Sunday, July 24, 2011

Website design

 I'm working on the banner for my updated website.

Not that I'm going to actually do the banner thing myself, you understand.  This is just me trying to communicate a 'feeling' to the website designer.

Since there are all kinds of visually skilled folks out there . . .  can you give me some opinions?  What's the direction to go with this?  What's the working idea?

Oh . . . these are photos I mostly don't have rights to, so I'm just using thumbnails and I'm going to pull the banner designs after a bit. 

The person who gives me the most help with this, (it's one of those subjective thingums,) gets a Black Hawk ARC, as soon as I actually get some.


Let me go add another one here:

Going down to add a modification of the design above.  This one is meant to sorta break outta the box.  Don't know how technically feasible it is.

Looking at making the concept punchier . . .  I've added red to it.
It is not just straightforward and easy to add add red to a dress, so It's all a little clumsy.

I think this is a bit too much red.  Maybe a gentler pink on the dress.
Or . . . there's blue.  Let me try blue.


  1. I love the one with your pic -- very professional.

    The top one, too -- that's Adrian, right? It makes me just want to stop, stare, and drool. (I may be a tad over-fond of Adrian. *cough*) The knife is a good touch.

  2. My first instinct is the first one with the guy and the girl with the knife. The knife says subtle danger to me, and I like the directness of the guy's stare.

    The second one the girl with the knife is just too in your face. It makes me think of an epic fantasy novel or something. And the house isn't "historical" enough to me. If that makes sense. I also don't read "romance novels" off this one, which I did in the first one with hero/heroine pairing.

    The one with your photo is nice, professional. But it doesn't grab me the way the first one did with the danger and romance. Also, I guess, as lovely as your author photo is (and it is) the site is about selling your characters and stories, not you. So I guess I feel the banner should be selling the characters and stories, not you.

    The last one is OK. The shapes of the pictures are a little wonky. Maybe sharpen those edges up somehow if you go with this one. It also doesn't have the zing and danger for me that the first one does. I like the kiss, but the dark alley (?) is too bright and cheerful.

    If I were ranking these I'd say from favorite to least favorite

  3. I like the pictures in the bottom one -- the couple approaching a tender kiss & the lane both portray romance and the lane also has that old world/historical feel. I recommend avoiding having the type run over the pictures though as it makes it more difficult to read. I like how the background color is graduated from corner to corner also. I like both the typeface combination and placement used in the 3rd banner. While the taglines "cutting edge" and "with a cutting edge" are clever, they bring to mind murder mystery to me rather than spy intrigue. I do like the idea of a tag line along those lines though. After Adrian's story, are you planning to continue along with similar stories (spies) or move in a slightly different direction? If going a different direction, you'll want the tag line to unite them to some degree. Wish I could help with that, but I'm not creative when it comes to things like that :(. Do hope the comments help though.

  4. The clip graphics in the fourth banner are the ones I prefer, but "cut" differently. I also like the left side of the first one... the woman's hand on the knife whilst hiding it is good, but there needs to be more of the picture.

    Also, in the fourth banner, having the words go into the picture and not having them 'stand out' isn't good. This can be fixed by having a lighter color closely border the lettering.

    I agree that a knife is a good indicator of intrigue & possible violence... historically accurate, of course, but not the one in the second banner... it looks like a shadow, & detail would look better.

    I actually like the house in the second & third banners, but possibly as a faded background or watermark type effect. A similar one face on would be good, again historically accurate.

    I don't like the fonts on the first or fourth. The second one is better than the third, but that's because the second line is cleaner. (non-italicized?)

    Hope this helps!

  5. Anonymous8:24 PM

    Number 1 looks to me like a vampire mashup, and number 4 doesn't appeal at all, especially with the typeface merging in the photo. I like number 3 best but I'd be tempted to substitute the pic of girl with knife over the building photo. best, Jeanine

  6. Christine9:20 PM

    I would say the the parts that best say "historical romance" from above are

    1.) The couple about to kiss
    2.) the woman holding the knife down by her side
    3.) the alleyway which to me gives a sense of the intrigue and danger and the back alley spy nature of Adrian and Justine's work. It also subtly says "France" or "Paris" to me as well
    4.) I like using the picture of you as I like to see the author on their home page. It makes the site look professional and "official" so I know it is not a fan site someone has whipped up. Your photo gives the the official seal of approval.

    I do not care for the knife next to your picture as it strongly reminds me of a Mystery Writer award and makes me think people would be confused thinking it was a murder mystery novel.

    I would also suggest adding something alluding to your previous works so there is instant recognition. The Forbidden Rose is your most recent work but Spymaster's Lady seems to be your most popular and recognizable work (based on the comments and voting from several boards) People will say "oh yes! Spymaster's Lady I loved that book!

    It seems like you want to emphasize most the new Black Hawk book so again for the sake of continuity perhaps some use of the cover of the new novel would be good even though that Adrian is not exactly the Adrian in your head (or most of our heads either.)

    I would also humbly suggest a bolder color. Your books are not light Regency romps where the protagonists flirt over lobster patties. They are very passionate books set against turbulent times. The characters (particularly Justine and Adrian) have had very dramatic lives. The pale blush color suggests a more timid romance and could even be seen as a cliche (romance novels = pink.)

    I am guessing the knife plays a crucial part in Black Hawk (apart from Adrian's fondness for them) so if you are looking to include that, the second banner does the best job of the four shown above. It also has the best font IMHO. I noticed all of your published books seem to use the same font for your name of the covers. I would suggest replicating that on your banner as well

    The picture of the building, while French looking isn't as visually interesting as the other pictures I've mentioned and would not capture a viewer's attention the way the couple or the hidden dagger would. If there was a way to use a very faint picture of a historical building as the background and put pictures over that
    it could convey nicely "this is a historical setting" without taking space away from
    the more arresting photos.

    I hope this has been in some way helpful.

  7. Okay visual effects and taking all the ideas in consideration I think hands down you should have your portrait in the banner. It makes the banner more personal to me.
    In the second example I really thought the wording was great! Your name should definitely be the largest in Font size, with Historical Romance following it and the subtle tag line in the smallest font.
    The way I can see myself looking at it is I read Joanna Bourne, then look at your photo. Then read Historical Romance, then look at a picture (buildings are great or something momument for that period/ even spy-esque because of your books). Then I read the tag line.
    If anything I am saying doesn't make sense let me know.

  8. Anonymous10:36 PM

    Hi Jo,

    Unfortunately, I'm not particularly drawn to any of these four examples. They would not inspire me to learn more about you. I think it is because each of them has two unrelated and dissimilar images and your name seems jammed in there.

    I think you should choose ONE image (positioned on the left side) and your name in a large font. For example, your current website has a beautiful image of a couple on a ship that would be beautiful alone--so find an image of a representative couple (like that one) that speaks to you. OR, use your favorite author pic. One or the other--not both.

    However, more importantly, I think you need to DESCRIBE your style in your banner/header.

    For example, Kate Noble (whose header is simple and elegant) says "Deeply Romantic Historicals" and Vicki Dreiling describes her writing as "Wickedly Witty". Victoria Dahl (and Sabrina Jeffries and Kresley Cole) each touts herself as "USA Today Bestselling Author". Obviously, it's impressive but less unique.

    When I think of your writing, I think of "distinctive" and "character-driven". Now, how do YOU describe your writing? Try to use one or two descriptive words combined with one image and your name in a beautiful (large) font. That's it!

    Also, make certain your header is narrow enough that the fan can see at least the top half of the most recent or upcoming book which will entice them to scroll down. (Another example: Sabrina Jeffries' header is too large.)

    I am updating my company's website and have looked at so many, my head is full. I hope you find at least one useful tip in all these suggestions.

    Meanwhile, remember: you don't need a dazzling website to attract readers. Your writing does that all by itself.

    Thanks for many hours of reading pleasure.

    Laura T

  9. Angelyn10:39 PM

    Hi Joanne,

    The first thing you'll need to decide is what you want your viewers to see first on your banner. The elements that you have so far are:
    - phrase "historical romance"
    - phrase "with a cutting edge"
    - your name "Joanna Bourne"
    - image of danger (knife)
    - image of romance (kissing)
    - image of history (building)
    - image of you

    In all four banners, the combinations of these images are fairly equal, so there's a hierarchy fight going on, and the eye doesn't know what to look at first. To establish hierarchy, make the most important thing the biggest, then next thing medium, and the least important smallest. My suggestion is to decide the hierarchy first. I recommend this:

    - one historical image that contains a couple, embracing, set in a regency background that looks vaguely menacing. Perhaps they are just stepping out of an alley or something?

    - your name (in a typeface that's similar to the one used on your book covers for consistency)

    - "historical romance" with subhead "with a cutting edge" (the typeface for this should be similar to the one used for the titles of your books, for consistency…unless those are hand-lettered, which will be harder to achieve…)

    I would not put your photo on the main banner, not because you're not lovely, but because readers recognize your name more than anything, and adding another image (especially if it's in color and the other is sepia toned) would just compete with the main image.

    If it's impossible to find a one historical image, then it would be better to find a set of images that can be collaged together: embracing couple, historical building, etc. The knife by itself as a visual element is problematic because it just "floats" and isn't anchored anywhere. It's better if someone is holding it, like the top banner. Perhaps the collage can also be aged by black and white or sepia toned, to give it that extra feeling of history.

    Hope that helps!

  10. Hi Linda --

    I guess one question I have is, do folks want to see my picture on the website? Some folks have their picture up. Some don't.

    Is this part of what people want to see, do you think?

  11. Hi E.D. --

    So if I want to use a picture of Paris or France -- or England for that matter, I should make sure it looks properly historical. Check.

    It's quite hard to find stock photos w/o people, cars, TV antennae, crosswalks, sidewalks . . .

    I shall resume my search for a good Paris photo, however, in case the webdesigner goes in that direction.

    I hear you about the website being the books and the characters. I will put you down as somebody who doesn't need the author photo on the site.

    I kinda feel that way myself, somewhat. But I also feel like an author photo humanizes everything. I am, like, torn on this issue.

  12. Hi gamistress --

    I am going to continue with the spy stuff through BLACK HAWK. I'll do at least one more of the Meeks Street stories after that. I'm going through the nebulous gathering together of the Pax story right now.

    So the website can be spy oriented.

    For the wording . . . I need to use the name, and I like saying 'Historical Romance'.
    I would like to add another small line that further defines the work.

    You don't like 'cutting edge'? I suspect you would also look askance at 'with a point'? *g*

    Hmmmm . . .
    'the men of Meeks Street',
    'sometimes love is the most dangerous complication',
    'in a world ripped apart by war, they find each other' . . .

    Something will come to me. I hope.

  13. Hi Skittles --

    I think I'd like to use an Italic, swirly font of some boldness. (You can tell I'm real professional about this font nomenclature.)

    I will try to find out what font they're using on the covers of the books. It's the same font for all four books, which the poor book designers must find tiresome.

    I too like the woman holding the knife. I don't seem to have clipart with a larger piece of her.

    I know there's some way you can run lettering over the pictures and still have it stand out. That's a technique far beyond my poor photoshop, (actually I use GIMP,) skills. I'd have to assume the web-designer has all these tricks in her bag.

    You don't like the knife-and-woman in the 2nd banner? (jo pouts) I thought it was so cool and all and nobody likes it. (pouts some more.)

  14. Hi Jeanine --

    I'm feeling a banner this size can do one face shot only. So if I stick my own mug up there, I'll have to ditch the other possible faces.

    I am glad you don't object to my woman-with-knife-in-her-face. *g*

  15. Hi Christine --

    This is all wonderfully clear and useful.

    You are probably right in that the knife, on it's own, has to go. Another element with a knife or a gun in it may work.

    As I said above, I don't feel the banner can hold two faces, so if I use my photo on the banner, I'll need to avoid another direct frontal face.

    Not that I want my face on the thing. But that seems to be the general usage.

    The idea of a background or 'watermark' Paris building is an interesting one. It would add the concept without taking up informational space.

    I do want a lightish color theme. Maybe the best way to keep it from looking Romance-y is to head in the Sepia direction.

    Hmmm ...

  16. Hi Landra --

    I kinda cringe at the thought of putting my picture up, but this seems to be the custom.

    (I think of all these introvert authors saying the same things.)

    Name large. 'Historical Romance' smaller and then some kinda tag line. Check

    I think maybe the author photo should be to the right . . .

  17. Hi Laura --

    I, too, an not drawn to any of these four examples. It's a good thing I don't have to earn my bread as a graphic designer because I -- not to put too fine a point on it --suck.

    I hope the web-designer can take the suggestions and make something better.

    I'm inclined to put the visually heavy main image on the left for some reason. I can't say why I feel like this. It seems more friendly, somehow.

    Good point on keeping the header narrow.
    As a practical matter, I want the reader to know when content on the website has changed without making her do an extra click.

    The 'bottom' of the banner will have that line of buttons across it to make the visual cutoff between banner and substantive website stuff.

    One image? Only one image?
    I know you are probably right about this . . .

    To some extent, that upcoming content makes me want the banner to be very simple.
    You say -- one visual.
    I am so greedy. I'd like to do two or three visuals.
    That way chaos and clutter lie.

  18. Hi Laura --

    I, too, an not drawn to any of these four examples. It's a good thing I don't have to earn my bread as a graphic designer because I -- not to put too fine a point on it --suck.

    I hope the web-designer can take the suggestions and make something better.

    I'm inclined to put the visually heavy main image on the left for some reason. I can't say why I feel like this. It seems more friendly, somehow.

    Good point on keeping the header narrow.
    As a practical matter, I want the reader to know when content on the website has changed without making her do an extra click.

    The 'bottom' of the banner will have that line of buttons across it to make the visual cutoff between banner and substantive website stuff.

    One image? Only one image?
    I know you are probably right about this . . .

    I am so greedy. I'd like to do two or three visuals.
    That way chaos and clutter lie.

  19. Hi Angelyn --

    I like the idea of a hierarchy of images. This helps me think about this problem. And you are right, the words 'historical romance' and any tagline I add do not have to be particularly large.

    I love it that you advise against an author photo. Yeah!!

    My problem with getting exactly the right couple embracing is that I have to use what is available on the stock image sites. This is a truly meager and unpromising selection.

    I do not know what folks DO when they must design their own covers. Professional photographers are missing out on a great opportunity here.

    Let me go off and play around with some images . . .

  20. I personally do not like photos depicting characters. It wreaks havoc with my imagination. (I prefer the cover of TFR and ML&S to TSL for that reason.) I also hate clutter so leaner is better. An historical image (building, street, bridge) appeals to me (with a distant embrace or distant dangerous image perhaps?). I like to see the author but you don't necessarily have to be on the banner if that creates such discomfort. I agree with the font reflecting the books-it's a great font.

  21. Just to clarify my preference for the Forbidden Rose cover. The one you have on your website does not match the one I have. I can only see the chin on my copy. We Canadians tend to do everything a little differently, eh? :o)

  22. Jo,

    I DO like to see an author photo somewhere on a website, but then I'm terribly nosy. *grin* Where it is doesn't matter so much.

  23. But the characters are not just prettier than I am, they have more interesting faces. And they're period character, y'know.

    Rose -- I think the Forbidden Rose picture I have on the website is an older cover and they changed it a bit before they used it. The moved the rose up some.

    Now the very last one I put up has a 'character picture, but it's not one that will disturb the imagination, since it is not a face.

  24. It's working for me. Much cleaner concept. No intrusion on my imagination. Love the tag line. I trust your face will appear somewhere else? I do love to see the authors of favourite books.:0)

  25. Christine2:28 PM

    The last banner is definitely the best of the ones so far.

    I like that it has one strong image and that it allows the reader to envision the heroine themselves. I am assuming it is Justine but it could also be Maggie with her makeshift knife or Annique with a dagger.

    It also gives a sense of period (she's wearing a gown) and of danger/suspense. (Why does she need a dagger? Who is it for?!)

    The picture also works better in that shape- I now see she is opening a door which I didn't notice in the first banner.

    I also like the tagline the best as it is applicable not only to Black Hawk but all of your novels. Every couple, including Jess and Sebastian (who are not officially part of "the game") are involved in some kind of game that complicates their romance. It makes for a nice thread running through the novels.

    I also thought your previous idea about having the books called something like "The Men Of Meek Street" or under the title "A Meek Street Novel" was a good one. I like reading books that are related to each other and appreciate having a heads up, particularly if I am new to an author that there are other related titles.

  26. I'm with Linda G. I'm afraid you're going to have to bite the bullet and put your picture on the banner. I have a two reasons:

    First, I think over time we readers of romance novels begin to develop a personal (hopefully not creepy) connection with the authors we read. In that particular picture, you look like the sort of smart, approachable person I can imagine being friends with.

    Second, unless you want to change the banner each time you publish a book, I think it's a mistake to get too specific character-/subject-wise. Related to my first comment, I think the banner should inspire the response "author I really like" as opposed to "oh yeah, I remember that book." I like the idea of a Georgian/Regency-era building in the banner.

    Like Gamisstress, I'm not crazy about "cutting edge." As with words like "groundbreaking" and "innovative," it has a kind of generic puffery feel. It's just not personal enough and doesn't capture what I believe is special about your novels. I like the pun on knives, but that's an inside joke for those of us who have read your books.

    I'm tempted to get snarky and suggest "Historical Romance with, Surprise(!), actual history." Alas, I'm better at identifying what I don't like than I am at coming up with good alternatives, so I'll just say what I personally think distinguishes your books from other romance novels. What I think makes your novels special is that that they combine a compelling romance with a fully integrated story. In other words, what brings the couple together doesn't feel like a plot device. It's not just coincidence that brings Maggie and Doyle together.

    With most romance novels I've read (and I don't think this makes them unsatisfying, just different), the hero and heroine are thrown together and then a story is constructed from that meeting. It's their backstories that block the romance. In your novels, the characters have their own agendas, which get complicated by the romance. It's a different kind of storytelling. This is a really cheesy suggestion, but I'm thinking of something that conveys, "Historical Romance. When Purpose [resolve? principle?] and Love Collide [converge?]."

    I also like the suggestions that propose a reference to Meek Street.

    Oh, and hurrah for Pax!

  27. Anonymous3:50 PM

    From HJ - Reading through the comments I see that the points I was planning to make have already been expounded well by others! However, you have asked for further input on some. So, in short:
    - I think your photo should be on the home page of your website (readers do like to see their authors), BUT it could be in a sidebar rather than in the banner if you're worried about space
    - I agree with the commentator who said you should identify your unique selling point and put that in your banner, as well as "Historical Romance"
    - you could use pertinent sentences from reviews if you're shy of stating the elements which distinguish your writing from run-of-the-mill historical romances
    - I do not like the daggers/knives - they put too much emphasis on violence or blood which does not seem to me to represent your books appropriately
    - the fact that your books involve spies is a positive identifier for many readers
    - I agree that you should not include faces other than yours, even if (to you) they look like your characters. Readers like to use their own imaginations! And it is confusing
    - you could use pictures which evoke events from the books but with unidentifiable people i.e. "headless" figures or silhouettes
    - I agree that you should avoid the pastel girly colours - your books are too meaty for that.

    Hope this helps!

  28. Anonymous6:21 PM

    Everyone is so thorough. I can't think of much else to say, except that if you peek at another author's site (I am thinking of Jeaniene Frost's) who writes many books within a certain world (though it's paranormal), she uses her current cover as a banner and has her face much further down. Just a thought. And you have some lovely covers - I am thinking fondly of the setback inside Forbidden Rose...

  29. Carol9:37 PM

    Personally I like the last one the best - there is so much unstated in it. And I like the one with your picture. but they're all good.

  30. Jo -- I rather like the "'sometimes love is the most dangerous complication'" tag line. I think it works well with the stories you've written to date while also not restricting you to just spy themed but any kind of intrigue or mystery as the backdrop your story. It certainly catches my eye and makes me want to look closer, but I also like a little (or a lot) of danger in my romance at times ;)

  31. I think Gamistress66 has a good point about the dangerous complication tag line. It actually gets at what I was saying in my long-winded post, but I got focused on the cutting edge ones and missed it.

    I also want to clarify my mean-spirited snark about the lack of history in some romance novels. What I really mean is that a lot of novels are categorized as historical romance when they're actually traditional Regencies, Georgians, whatever, that don't require nearly as much research. I think RITA is at pains to make that distinction, but bookstores and print media often don't.

  32. This comment has been removed by the author.

  33. Trying again.

    I like the picture of the couple about to kiss. And the tag line about love being the most dangerous complication.

    The knife suggests murder mystery to me.

    The author photo can go somewhere on the page, but I don't think it belongs in the banner. That should be about the books and the characters. It should set a mood and entice readers into the world of your stories. That is, in fact, the whole purpose of having a web page.

  34. Hi Linda --

    Maybe I can anchor a picture of me way down at the bottom of the home page? Or in a column on the side, near the top of the column.

    That's a human interaction without me gumming up the presentation and all.

  35. Hi HJ --

    I'm thinking a sort of beige-rose tint, overall. Something that would blend down to a very pale beige background for the text. Parchment colour.

    All that uncommitted neutral shade is sorta blah though, isn't it?

    Maybe I can add some deep red highlight or lines so it's not all pastel-y.

    Right now, I'm trying to learn enough about banner technicalities to see if it's possible to do something that isn't just a straight rectangle. I'm hoping to make stuff hand outside the box, as it were.

    This is apparently difficult-to-impossible.

    What I'd like to do -- allowing for changing the design and all -- is something like the one I've added at the bottom.

  36. Hi Anon --

    While I'd like to modify the banner from time to time, there are financial constraints.

    I've contracted with a web designer to upgrade the blog. It is being rewritten from scratch, I think. I will have the latest dohinkuses and no longer be vulnerable to mold and rot and be able to send to all kinds of slates and screens and scrying bowls.

    But changing the banner would cost MORE money, each iteration.
    So I will likely have this banner more or less indefinitely, and will be thereby discouraged from any sudden whim to branch out into light and frivolous YA dog stories.

  37. Oh. And I found out the lettering on the book covers is not a font. It is hand drawn. Isn't that unmitigatedly gobsmacking?

    I am confounded time and time again by the art and expertise that go into making books. And they pull out this arsenal for my works. I am just bouleversed.

  38. Hi Christine --

    I tried a 'watermark' Paris building or scene behind the banner and could not make it work. Just too busy and confusing.

    I will, however, have empty space on either side of the website 950 pixels. I might put a watermark thingum there . . .

  39. Oh. And still to Christine --

    It is not that the woman with her knife next to her skirt is the be-all and end-all of website pictures. But there is just a huge paucity -- if i can talk that way about paucities -- of Regency women with knives on the stockphotos sites. You would not believe this gaping hole in availability.

    In fact, there's durned few Regency costumes at all.

    As I said above -- if I were an artsy photographer I would open up a website and a paypal account, photocopy up a bunch of model releases, trot down to the goodwill to buy costume material, and shoot me 600 possible Romance novel covers. It would be a gold mine.

    I like the 'Men of Meeks Street' idea, but it never caught on with the publisher.

  40. Hi Annie --

    It IS hard to know what to say about the books.

    I mean -- here we are in the banner at the website.

    I want to signal the
    'carefully written' and 'attention to historical detail' and the era and 'adventure' and 'strong heroines' and 'sensual but not erotic' and 'heterosexual'.

    But I mostly have to do that using the graphics because I can't write just a huge lot of words.

    And that is a lot of stuff to fit into one graphic and a background color.

  41. Hi Carol --

    Y'know. There is just a huge difference between somebody who knows what they're doing in this design stuff and an amateur blundering around with it.

    When I was in Teheran, some years back, I worked as an editor for a magazine. We had a layout artist who was an unmitigated genius.

    Since then I've always appreciated the difference between ho-hum commonplace website or cover design and inspired design.

    I'm not aiming at inspired. I hope to do this well enough that it is not noticeably bad.

  42. Hi gamistress --

    I went with a modification of that tagline. I'm feeling ok about it so far . . .

  43. Hi Beth --

    Romance websites, (I have looked at a plethora of Romance websites lately,) tend to have the author picture on the banner. This is not so much true for other kinds of writing.

    I do not know why this should be so. There is probably a Master's thesis in this for somebody.

    You may imagine how much I want to put my picture right up top, smiling out of the website. (jo cringes)

  44. Christine12:32 PM

    Hi again Jo,

    I agree about the watermark idea, it's pretty but impractible as pictures over it are unclear and fussy. I know this to be a fact as I tried it out on one of those "Build your own banner free" sites with a lovely picture of the Louvre by sunset. (Your work was infintely more interesting yesterday than my own was and I couldn't resist). I think it could look pretty on either side as you say.

    I also noticed the dearth of Regency costuming on the stock photo sites as well. I tried searching for "18th" and "19th" century and if anyting turned up it was very goth/vampire looking.

    If you ever decide to put your idea into practice count me in. We could make a fortune teaming up with some of the talented ladies who have the costume recreation websites. They not only make stunning replicas, they dress themselves up from corsets out and have recreation teas and balls. I see a great future for this photo business.

    Regarding "The Men of Meek Street" perhaps the powers that be found the name too "Meek" sounding for your virile heros!

    I think you have hit on a nice compromise in your last example. The banner looks very nice and we can see you peeking out a bit from the page.


  45. I should set up at the next Beau Monde ball, stretch a backscreen, hand out a sheaf of model release forms, and let the Beau Monde folks see themselves on the next generation of Indie Romance covers.

    No. They wouldn't be models. But at least they wouldn't have era-inappropriate eye shadow and plucked eyebrows.

    If the Beau Monde did this they'd make enough money to run the Beau Monde peri-conference free.

  46. Anonymous2:30 PM

    Jo -- like the latest one there with the borders & the tag line is a definate 2 thumbs up I think. Other than tweaking so that the girl isn't opening the door on your "e" there (don't want to get slapped in the butt ;) with each visiter after all) or in the shades used, I think it's looking pretty good & far from bad.

  47. Hi gamistress --

    I'm getting pleased with it.

    I think the colors all need to be tweaked a bit.

    And the business of the woman's picture going down to the same level as the navigation buttons may take some finessing that may not be possible

    I'm putting the woman's hand over the 'e' on Bourne, at this point, on purpose. I'm trying to be sneaky and make people look at the name twice so they'll remember it. I feel very Machiavellian about this.

  48. Anonymous4:04 PM

    very sneaky ;) what might be cool is if you could add a "shadow" effect along that side of the pic to darken over the "e" without completely covering it to make it slightly hidden and appear the door is actually opening onto the site -- sorta old fashion "3D" effect. Unfortuately I know that would be way too much headache to figure out for the non-pro.

  49. Christine5:58 PM

    Machiavellian tricks! All of Meek street would applaud you. I like how she is opening the door to your name. And I will admit you were correct about a lighter color, comparing it to the greyish banner you have now it stands out much better and is a more inviting color.

    I am also staggered that your covers are hand lettered. That is really impressive in these days of photoshop. I'm glad to know there is still work available for talented artists who do things the old fashioned way.

    I would say you have a right to be feeling a bit pleased with yourself as your banner has evolved nicely.

    I really like the picture too, as I said before it could apply to a number of your books. If you do have to stick with the banner for quite some time as you think it's not so specific it will become outdated.


  50. I'm not good with design *at all* and I see everyone's already added their two cents... For what it's worth, I love the flow of the knife wielding one but I also love the almost kiss. I'm a sucker for almost-kisses.

  51. Hi gamistress --

    I will discuss the exact effect with the web expert. I know my limitations.

  52. Hi Christine --

    I could not have done it without such sage advice. I'd still be wandering around with six or eight images floating, unconnected.

    I like a nice, fairly neutral background. This is what I like to read on other sites.

    I think the web person said color comes out differently for different devices. She apparently has something that shows true colors. Cool huh?
    Though it leaves me wondering what shade of neutral pinky-beige to shoot for.

    But I like the basic concept of that last one.
    Now we will see what the web-designer thinks of actually DOING this.

  53. Hi Deniz --

    I do like that kiss.

    I guess we can't have everything.

  54. Hi Jo, the kiss is nice but I like the one with the picture of you the best. It's a *great* picture and puts a 'human face' that the reader can see. It helps would-be authors see that you are real and is reassuring. Perhaps, someday, maybe, if we keep working and learning...we'll have a book, too.

  55. Hi Lynne --

    Arrrgggh. I knew there was a reason all these authors have their picture on their websites. It is because people LIKE pictures on the websites.

    Maybe I can put the author picture on a side bar down below the banner. Kinda the way I have it on this blog but smaller and less conspicuous.

  56. Sara E.4:38 AM

    I kind of like the kissing couple. Maybe leave the author picture for the about page?

    If you want to experiment with different headers you might want to try X-header (, which is a free software for the sole purpose of creating banners. Much easier to use than GIMP for this purpose, IMO, and the results are better. Plus, it's easy to play around with.

    /Sara E.

  57. Hi Sara --

    I like those kissing folks too. WISH I could use them. Maybe . . .

    I am in the excellent place where all I have to do is mockup some close approximation of a banner. The website designer advises and, in the end, does the heavy lifting of making the idea actually work.

    I'm thinking about colors for the concept. The web designer can apparently make that skirt any shade she wants.
    (I can't seem to do that in GIMP.)

    What color? What color? Hmmm ...

  58. Sara E.6:47 AM

    Well, the current beige color scheme strikes me as somewhat boring, so anything more colorful would be an improvement. :-)

    I'm surprised your website designer is expecting you to come up with the initial idea. That's IMO a big part of the job.

    /Sara E.

  59. Christine8:55 AM

    Jo said "I'm thinking about colors for the concept. The web designer can apparently make that skirt any shade she wants.
    (I can't seem to do that in GIMP.)

    What color? What color? Hmmm ... "

    I think a pretty blue or green would be nice. I am personally not a huge fan of lavender. I think white would make it look like she is wearing a nightie even though white muslin would be very appropriate for the Regency era.

    I am very excited to see what your web designer does with your ideas!

  60. The one with your picture is the best, but I don't like the dagger just dropped in there. Can you use one of your covers muted as a background?

  61. Here's my suggestion. Take a strip from the top of My Lord and Spymaster. Mute it. That's your entire banner background. Put the wording across that in complementing colors and your picture in the lower right hand corner. You don't even need to do that if you don't want to keep the design clean and then have your picture in the body of the site.

  62. Anonymous1:46 PM

    Jo said "I'm thinking about colors for the concept. The web designer can apparently make that skirt any shade she wants.
    (I can't seem to do that in GIMP.)

    What color? What color? Hmmm ... "

    I think a bold color would be best -- like your heroines. A red would be good except it wouldn't pop against the dark brown door. How about a teal like on the cover of my lord & spymaster or a rich blue?

    also, I think if you include your picture lower on the home page or on the about page it's sufficient; it doesn't need to be in the header -- why be like everyone else on the web when neither you or your books are ;)

    Honestly, think what you've got so far is pretty good. I'm sure the web designer will appreciate all your effort and can give it that final "polish". Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done! :D

  63. Another option would be a wordpress blog with a flash header. They show different pictures. You could have different covers of your books going across the page. They are easy to update yourself. I had a blogger blog initially. I removed the blogger banner across the top. but the wordpress blog is so much nicer. You can see the flash header and how it works. You wouldn't have to have pictures with every post, but you could.(My business is different but you can see what I mean)

  64. Anonymous10:33 PM

    Hi Jo
    I think you can convey historical accuracy visually if you can use historically accurate pics/drawings and also fonts. You don't really need to say it (hey, in the books you don't go around footnoting the clothing and so forth!) just show it. Meredith Duran's background and painting on the top do that a bit as does some of the Two Nerdy History Girls website. I'm thinking of almost a Monty Python feel (you know, the graphics they did---they looked v 19th c. ) Or the picture at the top of Jo Beverly's website.
    Then you could use words to say Men of Meek Street or When Love is the most Dangerous Complication...or something else that conveys both romance and danger. You might even be able to find a painting that does some of both of those--lot of good scary Napoleonic period art.

    Pax--Yay! Do you have any idea where you might be going after Pax? Because you do want to keep the website flexible enough to encompass directions you might want to go in.

    I don't feel that you need your pic up on the home page. You could put it somewhere else (maybe on the blog?)

    And I definitely think you need bold colors. Your characters are all very strong personalities. I actually think maybe the red that is on the Forbidden Rose--not for continuity but because its a good strong dramatic color.

  65. Jo--

    Laura Kinsale does not have her photo anywhere on her main page. Nor does Meredith Duran. (I love her banner, too.) Or Deanna Raybourn. They all have gorgeous arwork, though.

    I think you can do whatever you want.

  66. Hi Beth --

    I will take heart at that. I WILL do the without faces one, knowing that I am following in the footsteps of such cool folks.

  67. Hi DLS --

    I am up to my ears just this moment in the page proofs of Black Hawk. This is such precise and exacting work that I walking around cross-eyed, muttering, "What? I say, What?"

    But I am also thinking about color scheme.

    I like red and agree it is a bold dramatic presence. The problem with red as an accent color is all those vampire books out there. I don't want to look like I'm pretending to be one of them.

    I like blue better than green -- I did my blog in blue -- so I will probably move in a blue directions.

    Once I get the banner tacked down I'll try to think of other graphics that could go on the home page to give the right 'feel'.

    I have not thought at all of where I might go after the Pax book. I'm still just at the point of pushing all these interruptions out of my head and trying to dream up Pax. No chance of going beyond that and looking at others down the line.

  68. Hi Elaine --

    I do not know anything about the technical side of these websites.

    I will go have a look at what you're talking about and bring it to the attention of the web designer and see what she thinks.

    In principle, I'm in favor of a website that has no moving parts. That is silent and simple and free of complex widgets and jumping beans.

    This is the sort of site I like to land in. Also -- again, I'm showing my lack of technical expertise -- I think a site without bells and whistles loads better for folks who have slow connections.

  69. Hi gamistress --

    I'm thinking, sort of in the back of my mind behind a pile of lumber, of what color that skirt should be.

    I need to decide on the overall shade of the website, first. Maybe an indigo blue highlight with a true light beige as the background for all the text.

    This would lead me in a blue direction for the skirt. Maybe.

    Y'know -- all this picking colors is what artistic folks do. I had not properly given them credit for how hard it is.

  70. Hi Julie --

    What do you think? I'm likely to leave the background of the banner just a plain color.

    I tried a few graphics behind the writing but it was just too confusing.

    The overall color is what I have to decide on now. I am so drawn to red. But it's going to look all vampire/ urban fantasy if I do red. So maybe a strong indigo.

    I must experiment.

  71. Christine1:39 PM

    Hi Jo, I think an indigo for the dress would be beautiful and eye catching. As I said above white would be correct for the Regency period but to modern eyes might look like a nightie.

    You are also correct about red- it's now associated with Vampire/urban fantasy otherwise I'd say go for it as it's the most "passionate' color.

    I think the whole philosophy of color is so interesting. People are supposedly more productive and calmer in a blue room. I was told in Law School to always make sure a witness wore a blue suit as it said "trustworthy" to the jury. That's also why so many hospitals and health care related businesses use blue on their logos- it inspires trust.

    It really does make you admire the people who put together a really gorgeous or unusual book cover or website. All the elements you don't consider when you just look and think "Oh pretty!"

  72. Anonymous6:25 PM

    I do like the latest version. If you could match it with a more period font, it would help set the historical note. I like that red--I don't think its a vampire red, and it does signal danger, but I can see where a rich indigo would work well too.
    Are you really wedded to the knife? I'm trying to think of other things that symbolize spies. Can you put a paper in her hand..or maybe peeking out of her dress somewhere? Also, is that a door she's behind? Could the designer put her more hiding behind it?

    I can see why thinking beyond Pax would be hard. In fact I can see why thinking beyond page 200 would be hard. But do you see yourself writing, say, in a different time period? Or nonspies? If you do, you wmight want to leave it a little more vague.

  73. Yep -- too much red. I still like the graduated or fading color in the header. I think blues would be good, but then I tend to favor blues.

  74. Hi Christine --

    It is not necessarily bad for it to look like a nightie, you understand. All kinds of 'story' in that, don't you think? But, of course, in the Regency they didn't wear long nighties, and i would hate to have someone think it was a nightshift and then think it was an inappropriate and inaccurate nightshift.

    It has occurred to me that maybe I worry about things more than I should.

    I am currently agonizing over commas in the page proofs.

    Red for passion. Blue for reliability. I wonder what a faintly pinkie beige tone says about me.

  75. Christine10:57 AM

    Hi again,

    I thought the colors on the previous banner were working very well.

    If the dress was just a pop of bright blue with the more subtle background it could look lovely.

    I love that you worry about all the little details! I'm sure that is one reason your books are so wonderful. Nothing is thrown in as filler- everything has a reason for being in there.

  76. Hi gamistress -

    I will go back and play with this in the afternoon when the page proofs begin to blurr before my eyes.

    I am no end pleased with myself that I can change the color of the skirt at all. I pushed and poked and prodded at the graphis in GIMP and couldn't do anything. Then the Resident Kid came by and said -- "Look. Do this."

    I did that and said , "Oh. Wow. Yes. How cool." and now the skirt is (clumsily) a new color. This technical fix will be good enough to sketch out the idea.

    I am very glad a professional will do the final image.

    Which I still have to go buy from the stock photo people to make all this usage legal. I will do that this afternoon.

  77. Hi Anon --

    This font does look a bit angular and modern, doesn't it?

    I have not tied down the exact font at the moment, because the web designer doesn't have the set of fonts I do, she being photoshop and me being GIMP and the difference between those two options being considerable money.

    The font in those last two examples (the ones with red) is Baskerville Bold italic. I like it, but I agree it looks modern.

    OTOH, I want to avoid a feminine curlicue-ness in the font.

    So -- not the clean modernity I would normally choose, but not Fanny Burney either.

    I will try to find a list of the fonts available in photoshop and see what the choices are.

    In terms of photoshopping the image of the woman with the knife -- I think there are practical limits to what can be done. At a guess, a rolled paper in the hand might be possible. A larger and more emphatic door, however desirable, probably not.

    But I do like the knife. It makes an immediately understandable statement. This is not a love letter and a midnight assignation. It's deadly games. We see that the odds are set high.

    And it's not inappropriate for the way my heroines actually behave.

    As to Pax and the story after . . .

    I can see doing Pax, because I kinda have an outline in my head of what's going to happen. I'm beginning to 'see' scenes.

    But I don't have a glimmer of the story after that. I would be inclined to stick with my spymaster's fictive world -- but I could see skipping a generation forward or a generation back, or setting one in India in the Raj.

    I won't know till mid 2012, probably. As soon as I come out from under these page proofs I will be gobbled up by the Pax story,

  78. Hi Christine --

    Yes. That is another possibility. The Pinky-beige background with some 'pops' of colour.

    Let me allow this to simmer in the back of my mind and go play with page proofs. (whimper)

  79. Hi Jo,

    Hmmm... This is probably going to be maddeningly unhelpful, but for what it's worth, I like a gray or taupe for a neutral background. I like the idea of 'pops' of color - like her dress, a flower in the scene, something like that.

    I agree with earlier comments regarding the use of character pictures - you may want to set up pages for each of your books which include character pictures, but putting them on your banner may date the site too much once you've got a ton of newer releases out :)

    I have seen a website where the banner is an illustration of a dancing couple( This would free you from having to find stock images that fit your purpose, but you'd have to find an illustrator to do it for you.

    Finally, you could pick an abstract pattern as the background of your banner - I'm thinking a baroque pattern in rich gold and red (kind of like this: You may also be able to find a fabric pattern you like from the historical record, and use that as the background.

    Whatever you decide, I'm sure it's going to turn out well, and I can't wait to see it!

    ~ Lara (from B&W forum)

  80. I apologize if someone has already said this. I skimmed through the comments, but I'm sure I missed stuff. Folks have excellent ideas about the design, a topic on which I'm useless.

    I do have a suggestion about the size of the landing page, though. In my opinion, the reader should not have to do much scrolling to see the entire page. I like that you have just a handful of links across the top of the page and these are enough to bring the reader to most of the information she would want: books, for writers, IRL (it took me a while to figure that one out, as I don’t use/know a lot of Internet abbreviations, but I do like how succinct it is). I also like that the various links don’t have too much overlapping information.

    After that, the landing page should have your personal stamp, but not require the reader to hit page down more than 1 or possibly 2 times. The content/look of landing pages on the websites of Tessa Dare, Mary Balogh, Jennifer Cruisie, Lauren Willig, Loretta Chase, and Claudia Mills, to name just a few, have very different looks and vary in terms of content. What they have in common is they don’t make the reader work too hard to find the info. she wants and is unique to the particular author.

  81. Website design - I really like the final version but the red may be a lttle too intense...

    After Pax's story could we please (pretty please)learn about Doyle's daughter, Suzanne who is in Spain fighting with the partisans?

    Your books are so great,...November seems so far away...I guess I'll just have to keep re-reading the ones in print. Thank you for so many hours of reading pleasure.


  82. Anonymous11:44 PM

    Suzanne? I thought it was Severine! And yes, pretty please...

  83. First, I'm sorry, but I'm not crazy about the first three banners. The main problem that I see with them is the knife. I'd like the knife if your books were strictly murder mysteries, but they are not. Since they are spy novels, something else is needed to showcase your particular specialty.

    Since the woman/knife doesn't really emphasize the spying aspect, I have a couple of suggestions. First, how about the woman with the knife on one side and a man in a demi mask & cloak on the other side. This way, you get the visual of murder with the knife and spying with the mask. this now presents another problem. We now have the spying aspect taken care of, but you lose the romance theme. This is important because first and foremost, your books are romance novels.

    So another idea is to have the couple embracing in banner 4 on one side and my suggestion of a man in a demi mask and long cloak on the other. Now you have a visual symbol of romance novels and intigue.

    If instead, you'd like your picture in the banner, then how about an embracing couple, but the man is wearing a mask of some sort. Or you could use the buildings in banners 2&3 and the street in banner 4, but surround them with fog. Your picture would be adjacent to it.

    As for the graphics, I like the one in banner 3 or the graphics in the lower examples: your name in larger print and historical romances in smaller print. You are the major player, so your name should be the prominent feature in the banner.

    Finally, I like the color red, but it doesn't work in the above banner. I'd go with a light pastel color such as lilac, pink or light blue.

    Good luck.

  84. Carol4:49 PM

    I like the final pinkish one, but not the red ones. Also I'm glad you do not use any face images - yes the top is a possible suggestion of what Adrian could look like, but I wonder if it is better to let each reader form her or his image of what characters look like. I think the woman holding the door and knife is good; suggestive and to me not like a murder mystery. it hints at intrigue. Would be more intriguing if we knew this was a bedroom door (we hope). but overall, I prefer to see a picture of you as the author rather than an image of a girl or boy, whichever character they might represent.

    Yes would like to read about Pax the librarian. As a librarian I love stories where they get to have adventures. And he does not have to look like Noah Wylie.

  85. Hi Carol --

    I am still sniffling over not getting to use the kissing couple. I do so like it. Maybe I'll find some later page to pop it onto.

    I will try to include an author photo somewhere on the 'Home' page. It seems to be the way it's done, when I go looking around the Historical Romance blogs.

  86. Not all sites should be simplistic, it really depends. Informational sites that are designed too simple will give the appearance of being empty and the whitespace won’t be appreciated.

  87. A good point. I think what one wants is bite-sized information. Blocks of writing broken by pictures, broken by white space. You want to leave space enough for the reader to absorb the material. Not so much space the reader feels she has to go hunting for the next factoid through a bleak wilderness.

    We get the whole 'paragraphing thingum' in writing. It must just get more complex when you're juggling several elements in website design.

  88. The last pic (and by slight extension, its red version) looks nice. Well, when it comes to a banner, you have to make sure that the image blends together. It shouldn't be two different images in one space... the ideal would be to create one banner that blends together the images (something like the last one).

  89. Hi Richard --

    I ended up going with something very similar to the last banner. The final version is 'lighter' in feeling. And I went blue.

  90. Blue would be nice, Joanne. The second to the last photo looks great. But it would look even better if you add some shadow to the text, so you can lay emphasis on it. Perhaps providing your own image would best suite your preferences. A photo shoot with a pro can help you with that.

  91. I won't be able to make changes to the header of the website easily. But here on the blog I might experiment with new lettering. All depends on what kind of time I can scrape together to get the job done.