4/16/08

The Bare Necessities of an Internet Presence

Yesterday, Jeff Savage addressed the topic of blogging over on Six LDS Writers and a Frog. Go read it. I agree with him.

For those of you too lazy to click the link, he made the point that if you're an author and you don't want to blog, don't feel like you have to do it. For as much as I've pushed blogging here on this site, you may be surprised that I agree with that statement. Here's why: If blogging is a chore to you, it will come out in your presentation and will not serve you in your quest to build your fan base. Same thing goes for social networking, virtual tours, etc., etc.

However (you knew that was coming, didn't you?), in the world we live in, the Internet is a powerful source of information and many readers go there first in their search for new books to read. In my opinion, every author NEEDS an Internet presence. This presence can be a website, a blog or an author bio page on your publisher's site.

For beginning authors, whose publishers may not offer bio pages (or whose bio pages are substandard in design and info) and who may not have the skills or funds to set up a website, free blogs are a simple solution. You don't have to blog on a blog—you can make one that is more like a static website, if you want. (WordPress, with it's easy tabs and pages, works a little better for this.) If you don't make regular changes to it, it may not show up very high when someone Googles you, but it will exist and they will be able to find it.

Your internet presence, however you choose to establish it, should have as a minimum the following:
  • Welcome message—a pleasant message welcoming the visitor to the site.

  • Book Info—containing an image of the cover, title, a short blurb, other pertinent information, and a LINK to where it can be purchased online. It can be as simple as what is posted over on the LDS Fiction blog. You need info on every book you've published.

  • New Release/Coming Soon—same as the book info, but this needs to be in a distinct area (like at the top or on its own tab) so that it stands out from the others.

  • Author Bio—containing a short, professional bio on yourself with a nice photo. Nice meaning that it's crisp and clear and that you look like an author someone would like to meet.

4 comments:

Tristi Pinkston said...

Couldn't agree more. I recently reviewed a fabulous new LDS book for Families.com and could find no Internet links to link it to. That's a shame, it really is. At least get a simple blog, folks! Let people find you!

William Morris said...

I agree with your recommendation for using WordPress for an author's site even if you don't intend to blog. I have seen several author's Web sites that use just the Pages section to good effect.

One thing that I would add:

Even if you aren't yet published or aren't sure if you want to have a Web site or not, secure a domain name now. Like right this minute. Use Godaddy.com if you must and can't afford a slightly pricier registrar. If you can afford something more expensive, do it. GoDaddy is fine -- except it does get a bit complicated when you want to transfer the domain name to another registrar.

Some of you lucky people out there with unique names may be able to get your name. I think that's a good idea. And if you can afford to, snatch up the .com, .org and .net versions. Oftentimes you can get a package deal of all three.

In addition, you should take your name [e.g. kerryblair or robwells] as well as the username for your series (if you have one) [e.g. fablehaven] or whatever branding tags make sense and secure these usernames at:

MySpace
YouTube
Flickr
Twitter
Pownce
Tumblr

and possibly some other places such as merchandise stores -- Cafepress, Zazzle, etc. And if you want to be really thorough, also secure that username with the larger webmail services -- yahoo, webmail and gmail.

You should also consider using some of these social media services in lieu of or in addition to blogging -- and figure out how to feed them into your Web site.

If your name is already taken as a domain name, don't stress about it too much -- these days URLs are less important that developing a solid presence that shows up in search engines. Instead come up with something that represents you and/or your work in an easy, memorable way and base all your domain name registrations and accounts on that.

And now it occurs to me that some of this may be total Greek to your readers. If I can find the time and there's interest, I'll write a more detailed AMV post on social media and authors.

Gamila said...

Hey good advice here. It always annoys me when authors don't have on their website what they are writing next. If we are visiting the website were interested in the writing! We want to know more about what you will write next! Of course even if you aren't writing something because life has cursed you or something that's still nice to know.

patricia said...

Excellent comments, William.

I like WordPress, and agree with William in that it does give you some flexibility. I'm still learning how to use it, so perhaps I might be able to offer some information and suggestions to those considering it.

WordPress comes in two flavors: WordPress.com, which is like Blogger, meaning you don't need a hosting account; and WordPress.org, where you can download the open source program for free and install it on your server.

If you don't want to do much customization and want a simple blog, stick with WordPress.com. If you're not afraid to play around with files, troubleshoot and experiment, downloading the program from WordPress.org OR paying for a web host that offers WP as an automatic install is the way to go.

WordPress gets updated constantly, and if you do all the dirty work yourself, you'll have to update it each time (extracting files, using FTP to overwrite old files) unless you have a WordPress.com blog. I'm a .org girl, and this latest version seems to be more user-friendly. A cool thing about using WordPress on your own host account is that there are literally hundreds of free themes out there and you can change the look of your blog as often as you want. I just changed my theme; check out my blogsite at http://www.patriciawiles.com. I call it a blogsite since it's a blog but has pages for each published book I've published so far. :)

My advice to anyone considering WordPress, either .com or .org versions, is to buy a copy of WordPress for Dummies. Absolutely. If you're like me and know just enough about this stuff to get you in trouble, you need the book. Back in February something went wrong when I tried to update to the latest WordPress version at the time, and I was unable to post to my blog for several weeks. I performed the most recent update, and now my blog is working fine. I've even figured out how to add widgets.

I've learned a lot of good information from your post, LDSP, and these comments. Thanks!