Because I need to redesign my own author site, I looked at several writers' sites to find ideas. Here are some of my findings.
John le Carré
I like how the author's site captures his genre, with recent tweets showing on his home page as "intercepted" messages.
I also enjoyed le Carré's Bio page, which was humorous and revealed enough personal information to make me feel a connection, without oversharing.
E L James
I have no interest at all in James' books. However, her site is attractive. There is one feature I really like and might borrow for my own. Tucked under the "Gallery" section, where I wouldn't expect it, she has a "Soundtracks" page. This page lists music she associates with her stories.
This is a fun way to reveal something about the work, as well as about the author. James links to a soundtracks collection on YouTube, so fans can hear the music.
I'm not familiar with Abercrombie's work, but his site gives me a way to change that. He provides sample chapters from his books, available on-screen or as epub, mobi, or pdf files.
My old site had some chapters, and one caught the attention of an agent's assistant who was trolling the Web. She requested more. Ultimately, the book was for a younger audience than her agent repped, so nothing came of the request. However, I did learn that providing chapters can attract attention and interest, even for an "underpublished" author.
Rowling's site does not create a feel for her books, but it may well reflect her own personality. The design is clean and sparse and looks like something a writer who is as organized as she reportedly is might create.
When you first click deeper into her site, you are presented with coach marks that provide hints to help navigate the site.
Although I don't think her site is complex enough to require coach marks, I think it's interesting that she provides them. Coach marks can be useful to orient visitors and show them what to expect when they click on page elements.
Bernard Cornwell has striking and attractive banners (or mastheads) that instantly tells me what I can expect from one of his books.
The banner for each page is different, which can be a little confusing, but the design is the same on each page despite the image changes so I don't feel like I'm being thrown to a different site. Each banner is attractive, and I feel like I know what his books are like just from clicking to a few pages.
Besides the attractive images, which displays his brand, Cornwell provides nav links that are easy to understand and almost beg me to click them.
I really like that he has a page where he responds to reader questions. Of course, this is of limited use to an author who has yet to interest enough readers to generate questions, but even an unpublished author could use a Q&A format to provide information about his or her work and why potential readers and publishers might be interested. This is a way to enhance the brand and demonstrate a platform or other qualifications.
Theroux's site has a charming feature I didn't see anywhere else: drawings of his study and items that mean something to him.
The only thing that bothered me about these drawings is that there are so few of them. The same few drawings are repeated on different pages throughout the site. He doesn't have that many pages, so he could have used a different drawing for each page. This is an interesting way to reveal something about the author and to create a connection with readers.
Theroux's site is unusual in that the navigation links are in the center of the page, something I haven't seen much. I think it works with his design.
Whether you are designing your new site or tweaking an existing site, it's a good idea to examine the sites of other authors, especially those in similar genres.