Monday, February 11, 2008

I am my own webmistress

I design and maintain my own web site at www.jennifer-echols.com. I’m able to do this pretty easily because I know HTML coding. PhD programs in English usually require students to know two foreign languages, but the one I went to allowed us to substitute a computer language. So I bought Teach Yourself HTML in 24 Hours, and 24 hours later, I was my own webmistress.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. Managing my own site allows me to make changes and updates instantly. And sometimes I get the bug to change the site around completely, playing with colors and patterns and creating new icons. This activity uses a different part of my brain from writing and gives me a nice little break, a lot like some of my first jobs after college, designing newspaper pages and advertisements.

My favorite part of my site right now is the virtual book launch party for The Boys Next Door. I was writing my dissertation (which I never finished) on hypertext fiction--fiction that uses the way the internet works as part of its form. When hypertext fiction first emerged, some critics argued this revolutionary genre was the form all books would take in the future. Other critics said, “Hmmm...isn’t that exactly like a choose-your-own-adventure story, only on the computer rather than on paper?” I tended to agree with the latter critics. But when I started thinking about how to let readers know I had a new book out, a choose-your-own-adventure story that was actually written in hypertext seemed like the perfect way to introduce everyone to Lori and her peculiar brand of hospitality.

But not everyone likes my site. One reviewer had lovely things to say about Major Crush and The Boys Next Door but went that extra mile to point out that my web site was “cheesy.” This was back in my pink dot phase. You can still see the pink dots at my MySpace page. I thought the pink dots were cute yet ironic in their intensity, like Miley Cyrus would break into your house and kick your butt. So the news that my site was a big cheeseball really hurt my feelings--almost as much as School Library Journal saying Major Crush was good for “romance and a few laughs.” (A few???)

Soon after the pink dot incident, I changed the site to its current look. I had just sold a new book to MTV Books, and the updated black background lets you know I am hip and edgy and dark. Stop laughing.

See, I enjoy designing my own site. That doesn’t mean I’m any good at it. I really appreciate art and design and I’m constantly coming up with new ideas, but they never seem to work out the way I’d envisioned them, which is also why my clothes and the inside of my house look the way they do. More than once I’ve thought about having a professional redesign my site. Some sites are just so gorgeous. But others...well, I figure I can do as good a job as those professionals, and for free! This is called savvy. Or hubris. Maybe I’m like one of those horrible people on American Idol who honestly think they can sing. I’m the William Hung of the World Wide Web.

So I have a couple of questions.

For authors: Do you design your own site?

For everyone: Can you tell I design my own site and you have wanted to let me know for a long time but you just weren’t sure how? It’s okay. I can take it. *sniffle*

7 comments:

TJBrown said...

No... but I sure wish I could update the silly thing myself.
Teri

Jessica Burkhart said...

Nope, I can't tell at all that you designed and update your site. I love the colors, personally. Don't you think pink and black are popular colors your readers will love?

Yes, I designed and maintain my own site. Hopefully, no one can tell. ;)

jennifer echols said...

Teri, it does make life easier. Plus, if I couldn't update mine myself, I'd probably think of twice of many things that just *had* to be updated *right away.*

Jessica, your site is beautiful! I'm very impressed. Do you have any idea what your cover will look like? I'm expecting I'll have to redesign my site when I get my cover. I can't imagine what they'll do with it but I figure I'll be surprised--I always am!

Niki Burnham said...

I am completely web-design challenged. I have to leave it to a professional or risk looking idiotic!

Micol Ostow said...

I totally heart your site!
Actually my site has its fair share of polka dots too. Maybe it's a chick-lit thing, but if polka dots are wrong, I don't wanna be right...

Actually, when the EMILY paperback came out, I specifically hired a fancy webmistress to redesign my site, but really only because I wanted to tie in to the nifty EM paperback art. My original website was a surprise from N, and if a little "beta," definitely one of the sweetest gifts I've ever gotten.

I'll have to link to you from my site!

jennifer echols said...

Niki, I have always loved your site, and I think the newer design reflects your move into hardback perfectly.

Micol, that is the BEST GIFT! N is so awesome.

slayground said...

I think your site is informative and cool, Jennifer, and I love that it's your doing.

Aw, thanks, Micol. :)