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.
- 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?
- Update that site regularly. People want to know that you are home.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.