Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Diana Kimpton and Wordpool - Showcase of Talent

This article on Wordpool and its founder Diana Kimpton was first published in the SCBWI magazine Words and Pictures, winter 2006. I have decided to include it on my blog because I believe it is relevant to my previous article and I have found Wordpool to be such an inspiration to me.

After the death of her eldest child, Diana Kimpton, found there was a big void in her life. For the first time in her writing career, she had no immediate writing project to concentrate on. Several months later, her creative juices got the kick-start they desired when she saw an online advert for an ebook about producing an email newsletter, ideal to promote her books.

However, after reading the ebook, the idea grew beyond all proportion. Diana decided to create a website to raise the profile of British children’s books and provide an online meeting place for children’s writers. It became a real family venture.

Together with her husband, Steve, they put the project into motion. The frog logo was her daughter’s idea and was drawn by a friend’s daughter. Reddit the Frog was born. He inspired the website’s name – Wordpool – after all, where else would a frog who loves reading live?

The site www.wordpool.co.uk was launched autumn 1999 and the discussion group consisted of three people, Diana, her son Matt and a good friend. She was surprised at how well it took off and now there is an online community of over 350 members. She made requests to publishers for new books to review and articles to add to the site and the numbers of visitors began to increase.

Diana has received hundreds of children’s books to review and this experience has taught her that a book needs something special to make it stand out from the crowd. Contrary to the thoughts of one publicity department, this does not mean filling the envelope with silver stars that take hours to vacuum off the carpet. She also found publishers vary in how much effort they put into getting reviews, which is something she now takes into account when deciding where to send her own manuscripts.

Wordpool has grown to over 300 pages and receives over 300,000 hits a month. They have expanded to create websites for authors, illustrators, publishers and others connected to the world of children’s books.

Diana recently shared her expertise on creating a website, at the November 2005 SCBWI Professional Series. She explained that the minimum components of a website are choosing a domain name and a host site. She emphasised it is important to find out about the support available before you make a decision on a host and check the initial design and build cost.

The next step is to choose a web designer. Look at sample sites and check ownership. Find out if you can you take the site away after they have designed it for you. Ask who does the maintenance and how much does it cost?

Diana gave advice on good web design and how to organise your work on a website. If you have separate pages for the different types of books you write, the navigation instantly shows your range. If you are an illustrator, subdivide your portfolio to help editors find the work they want. Sections called books, cards and wrapping paper are less useful than colour, black and white or humans, animals and landscapes.

A good website should be clear and uncluttered with lots of white space. It should have simple and consistent navigation. When designing websites, Diana applies the 'two clicks and you're there' rule. There should be no distractions and should download quickly. Ask yourself do you really need dancing penguins? The main information should be above the fold, as visitors won't scroll down unless they think it's worth the effort. There should also be a good contrast between the text and the background. Dark on light works best.

The best book Diana has found on the visual side of web design is The Non-Designer’s Web Book by Robin Williams and John Tollett (Peachpit Press – 020168859X) Diana spent hours trying to persuade people to visit Wordpool by contacting other sites that might be interested in linking to them and registering with every search engine, she could find. She explained that well-placed links are an excellent source of consistent and targeted traffic. The more sites that link to you the higher your rankings will be in search engines such as www.google.co.uk. One of the methods she found to be the most successful is putting the web address in her email signature.

You can find more of her excellent tips for authors and illustrators, at www.wordpooldesign.co.uk. The site also contains free advice about the technical side, and even has a page that lets you experiment with different colour schemes.

Don't forget that I also make and design websites. To see the types I sites I have produced, take a look at www.sunrisewebs.info

1 comment:

Wilf said...

Hi Anita
Great, useful blog!