Saturday, January 24, 2009

Book Website Developers - Update

An essay in the NY Times book review on book web site developers who are gaining some notoriety as really good cover designers have in the past. (NYTimes):

The task of the book Web designer can be a tricky one. “Book sites present challenges that fashion and other sorts of sites do not,” Rabb said in a telephone interview. Because of the nature of the book medium in general, and the hope of selling movie rights in particular, “any time I get too specific about the appearance of a character, people start to get very nervous,” he added.

Instead, Rabb aims to represent a book’s “gestalt,” as he puts it. His sites often include original material from the author, as in the one he created for “The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet,” Reif Larsen’s much anticipated first novel about a young Montana prodigy obsessed with mapmaking. That site — which will be rolled out incrementally starting later this month until the book’s release in May — represents a failed “Smithsonian exhibition” of the title character’s work, with some 10 different “cabinets” documenting everything from a taxonomy of all the animals on earth to a map of the American West.
It is nice to see Sheila English (friend of the blog) get a mention in the article as well:
The book video business began back in 2002, when Sheila English, an unpublished romance novelist, trademarked the term Book Trailer and started her own company, Circle of Seven Productions. Her first clients were mostly science-fiction and romance novelists, but the invention of video-sharing sites brought interest from mainstream publishers. Three years ago, English’s company had 12 projects. In 2008, it had 140.

Over at Publishing Trends they remind me that they did this last month:

And any remaining skeptics out there, take note: Website visits translate directly to the number of books bought. Book shoppers who had visited an author website in the past week bought 38% more books, from a wider range of retailers, than those who had not visited an author site. “Is putting up a website going to make a book a bestseller? No,” says Chin. “Is the website going to help the author build an audience? I believe it can. What you don’t want is for someone to hear about your book, search for it with Google, and find nothing. That’s a potential lost sale.”

Web presence is especially essential in today’s economy. “Websites have become even more important as people are not in stores discovering books,” Fitzgerald says. “We need to get them jazzed about a title and their favorite author and give them reason not just to buy the book, but also to have a relationship with the author and his or her work so they become evangelists for them with fellow readers. These next months, author websites and communications with readers are going to be critical for engendering excitement in readers online, since something as crucial as in-store browsing is not happening.”

The point, of course, is not just to get readers to visit an author site once, but to keep them coming back. How do you make a website sticky?“The saying ‘build it and they will come,’ well, they won’t,” says Burke. He and the other designers we spoke with agreed that flashy design is not a key to success, and the Codex Group research bears that out, with Stephenie Meyer’s website as a case in point. It receives more traffic than any other fiction author site, yet its design is extremely basic, “probably a generic template where you plug in your header graphic,” says Hildick-Smith. “She may only be paying $15 a month for this site on some server system. It’s not elaborately designed at all. But she’s got a daily blog, and more than any other site in our study, she has links to fan sites. Fan site links appear to contribute to loyal audience traffic.”

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