Thursday, December 8, 2016

Interview: Creating the Perfect Author Website with Fabler & Design


Hello, friends.  Today I have an interview with Vin from Fabler & Design!  We'll discuss her creative adventures in designing compelling author websites.

What inspired you to open up a business focusing on author websites?   

 A love of books is certainly at its heart. I am so appreciative of the work and care that authors put into the worlds they build. Giving an author’s personal story the same attention through her website design is not only a good use of my design abilities, but is a way to support the writers who make possible the many comforting hours I while away between bookstore stacks.


I also think a website is such an important tool for authors. It is a place where the author gets to fully display her own personality and show the voice that unifies her works. It is a place where fans can connect with the author beyond any one book, and where they can celebrate the love and labor put into the author’s work. Very simply, it is a practical and essential marketing tool.

After an author has expended so much creative energy telling the story in her book, not to mention other marketing and publication tasks, the details of building a unique webspace may, understandably, be overly burdensome. I hope Fabler and Design can help make captivating website designs more accessible, and help build a personalized home for an author’s work.
 
If an author chooses to work with you, can you tell us a little bit about how you will interact with them to make sure they end up with a product they love?

It’s important for me to get to know an author’s goals, tastes and personality to ensure her website shows off her style and fully serves her purposes. We’ll cover a lot of ground before I start designing, thinking about what content the author wants to highlight, viewing samples that will help me understand the author’s aesthetic, and discussing how the author describes her works individually and collectively. Once I have that background, I’ll mock up options that I think meet the author’s individual needs and we will work together from there to make adjustments.

I have noticed how immediately a person responds when they feel connected to something—it is my task to find the visual that creates that sense of connection.  

What are your thoughts for authors working with a strict budget?  How can they maximize their dollars?

* Use classic styles.  
 

 Making sure that your website will last you for a while is a good way to maximize your budget. Using the newest scrolling animation or a very en vogue style can certainly create an exciting webpage, but it may take on a dated feel as technologies progress and tastes reposition. So make sure your site is not too tied to a certain style moment.

That is not to say your website should be devoid of personality in order to be timeless. For example, I really like davidarnoldbooks.com. The approach is simple. His fonts and colors don’t feel tied to any era. Yet notably, his laidback style and a bit of quirk shine through.   






* Don’t tie the site too much to a single publication, but dedicate space to dynamic content.  

It may be tempting to splash your newest release all over your webpage, and it makes sense if you are able to update your site often. However, to avoid reimagining your website with each new release (which might mean a costly large-scale redesign) make sure you design feels connected to your overall writing. This might mean thinking a bit into your future—do you want your website to be tied to any certain genre, or type of protagonist? What do you see unifying the writing you have completed and works yet to come?


At the same time, make sure you design has space that is easy to update with your newest information. This makes your website feel more interactive. It can include spaces for news announcements and blog posts. Or this may be a space on your homepage that you can easily update with the details of your newest book.

Juliemurphywrites.com has a fun take on dynamic content—her photo diary homepage can easily be updated with new photos to keep it feeling fresh and current.  

* Find a picture or image that gives an instant visual of who you are as a writer.
 
This can take different forms for different budgets but having a visual that sets the tone for your writing can have a lot of impact. A visual can create instant mental associations in a way that nothing else will.

If you can find an existing image, you may be able to save some funds. For example, I really like the image that heads mattdelapena.com. It’s a simple image of hooded figure contemplating a stormy ocean, but it fits so well with his turbulent teen tales of introspection.



If you have a little room to commission something custom, it doesn’t have to be complex. For example lizzieskurnickbooks.com uses a styled “LS” as the main visual feature of its homepage. It gives the page personality and sets a light, fun mood. If an author wanted to add a small element such as this to her homepage, I would certainly work with her budget to make sure her website has that little extra personality.  




On the other hand, what would you recommend for an author who is ready to really invest in their site?

* A personalized logo  
 
Even with a more limited set of funds, investing in a logo can create a big impact. A single visual element crafted to showcase your style can tap into memory, recognition, and interest. It gives a reader something specific by which to remember your site. It helps a fan recognize you from one platform to another, when your logo travels from your website to your Twitter feed. And it sparks interest when a reader visits your site, encouraging the reader to continue scrolling and clicking.

A custom logo can also be a positive signal of how much you believe in your writing. It is a confident display of your core voice and a clear investment in your writing.

For example, my latest work, updating priyaardis.com, includes a logo that will last the author for many books to come. It gives a strong and immediate sense of the core of her writing—daring teen heroines whose hints of awkwardness make them more endearing.  

* Discussion pages

Having dedicated fan space will take a bit more time to manage and facilitate, as well as requiring a bit of an additional investment to set up. However, it can create a sense of connection and community that might prove invaluable as you begin marketing new works. Fan space will help readers connect to you, as well as forming connections with fellow readers. It can be a space where your most enthusiastic readers feel a bit special when you share extras, like new tidbits about your characters or story.  

What do you recommend for authors who are intimidated by the technical aspects of operating a website?
 
* Make sure your design allows for easy updating with your newest information.

Earlier I mentioned that you will want to have a space on your website for news, updates and your latest releases. But it’s important that you work with your designer and web developer to make sure there is nothing too complicated about how that information is updated; you will not want to go back to them for each little change and update.

* Updating is easiest using a website builder with drag-and-drop editing. 

User friendly website building does exist! On a website builder, such as wix.com, all content is drag-and-drop. This means you are never viewing any code; and this means that anyone can update the information on the website without having to program the content.

I personally use a website builder for my own website and highly recommend that my clients allow me to build their site on one. It will make futures changes of an image practically a one-button process, and even updates of whole layouts very simple. It eliminates so many of the technical aspects of coded websites. This will save you time, money and anxiety!

* Try a blog page or display your Twitter feed as your homepage.

Blog posts are easy for most people to work with. If you want to continually include new content front and center, using your blog instead of other fixed homepage content, such as used on catherynnemvalente.com, can be an easy way to interact with your site. There are also programs that will automatically display your Twitter or Instagram feeds on your website, so this is also an option that doesn’t require any technical changes to refresh your main display.

What are some author sites you absolutely love, and why?
 
I have mentioned some already, but I also really love annaholmes.com. It’s so clean without being at all stark, and has such simple navigation (it’s actually just one long page). And I can’t help but love her main illustration that shows her feverishly attacking her work.

I also think veronicarothbooks.com is a gorgeous example of a very modern site. She has a little graphic twist on a large hero image as her header. There is a lot of interesting content that flows nicely as you scroll, while her colors and fonts keep everything feeling soft not busy.




How do you work with an author who maybe has a completely different aesthetic than you?

There is always a journey to understanding someone’s tastes, sometimes for the client as well as for me! I think it’s at the foundation of designing—that ability to identify which visuals are creating which responses, and understanding why certain elements work together. In order to understand someone’s style, I think about what she has described as her taste but also spend time dissecting a range of visual samples to which she has positively responded. It is its own puzzle really, understanding the nuances of a specific style. Once I have that understanding, that style gives me a framework to which I add my experience to create something that is true to the author’s personality as well as more broadly pleasing.  

Just for fun, tell us a little bit about your personal tastes. Where do you draw inspiration from?

There is so much design all around us, I actually feel like I can never stop finding new sources of inspiration! Some of my favorite sources are indeed book covers: booknerds like myself certainly spend enough time with them. I am a fangirl for all things Cartoon Saloon, the animation studio responsible for the film Song of the Sea—wow, something that pretty seems like it shouldn’t be possible. Maurice Sendak may be my illustration hero; he spent endless hours just observing kids to understand the quirks of their facial expressions and the little giveways of their joy and pain. Recently I started learning Sumi-e (Japanese brush painting) and I absolutely love its philosophy: finding the essence of your subject to capture it in minimal brushstrokes. Sumi-e teaches us to appreciate the process of creating—it has been such a welcome reminder to find some ease and flow.

Thanks so much for having me on Maya!


fableranddesign.com
Contact Vin: fableranddesign@gmail.com

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