Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Digital Distractions

by Marcus Sakey

Morning folks!

So in preparation for the release of THE AMATEURS, I’m doing the stuff we do: planning my tour schedule, doing interviews, thinking about contests, and, the topic of the day, revamping my web site.

I’ve had a site to promote my books for about four years now, and it has changed significantly as time has passed. Initially it was really a sales piece aimed at the industry, a reference point I built for agents and publishers. Once I was signed, I started to change the focus, hopefully making it more useful and interesting to readers.

Which brings me to the topic at hand. What does interest you about an author’s website?

Certain things are obvious. My tour schedule is up there, as are excerpts of all my books, and review copy, that sort of thing. And I suspect that those elements form the core value for most people.

But over the years I’ve been trying to expand beyond that. I built and maintain my site myself—in a past life, I ran a web design shop—so I have a lot of flexibility. Everything is in my voice because, well, I’m typing it, and I hope that helps.

I also have sections where I write about good books I’ve read recently, give hands-dirty advice for aspiring writers, answer common questions, and share interviews and photographs. And of course I’m promoting my mailing list, and the fact that I’m on Facebook and Twitter. (I’ll post more on that another time, but I have to say, thus far I’ve been impressed by Twitter, and used judiciously I do see the value in it.)

Anyway, the revamped version of the site is live now, at MarcusSakey.com.

My feeling is that if you take the time to visit, I’d like to make sure that time is rewarding for you. Seems the least I can do. And so I’m wondering, am I missing anything?

What else would you like to see on an author’s website, mine or anyone else’s?

25 comments:

Adam Bourgoin said...

Hi Marcus,
First off, the site is fantastic. My favorite part is the section of what you've read and what you would reccomend. I have read a vast majority of those books off your reccomendations.

One part I would like to see added to the writers section is something more in tune to say, the specifications that agents/publishers are looking for. I am about 40,000 words into my novel and I have heard so many conflicting opinions on what range constitutes a "novel". I am very confused on what I should be aiming for although I believe it should be somewhere between 50-80K. Something clarifying these often stressed over and overlooked factors would be great.

Other than that, I would say that your website is probably one of my favorites of the authors I visit regularly.

Marcus Sakey said...

Hey Adam! Glad you like it--thanks.

That's a good idea, adding an article on the sort of technical, format-y aspects of a book. I'll do that.

To answer your question in brief, though, a novel typically runs 80 - 120K. That's adult fiction, and genre; YA stuff and litfic have a little more flexibility.

50-80K is, honestly, pretty light. It's not impossible--look at Ken Bruen--but it does make your life a little tougher. After all, while Ken's novels probably hit around 50,000 words, every damn one is evocative as hell; he manages to accomplish in a sentence what most writers need a paragraph for.

Also, even beyond the sheer difficulty of competing with Ken Bruen, you want to remember that agents use certain standards to help them sort through the huge pile of submissions they have to deal with, and one of them is word count...

Lori A. May said...

One of my favorite aspects of your site is your praise of authors who inspired you, authors you read that helped develop your writing mind. We all learn from someone, so I think it’s a nice shout-out.

I have just one suggestion you might consider: For each of your titles you link to the popular booksellers. What about a link to a Canadian bookseller? I’m in the US now, but I recall living in Canada and *loving* it when an author linked directly to a Canadian shop like Amazon.ca or Chapters.ca. Just made it that much easier to click and buy. I know it can get out of hand by linking to a dozen different countries, but considering your proximity to Canada, it might be useful to your web visitors.

Great site, great blog.

William Landay said...

Hey Marcus,

Just a thought. A reader of mine recently sent me a suggestion for a blog post that might be of interest to your readers, too, either here or on your site. Here's a cut-and-paste:

"Random blog suggestion for you: have you considered expanding upon your own writing process a little? I know that crime fans (well, okay, me) are generally interested in process and I’d love to see something like the pitch for ‘The Strangler’ [my last book], illustrating the ways it changed and remained exactly as pre-imagined."

Kind of an interesting thought: "behind the scenes" -- how you write, where you write, the hours you keep, how your books develop from concept to final draft, etc.

Anyway, site looks great. Blog too. Good luck with the new book.

Gonzalo B said...

Hi,

How about posting some short stories?

Ddusty said...

You have a great site there, with good features. Aside from free reads, which has already been suggested, I'll offer one thing: nothing turns me off more than a site or blog that is left unattended. It's awful to see one that hasn't been updated in months. So, that's it for me: regular posts & maintenance. And a link to the Mystery Lovers Bookshop, or something besides Amazon. (I love Amazon, but we need more than one bookstore in the world.)

Steerpike said...

Great site, I love the new content and I've always liked the organization. iPhone approves of your additions.

I agree with DDusty above, but I also feel compelled to point out that if you don't WANT to update your site regularly, you're probably okay, since the design is more informative than interactive. The Outfit gets updated regularly and it seems like that might be enough - so long as you keep your appearances and big news up to date.

Very solid site - everything from tips to writers to press-quality images. It's the kind of site I'd hope to find if I visited an author's web home.

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