One of the jobs on the list for this summer is to create a website. I’m pretty illiterate when it comes to technology (although I keep doing technology-related things so maybe I won’t be able to say this for much longer), and I’ve discovered that with WordPress I can build my site around this blog. As I’ve found setting up and maintaining this relatively straightforward, the do-ability factor has significantly increased.
In my search for ideas on visuals and content I’ve been reasearching other writer’s websites (with a specific focus on writers for teenagers), so I thought I’d bring you a selection of the ones that stood out for me. They are numbered but they aren’t in any particular order, it’s just because I like to number stuff:
1. Julia Green (Blue Moon, This Northern Sky) — Now, I’ve said I’m not giving preferences here, but just between you and me this is my favourite for illustrations and the concept of how you move around the site. In the middle of the home page is a spiral-bound journal, with tabs that go from page to page. This is surrounded by sketches of boats and seascapes that link to the settings of many of Julia’s books (click on her name above to see for yourself). Excellent blurbs on her novels, with interesting background on the writer herself as well as writing tips. Charming and informative.
2. Neil Gaiman (Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Stardust and too many others to list as well as comics, films, TV… I’m exhausted just thinking about it) — A site that’s not so interesting visually but for sheer quantity and quality of content it is impressive. There’s a personal journal/blog, free short stories, videos and essays alongside the usual details about his work. He’s active on social media too so all the links are here, including access to Mr Bobo’s Remarkable Mouse Circus, his website dedicated to younger readers. Very cool guy who clearly loves engaging with his readers.
3. Michael Grant (Gone, Hunger, Lies, and other one-word titles) — Straightforward layout/ graphics, etc, but what I like is the way he addresses his readers directly. You get a real flavour of who he is as a person and a writer, and he gives great advice on starting a career in writing. In the Links section there are some videos where he talks about his work, and he has some interesting things to say about the conflicting way teenagers are treated in today’s society. No-nonsense approach from a no-nonsense writer.
4. John Boyne – (Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) — Boyne writes for adults and children so it was interesting to see how he combines the two on his website. He’s gone for an elegant and clear layout, very open that he writes for both markets on the Home page (there’s a lot of debate about crossing markets and how to engage all readers effectively), although it could be argued that the layout and tone are too austere for teenagers to spend much time here. There is also a wide selection of short stories, some for free but the most recent asking for donations. Overall a good compromise to showcase his work, but maybe more for his adult readership.
5. Sally Gardner (Maggot Moon, I Coriander) — A great front page that shows the inside of a house, with an illustrated version of Sally herself sitting at a desk writing on her laptop (I like to think it’s a silver MacBook Air). On a page titled Sally’s Story, she talks about her struggles with dyslexia and how this affected her school and work life. There are also links to Youtube so you can see her talking about her books, as well as showing an animated page video of how it might feel to be dyslexic. Fascinating stuff.
So what have I learned from this trawl through the websites? Well, firstly it’s important to let your voice come through, give a bit of yourself, because if you take the time to engage with your readers they will want to engage with you. And secondly provide good content too, with information about yourself, your books, and maybe give an opportunity to read some of your work.
The websites above also give me something to aspire to. Great graphics and a strong site concept (Gardner and Green) come from professional website builders and obviously come at a price. I’m not in a position to do that at the moment, but hey, who said you should get everything you want straight away? So while I’m slowly working my way through the list of things to do, I’m also creating a new one for the future, and as regular readers know, a good list always makes me happy.
I’ve barely touched the surface of all the amazing websites out there, so let me know your favourites for adults or teenagers…