If a well-done website can make a difference with the sales of a book, this website might do it. If you want to compare the interactive nature of the UK website for the book and a more traditional but static page, look at the beautifully designed Tony Geer version for the book.
My guess though is having "Neil Gaiman" as the author on the cover will do a lot more to move copies than this very cool site. Make sure you check out Chris Riddell's illustrations in the Graveyard Gallery.
My current interest in author websites and book promotion websites shouldn't be mistaken for me believing that good websites create good sales for books. Good books comes first. Good promotion comes second.
I looked around at some of my favorite authors' sites. They come in a wide range of attractiveness. Some the author seems to have a lot to do with. Some are fan sites and the author seems out of the loop:
Connie Willis, Robert Silverberg, Joe Haldeman, Howard Waldrop, Ted Chiang (no website at all), Kelly Link (I rather like this site), Robert Holdstock, Dan Simmons, Jay Lake, Jeremiah Tolbert, Carrie Vaughn, Gardner Dozois (a fan site), James Patrick Kelly, David Brin (there's a lot of website on his first page!), Neil Gaiman, Daniel Abraham, Ken Scholes, Ken Rand, Louise Marley (when I was at the Rainforest Writers' Village this year, someone who didn't know Louise asked "Who is that distinguished looking woman?" She is distinguished looking!), Julie Czerneda, Brian Hopkins, and Bruce Holland Rogers, although I like the look of his shortshortshort.com website better than his home page.
So what have I seen that I would like in my own website?
- An overall attractive look, verging more toward the fun side than the serious side. More like Neil Gaiman's. Evidently he has graphics that swap out because every time I go to it, the picture on the right changes. Of course, the pictures are all of him.
- I like blog entries right on the main page rather than a link to the blog because blog entries constantly change the look of the page. The blog and the website shouldn't be separate entities. I like that Jeremiah Tolbert and Jay Lake can post a blog entry on their website that is automatically posted at LJ, because LJ has been a bunch of fun.
- I like the contents in the middle to swap out when I hit one of the menu buttons, so the whole page doesn't rewrite, just the stuff in the display area, so if I'm looking at the blog entries when I enter, and then I want to see "upcoming appearances," I hit that menu button, the blog vanishes and is replaced with the new info. BUT I also like that someone could send a link to someone else of specific content, so they could send the link to my biography page without asking the reader to go to the main page first and then find the link to the info they want.
- I don't like music that I didn't ask for, scrolling info or other odd flash effects, although I do like the little dragon animation on Kelly Link's page
- I don't like HUGE graphics of book covers. There must be a good balance between showing that you are on an author's web page and an advertisement for the books. Some of the websites I visited struck me to be the Internet equivalent of meeting an author at a convention who is carrying her/his books and tries to sell you one right there.
- I don't know enough about del.ic.ious, RSS, Facebook, etc. networking links, but it looks like a good website ought to have as many of them as possible so folks who want to keep up with what's happening on the page can do it in the way that is comfortable for them.
- I want it to be easy for me to upload pictures, audio files, stories, etc. to the website. I want to have lots of control rather than having to contact someone else to ask them to make changes. I like, for example, that John Scalzi changes out his header graphic and background colors whenever he wants on his blog. A web site should be able to do that too.
- I also want visitors to have the choice of downloading material to their own computer, like an audio file, or just listening to it there, sort of like the better podcasting sites. They should be able to do that with movie files also.
- I want a robust tracking system so I can tell how often the page is being visited and what is being looked at.
- I'd like a comments area right on the website so folks wouldn't have to open an e-mail program to send me e-mail.
- I'd like a "press kit" area, along with bio, bibliography, cool links to visit, books to read (not mine), a blogroll, sample fiction, etc.
- I'd like someone to tell me all the really important bets I'm missing on my ideal website that make the page worth visiting and makes it a worthwhile place for both fans and someone who just wants to find out who I am to come to.
- The website should have its own domain name. Hmm, jamesvanpelt.com, jvanpelt.com, jvp.com, legendarywriterofmindblowingfiction.com.
- Whew! What else? Oh, I want world peace.