Sunday, July 3, 2011

Supporting Information

Are authors using their websites and blogs as effectively as they could be?

No, really, I'm honestly asking here.

I've been thinking about this because I recently had a paper accepted to the Journal of Physical Chemistry. With scientific publications there's often a lot of supplemental or supporting information that could be interesting to the journal's readers, but adding it to the main text of the paper would disrupt the logical flow and bog things down, so the information is available as "Supporting Information" on the journal's website.

Seems to me that writers in all genres could be doing this sort of thing effectively as well.

For example, I wrote a book about my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa, conveniently entitled The Peace Corpse: Misadventures in Love and Africa, and I created a blog to help market it, But I can't help thinking that there's a lot more I could do with the blog aside from just using it as a platform for promotion. So I've decided to add pictures from my time in Africa, a collection of funny quotes from my fellow Volunteers, and a deeply disturbing play my students wrote. I put a link to the blog in the back of the ebook with the idea that people who enjoyed the book might also enjoy the pictures, quotes, and play as well. I also plan to add a few other essays and assorted bits of writing that didn't make it into the book. And while in a way this is sort of "bonus material" for anyone who has already purchased the book, I still think it could be interesting to someone who hasn't yet read it, and may even entice them to go out and purchase a copy.

But that's just one example. I think particularly for fantasy and science-fiction a writer could benefit a lot from having a website with plenty of supporting information that helps to explain the history and setting their stories take place in. Star Wars has Wookieepedia and Star Trek has Memory Alpha, and I can't help thinking that it would help a lot of writers to have this sort of information available on their website. Imagine if Tolkien had made The Silmarillion a website with clickable links. You could learn about the Valar and Maiar, who the other wizards were (besides Gandalf and Saruman), and so on, skipping around as you wish, with everything clearly indexed and easy to access. And yeah, a lot of casual readers don't care about this kind of thing, but a significant number of people do, I think, and by having it all there on your author website it gives people a reason to keep coming back. And isn't that kind of the point of the website to begin with?

Oh, and if anyone knows of any authors with this sort of information on their website already, please leave a comment with the name of the author and a link. I think it would be pretty interesting to see how different people approach it.

[Update: Robert David MacNeil's site is a great example of what I'm talking about]


  1. Here's one I think is a pretty good example:

  2. Yeah, that's exactly the kind of thing I was looking for! Where did you find that?