Horror writer Kealan Patrick Burke''s original plan when he started his website was to make a clean, attractive and easily navigable site that informed yet didn''t overwhelm. After a few unsuccessful attempts on free sites, Burke purchased his own domain and, with a few tips from his wife, created a beautiful vehicle for marketing himself and, more important, his work.
That''s why Burke''s site, kealanpatrickburke.com, is the grand-prize-winner of this year''s Writer''s Digest Best Writer''s Website Contest. It beat out more than 200 nominations from our readers and was a favorite among our editors.
"It really sets the tone for his horror writing; you know right from the home page what genre he''s writing in," Writer''s Digest Editor Maria Schneider says. "The design and tone are consistent throughout. He also gives away just enough of his work to give readers a good sense of his writing and want more."
Burke launched the site in late 2002—or, as the Irish-born author puts it, "as soon as I had enough content to justify having one." Having a personalized, yet professional page was necessary after he landed his first book contract in 2001. The deal called for an anthology of horror stories, later titled Taverns of the Dead.
"I''ve always loved anthologies, and one of my first purchases when I arrived in the States was a massive book of Halloween tales called October Dreams, edited by Robert Morrish and Richard Chizmar," Burke says. "Chizmar also ran Cemetery Dance Publications, so I simply wrote to him outlining my idea for the book. To my surprise, he offered me a contract based on the concept alone."
Since then, Burke has published two horror novels, three more anthologies and a slew of short stories. All can be found in the bibliography section of his site, each with links to where you can purchase them. He also offers some free fiction and nonfiction—which is updated frequently—so folks can sample his work.
The key to a good site, Burke says, is to avoid long periods without updates. "Even if it''s something really simple, or only peripherally book-related, post it on your site to keep things fresh and moving." He points out the number of successful authors who manage to keep their sites interesting, entertaining and updated even though there can be a two-year window between books.
Besides all the promotional material, the website offers occasional contests, too, which are aimed less at selling work and more at keeping people entertained—and frequenting the site. Once, during the release of his e-serial gothic horror story "Master of the Moors," he invited readers to send in pictures of themselves in period costume. And earlier this year, he ran a competition where readers took pictures of themselves with his books and sent them in (they can be viewed on his site).
But by and large, his site is filled with his work. He also recommends getting a domain name and a host server (his costs $5 a month) and avoiding the free sites, which turn off readers.
"The goal of any site is to get people to visit, so keep it simple, clean and interesting." Burke says. "Pretend your website is your living room, and you''re expecting company. Make it attractive and tidy. Your site is a reflection on your work, so the better it is, the more intrigued people will be."