Dude, Where’s My Website?

by Michelle McCann
Published on: June 5, 2012
Comments: No Comments

So I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those writers who is being dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age. My first children’s book was published twelve years ago and I STILL don’t have a website (oh, the horror!). As many other similarly Luddite-minded authors are finding these days, my publisher is no longer content to let me ignore this important marketing opportunity and is forcing me to get on the bandwagon. That means a website, Facebook page and Twitter action ASAP! I have my summer to do list.

Fortunately, two of my most brilliant former students recently started a company, Whirlabout New Media (http://whirlaboutnewmedia.com/), that helps technophobe children’s book authors like myself launch ourselves and our books onto these new “platforms” (see how much I’m learning already).

Along those same lines, last week my Intro to Children’s Book Publishing students researched and presented author or book websites they either loved or hated. I found their discoveries both reassuring (I’m not the only one out there who doesn’t know how to do it yet) and inspiring. Children’s book writers and publishers are doing some very cool things to engage their fans and get kids excited about books.

This is by no means a definitive list—more a small sampling. But if you’d like to see some of the interesting things happening online, here are some good ones to check out.

ENJOY!

PICTURE BOOKS: Picture book websites need to please two audiences: the kid fans and the adult readers/buyers. There should be lots of imagery, games and fun interactive stuff for the kids, as well as printable freebies for the adults (lesson plans, etc.).

http://www.rosemarywells.com/

This one is aimed more at adults—the teachers, librarians and parents who read her books aloud—but there is still plenty of fun stuff for kids and lots of visuals and personal info and photos.

http://www.seussville.com/

This is a rare publisher-run website that is actually really fun and creative. Tons of games and activities for young Seuss fans to do.

http://www.mowillems.com/

Personally, I think this is the best picture book website out there. It has stuff for grown-ups (titled “Boring Grown-up Stuff”), as it should, but the entire website is totally kid friendly (kids don’t have to be able to read to navigate), chock full of humor, awesome pictures, and hysterical games. I can waste hours playing Elephant & Piggie Dance Party (go to Mo Willems-Pigeon Presents-Fun).

BEGINNING READERS: This age group is one that really likes to play games on the computer, so if you can create book-themed games that get them excited about reading, great! This is also a genre with lots of teacher interaction, so having free lesson plans and other stuff for the educators is a must. Here are three sites where publishers are doing it right:

http://www.magictreehouse.com/

http://www.scholastic.com/magicschoolbus/

http://www.juniebjones.com/

MIDDLE GRADE: Middle grade websites are aimed more directly at the kids. You will notice that the popular ones have the look and feel of a movie trailer or video game (their competition).

http://www.wherethebadkidsgo.com/

This local Portland author’s book site proves you don’t have to be a mega-bestseller to have a kick-butt website. Listen for the theme song he wrote and recorded himself! Movie is in development—yah Dale!

http://www.rickriordan.com/home.aspx

Tons of fun stuff for kid fans—layers and layers for kids to explore.

http://www.kikistrike.com/

Girl spy series. Very stylish and cool!

http://www.lookingglasswars.com/

Another very visually appealing, chock-full-of-activities website.

http://www.the39clues.com/

This site is kind of the holy grail of interactive middle grade book-website synergy. This was the beginning and it’s still pretty darn impressive.

YOUNG ADULT:

Young adult websites are all about getting personal. Teens want to get to know their favorite authors more intimately, their favorite characters more intimately, and they want to interact. And they want free stuff, of course! A good YA website will give them all that in a stylish package.

http://www.thirteenreasonswhy.com/

An innovative, inspiring website for an innovative, inspiring book. And check out author Jay Asher’s blog link—it’s a good one.

http://maggiestiefvater.com/

This YA darling does it all, with style. She’s got personal info and photos, contests, music, home-made cut-paper videos, foreign edition covers and more! Fans can spend hours here and many do.

http://www.marissameyer.com/

A newbie to the YA bestseller world, Marissa did her own website and it’s awesome. Our favorite is  contest she has where fans have to answer questions about things only found on her website (encouraging fans to explore every nook and cranny). She also offers free Skype Q&As.

http://johngreenbooks.com/

John is the Don Corleone of YA social media, the undisputed King (just Google “The Fault in Our Stars” social media promotion to find out more). His website is just the tip of the online iceberg that is his presence. But start there and check out his Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, etc. He is endlessly entertaining, whatever “platform” he is on.

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