Build it Before They Come

 

If you want to be a published writer, realize that someone will look for you on the web. Agents will Google your name. I guarantee that editors and marketing folks will visit your web site to find out more about you.

Thus your web site needs to be both professional and effective. It is a bit like putting on your “Sunday Best” before going to an interview. That first impression is critical.

Allow me to share unscientific, subjective thoughts regarding a few elements I especially enjoy as an agent learning about writers through their web sites:

1)    A home page sharing a good photograph of the author, a brief bio, and a sense of what type of books the author writes. Bold colors and dramatic images are great for edgy, suspenseful, mysterious, and speculative stories. Gentle color schemes and images of beauty take a visitor into soft stories. Writers of Amish fiction using those images on their home pages provide immediate brand and identity.

2)    A page about the writer’s books. Show visitors your book covers. Give a blurb about each plot. Mention awards. Include a link to an Internet retailer so the visitor can buy your books on the spot. This is also a great place to include a link to your publisher’s site. Show that you are in great company with other wonderful authors and what great taste your publisher has demonstrated in choosing your books.

3)    Your third page is tricky because it’s personal. To stay professional, be judicious in sharing. Anyone can stop by your web site. Someone once told me he could look at one picture on a site and locate a person’s house. Thankfully this wasn’t an ominous person! But in only a few clicks through social networking and mapping sites, anyone can piece together a profile of you and your family. An experienced webmaster can help decide how much family information to share.

4)    Another page might include hobbies if they reflect your work. For instance, if you write Westerns and have traveled to the West for research, share pictures. If your stories include sewing, perhaps offer sewing tips. Keep unrelated information off the site. For example, your author web site is not the place to advertise a second business. Save that for a different site. Here, focus on your books.

5)    Bloggers need to make it easy for visitors to find their blogs. Adding a link to an email address set up for your site only is a good idea. Agented authors, please also include a prominent place for your agent’s name and a link to the agent’s and/or agency’s site. Your agent will thank you!

My personal author web site was recently redesigned (email me if you would like their information). Our agency’s web site was put together by AuthorMedia.com. Karen Ball’s personal site was designed by Pulse Point Design. Check them out!

 

 

 

 

 

15 Responses to Build it Before They Come

  1. Avatar
    Marsha Hubler June 30, 2011 at 3:58 am #

    When my Keystone Stables series first came out, I paid a web master to do my website, and I’m glad I did. Although it’s a stagnant site, I believe it’s well done. I receive many compliments on its appearance. Since then, I’ve started three different blogs for interaction with my friends and fans. I think the website and blogs are a good combo to get the word out about my books and me. 🙂

  2. Avatar
    Lisa Grace June 30, 2011 at 9:54 am #

    Great article Tamela. My site is gaining new members daily. I make it a point to update it frequently. I have a professional company, http://www.SiteByDigital.com, evaluating it now to take it to the next level. When I Google my book and name together nine million plus references show up. I take all the top spots and dominate the first several pages.

    My next step is going to be a series of Youtube videos aimed at teens and lovers of the supernatural to tie into my site.

  3. Avatar
    Rhonda Gibson June 30, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    I just looked at my website and am wondering what I need to change. Thanks Tamela for reminding me to look for things that reflect my writing and my love of God.

  4. Avatar
    Jess June 30, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

    This is the most helpful post I’ve seen on designing a website. Thanks!

  5. Avatar
    Sally Apokedak June 30, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

    Very helpful post. Thanks. Your website is beautiful and Karen’s birds and dog/owner quiz are fascinating. I only got one right out of five on the quiz, though. 🙂

  6. Avatar
    Robin Patchen July 1, 2011 at 7:25 am #

    Great information, Tamela. As an unpublished author, I’m wondering how important it is to have a website. Without any published books to sell, an agent to crow about, or a publisher to link to, is it necessary to have a web presence? I wonder if my time isn’t better served at this stage of the game by writing and pitching my books (which is what I want to do) as opposed to working on a web presence (which ranks about as high on my list as cleaning toilets). Thanks!

  7. Avatar
    Steve Laube July 1, 2011 at 8:05 am #

    Robin,
    You ask a great question. The answer is that it is critical to make a great web site a part of your presentation. But don’t just read my advice, let me quote literary agent Deidre Knight in her recent online interview:

    “First off, anyone who submits to me should know that I automatically Google them. And I’m not embarrassed to admit that because I think that everyone who queries me should have already typed my name into some sort of search engine. Researching who you want to work with is important for both the aspiring author and agent.
    As an agent, the top three things I want to see are a polished website, an articulate (hopefully well-trafficked) blog, active Twitter presence, ditto FB account. So, that’s really four, but I think Twitter and Facebook go hand in hand.
    These are not prerequisites for finding representation, but they do give me sense that a potential client has some sort of web savvy. That’s super important because we’ll be utilizing a wide range of social media tools for branding and promotion. Not only that, but prospective editors are looking for the exact same thing.”

    Here is the link to the full interview.

  8. Avatar
    Janet Lee Barton July 1, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Great blog, Tamela. I think I’ll go see if there is something I need to give more attention to in mine!

  9. Avatar
    Ann Shorey July 1, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    Excellent blog, Tamela! Tough call for an unpublished writer to consider spending the money, but worth it for a professional impression.

    I’ve recommended my site designer, PulsePoint Design, to several people. Your redesigned site is gorgeous, by the way. 🙂

    (Sent from my hotmail account rather than cranky old msn.)

  10. Avatar
    Steve Laube July 1, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    Ann,
    You nailed it. It is a tough call. But that professional first impression is so critical. Just like dressing up for the interview.

    And you do know that hotmail and msn mail is the same thing, right?

    Steve

  11. Avatar
    Steve Laube July 1, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    Ann,
    Just saw your note about the problems with MSN premium vs. hotmail vs your laptop.

    Either you got a bug in your desktop system or it is time to consider switching to gmail.

    Last year family member had their MSN account hacked via a vicious worm. One that only attacks hotmail/msn accounts. She switched to gmail and no more problems.

  12. Avatar
    Robin Patchen July 1, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    Steve,
    Thanks for the answer. Until today I thought I ought to wait until I had something to promote before I started spending time on a website. Looks like I need to rethink that position.

  13. Avatar
    Tamela Hancock Murray July 1, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    I am really enjoying the discussion. Someone wrote me this morning that she looked at her site and some of her links had gone out of date, and another no longer contained information that made sense for her to include. So it is a good not only to have a site, but to visit it so you can make sure it’s fresh.

    As for unpublished authors launching a site, a page talking about yourself as a writer is a good place to start. When you define yourself as a writer, others think of you that way, too.

  14. Avatar
    Daniel Bernstrom October 14, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    I have to agree with Steve. Even for those aspiring writers like myself, you need to have a website, and going a step further, if Steve agrees with me, a blog.

    A blog can be a great marketing tool, can be a wonderful way to promote yourself and your work, but more importantly a blog gives the writer the mandate to write.

    So many of us struggle to write. We just having an off day, right? But 60 days of off days is not acceptable. A blog will remind you of this.

    Blogging is like a morning jog. It warms up the writing muscles, even hones the skills you will need as a 21st century writer (technique, marketing, promotion). I would stress a blog above a website, though they can be one and the same. Use Mr. Laube as an example, even this agency’s site. This should help you get your feet moving.

  15. Avatar
    Tamela Hancock Murray October 14, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    Thanks for the comment, Daniel. You have a good point about writing discipline. Perhaps a blog can be a way to get in the writing habit and promote as well. Good thought!

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