Website Improvement

originally posted by Matt Roper

I'll probably get shot down for this, but know that I mean no disrespect or criticism to anyone, least of all Janny whose stories are amazing, and am only trying to be helpful.

What I wanted to ask is: what are the chances of getting a new website to represent your works in the virtual world, Janny?

The truth is that this site is the first port of call when people what to find out more about Janny's stories. Those people may have read a book blurb somewhere, they may have seen Janny's name dropped in a article, they may know next to nothing about her or her wonderful stories, and so they come to the website for more info, to see what these whole Wars of Light and Shadow are all about.

And what do they see when they get here? Grey. Drab, boring, dull, sterile grey. I can't think of a colour that invokes less emotion or excitement or interest. I really can't. It's just a wall of grey…

Furthermore, the site looks VERY dated (not the artwork, which I love, I mean the site itself). From memory (possibly flawed) it has remained virtually unchanged for as long as I've been visiting - since some time in the middle of the last decade.

Sorry, I don't mean to criticise the current site or its creators/administrators, but I feel like this amazing series is being under-represented and is actually missing out on a really important opportunity to make a more positive and engaging impact on people, and I've been meaning to bring it up for a long time.

One of the things I love about Janny (and various other authors) is her interactivity with us fans - for some reason it makes me like her and feel more connected to her and the series in general. It gives me confidence that the series is alive and well and hasn't been abandoned as sometimes happens. Unfortunately, that interactivity is buried here in the forums and is difficult to find for new visitors/readers…

I'm not trying to say the current site is bad - it's not - it could just be a lot better, and I feel like it's a missed opportunity. I would offer to write a new one myself but I have zero skills in these things. But I'm happy to contribute ideas if anyone is interested.

That's all. Shoot me down at will. Delete post if necessary.

I love your work Janny. Truly sorry if this offends anyone. My motivation is that I want more people to read your books and I think upgrading the website would aid that.

The biggest part of the problem is ME, having time to figure out how to change things - the website has undergone redesigns several times since the Gryphon has so kindly done all the work to create/manage and upkeep it. I have to request the shifts I want to see, and I am (myself) NOT current with smart phones or tablets or any of that. Once a redesign is in play, I have to be involved and that does detract from creative momentum. I'd like to choose timing when either I am between books, or, at a point where the book is in 'automatic' as in, a draft being polished for turn in.

The significant bit is the tremendous amount of work our website master does in the background (redesign or not) to make sure all the links stay working and everything functions with the current browsers. And he has some pretty complex features going (like the interactive map). This is all done for love on free time, and if work schedules, his or mine, are terribly crushed, then web redesign gets put off.

Additionally, the online directive that has fallen upon authors requires online publicity (Facebook fan page, opened by the publishers, now run with MAJOR backing from your webmaster, here, applause and thanks to the gryphon it's not dead end defunct.)

The past several years also have undertaken the total design, posting, and creation of the Paravia store for prints, and now, the addition of e short stories to that mix. The heroic gryphon has ALSO been the man of the hour to learn and deal with the formatting for e readers - so that if you do buy a story IT WORKS and looks well on your device. I'd be utterly sunk without him - please give him your applause!

I've got another short story cover art going and nearly complete, which will put a third story up in the near future. AND, I've a publisher doing the e books, with Master of Whitestorm in page layouts - so I've just finished the chapter head graphic for that, to be turned in today…

Web re-design is in mind; it is timely, yes…it's not had the priority of the other projects.

I'd like to let the gryphon, aka Jeff, have his chance to say what he thinks, too. He'll likely tell you we've broached the idea of a redesign several times, but I was the one to put it off…

This said, if anyone wishes to contribute a suggestion or so about what you'd LIKE, or how things may run more smoothly for users, that would surely help provide some valued feedback as to the direction a redesign might take. The fact you've cared enough to provide input is always appreciated - yes, the lavender gray backdrop is likely to go.

originally posted by Matt Roper

Hi Janny, thanks for the reply!

You're correct that it probably would detract a little from the creative momentum. But putting that aside for a moment, and instead thinking about yourself as a business/brand, it might be worth investing a little extra time into self promotion. Of course it's your choice not to, and yes there would probably be some costs involved, but it's something to be considered.

And I see RIGHT NOW (or ASAP) as the perfect time to do so. Your series is fast approaching its climax which adds a natural air of excitement around your work. I imagine the main WoLaS sequence will be finished within… 5ish years? At which point that natural tension will dissipate somewhat, so you might as well harness it while it's there and put it to work.

Gryphon is doing a great job keeping it all up and running. I probably don't have a realistic appreciation of how much work goes into running and maintaining a website. I have bought the short e-stories and yes they worked perfectly, thanks Gryphon!

originally posted by Annette

I have no trouble with boring grey, it makes the writing easier to read. And I am fine with how the Paravia site is set out and works with all the info, art, links and interactive map. Sometimes Janny could be a bit more informative when it comes to upcoming events/interviews/appearances Jeff might not know about. Even little things like Tuesdays AMA over at Reddit

My main hurdle when signing up was the way the chat forum actually works, or even the way the signing up process worked and we did not end up with the forum name we expected. I am more used to all the modern conveniences of everything being at your fingertips when it comes to formatting and posting on a forum. I was a late starter when it came to the internet, so until landing here never had any experience with the older message board type approach. I would think it would be a problem for some fans though.

But still I appreciate all the work the Gryphon puts in to keeping everything working, I eventually worked out how to use the formatting options, although it still takes ages just to do simple things like work out how to make a word into a link.

But at least this way it must cut down on any spam bots, and the bandwidth usage must be very low.

originally posted by Matt Roper

The grey does make the forums easy to read, but it's not the only readable colour scheme. And most people, when visiting a new website or investigating a new author, don't want to have to search through thousands of posts in forums to find information/updates/etc…

Furthermore, visual aesthetics is a very significant component of peoples' first impression - it's just the way we work as humans (at least, it is for males). And I feel like the grey isn't doing the stories, which are so rich and colourful, any favours.

The website is just as much an advertisement as it is a source of information/interaction, and as such should ideally be imbued with all the concepts that go into marketing/advertising and gaining people's attention and interest. Ideally we would want someone's first impression to be "WOW, this looks exciting, I want to read these books right now!"

To be clear, I'm talking about more than just the colour scheme - that's just the most obvious example to point at…

Sorry I don't mean to harp on about it or tell anyone what to do, just wanted to raise the idea for Janny to think about =)

originally posted by Trys

Janny's comments covered the situation quite nicely.

originally posted by Jeffrey L Watson

I've a question for everyone and/or anyone who visits this forum/website. What have you done recently to promote your favorite books/author (and yes I really mean Janny)? Have you posted a review somewhere (there's a really nice one that someone posted on her Facebook page and shared it on Janny's Facebook fan page), participated in an online discussion, recommended them to your friends either online or in real time, started a discussion about the books at an online discussion area, told your local bookstore that they don't have all/enough of the books? I'm sure there's more things that we can all do that I'm just not thinking of at the moment.


originally posted by David Cornelson

This is one of those catch-22 situations where the website is a labor of love from a respected friend and the only way to significantly alter its style and capability is to put serious money into it. This is (I think) the publisher's job and the second they start actually promoting Janny, this is the sort of thing that would change literally overnight. I actually build websites for a living in the corporate world and doing Paravia.Com justice is no small undertaking. As it is, the site functions well enough. Put another way, a new website is not going to pull in more readers. As Jeff politely put it, it's up to us, her devoted readers, to get the word out.

originally posted by Neil

Agree - a new website might be nice but probably won't sell books…we would need to ask a marketing expert for the percentage "spread" of mediums for how demand is driven to fantasy fiction books. Product, Price, Place, Promotion etc. etc.

It would be interesting to compare sites with other larger fantasy series.

Where do we get impressions about books these days? Amazon, GoodReads? TV? Word of mouth?

Robin Mckinley's blog "hits" me from facebook every day and she has even started a book on line she updated now and again.

Janny, for example, might prefer to draw than to blog? And keep her focus on Destiny's Conflict.

Maybe you can ask a marketing student to do a research dissertation where they question readers for views and make recommendations :wink:

For starters, the AMA link is now LIVE! and open for questions and votes. These will accumulate all afternoon.

I will be answering LIVE at 7 PM CST until whenever, and the better the participation, the more provocative the questions, the more it will showcase. uthor_pro/

originally posted by Matt Roper

I agree that all those things are good to do and helpful for promoting Janny's books. I always list her as one of my favorite authors when talking to other fantasy readers, I "follow" and "like" her on various social media sites, and list her in various profiles under favorite authors/series.

I still believe, however, that these augment the function of a website, rather than replace it entirely…

I guess the two main changes I personally would like to see are:
1) a more prominent/streamlined section for updates from Janny.
2) a more vibrant aesthetic.

(Very sorry again if I offended anyone earlier, I probably could have phrased my opinions less… opinionatedly)

originally posted by Jeffrey L Watson

Hi Matt,

Apology accepted.

The color schemes, layout, design, etc of a website are purely subjective. The point "a more vibrant aesthetic" is not quantifiable. What is vibrant to one person may not be to another. What is aesthetic to one person my not be to another. When I first started to do websites the convention was to use patterned backgrounds behind all of the pages. At the time they were 'cool'. Now that approach is passe and when I stumble across a site done that way I find the backgrounds garish and a hindrance to reading the text - my opinion.

As to "augmenting" rather than "replacing"… absolutely. But given the prevalent use of such social media sites by more and more people I have to wonder how much web surfing are they actually doing. I suspect they would only find a website because it shows up in those areas that they frequent. Such demographic evaluations are really the purview of the market experts of which I am most assuredly not one.


originally posted by Matt Roper

Totally agree that gaudy backgrounds are exactly that, and that it's all subjective.

And perhaps you're right - it could be that my method of following authors (via their websites) it outdated. My only point would be that social media sites often don't offer much information about the author's works other than that they exist - certainly nothing like the depth of information you have here on the site, so I think both mediums are important (if not equally then at least significantly).

But I'll leave it here. Thanks for considering and replying to my ideas anyway, I do appreciate it. Time to go buy Janny's new e-short story!