#19: Time to put on your public face!

Wake-up call: if you are not techno-savvy, get on it. Stop whining about it being too hard – it isn’t. Stop pretending it’s not important – it is. It’s critical to your new career.

As a baby-boomer, I see both extremes: those who embrace knowledge and learning and jump in with both feet, and those who hold back until the tidal wave swamps them and they are terrified. So I need to state this as clearly as I can. *ahem*

If you are not willing to become internet/social media/self-marketing competent, do not expect to become a successful new author.

Harsh? Maybe. True? Definitely. But there is plenty of help out there! My marketing mentor – whom I met through my genre-writing group – is three decades younger than I am. So here we go: it’s website time!

I assume you have decided on your author name. You have both Googled it, and searched Amazon for it, to find out if anyone else is writing under that name. You have tried it out on a few friends to be certain that the name you chose reflects the image you want to portray. Or maybe you are like me and plan to use your own – unique – name.

Now it’s time to lock that down.

You need to purchase your author name as a domain name – the part between the www. and the .com. Domain names cost about $10 per year, and you can buy them from your web host. You might want to consider purchasing a variation or two to thwart wannabes in case you become really famous.

For example: Susan Q. Lickspittle might want to purchase SusanQLickspittle.com, SueLickspittle.com and SQLickspittle.com

Her web host can have SueLickspittle.com and SQLickspittle.com automatically routed to the one she’s actually using: SusanQLickspittle.com

And while you’re at it, open an email account in your author name, such as: SusanLickspittle@yahootmail.com or Susan@SusanQLickspittle.com Set your email signature to list your website, blog, Facebook and Twitter addresses, plus a tagline about your work. Something like: “Sweet Regency meets urban crime drama when a Duchess goes undercover in modern day Budapest.”

So, who should host your website? Ask authors in your genre group who they use and how much it costs. Check out their websites and see how they look. Are they attractive? Professional? Easy to navigate through?

I use GoDaddy.com – in spite of their horrid Superbowl commercials – because they are reasonably priced and have great 24/7 customer service for free. Plus, when I subscribe to their webpage design program – Website Tonight – it includes hosting for a year. Very simple, one-stop webpage construction!

Some of you out there are fortunate enough to know someone who can design your webpage for you. Use them – if they truly do a good job. Remember: your website is your image. You will design your blog and your business cards to match it. That coordination is part of your “brand” recognition.

The minimum components that every author’s website should include are:

  • A brief bio: Show some personality in the midst of your credentials, but save the cute stuff for Facebook. Your website is about your books, not your cat. This is where potential editors/agents, as well as fans, will check you out and you want them see that you’re serious about your writing.
  • Contact information: Prominently post your author email address for starters, and post links to your Blog, Facebook & Twitter pages.
  • Your professional photo. I mentioned this when I talked about query letters. Choose one or two poses from the same session and use them on everything!
  • Samples of your work: Perhaps post your first chapter(s). Some authors worry about their work being “stolen” but that isn’t realistic. You own the copyright the moment the work is created. Why not give away a taste? It works for ice cream.
  • A press page, book covers and cover quotes when you get them.
  • Buying information: Direct links to your books on Amazon, B&N, Borders, etc.

Now, on to business cards. You can design business cards online through companies such as Vistaprint, OfficeMax or Staples. The design does NOT have to be forever, just go on and print the first batch.

  • Choose a design similar to your webpage.
  • Use your author name only.
  • Include the same professional photo as your website.
  • Include contact info: your author email address and phone number.
  • Refer people to your website, blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  • Brilliant advice to follow: On the back of your card, put a short description of your book. Something like: “One woman, one man, one horse. No hand of Go Fish ever held stakes so high for a Senator’s mistress and the Gypsy barista she loathed. Murder was definitely an option.” Then when you meet an editor or agent, hand them your card, let them read the back, and you don’t have to trip over any stiff, rehearsed sentences in your fit of oh-my-god nerves. It works. I’ve done it.

Communicating through technology is much harder to screw up than you might think. Play with it! Don’t be afraid of it! Now go on – get in and get going!

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