Thursdays with Amanda: Why Unpublished Authors Need Websites
Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.
This week (and next week, too), we’re going to talk about websites. We received this great question that got the ball rolling: “I would love to hear why you think an author should have a web site. What can the web tell you that the back of the book hasn’t already said?”
It’s pretty obvious why published authors need websites…in an age when celebrities are more accessible than ever through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, authors need to follow suit. I mean if I can Tweet my favorite actor or band and get a response, I should be able to interact with my favorite mid-list author, right?
But what about the unpublished author? What value does having a website provide if it can’t showcase a published work? Let’s look at the business-related effects of having a website as well as the platform-related ones.
Why having a website as a published author makes sense from a business perspective:
- It tells potential agents and editors that you’re serious about your career. Believe it or not, some authors aren’t looking to make a career out of writing. Sure, they may be very serious about getting the one book they’ve written published, but after that, they’re done. They don’t have any more stories in them. Having a website tells industry professionals that you’re in this for the long haul, and you’re willing to invest some money to make it happen.
- It tells potential agents and editors that you aren’t afraid of using the web to promote yourself. Most authors don’t know how to navigate social media. Having a website dispels those fears for agents and editors when considering your project. Even though most authors have someone else build or maintain their site, it still tells us that you’re willing to find the right help to develop an online presence.
- It gives potential agents/editors an avenue through which they can learn more about who you are. Query letters can be a bit impersonal. But a website with a full “About the Author” section, a blog, photos, etc. gives agents like me an opportunity to do some snooping without committing to the relationship. In this business, we work with people we like. And if your website is able to give us warm, fuzzy feelings about you as a person, you’re more likely to make it through. I’ve had editors contact me after a conference, wondering about so-and-so unpublished author. They met the author at the conference, got a good impression, and then found themselves snooping around the author’s website. They contact me to see if I’m either working with the unpublished author or am aware of them. When I’m able to say “yes, I work with them” the editor has always asked me to include them on the submission list when the project is ready to go. Pretty cool, right?
Why having a website as a published author makes sense from a platform perspective:
We’ve spent the last few months looking at what both published AND unpublished authors can be doing to build a platform. The website, though, is the most crucial component because it brings everything together.
Let’s say to get started, you’re most comfortable using Facebook. So, you develop your Facebook page and start getting “likes.” You utilize its Photos and Notes features and are consistent about posting to it. Eventually, you realize you can handle more. So, you venture into Twitter. After that, you launch a YouTube channel and then a blog. Eventually, you have many different social media channels going at once and you realize you need to link them all together.
Enter, the website.
A great website will give users a one-stop place to go where they can decide how they want to follow you. Do they want to subscribe to your blog? Follow you on Twitter? Be notified through email?
A great website will have the author’s blog, Twitter and maybe even their Facebook all streaming directly to the home page (or therabouts). This increases the likelihood that a user who happens to be dropping by for a quick check-in, will be encouraged to interact with you by leaving a comment or reTweeting you.
A great website will also become your go-to reference when people ask where they can find you online. Instead of choosing to either tell them about Facebook or Twitter or your blog, you simply direct them to your site. From there, the user can choose where they want to go and how they want to interact with you.
OK, so how does an upublished author provide content for a website when there isn’t a book they can feature?
We’ll talk about that next week.
For now, I want to hear from you published authors…did you have a website before you were published?
And what about you unpublished authors…do you currently have a website? Do you feel it adds a level of professionalism or are you worried it’s a waste?
Thanks for writing about this, Amanda. I finally have a website, as an unpublished author. Someone told me to think of it as an online resume, and that made sense to me. Then to hear that editors have looked at it confirms its importance. People want to learn as much as they can about you, and a website makes it easy.
I started my website when I got the deal for my first book, Skinny, but before it’s release date. I wanted readers to be able to find me. Since then, I’ve tweaked my site a jillion times, gotten more entwined in FB & Twitter, Goodreads, etc. but my site is still a great way to, as you so aptly put, “link them all together.”
I’m living proof of the power of having a website. I’m Writer’s Digest Website of the Week, June 25, 2012. Brian A. Klems was browsing websites, found mine, liked it, and made it website of the week.
Having that kind of visibility whether published or unpublished is just powerful. Websites are a must.
That is awesome!!! Congratulations!
Amazing post and so true. In today’s ever-changing world and market, having a visual aka virtual cyber presence is a must. Some writers (people in general) fear creating such a presence, but there are safeguards one can use. I’m getting ready to begin designing my website. I’ve had a very successful blog for over two years now, and a rather strong Facebook and Twitter presence. I’m taking my time with the website, though. I want to do it correctly, linking all that is my platform.
Thanks for sharing this vital information.
Great post! I totally agree with you 100% Thanks for sharing this.
Such great advice. I fully agree, and I
think we’ll be seeing more of a push for this with unpublished authors for
exactly the reasons you listed above. From what I’ve seen, there’s a fear (fast
diminishing thanks to posts like these) in writers (especially those who write fiction)
that maintaining a website/blog/online presence will interfere with their “true
calling” of writing. And if simply penning a book for its own sake rather than
a career (as you pointed out) is their goal, I think this is a perfectly
understandable concern. But for those authors wanting a writing career — the sooner
they’re able to see their online interactions and website and blogging as part
of the package, the easier time they’ll have making those work for them. And in
my own (as yet unpublished) experience, they are.
Because experience is exactly what I’ve
gained thus far. Having a website/blog/online presence has taught me more about
myself as a writer than any class or book or webpage (although those have
helped tons). It’s taught me about my voice, about who my readers are and who I
want to “target” (because yes this is a business). It’s taught me to be
consistent in blogging once a week in the midst of homeschooling three kids and
working part time as a youth pastor and having a (semi) clean house, and then
somehow fitting writing a couple novels in there.
It’s also introduced me to authors and
readers and all-around lovely people whom I never would’ve met, and (surprisingly)
those people have generously turned out to root for me! (Who would’ve thought?)
It’s also allowed me to develop my platform (for fiction) beyond my limited expectations
– recent examples include being asked to moderate a book blogging panel at a
sizeable writer’s conference later this year (crazy!) along with invitations to
speak at women’s conferences.
So I guess my rather excessively long answer
is YES! Yes, I believe it adds a level of professionalism. And no. It’s not a
waste. Sure, it takes a bit to get the swing of it (time-wise and style), but
once you do, it takes on a life of its own that is just as adventurous as any
Did I mention I love this post? ;0)
hah! Thanks so much for sharing this. Spoken like a true career author 🙂
Thanks Amanda. I am an unpublished writer working on a novel based on a true story. I have had a personal website for a couple of years, but am getting ready to revamp it and your article was very helpful in pinpointing uses of personal website – I am sending it to my web designer – so I appreciate you. Thanks. Carmen E. Richards
I was published and pushed into making a website. I am techno challenged so did little with it. Then I was pushed into blogging. Again, staring at the screen. Then I had this epiphany — If I write a great book but do not promote it, it is like cooking a gourmet meal and leaving it on the stove! I get it now! But because I didn’t “get it” to begin with I am really having trouble promoting because I didn’t have a platform built. It’s much harder doing it backwards.
Unpublished writers–don’t do that. It is way hard! Build the platform and then publish. That way when the $$ come, you have a pot to put it in!
Everyone should read your comment, Carol. A lesson learned. Thanks so much for sharing!
I made my website/blog live around January and for a book that was released in March, so right around the same time as publication. For me, all I can do is Facebook and blog (website), so that’s what I do. I think it’s all my audience is up for anyway. I do think it adds a level of professionalism where I can post reviews, press, and an electronic press kit for download, so it’s nice to have all in one place. It seems like you really need that one central place. When I handed out bookmarks at booksignings, I could put it on there, so people could learn more. I like WordPress — intuitive, cheap and functional. Thanks again Amanda!
Great post–I thought I’d subscribed but I need to double-check. I always get so much info from you! Yes, I’m an unpubbed author w/a blogspot. I’ve upgraded/updated my blogspot, and I’ve found that I’m building a loyal following online. I’ve done bloghops, just to get the numbers up, but I’d rather have a loyal core audience than a bunch of people who aren’t on-board w/my writing mission.
I love that any prospective publisher can goto my blog and get a rundown of my guest posts, how I think, my twitter feed, my FB page link, etc. You’re so right–it’s a valuable tool.
That said, sometimes I truly TRULY wish I had a book to put in people’s hands! Once you’re published, people come and FIND you! Grin.
Think of this as training! Because when you DO have a book, you’ll find yourself working just as hard to spread the word about you and your writing.
Great suggestions, I’m going to use these to spiff up my site…thanks!
This might sound like a quirky question, but I created a WordPress website that uses my name as the address, but it links to my Blogger Blog that I’m afraid to switch to WP. Okay, nervous is a better word. And since I’m currently unpublished, I mostly hang out at my blog, which has my FB and Twitter links on the sidebar… so What’s my point? I dunno. Oh yeah. Does it freak out readers to have to look at one more thing? Hey all, come find me at my new Buffet of an Author Site kind of invitation type of dealio?? And do you recommend waiting on that invitation until a writer gets a contract?? Thanks Amanda! 🙂
A blog can act as your main hub, provided you have adequate “about,” “contact,” and those types of pages. Readers like to connect where they’re most comfortable. Some prefer Twitter. Others prefer blogs. A website (or a blog that acts as a website) can help them navigate your Internet presence and find a medium that works for them. Does that answer your question? :/
Si! Thanks! 🙂
Great post! I didn’t get a website until I was a published author. If I had read this post earlier in my career, I would have taken the steps to get a site up and running. Now, I battle keeping it current.