In an effort to make more appealing and easier-to-maintain author Web sites, HarperCollins has established a pilot site called AuthorAssistant that allows authors to easily create, and control, their own Web page. Set live today, the site, which rolled out with 40 authors from the Avon imprint, offers, according to Carolyn Pittis, senior v-p of global marketing strategy and operations, a way for authors to have a strong presence on the Web without forcing them to create and host their own site.

“Maintaining an author Web site is a lot of work,” Pittis explained. “Now these authors have a platform in which they can very simply use our system to add their own content.”

While the author pages at AuthorAssistant feature some of the standard tidbits found on traditional publisher-hosted author pages, such as biographical information, the pages also feature blogs, photos and personalized links to outside sites. Consumers can also connect with other fans through these author pages.

When asked whether AuthorAssistant is intended to offer authors a more mature version of the personalized Web pages on MySpace (which HC parent company News Corp purchased in 2005), Pittis said AuthorAssistant is less a MySpace redux than a way of matching up author-generated content with marketing know-how.

Encouraging the authors on AuthorAssistant to add the kind of words and links that frequently crop up in search engines, Pittis said the site “uses their content and the science of search engine optimization” to get the writers more attention and, hopefully, more readers.

HC plans to roll out the program imprint by imprint.