A few Writer's Life posts ago, I began a series addressing the question that I receive the most: What do I do with my story idea. In the first installments of this multi-part answer, I talked about writing down everything you know about the idea, beginning a social media presence, and giving structure to your story. (If you are new to this series, or would like a recap of the full answer, please refer to a complete list of the steps in brief at the end of this post.)
Assuming you’ve been with me for the previous steps, now that you’ve completed step one and are implementing steps two and three, it’s time to consider step four: building your outreach as an author.
Marketing strategies and trends change quickly, but whatever the fad currently in vogue, one thing remains constant: the dominant necessity of an online presence. Once you are an established author, a website devoted entirely to you will be the essential location for your readers to go to in order to find all they want or need. This includes writing samples, a publicity calendar, pages featuring your books, a calendar tracking progress on your current work… whatever you want your fans to know, you can feature in one venue which you control completely.
But why start now, before you’re published and while you have little content or news to promote? The answer is because the best websites are richly developed, and that kind of development takes time. It will be a while before you find exactly what formatting, structure, and types of content work best for you, and the ideal time to experiment with these things is now, before you become widely known. Added bonus: all of that experimentation will build an abundance of content that will, in turn, offer a richer experience to your future visitors.
With that in mind, you need to start by finding a website server. There are so many hosting options available that I couldn’t possibly list them here. A good way to begin your quest is to go to your search engine of choice with the phrase “servers for author websites.” You can also ask authors you know for their favorites, or ask any one of us here at Lands Uncharted. A caveat about free website hosts: make sure the free package can grow with you. It will be a confusing pain in the neck to transfer all of your content to another provider who provides you more space. If you can afford to pay for your site now, I recommend that you do.
The next thing you must do is decide on content. As a new author, this can be daunting. What does one post when one has little to nothing published? The answer to this is, perhaps ironically, to focus on content marketing.
Photo courtesy of FirmBee from Pixabay
Content marketing involves creating and sharing material that stimulates interest in your product; in this case, your writing. So your blog should showcase your writing in a way that advances your brand (basically, who you are as a writer). A good way to do this is through your love of story. Post book reviews of reads you love, recommendations or reviews about other forms of story (like movies or shows) or genre-related content (such as recipes for Amish romances or role-playing games for epic fantasies). You can also include notes about the research you do for your story, character sketches, backstory, deleted scenes, and even select snippets from the current draft of your book. A great blog to visit in order to find more inspiration in this area is Jane Friedman’s authors' blog (note: all links are non-affiliate). The key here is to remember that whatever you blog bout, it should be with the express purpose of drawing readers to you as an author of stories they need.
The rest of your website content will grow and change as your author career progresses. A fabulous resource regarding what to start with is the Novel Marketing podcast, episode 156: Six Things Readers are Looking for on Your Website.
As always, everything discussed here is merely one way to get started. This topic is so broad that I can’t possibly address all of the nuances here. Don’t be discouraged, though! There’s lots of good help out there in the social media world, and we’re all in this together.
I’d love to know: Do you visit author websites? If so, why? What do you hope to find?
As promised earlier, the complete list of what to do with your story idea:
1. Write down everything you know about the story idea. Keep writing until you can’t think of anything to add. (Click to read more.)
2. When you’re not writing, work on your social media platform. Develop your on-line presence authentically, in a way that is genuine. (Click to read more.)
3. Go back to your idea. Organize everything you wrote in step one into something with structure and shape. Turn that collection of ideas into a plan and begin your first draft. (Click to read more.)
4. Start a website. A blog is good because it gives readers a taste of your writing, but if you feel that you can’t commit to a blog, then you need to have a website at the very least.
5. Edit your first draft. Complete this step as often as necessary.
6. Start an e-mail list.
7. Enlist alpha readers who will give you story feedback.
8. Once your book is as polished as you can get it, enlist someone else to edit it.
9. Decide how you want to publish (indie or traditional) and study the process. Learning the necessary details will save you a lot of time and, potentially, a lot of money in the long run.
10. Start the next story!