What not to do with your website – a cautionary tale

in Blog

We’ve been making a big marketing push to gain additional author clients – each of the designers who work with Surfacing have gone through their personal book collections and Googled for the official sites of their favorite authors. If the site is in need of work, we write a personal email, contact the site owner and offer our services.

So far we’ve contacted a few dozen authors, gotten 8 or 9 responses, and made a couple friends, a couple leads, and a couple sales. Pretty win-win for both sides. But there was a Biggest Loser in this tale.

One author has a website so bad a series of tragedies could be written about it alone.

The author is Rebecca Meluch. We’re naming names because the debacle that is her website should stand as a warning to everyone, especially authors who think slapping together a website on their own can’t possibly be a recipe for disaster.

rmmeluchcoverBackground: RM Meluch is the writer of the Merrimack series of science fiction books. If you still think Captain Kirk is the coolest space navy skipper, you haven’t heard of John Farragut. Picture the United States and ancient Rome. At war. In Space. And then the aliens invade. The series is just as tongue-in-cheek as that sounds, and even more fun. Cyborgs, Caesars and Marines, oh my!

RM Meluch’s Official Site – go ahead and look, you know you want to see the train wreck.

Okay, you may see at the site and say to yourself, “Wow, that’s reeeeeeeealy bad. So what?” If you said that, you need a web designer or consultant. When you look “under the hood,” the problems just get worse.

The website is useless, but that only means it doesn’t generate anything positive for the writer, be it sales, contact with the fanbase, et cetera. Call it a neutral net effect – fans are still fans, buyers will still buy. It doesn’t affect actual sales numbers, only potential sales.

But when you look at the domain registration data, there are catastrophic problems. I’m not actually sure which of the following is the more critical failure.

Hello, stalkers, here’s my address, map me on Google and come steal my alpacas!

First: It’s a PUBLIC registration! If you’re a published author, there is absolutely NO reason to have a public registration. Every registrar provides private registrations that protects your identity and address. GoDaddy charges a $10 fee for the service, but other registrars include privacy free with registration. Public registrations are fine for businesses and institutions that WANT the public to know their location. Even the most remotely popular person, however, should restrict that information.

Second: The email address listed on the domain information is dead. This is bad mojo on multiple levels. a) if your email address of record doesn’t work, how will the registrar notify you when it’s time to renew? b) if your only public means of contact on the internet is dead, how does someone tell you your site sucks and offer help? :) and c) this is the other big time problem.

If your contact information is wrong on your domain registration, they can TAKE the domain AWAY FROM YOU. A registration that contains info that is demonstrably fraudulent or incorrect can be contested and removed from your control. It’s possible.

Problem resolution: None at this time. She’s been sent emails at every address that could be found. We even emailed her publisher, DAW books, and got no response from them, not even so much as an automated message that they got our email.

So this author could lose her domain name when the renewal deadline passes and she never got the reminder. Someone could contest the domain and get it taken it from her. And her site does nothing an author site should do: connect her with fans, generate new interest and readers and sales, and keep the public informed of new projects, interests and appearances.

That’s a big fat fail all the way around.

I’m not big on public humiliation, but local radio has been airing graphic public service announcements about the dangers of methamphetamines, true stories narrated by the addicts themselves.

So like the old rehab commercials used to say, “If you don’t get help here, get help somewhere!”

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post:

Return to Main Page