So yesterday, over at www.loveahappyending.com, I started reviewing some of the concepts discussed during my presentation at The Summer Audience Event in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, UK on June 16th. The topic was Creating Your Brand.
Now that we've covered that crucial first step,the next phase is to consider how you will take that brand that you created and get it out there to the public.
The All Important Website
Your website is probably one of the most crucial communication tools that you can employ as an author. It let's people, and by people I mean potential readers as well as agents and publishers, know who you are and what you might offer as an author. If you don't consider yourself to be a technical person, then breath easy. There quite a few tasteful and professional options that you can take advantage of that will get you a great site. Before, you get going with your site setup, get out a pen and some paper (or mindmap) and capture the following to-dos.
Register a Domain In Your Name
If you aren't familiar with what a domain is, it's an Internet Address or URL that is customized to its owner. For example, Nike.com, WritersDigest.com, and my personal favorite, Nutella.com. Here's why this is important:
- It conveys a level of professionalism. If your website says www.susanmbookseller.wordpress.com it's going to be professional, no doubt. However, if you register a domain to www.susanmbookseller.com it not only looks more professional when read, but it conveys a sense of seriousness. This author has committed to a domain, they must be taking this seriously. Evening though domains are pretty inexpensive, around $24 from www.godaddy.com, this is all part of the image that you'll present as an author.
It's forward-thinking. Now let's face it. You may not even have finished writing anything yet or be stuck in the middle of that all important manuscript wondering when you'll be able to scrape your way out of hell. However, you always want to take forward-thinking steps with the mindset of a well-known professional writer. Make smart choices and they'll continue to benefit you throughout your career. Imagine you're you're favorite author, because the only person that will stand in the way of your goals is you. Down the road, if your book becomes the breakout novel, a wish mind you of every write out there, then you want to ensure that your domain is registered to you.
"You always want to take forward-thinking steps with the mindset of a well-known professional writer.
Make smart choices and they'll continue to benefit you throughout your career."
Have a Photo Shoot
No matter where you are in your writing career, you need to have professional photos taken. Aiming the camera at yourself, while standing under a light by your kitchen sink isn't quite going to do it. Once you start interacting on the web, your photos will be circulating around on the Internet indefinitely. So you want simple, professional pics that you can use on your website, but also for Social Media purposes, which will discuss in my next segment. Here are some suggestions on how to approach the photo shoot.
- You Don't Need To Break the Bank. Reach out to your local art or photography school and ask if they have any students who offer sittings. I had some excellent photos done locally for a fraction of what I would have paid at a professional studio. Don't pay for prints, just ask for the digital pics.
- Don't Ask a Relative To Take It! Unless you know their work, if you use a relative, then you're stuck with the photo for life. Even if it, quite frankly, sucks. Don't mention it in front of them.
- Make It Tasteful. Have a simple, professional photo done. Save the cleavage or tight jeans at home. This is a business that we're in and a professional publisher will not be interested in seeing you in that light. Your readers, might, but as they get to know you. Remember that you're building a relationship with your readers. As with any new relationship you need to identify their likes and dislikes.
Identify What Information You Would like To See
Sketch out what information you would like to show on your website. If you have no idea, here are some basics.
- Who You Are: This should include a professional bio that cites any relevant experience as well as quirks that might be interesting to readers. For example, comments like "addicted to Eighties sitcoms" might attract audience members who are interest in the same. Make the quirks only a small part of your bio, however.
- What You're Offering: What genre do you write in? Who's your intended audience? What are your writing goals? Share it here.
- Blog: A blog still remains as one of the most valuable forms of communications between readers and writers. Identify a blog schedule and try and stick to it. Maybe it's once a week to start. Whatever the plan, make sure you keep things simple.
Designing the Site
This subtitle probably sounds more intimidating than it actually is. Sites like WordPress, Blogger,… I could go on, offer a variety of solutions for authors regardless of whether or not you are into the Tech side of life. With professional websites costing anywhere in upwards from $1000 to $4000, they are good viable options that will help you meet your goal at the best possible cost – free.
- Pick a Theme or Scheme That You Can Live With: I'm not saying that you can never change your website. I've done updates myself every six months or so for the past five years. However, you don't want to change your site daily. It could confuse readers and can make them think they've reached another site. When you're setting up your site, make choices that have permanence, that you really think you'll enjoy in the long-term.
"When you're setting up your site, make choices that have permanence, that you really think you'll enjoy in the long-term."
- Choose a Design That Represents Your Brand: If you're goal is to be the favored Romance author of the century, then by all means, pick a Pink Damask theme. If you are writing about the armed forces choose a Camo background. However, choosing Camo when you are writing Romance can again, send the wrong message. Pick a style that is consistent with what you are communicating.
- Hire Someone: If you just can't face setting up a site on your own, you can hire someone to design a WordPress template for you, for example. Or you can purchase one and customize it for yourself. This is much less expensive than hiring a design company. Just make sure they they set you up with a server and set up the site for you as well. This could add to their fee, but it should be less expensive than having an entire site coded from scratch. Check out www.tammyhartdesigns.com.
Start Interacting With Readers
You need to build readership here, so write simple posts that might be interesting to your audience. Don't pick topics that you aren't knowledgeable in, but pick topics that you enjoy and might attract readers. If you are writing books about Bikers and you just bough a new bike, then blog about your latest ride through the mountains. If you are a Culinary writer, blog about your latest recipe.
Here are a few tips:
- Be Consistent: You've started to establish a brand for yourself, so make sure your posts are consistent with your brand. If you want to project an image of toughness and frequently drop obscenities then you're readers will come to expect that from you from the beginning. If you are a conservative Christian author, however, and start dropping the obscenities you may not get the reactions you were hoping for. Let your readers know what to expect from you and you will start to form a relationship with them.
- Don't Focus Only On Your Own Work: Don't just focus on your own goings-on. Not only does talking about and to other writers help you promote yourself, but it's a great way to build professional relationships among people with like goals. It's amazing what resources we can be to our own peers. Again, invest in those relationships and they will help you grow, not only as a writer but as a person. Visit other sites and comment on other blogger’s posts. Over time, you’ll start to make a name for yourself.
Thanks for stopping by! I'll be posting more of my presentation over the next couple of weeks. Please stop by when you can!