Five Rules About Web Presence

I have presented a couple of times on Web Presence for authors, and have thought about making my thoughts on that topic a regular feature on this blog, but so far I haven’t. The main reason is, although about half the people who check in here regularly are writers, I think of my target audience as readers, teachers, librarians, and parents — people who don’t want to read a bunch of shop talk. And being thoughtful about audience and what they might want to read is often the first thing I tell people about web presence.

However, I thought I’d drop a few rules on people who might be Googling “web presence for authors” and want a quick list of advice.

  1. Do have some kind of web presence. A three page website with contact info, a list of your books, and upcoming events are fine. When people Google your name or a book title and click “I feel lucky,” don’t you want to decide what they see?
  2. Update that site regularly. People want to know that you are home.
  3. Do not use a free webhosting site that will place ads and other rubbish on your professional website. Pay for hosting. It’s not that expensive and is well worth the price.
  4. Don’t pay your web-savvy nephew forty bucks to put up your website (unless of course your web-savvy nephew is a grown-up professional web designer who usually gets paid twenty times that amount). When you hire a professional, you aren’t paying them for technical expertise—you can learn all of that in an hour. What you’re paying a professional for is design sensibility and marketing savvy. I think the DIY approach is fine if you know what you’re doing, but I am constantly seeing really bad websites for excellent authors and nobody would know what excellent authors they are if they were just judging by the website…. And I always assume that a combination of thrift and nepotism are to blame.
  5. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, book trailers, and so forth are all fine if you want to do them, but I am of the opinion that you should do anything beyond #4 unless you want to and it feels natural. A lot of authors say they feel they have to do a book trailer or a blog (or they are told to do so by their editor or publisher) and stress out over it. I think it’s better to not create any aspect of a web presence that you don’t intend to maintain and/or which you aren’t comfortable with. It’s true that they can be an effective part of your web presence, but only if they are used well.

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