13 Ways to Scare Readers Away from Your Book’s Website


This can be a scary time of the year.

Here at Author Media, there is nothing that scares us more than bad author website design.

Here are 13 proven ways to scare people away from your author website.


1. Music

Many people surf the web while listening to Pandora, Spotify or iTunes in the background. If your website starts music when someone arrives, it will create chaos in their headphones as two songs play at the same time. For bonus points, hide the “pause” button so the only way to stop the music is to leave the website.

To turn your website into a horror show, make the song restart every time users load a new page. This way you can bludgeon your readers over the head with the first few bars of the song.

2. Focus on Yourself

People don’t care about you, they care about them. So, focus on yourself. You are the author after all. Fill the website with photos of you and your family. Talk about personal details of your life that have nothing to do with your book. Blog about irrelevant topics. Avoid giving away any helpful information.

Avoid the things in our list of what readers want from your author website.

3. Autoplay Video

Starting a video automatically when someone visits your page is just annoying. It also slows down the site and creates audio chaos for the music listeners among us. For an extra scary website make the video launch in full screen so they have to fight their browser.

Bonus Points: Make the video cheesy.

4. Terrible Design

There are so many ways to make people’s eyes hurt with bad design. You can start with clashing colors, but that is amature stuff. For a truly scary website you want to go either low contrast (gray text on a dark gray background) or high contrast (repeat an image in the background, MySpace style). The key is to make the text hard to read. Also, you want to make it unclear what the next step is on each page.

Avoid call to action buttons and simplicity at all costs.

5. Popups

Nothing scares people away from your book website like a popup. The key is to make the popup as irrelevant and annoying as possible. Ask users for their email address and zip code. Hide the buttons that remove the popup so visitors have to fight their way back to the page they wanted.

6. Motion

Motion draws the eye. If you put constant motion on your website you can draw your readers’ eyes away from what they actually want to read. This way their eyes have to box your website to read it.

Bonus Points: Make the motion an animated gif that repeats the same animation over and over.

7. Flash

Flash on a website

Chances are, 1 out of 3 of your visitors use a mobile device. So, you can scare away a third of them just by using flash that doesn’t work on mobile. Flash kills your search rankings and makes your site hard to use for visitors with disabilities. It is also expensive and difficult to update.

8. Slow

People on the internet are in a hurry. An easy way to scare them away from your author website is to just make everything crawl. The best way to get your site to run slower is to use a cheap host like GoDaddy or 1&1. Avoid fast servers like ZippyKid or Author Media. Just go with whoever buys the sleaziest super bowl commercials.

9. Splash Page

When people visit your website, they want to see your content. Thus, your content needs to be the last thing you show them. Instead, create a page that has a giant photo of yourself, no useful information, and a small “enter site” link hidden with some bad design.

Presidential candidates are the masters of annoying splash pages.

10. Request Private Information

Many of your vistiors would love to get an email when your next book comes out. So, make signing up for your email newsletter painful. Ask them for information you have no intention to use. Don’t just ask for their name and email, get their phone number, mailing address and zip code. For bonus points, ask for their credit card number.

Avoid putting a privacy policy near the sign up form. Just take their email with no assurance you won’t spam them later.

11. Hard to Use

A certain percentage of visitors just want to buy your book. So, you want to make buying your book complicated. None of your book covers should link to a buy page. Avoid “buy now” buttons at all cost. Then have a complicated checkout process with multiple steps. At the last moment, send them to PayPal to type in all their information again.

Bonus Points: put your books on a massively long page users have to scroll through to find anything.

12. 404 Pages

Never check for broken links. Assume that web page addresses never change. This way, when someone clicks on a link they may get the dreaded “this page could not be displayed” 404 error. Keep the 404 page generic. You want your content hard to find.

Avoid tools like Google Webmaster Tools, 301 Redirects or Broken Link Checker that will let you know about broken links. Avoid search boxes.

13. Old Information

People expect realtime information on the internet. So give them old photos, old bios and avoid info about your latest books. Buy a website you can’t update yourself. Or get a free website from a friend or family member who will promise to get to it “tomorrow.” You want every other website on the web to have more relevant info than your site.

A Less Scary Way

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At Author Media we have helped hundreds of authors just like you get effective websites. You are welcome to schedule a free consultation with one of our website experts. You can also find our website pricing here.

What do you think? What do you think makes a website scary?


6 Responses to 13 Ways to Scare Readers Away from Your Book’s Website

  1. Heather Day Gilbert October 26, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

    Brilliant advice, and I’ve definitely run into some of these along the way. Music playing when I’m on Pandora is a great way to make me screech! Tweeting this for sure.

  2. Linda Adams - Soldier, Storyteller October 31, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    On #4, I do graphics work, and I’ve been amazed at how badly people put together graphics and colors. The worst part is they think they’re doing a fantastic job — it’s like they’ve got blinders on. I still remember a guy trying to sell a self-pubbed book, and he had these eight moving lava lamps on the site. He wanted comments (praise) on the site, and all people could tell him was to get rid of the animated graphics. He didn’t. I doubt if he sold many books. Most people probably left the site right away. Then there’s the magazine that thought it would be cute. I went into the site and was greeted with a blank green screen. I thought there was a problem with the site, but on a hunch, I moved my mouse around and it triggered a java script or something. Once I found it, I got into the site and emailed them that people were probably not going to take the time to figure out how to get into the site. They said they would take it under advisement, and then ignored it. I didn’t submit to them. May have been a great place to submit to but no one was going to get into the site!

  3. Gail Henkel Gee November 6, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Thomas and/or staff,

    I have been enjoying your Author Media newsletters for some time. They are refreshing and interesting. Thank you for them.

    I am a friend of the Umstattd family, and long-time employee of Thomas’s dad, and an accountant (I know, boring).

    I am just barely starting a webiste and ebook called “The Redhead’s Guide”. which is a collection of my takes on any number of topics, all supposedly humorous, with a few hard-learned life lessons thrown in for good measure.

    I am an amateur stand-up comic and want to have away to develop and share my material, and an online presence and perhaps some tiny bit of online mailbox money. But the art of stand-up and the written word are oh-so-very different. Additionally, I am 55 years old, and really don’t know quite where to begin, or the steps I need to take to make my vision an online reality.

    Can you help me? If so, what would my commitment to you be in terms of time and money?

    Anxiously and respectfully,

  4. tom giong November 9, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    It’s actually a great and useful piece of info. I’m satisfied that you shared this useful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Jake Kail November 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm #


    What is your opinion of a featured slider on the home page? I have one on mine, but have noticed that most of the websites/blogs that I have been looking at lately do not have them. Any thoughts on the pros/cons?



    • Thomas Umstattd November 29, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

      It really depends. Sliders allow you to put more information above the fold but less information readily available. A slider can be an effective tool. It can also be a symptom of an unfocused site. Poorly coded sliders break on mobile devices so that is another thing to keep in mind. Avoid flash sliders like you would a rabid lion.