"Build your platform...You need to have an online presence...Boost your 'likes' and build a fan base...Publishers want to know you can market yourself!"
How many times have you heard these statements at a writer's conference or workshop? And it's particularly harrowing if you plan on pitching to editors and/or agents at the Romance Writers of America national conference (#RWA15) this summer.
"But I'm not published, yet. What am I supposed to put up there?"
Here are five suggestions for the pre-published author.
1. Basic Information. Always include a personal bio, contact information, and how you define yourself as a writer. Don't make an editor or agent have to work to find the most basic information about you.
2. Book blurbs. This is a controversial item. While some would suggest posting your story ideas with a book cover mock-up (thus presenting yourself as if you are already published), others would argue you're just handing over your ideas to a potential thief. That said, I've never personally met someone who said another writer stole their ideas from an unpublished author's book blurb and mock-up. Seems a little like stealing the jalopy in a parking lot of porches. Plus, the content on my wix.com website is "all rights reserved."
3. Contest awards. If you got it, flaunt it.
4. Themed Blog Content. Not just "blog content" but "themed blog content." If you want to ramble on about yourself, go right ahead, but make it pertain to an aspect of your life people would actually want to read about. And just so you know, unless you're a B celebrity, no one really cares about your writing process--except for your critique partner and RWA chapter mates (unless it involves punking half-naked male cover models on a live feed). Your blog is where you have a chance to display not only your writing skill to a potential agent or editor, but also to demonstrate your critical thinking skills, creativity, and professionalism.
Write about something you are qualified to write about. Write about new discoveries and fun facts in your historical research. Write reviews for new releases in your genre. Write about writing in a way that attracts a following of other writers. Invite guest bloggers. Build a community with your blog. Seekerville.net is a great example of this. I've modeled my own blog, www.yellowbrickscommunity.wordpress.com, after this concept as well.
5. Visual content. If your writing is sub-genre specific, make sure that is communicated clearly through text and visual content. If you're not sure what that looks like, check out the websites of your favorite authors. Look at their color schemes, fonts, and the way they organize book covers and other photos on their webpage. But above all, less is more. Keep it clean and minimal.
With the advent of Wordpress and other website building companies, it's easy to build visually pleasing designs through the use of drop-in templates. Book cover mock-ups are one thing you could play with. Character sketches and profiles are something that could easily replace book blurbs, which will allow the tone of your writing to shine through, without running the risk of giving the storyaway.
If you attend any conferences with other authors or participate in local readings or workshops, post pictures of those events with your friends, because they will draw traffic to your page and help build that sense of community, (and thus, a fan base). The website I used for the photos in this post, I built with wix.com. You can check out my primary author's website at www.brianamacperry.com, and my paranormal author's website at www.macperry.net.
Now, let's say you've chosen what you will from the five content areas above, and designed a website for yourself. Here are some questions to ponder before putting it out there, most of which I borrowed from the Aspiring Author Scoresheet from WHRWA's "Romancing the URL" contest.
· Visually appealing?
· Good first impression?
· Tone of the website matches the genre the writer hopes to be published in?
· Is the aspiring author starting to build a brand image? Can you immediately visualize the target audience?
· Elements are consistent from page to page, making for a cohesive site?
· Clean and uncluttered?
· Photo of the writer – present, professional, and appropriate?
· Menu easy to find?
· URL easy to remember?
· Are links functional? Are they used where appropriate (ie, the writer doesn‘t just mention an event or outside website, but includes hyperlink for convenience).
· Easy to contact the aspiring author?
· Easy to find the aspiring author elsewhere on the web? Social media follow buttons?
· Easy to share content on social media? (Social media share buttons on blog posts, etc).
· Is the website active? New content? Or is all the news outdated?
· Is it clear the aspiring author is involved in a community of writers and/or is actively involved in improving her craft?
· Blog? How is the aspiring author communicating with her audience?
· Multimedia content, or just text and photos?
· Links to writing resources?
· Audience engagement? Are there contests, activities, or a place to interact with fellow fans?
· Easy to subscribe to the website/blog?
Hopefully, this article gives you some ideas. Now have at it!♥
Briana MacPerry teaches graduate level thesis writing and works for a brain research and diagnostic facility. When she is not corralling her four-year old son, she is slaving away at her passion's pursuit. To learn more, please visit her blog at www.brianamacperry.wordpress.com, or follow her on twitter @macperrytweets