Writers' websitesWriters' Websites Part 1 - Why You Need a Website

by Marg McAlister


For a number of years, I have been convinced that serious writers really should have a website. While many people agree with me, I find just as many who are sceptical.

"Why do I need a website?" those writers want to know. "What's the point? I hardly ever go on the Internet except to do research - I'm too busy writing."

Others say "Hmmm… it sounds like a good idea, but it's too hard. I don't know anything about websites."

Now, though, I'm finding a lot more people who agree with me. Why the big change? There are a number of reasons.

Internet access is far more readily available these days - especially broadband. Now that (most) people don't have to wait half an hour for a page to load, they're much more amenable to the idea of visiting websites to find out information.

They have heard that publishers and editors prefer to work with writers who are ready to help promote themselves and their work.

They have realised that creating and maintaining a website is reasonably inexpensive and a lot easier than they first thought.

They're inspired by what other writers are doing on their websites. Visit a writer's website these days, and you could see any or all of the following:

  • The writer's bio - and sometimes a downloadable press kit.
  • Information for schools and organisations about the writer's availability for school visits and author talks.
  • Sample chapters.
  • Information about where to buy the author's books.
  • E-books for sale on a range of topics (a few fiction; mostly non-fiction).
  • Information about the writer's services - proofreading, editing, critique services, ghostwriting, freelance writing.
  • Downloadable worksheets and supplementary activities for schools.
  • An insight into the author's writing habits or thoughts about their books (ready for book clubs or fans).
  • A forum for readers and/or writers.
  • Articles by the writer (on writing or life generally).
  • A blog or web diary.
  • Personal information about the writer's family, hobbies etc.
  • Links to favourite sites or other writing sites.
  • Book reviews. What books do you like to read? Do you buy books on writing? Post book reviews of anything you've really enjoyed reading or found useful.
  • Good discussion lists to join - on writing, on fiction, on specific subjects related to what you write.
  • Favourite jokes or quotes.

As you can see, there are plenty of good reasons to establish a presence on the Internet. At the very least, the Internet gives readers a quick and easy way to find you.

Is it really true that publishers are increasingly supporting the idea of writers having their own web sites?

Absolutely! Nine years ago (yes,nine years!) Elizabeth Lyon, author of the Sell Your Novel Toolkit, told writers at a Writers Retreat Workshop in Kentucky:"You need not only an email address but a web site - this demonstrates to a publisher that you have 'outreach' to your market. Publishers like to see how savvy you are with marketing."

Jennifer Crusie, a popular writer of contemporary fiction, agreed. She'd had a website for a long time (not to mention a lively discussion list for her fans).

"Many people talk about self-promotion," she told me. "Should I make bookmarks, should I do this, should I do that? - no. Most of this stuff doesn't work. But man, a website… that works on so many different levels. You can post the first chapter of your book: anybody who wants to read the first chapter of any of my books can find it on my web site. It gives people a chance to browse, as they do in a bookstore… I don't sell anything off my web site, but they can browse.

"Secondly, a web site gives anyone who wants to know anything about you a chance to find it. Your bio's up there, your 'voice' is up there. You're a writer; put your 'voice' on your web site. That's one of the things my daughter and I argued about when we put up the web site. She wanted it to be more professional, and she did a great job - but I said 'no' to putting up the cover of one of my books on the home page. Then the whole web site would be about selling the book, and I wanted the site to be an Internet representation of me. Yes, I'm an author and I write books, but that's the second page. The first page is my voice - and that was really important to me."

(Note: This interview was a few years ago… Jenny now does have her books on the home page, but as you'll see, that home page is now a blog, which very much reflects her personality. If you want to read about her books, click on the book picture on the right, or on the 'site map' link at the bottom of the page.)

"You have to think about how you want your web site presented. When journalists interview me, they go there first - it's easy; they 'Google' for Jennifer Crusie and that's where they end up."

Want to see Jenny's website? Go here:http://www.jennycrusie.com/. Have a look at Jenny's website, and have a look at websites of other authors too. You'll pick up some great ideas for your own.

© Marg McAlister

NEXT: Show Them Who You Are... how to build a website that will delight your readers and clients.


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