE A BILLION DOLLARS IN REAL ESTATE WITH MONEY FROM YOUR MOM’S COUCH CUSHIONS.

These writers are taking advice from the kind of booksellers who follow widows home from the funeral to push overpriced Bibles. They see customers as prey to be insulted and bullied into buying their products. I hope the Afterlife has an especially dark hot place for them. Don’t join their ranks.

Remember that professional marketers often know nothing about readers or the book business.

8) Centered text 

No, it doesn’t make your words look poetic. It makes them hard to read. 
Readers of most European languages are trained to read from left to right, 
with a justified left margin. If you make our eyeballs 
work overtime, you won’t impress us. 
You’ll make us go away.

9) SOUND! 

Sites that launch into loud music or worse, a “webinar” or audio sales pitch as soon as somebody lands on the site should come with a warning label.

Newsflash: People surf the Web at work. And in libraries. And when the baby finally goes down for her nap.

Remember your site is supposed to entice people to buy your books, not put you on a "don't go there" list.


...and the worst offender:

10) Unreadable text!! 

Charcoal gray, navy blue or purple text on black is not a website; it’s a black hole. I have visited many sites where I actually have to copy the text and paste it into Word and remove formatting just to read it.

If you don’t want anybody to read your words, why not write them on squares of toilet paper and flush them? That will reach as many people as your unreadable dark text on dark background.

For most readers on a screen all day, light text on dark is hard on the eyeballs. Why make your words hard to read when you don’t have to?

This is one thing that must be pretty easy to screw up, even with a template, because I see an amazing number of sites with dark backgrounds and pale text. It may read all right in some browsers, but it won’t in everybody’s. And reverse black/white is painful for aging eyes.

Remember your primary purpose in having a website is to get people to read your stuff, not impress them with how dark and edgy and cool you think you are. There's nothing cool about sending your visitors away scratching their heads.
***

In short, what makes a website suck is saying LOOK! AT!! ME!!! instead of making people feel welcome and answering their questions.

I also want to remind authors about rants on their blogs. If you’re passionate about something, you may want to share it with your readers, but keep the ranting to a minimum. Especially if it's on a subject a lot of people will disagree about, like politics or religion.

Even if you're not addressing a particularly controversial subject, if the first time somebody hits your blog they see nothing but a series of rants about road hogs and mean people—especially if you use strong language—they could be turned off before they get to any information about your books.

Your website/blog is the face you present to the world. Keep it simple, welcoming, and professional, and save the passion for your books and stories.

What about you? What sends you away screaming from a website? What do you want to see on an author's site or blog? Do you have any pet peeves? 


THIS WEEK'S BOOK DEAL

OK, it's the same as last week's but it's a goodie: My publisher has made the Camilla box set ridiculously cheap for beach season. 

99 cents for three hilarious mysteries! Thanks everybody for keeping it in the top 100 in comic fiction (right between two Evanoviches) all week!

Available on Amazon USNOOK, and Amazon UK


"The Best Revenge, Ghost Writers in the Sky and Sherwood Limited are hysterical. Anne Allen will keep you laughing throughout, but in the meantime she dabbles her fingers in some topics worth some serious thought: sexism, weightism, lechery, murder, duplicity, homelessness & poverty to name a few. If you love to laugh, you'll like these three books. If you love to think, ponder AND laugh, be ready to fall in love"... C.S. Perryess

This week I'm a guest at Morgen Bailey's award-winning blog, in the glow of her "Author Spotlight". I talk about some of the misadventures that inspired my novels, and that bonfire I made of all my old rejection slips last year....

OPPORTUNITY ALERTS:

1) A site for KOBO READERS: TrindieBooks.com This Canadian site is the KindleNationDaily for Kobo. Really nice folks, affordable rates, and their ads are FREE if your book is free for Kobo. Reach some of those voracious Canadian readers. Kobo is the most popular ereader in Canada.  Submit your book here. 

2) Escargot Books is expanding its catalogue and are now accepting submissions. Crime fiction (dark thrillers to cozies), women’s fiction, wealth and fitness, children’s, sci-fi and dystopian. All books will be published in digital format. Some books will be chosen for print and/or audio as well. Escargot Books does not offer an advance, but they offer higher royalties than traditional publishers, especially for direct sales from our website, as well as editing, formatting, promotion, and the company of bestselling authors. They have some big name authors and a good track record. Here’s their online submission form

3) The Lyttoniad contest for the WORST first sentence of a novel. This classic Bulwer-Lytton "Dark and Stormy Night" contest makes news every year. Each entry must consist of a single sentence but you may submit as many entries as you wish. E-mail entries should be sent to Scott Rice at srice@pacbell.net in the body of the message, Ariel 12 font. One e-mail may contain multiple entries. Entries will be judged by categories, from “general” to detective, western, science fiction, romance, and so on. There will be overall winners as well as category winners. No prizes that I know of, but lots of admiration from your fellow writers.  Deadline is June 30th.

4)  The Huffington Post's Huffpo50 is now publishing short fiction!   The rules: You must be 50 or older to enter. Writers can submit only one story per year, and all pieces must be 5,000 words or less. Send your original submissions, as well as your contact details, to 50fiction@huffingtonpost.com.

5) COMPOSE Literary Journal debuted last month. Submissions are open for their Fall 2013 issue.  This prestigious journal was founded by Suzannah Windsor, of Write it Sideways, and she's put together an amazing editorial staff. I'm so honored to have my poem No One Will EverLove Him included in the debut issue. They are looking for art and photography as well as poems, literary short fiction, novel excerpts and essays. Must not be previously published (that includes anything that has appeared on your

We love your comments! If you can't get through Blogger's hoop-jumping, send me an email at annerallen dot allen at gmail dot com and I'll post it personally. 

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59 Comments:

Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's why I don't do the rants. I might point out an issue once in a blue moon, but I never make it a rant.
I know my blog header is flashy, but fortunately it doesn't take extra time to load and readers can scroll down just far enough not to see it if it's a distraction.
Pounding through menus is a deterrent. So is really odd font, like Lucida Handwriting. Difficult to read.
Your site is cozy. Simple but with a lot of information.

June 23, 2013 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Charity said...

Great post and you nailed all of the top offenses I see all the time too. The one thing I keep forgetting, which you reminded me of, is that I need to remember to share links to my books within my site so people can navigate to them easier. I always seem to forget that lol

June 23, 2013 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

As a devoted minimalist, I have two goals: 1) Keep it simple, stupid and 2) less is more.

Clutter makes my head ache!

June 23, 2013 at 10:49 AM  
OpenID haydenthorne.com said...

I've always been one for super minimalist designs because I hate extraneous stuff as a visitor to other sites, so I don't want to subject people to the same thing with my blog.

My current blog design might be a tad TOO minimal, and I'm still messing around with possible header ideas, but what I want to see (and how I want it laid out) is pretty much there already. On the whole, I guess I want people to feel relaxed and at ease when they check out my site's pages, not overwhelmed with so much shiny.

I'm also pretty talky when it comes to blog posts, which is the main reason why I chose to keep the design at a minimum and allow content to stay front and center.

You know what my biggest beef with blog designs is?

Super light gray text against a white background. It appears to be the trend with new Wordpress theme designs. I mean, you know, WHY?

June 23, 2013 at 10:49 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--That's one I should add to the "unreadable text" category: weird fonts! handwriting fonts or cutesy ones like Curlz can work OK in a header, but never for your main text. Thanks for the reminder! Your site is quick to load. That's what's important.

Charity--Good reminder. Always make it as easy as possible to buy your books. We have links to all our buy pages on our books page and we link to Amazon and sometimes B and N or Kobo on the main page.

Ruth--It's all about the KSS these days. We have so much to do that clutter just looks like chaos.

Hayden--Another goodie for the "unreadable text" category! Yes!! pale gray against white. I have the same reaction as you: WHY? It's not even cool looking like white against black. It's totally passive-aggressive.

June 23, 2013 at 11:34 AM  
Blogger Christy Farmer said...

Hi Anne,
Something I often see from writers (esp. with writing blogs) they may have "John Doe's Writing Blog" but they never reveal what genre they write.

If writers hope to write non-craft books and connect with a broader audience, I would highly encourage stating your genre somewhere on your website.

Even if I don't normally read that particular genre, John Doe's (Great) Writing Blog may be the very one to change my mind. :)

Another pet peeve I have: Cluttered websites/blogs. What I mean about that are the flashy blog awards/widgets on both sides of the blog along with what seems to be 10,000 blog hops going on that week, etc. This takes away from actual content and I quickly leave.

BTW...Thanks so much for sharing the Forbes article on "7 Reasons Why I Dumped Facebook" on twitter today. I left FB for the very reasons the author described and do not miss it. :)

June 23, 2013 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger Josephine Myles said...

I think you've covered all my main pet peeves, but something that's bothered me a few times recently is when an author's site doesn't contain basic info like a contact email or even a list of their published books. It's surprising how many newbies (and not so newbies) forget to include this sort of thing.

June 23, 2013 at 12:17 PM  
Blogger ED Martin said...

Thanks for the list. My biggest pet peeve is music and sound, not because I'm browsing while at work (and I can have the speakers off there so it's not a problem), but because at home I'm often listening to iTunes and don't appreciate the interference.

And I agree with Christy; I want to know what the author writes. A link to some of their stuff - titles with descriptions, maybe a short excerpt - is really helpful when I encounter someone new.

June 23, 2013 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

A few things drive me so absolutely batty when it comes to blogs that I often go screaming into the night.

1} Enough clutter to make my computer crash.

Yup, at the moment, I have XP (I recently bought a Windows 7, but I don't plan on having that up and truly running until very late this year), so any blog with lots of stuff that crashes my computer I avoid like the plague. I only got one or two exceptions, and those I stick with 'cause I've been reading them for about five years.

2} Writers using their blogs as extended pimping promos.

I can't tell you the amount of writer's blogs that I've stopped reading because the blogger had turned it into one long multi-month pimp festival.

People, I subscribe to your blog to read your original content, not the endless pimping of other people's books.

3} Getting lost on a blog.

While my blog may be text heavy at times (and I'm really working on that), you can easily find your way around my blog in nothing flat. However, there are those where I have a problem in finding the blog content to begin with.

Guess what gang, if I can't find it on the first go around, I can guarantee that I won't return and I may just rant about you on my blog.

4} Using Google+ for commenting.

I'm not a fan of Google+ to begin with, and I'm always afraid if I comment on a blog that uses Google+ for commenting, I may inadvertently convert all of my Google accounts to Google+. So more often than not, I either become a lurker or simply unsubscribe from the blog.

June 23, 2013 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger jp said...

I think I'm guilty of a few of these :/ The thing I hate is one you mentioned too many posts on the home page slows everything down and I'm impatient.

June 23, 2013 at 12:45 PM  
Blogger pat said...

One I really can't fight my way through is mixes of content and tweets. One of my potentially favored writing blogs is unreadable for this reason; they put a mess of random tweets onto the page after every few paragraphs. I give up trying to read the essays after just a few screens' worth of this.

A twitter feed on the side is fine, but if you're writing an essay about something other than your vibrant life on twitter, leave the tweets on the sidebar!

June 23, 2013 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger Stacy McKitrick said...

Thank you for this! I've lost count of the number of blogs I've refused to return to because of #5 (the neverending paragraphs), & #10 (unreadable text) alone (the others are annoying but not necessarily deal-breakers). Nice to see I'm not the only one who feels this way.

June 23, 2013 at 1:10 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

These are some great comments. Really useful

Christy-I hear what you're saying about genre. But, um, well, we aren't terribly genre-specific on this blog. That's because Ruth and I are kind of eclectic authors. I write mystery, chick lit and nonfiction. She writes thrillers and women's fiction. We do have all our cover art here, so you can kind of tell you're not going to see vampire erotica or zombipocalypses, but we're not too specific for a very specific reason. Does that make sense?

Josephine-Yes! That's exactly what inspired this post. I hate it when I go to an author's site and can't find their books--or even their name. It's crazy-making.

ED--I agree that your books need to be front and center. As I said to Christy--I think cover art usuall conveys genre, so you don't always have to say it upfront if the art shows it. But I have been to blogs that seem very literary and then I'm shocked to find out the author writes S/M erotica or something very different in tone from the blog

June 23, 2013 at 1:25 PM  
Blogger Juli Page Morgan said...

Oh, the light text on a dark background! I just close the tab when I run across a site like that. Trying to read it gives me a headache, and nothing the author has to say is worth that to me.

Another pet peeve is when I click on a website, and it's obvious it hasn't been updated recently, or it's full of broken links or red "X"s where a photo is supposed to be.

I love Ruth's rule of KSS! I've stripped my own site down to simplicity and, while it may not win any design awards, I'm happy with it and my readers seem to like it, too. :)

June 23, 2013 at 1:25 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

G.B.--I had to start a new comment here. You bring up so many great points. I'm so interested to hear you say that about using Google+ for comments. When they offered it, I thought it looked like a good idea, until I saw that you have to be on Google+ to comment! So it lost all appeal for me.

The crashing my computer, clutter and getting lost factors are big with me, too.

As Christy mentioned, all those bloghop badges and stuff are cluttery and irrelevant to anybody who'd not "hopping."

And the pimping: you bring up a whole new question. Should author sites be nonstop promo or not? Many authors expect other authors to promote their friends, and most bloghops are based on the premise that all blogs are promo blogs. To me, promos are mostly boring unless there's some exciting, dishy new content, but I wonder if most people feel the way you and I do? Comments, anybody?

jp--We have to realize all our readers are in a hurry and make things as speedy as possible. I agree.

Pat--Oooooh I think I know what one you're talking about. Brilliant blogger, with important things to say--but he interrupts his own essay with irrelevant and sometimes snarky tweets from strangers. They make the piece 10 times harder to read. Thank you for mentioning this!! I thought maybe it was only me.

Stacy--I'm so with you on this. I simply can't read the posts of a well known blogger with cutting edge things to say because she has not mastered the art of 21st century prose. And hey, if I can't read the words, I'm going to leave. why do people do this?

June 23, 2013 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger Becky Black said...

I get very irritated if I read a good post and want to share it, tweet about it usually, and there are no sharing buttons displayed. If I have to copy the URL, go to Tweetdeck, paste that in, and write a bit of text, well that's a pain compared to clicking a button. If I'm on my tablet or phone rather than PC, then I probably won't bother at all, since it's even fiddlier to do it then. For goodness sake, make it easy for people to share about your posts!

Not being able to find any links to RSS feeds or other ways to follow a blog automatically is something else I find annoying. Another example like above of making it harder for people than it should be.

June 23, 2013 at 1:44 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Juli--That's a good rule. They give me a headache, too.

And I agree totally about neglected sites. They tell the reader this writer doesn't care about them. One of the reasons I linked to Anne Gallagher's site is that she's done it right: she's on hiatus, but she's put the announcement front and center and lets us know she'll be back soon. The site still functions as a website because it has all her relevant info and links to her books. (Plus it's lovely to look at--no empty X holes where photos used to me.)

And Ruth is right: it's not about winning design awards.It's about content and making it readable.

June 23, 2013 at 1:45 PM  
Blogger Cora said...

Wonderful collection of good information a writer/blogger should have. Thanks so much for compiling it all. I will be sifting through it the rest of the week.

June 23, 2013 at 1:49 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Becky--GOOD ONES!! I should have included that" NO SHARE BUTTONS!! If I want to share and there's no button and I have to copy the URL, go to Bit.ly to shorten it and then open up Twitter and... well, I probably won't.

And not offering people the opportunity to follow your blog is shooting yourself in the foot. I'm so amazed by the number of people who complain about not having followers, and then I see they have no "subscribe" or "follow" button.

June 23, 2013 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Cora--Thanks! And I hope people will read all the comments. There's so much good info here in the thread. My readers are the best!

June 23, 2013 at 1:51 PM  
Blogger Trekelny said...

I've anticipated this blog since I discovered you on your last one, and it's really good. Even harder hitting in some ways, and of course I thought immediately about "grading" my shared blog by its standard. I'd say we're earning a "B" by virtue of a couple "Not Applicable" results. We use Wordpress and my chief desire would be to--- oof!--- widen the text margins a little!
I'd love to hear that theme of commenting-where-and-when expanded. I'm all willy-nilly right now and would love to see some advice.

June 23, 2013 at 2:33 PM  
Blogger Donna B. McNicol said...

Great post, as always. I recently had to rebuild my website/blog and hopefully it ended up being a warm, welcoming and comfortable place to visit.

June 23, 2013 at 3:17 PM  
Blogger Annette T Dodd said...

I love reading your blog because it's so full of useful information - thank you! At the moment I'm a sporadic blogger and I'm not looking to get hundreds of followers just yet, but I was wondering how easy it was to add a 'Share Button'? (It's not something I've seen before, although I've seen somebody post ready-made Tweets for sharing in their entries and wondered how they did that.)

Also, I've often wondered whether I should still post my actual email address on there somewhere (don't want the spambots to find it though!) if you can contact me anyway by clicking on the 'View my complete profile' bit to get to the email link (& do I use the email address associated with the blog or another one I set up for my author name?? Questions, questions, lol!).

*Hopes my blog isn't working against me!*

June 23, 2013 at 4:06 PM  
Blogger Christy Farmer said...

It makes perfect sense, Anne. You have so many awesome comments today!

I wanted to clarify my earlier comment. You and Ruth do a great job by posting book covers on your sidebar so we have a feel for the type of cross-genre books you write along with links for further info.

There are other writers just starting out with a blog and maybe they are finding their voice, taking their time to discover their genres, that's fine. That's how I started out and I have blogged about genre-soul-searching in the past. That's also fine.

What I'm talking about are writers (both unpublished and published)who have blogged for a while (greater than 2 years)and I visit their blogs and have no idea what they write.

I loved G.B.'s comments and have a few more pet peeves to add:

Non-stop promotion

I'm with G.B. on this one and I do have comments to answer your feedback questions, Anne. Earlier this year, I started using goodreads. In essence, I'm building a "virtual library" of books I enjoyed and love. Any visitors to my website who would like to see what books I enjoy are welcome to visit my page there.

Another concern I have: While although it is kind, thoughtful, and generous to help promote another author/friends book, if writers are constantly blogging about promotions/book reviews then you might be considered a book review blog.

Constant Guest Blog Posts

This ties in with G.B's comments. When you stop writing original posts and fill in constant "guest blog posts" I unsubscribe.

Tweet This

Maybe I'm naive but it really bugs me to read a blog post with "tweetable" quotes at the end. For example, the author writes about 3 tweetable quotes making it easy for you to tweet their content for them. Doesn't work.

Thought provoking post and comments today! :-)






June 23, 2013 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger Stacy McKitrick said...

You asked for comments about "pimping." Yeah, I don't like those blogs (not crazy about blog tours, either). But could that be because I'm a writer and not necessarily looking for more books to read?

Though, even when I used to hunt down my favorite authors, I was more interested in what they had to say than what they had to sell. I try to keep that in mind whenever I post something.

June 23, 2013 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger Lexa Cain said...

#9 is the one that bugs me the most. That and some sites seem to have a lot of links or images in the sidebars and take a loooong time to load.

And I swear those two gifs on my blog this week are the first time I ever used gifs! How come I do it just when you say gifs are uncool? *sniffle*

June 23, 2013 at 5:02 PM  
Blogger Sarah Allen said...

I just spent the weekend redesigning my blog. These are some great tips! I think the noise one is one of the most annoying. There's almost zero chance of me staying on a site of I'm greeted by a blast of noise.

Sarah Allen
(From Sarah, with Joy)

June 23, 2013 at 5:18 PM  
Blogger Amy Jarecki said...

Great advice! Now I need to follow it :-)

June 23, 2013 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Trekelny—I have to plead total ignorance of Wordpress. I know it’s a little more techy than Blogspot. Jane Friedman has some info in her archives about how to use Wordpress (Living at Electric Speed is the name of her blog. She’s the former publisher of Writers Digest) I’m not sure I understand your question of where and when to comment. Google+ is trying to make people comment on Google+ instead of on the blog itself. A very bad idea, since that eliminates the ½ of bloggers who use Wordpress.

Donna—Just checked out your blog and it’s nice and welcoming. Now I’m going to advise you to fold some of those other blogs into the main one, so you can consolidate your followers. Rather have 500 followers of one blog with posts on different days than 100 on one, 150 on another, etc.

Annette—I’m not a fan of ready-made Tweets. I think they look desperate. But if you have a Blogger or Wordpress blog, the Share button is one of the standard widgets or gadgets you can choose on your Dashboard for your sidebar. Scroll through and you should find it. It’s in the “template” menu in Blogger.

Christy—Now I get it. You’re talking about authors who don’t put their book covers front and center. That makes me crazy too. And even if you’re not published yet, it’s easy to tell people what you write. I agree that it’s something all authors should do. Even if you’re not sure of your genre, you can set a tone with your colors and art choices. And I have to add that if you write romance, make sure you let people know if it’s sweet romance or BDSM erotica. Big difference.

Thanks so much for voicing your opinion about the promos. Sometimes Ruth and I feel like we’re totally out of it because we don’t do that much promo. And we don’t promo other authors. We’re not being unfriendly to authors: we’re just trying to offer value to our readers.

And as I said to Annette above: those premade Tweets look desperate and needy to me. Glad to know you feel the same way.

Stacy—As authors we get really tired of promos from other authors. You’re not alone. My poor old Kindle is so overloaded… I LOVE this: “I was more interested in what they had to say than what they had to sell.” Words to live by.

Lexa—I checked your GIFs and they’re adorable. The occasional GIF or video in a blogpost is fine. It’s when the GIFs are part of your template and come up on every post that there’s a problem. (Like if your GIF of that belly dancer was part of an author website. Once it’s fun. Every time, it’s annoying.)

Sarah—I’m with you on the noise. I’m outta there so fast…

Amy—Remember this is all just my subjective opinion. Sometimes bells and whistles can be a lot of fun.

June 23, 2013 at 8:04 PM  
Blogger John Wiswell said...

I couldn't agree more about sound and wacky colors. Black is too popular a background color these days for people who use fonts like ice blue or deep grey, which are very hard on the eyes.

GIFs... I can't remember the last one I liked on a blog. I presume someone could cook up a pleasant use for them, but it's certainly not occurring to me. Other than a GIF blog.

June 23, 2013 at 8:08 PM  
Blogger Donna Hole said...

I haven't changed my blog in a couple years, but that just cuz I'm happy with it. I went with a three column design for a reason: to display ME, us and YOU in a linear, left to right fashion. Me first - of course! - by putting my picture and bio as pretty much the first thing you see - unless you're staring directly at the middle of the page when you click onto the blog. The posts are in the middle because the eyes want to rest there.

Sometimes readers get distracted by what naturally appears in the sidebars as they scroll through a post, and they click on things and not finish or comment on a post; but I'm happy with a viewer as long as they find something of interest to them once they are there - even if it is not me, it YOU.

I do like a "jif" on some posts, as long as not every post has them, I'm always impressed by the fish tank anime. I stop to feed the fish :)

These are great tips Anne; thanks for voicing some of my own pet peeves about blogs.

......dhole

June 23, 2013 at 8:50 PM  
OpenID richardleonard said...

Hi Anne. Spot on on all points. I really don't like sites with auto-playing videos. There are some newspaper sites that do that with a 5 second delay and you have to actively stop the thing from playing.
Text on busy backgrounds is another. So hard to read, I just give up. Although pressing CTRL-A highlights it all and sometimes helps.
Another one is a bit of a tech issue: Some people will upload a photo straight form the camera, unscaled. Huge file, maybe 3000 by 2000 pixels and simply tell the web page to display it 300 x 200. Visitors will still have to download the full sized file. Very rude!
Cheers!

June 24, 2013 at 4:08 AM  
OpenID ellenvgregory.com said...

Great post - and excellent discussion in the comments. :-)

I don't suppose it's a deal breaker, but I'm not a massive fan of templates/designs that exhibit a snippet of each post on the home page and force you to click through to read the whole thing. I don't mind clicking through to comment though.

Also, when it comes to share/tweet buttons, I find some sites don't shrink the URL, yet others do. What's with that?

June 24, 2013 at 4:25 AM  
Blogger Sophie Kersey said...

Great tips Anne, but can any kind soul help me with something?! Lots of people have tried to comment on my blog creakydoorwriter.blogspot.com but haven't been able to - and I'm sure this is because it is only for those using Google + - which is intensely annoying. But I can't seem to enable any other way for people to make comments. Any ideas on how to fix this.

June 24, 2013 at 5:27 AM  
Blogger Charley Robson said...

Oh my stars, noises on websites startle the living daylights out of me! I love Cornelia Funke's website, but blast me if the music and noises don't send me flying onto the ceiling with fright! Also, the text colours - those drive me batty, too!

Great list, Anne! Very helpful :)

June 24, 2013 at 6:31 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

John—Sound seems to be the one that irritates people the most. It sure is one that gets to me. And a black background looks tacky and amateurish to me—as well as being hard to read. GIFs can be cute. But not as a permanent part of your site. They get old fast.

Donna—Three column formats are fine as long as the columns aren’t of equal size. Yours might be a little busy, but it has that soothing lemon yellow background. Love that.

Richard—Three great points. Thanks for the tech reminder: resize large photos before uploading to your site! Otherwise they take forever to load and you’ll lose lots of traffic. I hate those auto-start videos, too. Especially when I don’t want to watch the video and I came by to read the text. Superimposing the text against a photograph of trees or grass can have the opposite effect from what they planned. The pastoral scene might be relaxing, but if we can’t make out the *&%! Words, your reader isn’t going to feel realaxed at all.

Ellen—That’s a pet peeve of mine too. It’s what I talked about in #3. The “menu” home page can be really annoying when you’re in a hurry. Asking a visitor to wait for one more page to load can send her away.

Sophie—I just went over and commented with no problem but I’m on Google+. I know that Google+ offered me the chance to sign up for this “service” a couple of months ago and I almost got sucked in, until I realized that it was a way to bully people into using Google+. Go to your dashboard and see if the “comment on Google+” option is listed anywhere and unclick it. If that doesn’t work, look in the “help” menu.

Charley—OMG, I just went to Cornelia Funke’s website and it is EVERYTHING I hate about websites. Noise, clutter, no place for the eye to rest, and when I clicked on “books”—it went to a clock that went around…and around…and around…until it crashed Chrome and I had to reboot. Some web designer seems to have talked her into the world’s worst website design. I guess since she writes for kids, they thought all those cutsie cartoons would be entertaining for her readers, but nobody’s entertained when their computer crashes.

June 24, 2013 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger Sierra Godfrey said...

Web design is definitely a discipline that is all about learning who the user is and what they want. User action is frequently at odds with the intent of the site or blog owner, which is why we have so many horrid sites out there.

I did want to point out that when you talk about GIFs in item #1, you mean animated GIFs. GIFs are, by themselves, a lovely, compact image form. Loads of websites are built using them--just not the kind that jump around and give you a seizure. :)

Also, on item #6, stuff your web designer thinks is cool -- hey. I'm a web designer and writer. And most successful web designers I know don't push designs on people that are for the designer's creative benefit, or they aren't very successful. Web design is all about meeting the goals of the business, so if you're working with a designer who presents you with a design and it's ridiculous, and they won't budge...then you've gotten yourself a dud. There are, of course, the good with the bad out there. Many of my clients have come to me because they were frustrated with a previous designer, so I know. But they had the good sense to leave. So #6 might actually be, do not engage with a designer who does not listen to you, or work with you when you don't like something.

A final thought on what I see a lot. Too many clicks to get to what you want to do is my biggest pet peeve. A huge YA author's site requires no fewer than 4 clicks to get to the "buy" button for her books and by then, I'm gone. Simple. Up front. Without being in your face. It's a balance.

June 24, 2013 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Julie Luek said...

Great advice. Pages that take too long to load or are not reader-interesting don't get much of my time, for sure.

June 24, 2013 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger LD Masterson said...

My two pet peeves - text on a transparent background over a busy wallpaper. SO hard on the eyes. And any of the "prove you're not a robot" things.

Thanks for this post. I'm going back and take a serious look at my blog.

June 24, 2013 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sierra--Thanks much for the clarification. I actually wrote "animated GIFs" and then cut it when I read more and it looked as if all GIFs are animated and I was being redundant. Yeah--it's the ones that give you a seizure that I'm talking about.

I didn't mean to cast aspersions on real web designers. I was thinking more of the very young techies who can be so condescending to anybody over 35 and tell you if you don't have all the bells and whistles, people will call you a geezer. Or when your nephew who's taken one class in design volunteers to do your website and it ends up looking like Disneyland on acid and crashes every body's computer whenever they land on it.

Too many clicks falls into my category #3. Definite unfavorite of mine.

Julie--Good point. I didn't talk about the quality of the content, but that sure is a major factor. When I go to the trouble of visiting somebody's website (especially if it takes a long time to load) and there's nothing but the same stuff that's on his Amazon author page, I'm definitely turned off.

LD--I agree. Text layered over a photo is so hard on the eyes. That goes into the "unreadable text" category. It's not misty and inspiring. It's a turnoff.

And don't get me started on CAPTCHAs! The closest I've come to ranting is on the subject of those "prove you're not a robot" thingys. A lot of newbies don't realize they don't need them and they can be turned off.

June 24, 2013 at 3:55 PM  
Blogger Creaky door writer said...

Anne, thanks so much for your help. I am now free from Google + constraints and can get a bit of dialogue going! Really grateful that you took the time.

June 24, 2013 at 10:46 PM  
Blogger Luke Dale said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

June 25, 2013 at 12:51 AM  
Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

Late to the party, as usual.

Thanks so much for the thumb's up on my blog. Funny enough, I was just thinking of changing it up again. I guess it might not be such a good idea now then.

My biggest pet peeve is the music. There's one blog I love to visit, but she has this annoying play list that I have to scroll all the way down to shut off. Which I shouldn't complain, at least she allows me to shut it off instead of just keeping it play.

June 25, 2013 at 5:04 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Creaky/Sophie--I'm so glad my suggestion worked. We have to band together to fight the corporate bullies. :-)

Anne--Oh, no! Don't change the site. I love it. So lush and pretty and peaceful.

Music (and any kind of sound) is a biggie for me too. I live a literally very quiet life in a seaside cottage at the end of a dead-end street. The only sound is waves and birds. So any kind of noise is startling to me--and it creates stress. I want to ask these people: why create stress in your visitors?

June 25, 2013 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger Damyanti said...

Agree with you on all the points. Especially hate black background, music and flashy of any type!

June 26, 2013 at 4:58 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Damyanti--I'm glad you agree. I've noticed that some blogs with black backgrounds now have a white or light background for the text column. 100% improvement! That way they can have a "noir" look and still offer readable text that doesn't look as if it's been time-warped from a computer in 1987. And flashy effects don't showcase anybody's bon mots, do they?

June 26, 2013 at 6:46 PM  
Blogger Kelly Matherly-Urban said...

Guess I'm a culprit... I love Orange and Yellow! In fact, red, orange yellow are my favorite color combo...

Here's your orange and yellow example I guess. I still love it. Kelly Matherly

June 28, 2013 at 7:35 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kelly--Your site is certainly very, very bright and startling. Artistically it makes a bold personal statement. And because your colors are clear rather than the more brownish colors I see with "pumpkin" and "mustard" it's not unpleasant.

But it is very hard to read. Finding links in orange text on a slightly lighter orange background is very difficult, and doesn't show up well in a Chrome browser.

I guess it's just a question of why you have a website. Is it to say HERE I AM AND THIS IS WHAT I LIKE!! or is it to make people feel welcome and invite people in to read your prose?

June 28, 2013 at 9:06 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kelly--I wrote that before my morning coffee and I realize it sounds harsh, which I didn't intend. Your site is beautiful. And clear citrus colors can be inviting and sunny, as yours are here.

But I did find the lettering hard to read. I don't know if that matters to you, but it might matter to your visitors.

June 28, 2013 at 10:45 AM  
OpenID haydenthorne.com said...

I reread your blog post and finally got inspired enough to do more than just the usual white with blue links design that I've always had for my site. It's almost disorienting, opting for a bolder background pattern and other link colors, but I'm glad I did it, and I'm grateful to you for blogging about site design. It's oddly psychological as well, but I feel more confident about my web presence now that my site's not (extreme) minimalist. Thanks for the push!

June 28, 2013 at 10:57 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Hayden--Just visited your site and I love the look! Very crisp and readable. Your book looks fascinating. I love the idea of a place where the banned books go!

With a title like Hellville, you might have been tempted to make your site look all Halloweeny. But I'm so glad you didn't. You can take your career in any direction you want with a simple, attractive site like that.

June 29, 2013 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger Stephen del Mar said...

I just came across your blog and I'm enjoying the post. I found it amusing that when I was reading the section about animated gifs, your sidebar content was vibrating and rather nausea inducing. I've seen that on several blogs and find it annoying. You know having something vibrate might make me look at it, but annoying the viewer isn't really a good choice to get someone to interact with it. IMHO.

Good info, I need to give my blog a look with this new info in mind.

June 30, 2013 at 3:28 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Stephen--Our sidebar is NOT supposed to vibrate. I've never seen that happen. What browser are you using? That's very, very strange. I hate vibrating stuff on a website.

June 30, 2013 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger Stephen del Mar said...

I use chrome and usually run at 150% zoom because I'm old! I just noticed that it doesn't happen when I zoomed out to 100%, so my bad. I've noticed this on a lot of blogger sites and thought it was a "feature."

June 30, 2013 at 3:49 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Stephen--Thank goodness! I just sent you an email in case you didn't see this. I had no idea a Blogger blog vibrates in Zoom mode. I admit I do some zooming myself, but probably not to 150%. You had me worried. I cannot bear visual vibrations when I'm trying to read. Definitely not on purpose. Whew!

June 30, 2013 at 3:53 PM  
Blogger Caitlin said...

I've come across many of these blogs as well! Of course I'm now paranoid that my blog might be an offender of one of these but I'm fairly certain that I've managed to avoid them. Like you I prefer things interesting but simple and easy to view.

July 1, 2013 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Caitlin--Your site is lovely. (Of course the fact you have a pale green background gives you special points :-) ) Simple, with an attractive, whimsical photo that says "writer"--a winner in my book. So sorry for all your challenges with your little boy's health. I hope he turns out to have something simple and quickly curable.

July 1, 2013 at 2:07 PM  
Blogger Steven D. Jackson said...

Oops.

May have to stop ranting quite so much then...

*takes hatchet to blog*

July 15, 2013 at 1:54 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Steven--Just stopped by your blog and it didn't look too ranty to me :-) I see you're with Rhemelda publishing. You keep good company. That seems to be a very dynamic small press.

July 15, 2013 at 9:38 AM  

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