A Great Idea for an Author Website (But Poor Execution)

I must confess … I came across this press release weeks ago, and only now got around to blogging about it. But maybe that’s a good thing.

Let me explain…

According to the release, author Sandra D. Bricker wanted to do something really special for the final book of her four-part series, which is due out in the fall of 2012. Here’s an excerpt from the release, starting with a quote from the author herself:

“I think what I’ve come up with is going to excite my readers while rewarding them for sticking with these characters…and with me!…the way they have.”

On September 1st, a contest will debut on the author’s Web site (www.SandraDBricker.com) where readers will compete for the honor of choosing Emma’s wedding cake from a series of drawings provided by up-and-coming Canadian artist, Hanna Sandvig. Bricker says she talked to more than a dozen artists before finding and falling in love with the childlike wonder of Sandvig’s artistry. “Hanna’s talent just embodies the fun and whimsy of Emma’s personality.”

“What a great idea,” I thought, as I read this. After all, Sandra is doing what I preach to authors all the time: making her site fresh, interactive, and innovative. She’s allowing readers to feel like a part of the website and her books, and she’s encouraging them to come back regularly to see how others are voting. A win-win.

And then I went to the website. Now true, I visited the site today, October 4th, a full month after the contest supposedly started. But, boy was I disappointed. Here are a few reasons why such a brilliant idea seems like such a dud in practice:

  • Who designed this website? Or, better yet, in what century was it designed? I don’t mean to be insulting, but the site, at first glance, looks completely unprofessional. I’m not sure if she designed it herself, or it just hasn’t been updated since 1995, but it leaves a really poor first impression.
  • The site seems aimless. What am I supposed to do on this website? There are no “calls to action” (like encouraging me to sign up for her newsletter, buy her books, etc…). I see a picture of her dog, information about charity, etc… It’s more like a personal journal than an author website.
  • And most importantly … what about the contest? According to the press release, the contest was scheduled to begin on September 1st. There was no end date mentioned. So I have no idea whether the contest ended already … or never started. Here’s what it says in a small area on the homepage: “CONTEST NEWS: Do you love the Baker book series? If so, a new and exciting contest is coming up in the weeks to come! Stay tuned!!” Huh? If there was a contest, and it’s over, then shouldn’t there be some mention of the winner? If the contest hasn’t started yet, then the press release was just plain wrong. Regardless, there has got to be more information about what the contest is, how people can participate, etc…

Sigh … a great idea gone awry. Other authors should steal ideas like this one … and execute them well.