Is Your Website Keeping You From Being Published?

The rules have changed.

It used to be that to break into the publishing business you not only needed talent, but you also had to know the right people, make the right connections, or sometimes, just be in the right place at the right time.

With the advent of blogging and social media, more and more authors are finding their way past the gatekeepers and finding their audiences—with or without publishers. With a bit of web savvy, moxie, and talent, today’s author has more power than ever to get their words into the hands of eager readers.

Yet, too many authors seem to be ignoring this relatively new path to publication.

Or worse, they are scaring away potential readers with awful websites.

You know that saying about not judging a book by its cover? While people may give some leeway to a book with a bad cover, not nearly as many people are as forgiving of a poor website.

Hideous wallpaper backgrounds, clashing colors, and frames with visible borders (ugh!) look about as contemporary as the fade in Kid ‘N Play’s hair styles. Whether the design is gaudy and stuck in the 90’s, its content impossible to navigate, or it is simply a static page (which is nothing but a glorified business card), too many writers are scaring away readers and relegating themselves to relative obscurity in today‘s digital world.

Considering how easy it is these days to publish content to a blog with a clean theme and a simple layout, there is no excuse for a bad website.

The Lessons We Can Learn From Good Author Sites

There are plenty of well-known authors with crisp, clean, and even gorgeous websites. Dennis Lehane and Stephen King both come to mind. However, many of the well known authors have websites designed by the best designers for publishers with deep pockets.

Yet you don’t need a fat advance to have a great website. Here are four examples of authors with sites, all with blogs attached, that are economical, while doing all the things an author’s site’s supposed to.

1. Give Your Readers What They Want

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Seth Harwood was one of the early adopters of the novel in podcast form. Along with fellow author Scott Sigler, Seth found early success through Podiobooks, by dividing his book and delivering it through a series of free podcasts.

This tactic eventually led Seth to a book deal for his crime novel Jack Wakes Up. Seth’s website is a great example of a layout that features everything a reader could want in an easy-to-find format.

Want to learn more about the author? Click.
Want to see details on any of his books? Click.
Want to listen to a choice of free audio downloads from any one of his books? Click and Save.
Want to buy the book in physical form?

Guess what?

Yup, a number of links to help a reader quickly purchase the book.

Something else I like about Seth’s site – he has photographs of his readers on the front page, using a simple widget linking to his Flickr account. Seth understands that being a successful author requires building a robust community. In addition to a clean layout and easily accessible information, Seth has built forums for his community, as well as a space devoted to fan art.

In short, Seth’s website is about as close to perfect in function as I’ve seen.

Follow Seth on Twitter

2. Engage Your Audience

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Scott Sigler IS the modern author. Sigler has helped to reinvigorate, if not reinvent, the world of publishing with the success of his first book, Earthcore, the world’s first podcast only novel. Much like our own Available Darkness, Scott released his book in serialized format, dividing the book into twenty episodes, then releasing it for free on podcast through Podiobooks and iTunes. He also has developed an active community with his forums and interacting with readers via social media.

Many authors have since followed the model, but Sigler’s early pioneering placed him at the vanguard of modern publishing.

His site is intuitive, with all his social media and podcast subscribe buttons located in the top right hand corner. They are neat and easy to read, with the tongue in cheek caption, Subscribe or die!

Like Seth, Scott understands that community is fundamental to an author’s growth and his site reflects that in every way.

Follow Scott on Twitter

3. Know Your Audience

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Artist, cartoonist, and writer Raina Telgemeier knows her audience well.

The artist of The Babysitter’s Club graphic novels has a website which is not only a big bag of eye candy, it succeeds in showcasing her impressive illustration talents, while also appealing directly to her target audience.

Raina regularly showcases her upcoming projects via blog posts. One of those projects is her soon-to-be published book, Smile.

The page devoted to Smile is a study in what makes a perfect landing page for a book. It’s warm and inviting, has published reviews along with all the relevant information, and links to help guide the reader on their way to a purchase. The use of color on this page, along with the beautiful book cover, makes me want to buy about four or five copies before I leave the page.

Raina’s site has style, personality and community with a clean, impressive layout.

Follow Raina on Twitter

4. Give it Away, Give it Away, Give it Away Now

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Three of the four authors we’re posting are notable in that they give their content away.

I’m sensing a theme.

Craphound.com is the home to Sci-fi writer, activist, journalist and blogger and Boing-Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow, who is practically synonymous with the model of giving your product away.

Doctorow believes the constraints of copyright belong firmly fixed in the previous century. And while many in the publishing industry balk at the idea of giving your product away and argue that there is no way to monetize “free,” Doctorow is proving them wrong. Time and time again.

Cory compares modern authors to the forerunners of rock n’ roll, saying that “the Internet makes the cheap, dirty and experimental possible.”

With several titles and legions of fans, Doctorow is the premier example of a modern author making full use of the “freemium” model.

Follow Cory on Twitter

By using WordPress and a premium theme such as Thesis or Frugal, an author can have their own website up and running for less than a hundred dollars. Of course, you could spend a bit more and have a professional layout that appropriately reflects the quality of your writing (hint hint – we do that).

The key to getting read is to build a community around you and your work.

Start a blog, get involved with social media, and get your book (or eBook or audio book) in front of as many eyes (and ears) as possible. Never has the world of publishing been so open to you.

So, what are some of your favorite authors’ websites?

What lessons have you learned from the good ones?

Thank you for reading. Click here for free updates to Collective Inkwell.

Spread it if you like it, link it if you love it.

20 responses to Is Your Website Keeping You From Being Published?

  1. Ian

    I feel certain that My husband and i browse on the subject of this earlier somewhere. Except We need to say you have stated your point perfectly

  2. Evo Terra

    There’s little doubt that building a strong community is the key for new authors. I chat frequently with authors on both sides of the “effort” scale. Those that do little quickly claim the law of diminishing return and wind up making that a reality. Those that put for the most effort tend to ignore that law and realize that busting their hump is the only way to make it happen.

    Do they all succeed? Nope. But the delta between success of failure in the “I gave it my all” group is much wider than that of the “when I bother to care about it” group.

    Welcome to the new world of publishing, new authors. We’d like you best foot, please. 🙂
    .-= Evo Terra´s last blog ..Now releasing: The Secret World Chronicle, Book Three: World Well Lost =-.

    • Sean

      Ha, it’s so true. Those who complain about not finding any traction are usually the ones least willing to run.

      Put those best feet forward and get them moving!

      Nice to meet you, Evo.

  3. Laura Thompson

    This is really a fascinating topic for me because I’m a student of two mediums: The Internet and books. I love the tactile experience of reading and I still love browsing bookstores in search of something new to read, but I also spend copious amounts of time on the Internet.

    It seems to me that writers can increase their success exponentially by learning how to connect with readers both in print and via the Web. I’m seeing a lot of my favorite authors re-develop their web sites in an attempt to get with the times, and a lot of my favorites who started publishing 20, 30 and 40 years ago had web sites that were SUPER dated. And some still are.

    One I’m really impressed with is Stephen King. I’m not a huge fan of his fiction, but he’s really embraced the Internet, with his interactive web site and electronic publishing.
    .-= Laura Thompson´s last blog ..How to Minimize Liability in the Horse Business =-.

    • Sean

      Hi Laura,

      Absolutely! It’s a whole new game. Tomorrow’s most successful authors will be those who know how to build a community and foster the author/audience relationship.

      Stephen King has groomed the relationship with his readers since long before the Internet, but he is now taking advantage of the available tools.

      Nice to meet you!

  4. Mary Tomasi Dubois

    Hi, Everyone.
    I’m older than most of you, but am trying to stay in touch with what’s happening – so I have a web/blog site, a Facebook fan page (under my name), and a Twitter account (marywritting). I’m sad to say I don’t keep up with them as much as I should and vow to do that soon (amoung all the other obligations I have, leaving me little time to actually write my next novel).

    I appreciate any suggestions if you take the time to check out any of the above and would like to leave a comment.

    Mary
    .-= Mary Tomasi Dubois´s last blog ..Twitter Updates for 2010-01-21 =-.

  5. Lovelyn

    Great post! I’m constantly thinking I have to put an author site up for myself and really get on the ball with my writing, but I just don’t ever seem to get it done. I’m just not sure about what to do. Thanks for the inspiration.
    .-= Lovelyn´s last blog ..Have You Ever Had an MRI Before? =-.

  6. Alex Blackwell

    So, what comes first: A successful blog with lots of readers or a book? In other words, is one key to have a modest number of people following your blog before a book deal is possible?

    Alex

    • David Wright

      We firmly believe in building your brand BEFORE putting your book out there for consumption. If you try it the opposite way, it will be a much steeper hill to climb. It helps to have an established readership whether you are self publishing or you want to show a publisher – “look at the audience I have built on my own.”

  7. Scott Sigler

    This is an excellent post. An author site is not an option — it is as mandatory as a properly-formatted manuscript. If you’re an aspiring author, the Internet is the way you can build your own audience and use that audience to get the attention of publishers. You wouldn’t submit a first-draft manuscript without proofing it, would you? No, and you shouldn’t be “that guy” without a website. It’s part of the game now, get it done, learn to work it.
    .-= Scott Sigler´s last blog ..Audio: I Ain’t ‘Fraid o’ No Jokes – Top 10 horror/comedy movies =-.

  8. Mary Tomasi Dubois

    Right now I’m going to ask a really stupid question not regarding publishing – how in the heck do i get my picture posted with my comments here? I’ve right clicked on the window and opened my pictures and tried to place a photo of me but it keeps opening my website instead. How come there’s no browse option? Help!
    Mary
    .-= Mary Tomasi Dubois´s last blog ..Twitter Updates for 2010-01-21 =-.

  9. George Angus

    Hey guys,

    I recently did a post on the importance of adding a “For Agents and Editors” page on the blog. Yes it is a passive means but there is always a chance an editor or agent will be surfing and come across the site. The page includes links to published work, a list of works in progress and a bit of my personal writing philosophy.

    With so much marketing falling into the laps of authors, setting up your platform early is a great idea.

    Cheers

    George
    .-= George Angus´s last blog ..Flash Fiction The Good Knight =-.

  10. Content Marketing With Higher Profit | Ghostwriter

    […] Though our direct marketing for the Inkwell wasn’t as strong as it could’ve been, the content was stellar. On Monday we wrote about six people to trust in the world of publishing. Then on Wednesday we asked, “Is Your Website Keeping You From Getting Published?” […]

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