Web log – November 24, 2012

First off, I hope all of my readers here in the United States had a Happy Thanksgiving this week. For me, this has been a pretty remarkable week. On Monday, my publisher emailed me to say they had reduced the price of Children of the Old Stars—the second novel of the Old Star/New Earth series—to 99 cents. They also said the novel was going to be featured in the Bookbub Newsletter.

Sales of the book picked up nicely at Amazon that day. Also, since it was book two of the series, people began downloading book one—The Pirates of Sufiro—which is free. The result was quite pleasant. For most of this week, I have been on Amazon’s list of the 100 bestselling authors in Science Fiction.

As I watched all this happen, I realized people who had downloaded the book, or discovered me from the bestselling author list, might want to learn more about me by visiting my website. As such, I took a good hard look at davidleesummers.com and realized that it had been far too long since I had updated some of the pages, including the front page, which is the first impression people will have.

Now, my website has been around for a while. It will be 20 years old next year. When I first built it, the “Information Superhighway” was a shiny, new concept. So, I dubbed my little stop on that highway as a “wrong turn” right from the outset, because often the most interesting stops are the ones you never intended to visit! I have taken the website through several upgrades in 20 years and done my best to keep it up to date, but it’s easy to get used to one’s own website. I needed to evaluate the site with a fresh eye, and that brings us to the subject of this week’s post.

The word blog is a contraction of the words “web log.” Web logs were the place where system administrators would record changes made to a web site. However, some system administrators would use the web log as a place to talk about philosophy, their favorite TV show, or their favorite game. Eventually other people began using this web logging software to post their own thoughts and thus modern blogging was born.

Today, I’m taking the blog back to its roots and recording the updates to my website!

First off, I took a good hard look at the first page. I realized that at first glance, it was not clear what kind of website you had landed on. It was too wordy. So, I streamlined and better organized the text. This allowed me to move the Amazon widget that displays my books into a better position. I also added a few of the reviews people have given my books to the first page. My goal has been to make it clear that you have landed on an author’s site while retaining the kind of retro-future look to the site that I believe characterizes much of my writing. I also wanted it to be welcoming and inviting, encouraging a visitor to look around.

I’ve done a pretty good job of maintaining my pages that tell about my novels, short stories, and show my events calendar, so I did very little work on those pages.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve realized people have taken a real interest in my astronomy work. To that end, I put a lot of attention into sprucing up the astronomy page. I added a couple of recent photos and made them clickable so you can see them full size. I also added more detail about my astronomy background including some links to places where I’ve worked. Finally, I updated my publication list with this year’s new supernova paper that I contributed to.

I then moved on to the bio page. Sadly, I had let that page get very outdated. I also realized that it was very clunky looking with three old photos of me. Those photos were fun to see, but they were a bit outdated. I updated the text, updated the photo, and included links where you can find me online and interact with me.

Finally, I took a look at the links page. I discovered a number of dead links and saw that the format was not really conducive to easy navigation. So, I cleaned up the page, removed the dead links, and added a few new ones. Just to note, I take this list of links very seriously. My goal is to link to people and organizations who my readers would also find appealing. Some friends were left off, for example, simply because I didn’t think we had a strong overlap in potential readers. I also wanted to keep the list manageably short so people could use it as a good jumping off point to explore more. So, if you’re a friend and don’t see yourself there, don’t take it personally. Ideally, I’ll come back in a few months and shuffle the list around and add some different links just to keep it fresh. We’ll see if I actually manage to do that!

You’ll likely notice that I kept much of the “highway” theme going as a tribute to the site’s history. After all, we’re coming up on the 20th anniversary. It would be a shame to dump it now. In 2014, I’ll take a fresh look at the site’s place on the Information Superhighway and decide if it needs another makeover.

So please, drop by davidleesummers.com, explore and let me know what you think. I’m hoping you’ll find some of these changes fun and informative.