Authors: we read them, we love them, we want to know all about them. In the dark ages, before the advent of the internet, we were at the mercy of those authors, and/or their publicist, and how much they or the publisher decided to reveal to the readers. Then came author websites, and all that changed. Now, our favorite authors, as well as interesting newcomers, are but a mouse click away. Not every author has a website, but those who do, well, we’re going to spend some time there. What to do, what to do?
The answer, of course, depends on the reader, the writer, and the website. Some of the most immersive are going to be those authors who are well established, media savvy, and ready to engage with their readership. While some fan favorites prefer to only give the bare bones -let’s say a brief bio, book list, and maybe a newsletter- others prefer to go whole hog, and boy, do they ever. Not only might they have a book list (always helpful) but variant covers, series lists and/or family trees, reading orders (do you want to dive into this series in the order of the books as they happen in the story world, or in the order that the author wrote them? With or without their connections to the author’s other series?) and snippets of upcoming works. Some even invite their loyal readers into their day to day lives, and share stories of family life, vacations, research trips, antics of their pets, and maybe even more than that.
Then we have the new kids on the block. We may not have known about these authors for years and years, but now we’ve found them, and we want to know everything. How did they start writing, what inspired them, what are they reading, and what are they writing next? Can we friend them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and do they Snapchat? We might have found these interesting newcomers from a discussion on social media, maybe our favorites gushed about their debuts, or maybe we stumbled in thanks to a slipped stylus. Doesn’t matter how we got here, they’re on our radar now, and we want to know all about them. Who are these people, and why do we want to give them our money? Also, when is that new book coming out, hm? We’ve got a space on the TBR shelf ready and waiting.
Into this mix, we also have to throw the unseen. These authors may have written some of our favorite books, and we may even have stacks of fan letters, and personal replies, tied with ribbon and set in a special place, but if they have an online presence at all, they’re hiding it really, really well. Some authors are well enough established that they don’t need to be out there on the web. We’ll buy them, because we’ve been doing exactly that for decades, and if they haven’t scared us off by now, we aren’t going. There may be a Wikipedia entry, but it’s little more than “American romance novelist” (or English or Australian, or Canadian, or fill in the blank with appropriate country of origin) and possibly years active. We might get birth (and, sadly, death) dates, maybe the name of a spouse, but if we want to know what their living room looks like, what they named their pets, or how they got the idea for that fabulous book that started it all, we may have to do some fiction writing of our own, because the internet has nothing for us on that account.
Unless, of course, it does. Thank deity of choice for fan sites and forums, because, if you put enough fans of a particular writer or topic in one place, the tiny snippets of information can add up to a treasure trove when all pushed into the middle of the table, together. It’s not the same as an author-run site, of course, but these fan sites have an appeal all their own. They’re a place where dedicated followers of that author can bond, share the unique experiences of discovering what makes the author great, and even suggest other authors and books that might appeal. If we can’t, for whatever reason, get close to the author themselves, bonding with other fans is the next best thing.
And so, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Do you visit author websites? Which are your favorites? Which features do you use the most? etc etc etc If you don’t use author websites, or think the whole thing is a waste of time, we’d love to hear about that, too. Pull up a chair in the comments section and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.