A great ad campaign will make a bad product fail faster. It will get more people to know it’s bad.
~ William Bernbach
Advertising works you know
And I clicked on the link for the Voyager Books site that I spotted on Tor.com hoping that I would be brought to a site that offered a more UK based perspective on Sci-Fi and fantasy, because as brilliant and wonder as Tor.com is (and it is brilliant and wonderful), there are differences between American and European culture, and that gets noticeable after a while. I thought I might find a different perspective with Voyager. Sadly I was completely disappointed by what I jumped to.
A series of bad experiences begins
It’s not just that the front page is not the community page as with Tor.com nor that the Voyager Books homepage is a page crammed with ads for their books, fair enough everyone has a different approach, not everyone can be as subtle and inclusive as Tor can.
It’s also not just because when you click on the community link the first page that Voyager dumps you at is their competition page which offers you a nice opportunity to win books and then tries to default lock you into sponsor e-mail (bad mojo guys) and the rules exclude non-UK residents and have an error in the details, claiming to be both open until 31st July 2009 and telling is that winners will be notified by January 2009. It is also not just that when you click on the banner on the competition page you are dumped into an error page, oh no, they have warned me on the homepage that this is beta, I know the bedevilling nature of links.
And it’s not just because the books are organized pretty poorly, for instance if you click on Fantasy/Epic Fantasy all you get is a list. No way to sub-sort by forthcoming or best-seller or release date nothing. Yes you can search (and actually the search is pretty good) but the lack of thinking about how to categories and sort books come out in what should be a really useful page Author Series, which offers not links to all the books of a series by the one author but a text page just listing them. What on earth possessed them? What an easy win linking the books would have been. Contrast that with the the well executed series links that To-Forge have on their actual book site (series are indicated and linked to a series page and each book is numbered by sequence) and you see why Voyager is losing badly here.
To the nuts and bolts
And to top it all the registration page is not really a community registration page, it’s an e-commerce sign up page. Have a look, you will see what I mean. Compulsory address and phone number, why on earth does a community need those things? Tor.com doesn’t, in fact their sign up page is sparse and the additional profile info is by choice not demand.
And then there is the free stuff
Of course Tor actually gives me something I want. Before Tor.com my reading on and about Sci-Fi & Fantasy was low, not by design but through lack of interesting online material. Tor has changed that with its new stories, blog posts and links to interesting books. I hoped that Voyager would offer these things too, but no, it has only brought me an e-commerce site, dressed up as a community with nothing new to offer me.
Thumbs down Voyager Books, a poor show on many levels. Perhaps rather than say:
Voyager Books is an ecommerce and community site for science fiction, fantasy and horror fans of all ages from HarperCollins Publishers.
On your about page, you should simply say ecommerce and be done with it?