By L. Jagi Lamplighter
Recently, my editor asked me to establish a bigger web presence. He said that exposure on the web is currently one of the best ways to gain customers. People who like to read often like to browse, too. If someone catches their fancy online, they will often check out their works.
So, how do we go about establishing a web presents? The answer to that is a never ending story, but here are a few tips for getting started.
Website: The first and foremost way is to have a website people can visit to find out more about you and your books. A website is a place to showcase your work, as well as any talents or hobbies you might have—particularly if these talents or hobbies tie into your writing, even indirectly. My husband calls the writer’s website the “brag page” and this is not a bad description. This is your chance to shine, to make sure readers know who you are and what you have done.
So, what makes for a good author’s website?
Ideally, a website should be attractive to the eye and easy to negotiate. You don’t want visitors actually seeking you out and then not sticking around because what they find is too confusing or hard to read. Also, the various sections should be easy to spot and get to.
Next, the basic information a reader might want to know should be available: where to buy the books! That’s number one. You don’t want a reader making it all the way to your website and leaving dissatisfied without a book that they wanted. Information about the author is also nice. It doesn’t have to be long, just a little bit to let the reader get some idea of who you are.
After that, the sky is the limit. You can put background information, sample chapters, especially of upcoming works, are a plus. Anything you think might help a reader connect either with your works or with you. (Some readers will read books by authors they feel a connection to, even if the books are on subject they might not previously have picked up.)
Ideally, it should also be kept up-to-date. This is often hard for a writer, who has to spend a great deal of their time writing, or they won’t be a writer much longer. But, if possible, it is a good idea to update at least any section concerning news and events, so that visitors know that the site is still alive.
The final item that one might want on one’s website is so important, it deserves its own section.
Blog: The piece de resistance of any good website is the blog—or web log*—an ongoing journal that allows the author to connect with the public in some regularly updated way. Blogs do not have to be part of one’s primary website. They can be maintained separately, with WordPress or LiveJournal, or any of the many worthy hosts for blogs. However, it is important to make sure that people coming to your website can find your blog, so that they can read what you have to say.
Once you have a blog, the next thing is to have something to say. Readers coming to visit a blog want two things: A) something worth reading and B) for it to be updated regularly, so that when they do their blog-reading rounds, they find something new.
There are a number of ways to fulfill this duty. One is to put aside some time to write up what is on your mind on a regular, perhaps weekly, basis. Another is to have a regular feature of some kind—articles on the life of a writer; weekly installments of a story, reviews of books or TV shows you particularly enjoy; or philosophical musings on politics or religion or sports or whatever engages your fancy. Humor is always good, too.
The advantage of a regular feature is that readers who like that particular subject, whatever it may be, can start coming back, commenting, engaging in a dialogue with you and other readers, sharing your posts with their friends. Ideally, the subject you pick ties into your work in some way, but a regular feature is worth it, even if it does not. If you write a weekly piece on knitting and fabrics, and it attracts people who sew, chances are that some of these people will also like to read, and will recommend you to their friends who like to read…even if there are no seamstresses in your stories.
A word on politics, religion, etc. If you have strong opinions, that’s a great way to gather the support of people who agree with you. But in modern America, whatever gets the support and respect of one person offends another person. So, if you decide to broach delicate topics that spark strong emotions, you run the risk of alienating readers, who will then not want to read your books because of your ideology, even if they would have enjoyed your writing.
Should you do this? It is a delicate question. If you think you might get more support from the pro-camp than you will lose from the anti-camp, it might be worth it…at least the people who agree with you will notice you. And that is what a writer wants, to be noticed. However, if you are not sure that you will gain more than you lose, might be wise to keep to more neutral subjects.
Finally, blog…but don’t over-blog. Over-blogging is when your blog takes up so much of your time, you stop writing your manuscript. It is great to post. It is great to participate in comments and get to know your readers, but make sure it is not sucking away so much of your time, that you end up with nothing to promote.
Amazon Author Page: Another nice tool for promotion is the Amazon Author’s page. Amazon offers authors the service of a mini-website to identify who you are. Since this is free and available to anyone who is surfing Amazon, it is a no lose situation. Just fill it out and enjoy.
Social Networks: Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc. All of these social networks are great ways to gather a following. By having a presence on these sites, you give fans a way to find you and see what you are doing. You also give yourself a quick way to let them know what is new with you and your work. Like blogging, these sites can become time suckers, but if used wisely, they are a great tool.
Lists – signature line: Is there a subject you like? A life situation you could use advice on? A book or show you love? Then there is probable a list out there somewhere, most likely run by Yahoo, that you can join to chat with like minded folks. Lists are a great way to meet people and get exposure—but one is not supposed to talk about subjects that are off the list topic.
Enter the Signature Line. Add a signature line to your email that promotes you book, lists your website, etc…whatever you think will garner the most attention. This allows those who have gotten to know you to have a chance to check out your work, and they can always write you directly if they want to know more.
Organizations with an Online Presence: Some writing organizations have online communities, bulletin boards, lists, blogs where you can chat. This can be a great way to meet fans and/or other professionals, depending on the nature of the organization.
One organization that is a great help to female writers is Broad Universe (www.broaduniverse.org). They are an international organization founded to promote the works of women authors in the speculative fiction genres. They create a highly visible internet presence for the organization as a whole, as well as for the individual authors. They serve up plenty of opportunities for networking among the members, and they spread the word through sponsored events and regional conventions of all sorts related to books and literature.
Other Authors: Another great resource for promoting your web presence is appearances on other author’s blogs. Who reads an author’s blog? Often the answer is: their readers. If you contact other authors and offer to cross post, you are exposed to their readers, and they become exposed to your readers.
And the wonderful thing is: readers are not a limited resource! People who like to read are always looking for good books. The fact that they read Author A does not keep them from enjoying books by Author B. So, it is a win-win situation for everyone involved: you, the other authors, and the readers.
Book Reviewers: A great way to reach more readers is to where the readers go: the book review sites. There are hundreds of thousands of books published every year. Readers want a heads up on what books are worth their time and dime. One way to find out is to visit sites that review books and see what their favorite reviewers recommend.
These reviewers need books to read. Sometimes, they are swamped. But often, if you will send them a book, they’ll take a look, and post a review if they like it. Sometimes, your publisher will even send a free book for you. It never hurts to ask. If you develop a nice relationship with a reviewer, they will often review later books of yours as well.
Just a few links to established review sites, as example:
This is only the tip of the iceberg, but it is a start. Go out, explore the electronic world, and be known!
L. Jagi Lamplighter is the author of the Prospero's Daughter fantasy series (Prospero Lost, Prospero in Hell, and Prospero Regained). She is also one of the editors of the award-winning Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series. To learn more about her work visit:
Her website: http://www.ljagilamplighter.com/
Her blog: http://arhyalon.livejournal.com/
The Bad-Ass Faeries official website: http://www.badassfaeries.com
Do you have some original or inventive ways for establishing a web presence? Please do share!