Friday, December 12, 2014

About Websites and Last Night

Last night's panel discussion on e-publishing at our local library brought a few surprises. This group was small, just 12 folks. One was already published. Five had a draft done, and 5 were close.

But here was the surprise. All were interested in e-publishing, but none of these 12 intrepid writers had a website. None wrote a blog. None tweeted, and only 3 were active on FaceBook.

So here is my question: Do these writers who want to e-publish need an online presence? After all, once we click that "publish" button on Amazon, or Lulu, or Smashwords, or Draft2Digital, our stuff is live.

Our panel response was pretty much: 

1. Where are your readers?
2. How will they find you or learn about your books? Your new releases?
3. How will they buy your books?

Because writing and marketing call forth different activities and different levels of commitment, your first step could be to think about what your long term goals are -- as a writer. And decide how you want to promote your work to connect with your readers. 

1. Recreational writer. Maybe just telling stories is all you want. You might share copies with a writing group or send copies to friends and family. Or, maybe you just want to post your stories online for anyone to read. This article by Reid Kemper lists 25 such online communities

2. One-book/two-book newbie writer. Maybe you're just starting out, and you want to dip your toe in e-publishing to find out if anyone out there wants to read your stuff. Or you don't have time to develop an online platform. Or you want your personal life to stay private.

But you could build (or have someone create) a static website for you. For example, using a free WordPress account, you could have pages that don't require updating but that basically introduce you and your books (and links on how to buy them). Bare bones -- but an online presence that allows readers to find you, a web address that can be used on business cards and other promotions. 

A static website can be the first step to . . . a fully fledged online presence. See Standout Books neat article on "Six Essential Features of a Fiction Writer's Website" or Brian Thomas Schmidt's "Twelve Essentials for a Successful Author's Website."

3. Professional writer. These guys pull out all the stops. They're active with a truly fine website, update readers with a blog that's flavored with their personalities (their "brand" that's tied right back to their genre), chat with readers and other writers via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, e-mail lists, and direct e-mail. And they sell books. 

What we can do is to study what these professional writers do, folks who sell books in the thousands and can show us how to connect with our readers. Why not start by checking out websites by well-established writers in your genre to push your skills to the next level or expand into new areas? Or investigate this useful resource: "The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2014" by The Write Life.  

"Ghost Writer" by Steve Petrucelli (Flickr)

Remember, writing is about the journey. We explore, we test, we write and revise . . . Shouldn't we expect to do the same for our online presence?  What do you think?


For further reading, check out this lovely article by Joanna Penn on "Should Authors Blog?"