Question of the Week August 25

How important do you think author websites/blogs are and at what stages in a career? Pre-publication and post-publication? How does an author build a fan base for a blog or website? Also, what are the best ways for an author to advertise/publisize? Are there any good websites with this type of information?

This is the question we sort of discussed last weekend. After looking at everyone else's opinion, here's mine.

Get a website. If nothing else, reserve the domain name - your name if possible - right now before someone else does. Yes, there are actually people who do things like reserve other people's and companies' names in the hopes of selling the domain rights to them later. There are lots of services that will allow you to reserve your domain name for a few dollars a year without having to pay for web hosting. I use Yahoo! for that sort of things. Then, once you are ready to have a site, you've at least go the name.

When designing the site, you should keep a few things in mind. If you plan to use the site primarily for promoting to adults like librarians and teachers, then you can have a simpler site with less interactivity. However, if you plan to have a site you would like kids to regularly visit, you have to up the stakes. I found a wonderful article that discusses that here on Candy Gourlay's blog.

Finally, if you would like to start blogging, feel free to do so. There are lots of places like here on blogger or on live journal where you can try it out for free. Although you can use a blog for promotional purposes - I have been known to post updates on books and the like on mine - I would primarily reccommend you blog for fun. And after all, it is fun.

As to promoting a website/blog, if you google "promoting a blog" you get some normal and some downright wacky reccomendations. Some, like printing your web address/blog address on everything you print (business cards, postcards, etc) are just common sense. When I started my blog, my goal was to improve the quality of slush submissions by alerting people to all the little, stupid mistakes that can torpedo your chances of making it past a reader. My great method of advertising was to email everyone I knew and to let them know about the site. However, I didn't find my readership particularly grew until other bloggers found me. The web is a lovely example of word of mouth. It's not something you can exactly control although viral marketing methods try. You just have to let others know you exist by doing things like posting on people's comments sections or submitting to different carnivals. And again, you should be doing it not with advertising in mind, but because it's fun to comment. Like everyone else, bloggers can tell when you are commenting because your interested or your commenting because you're trying to get your name out. Comment because you want to. After all, as Greg K likes to remind me everynow and then, our blogs are ultimately for ourselves and for own satisfaction. We're not selling ads or even books from them. Even if no one ever looks at it, there is a certain satisfaction in writing on them, just for the sake of writing on them.


jj said...

I've been pondering the web site thing - just reserving my domain name for the time being - but it looks like Yahoo doesn't allow domain name transfers (at least for their special offer price.)

I was thinking it might be better to register the name with a decent hosting company like godaddy and set it up later. Any thoughts?

The Buried Editor said...

I actually use Yahoo for my webhosting since it's only $12/month and does everything I need it to do including forms, etc. I have a bit of a cheat because my (future) brother-in-law is a web designer with a full time business and staff devoted to this stuff. When I have to do anything really difficult I get him.

But, back to your question. Back in the day (a trillion years ago) in college, I worked for a web designer. Back then, you could actually register directly with whatever entity it was that monitors domain names. I checked, and you still can. Network Solutions is not the only registrar these days, but it's still the company that determines that duplicates do not get sold, etc. That annual fee that you pay to keep your name ultimately goes to these folks. You can reserve a name with them for $9.99/year. Although they have hosting packages, you can get just the name. I don't know for sure, but they should be easy to transfer since they hold all the names anyway.