My thoughts on writing tips found online and in published works (with some random thoughts thrown into the mix).

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Guest Post: Aimee Fry

For today's post, Aimee Fry (@TheAuthorWorks) has generously offered to share her writing experience and provide advice on how to make the most of your publishing experience. Dig in! –

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that the majority of established and aspiring writers will be in want of enthusiastic praise. Whether you write novels, articles, short stories, or poetry, praise will always be greatly appreciated at whatever stage you are in of your writing career. Of course, in order to receive these wonderful comments, your work needs to be read, and this is where the difficulty lies for a lot of us.  As most writers will agree, gaining publication or even getting past the slush pile of publishing houses, agents, or editors is not an easy task; nevertheless, it’s the biggest reward. It certainly is a tough profession to get into, yet so many still crave to break it.
Advances in the world of self-publishing mean that having your work in book form has never been easier. However, whether you are fortunate enough to have your writing published or you try your luck with self-publishing, this has never meant that all your hard work, drafts, and edits will be a guaranteed success, placed proudly amongst other best sellers and selling like hot cakes. Hot cakes have that huge advantage of their tempting, mouth-watering, freshly-baked aroma that no one can easily resist. Unfortunately, books will probably never sell so easily without the right promotion.
With online booksellers playing such an important role in book sales today, web promotion can certainly boost your chances of a wider readership, and this therefore gives self-published writers a fighting chance at breaking into the top lists of publications. Websites such as Amazon will offer your book for sale and display your finished work to millions of people around the world.  It’s possibly the best way to sell your book online, regardless of the publishing route you choose to take, but it is not necessarily the best publicity or the way to initially build up your fan base.
A lot of authors will have a devoted page to themselves and their work on websites such as Amazon, and if they’re published, maybe their publisher’s website too. This, however, cannot be classed as your own website.  Your website, just like the covers of your books, needs to convey a unique message depending on the style and genre of writing. If you write romantic poetry, you will need the design and arrangement to showcase this. It is said that, on average, you have three seconds to convince a website visitor that he or she has come to the right place, so your design needs to instantly attract them. Any website, regardless of anything else, should be professionally enticing. It doesn’t matter if you have one book available or ten; professionalism is a must if you want your website to have a chance at increasing your potential.

Appearance Matters
Promotion can be the key to a book’s ultimate triumph and part of that all-important tool could be having your own web presence. You may ask ‘What do I need a website for?’ and the answer is simple: because readers, publishers, agents, and the media will expect you to have one. The Internet is one of the best and most popular advertising markets in the world today, and you will be doing yourself no favours if you ignore it. If you are selling something, or yourself, you need to have it displayed on the Internet. You may already write a blog and this can be a nice addition to a website, but, at the end of the day, it can become all about you and not your writing. Readers or researchers of your work may be interested in reading the diary postings of your day-to-day life, but when it comes to finding lists of your current releases, it can become more difficult to navigate, and they may look elsewhere.
With no limited space for descriptions, pictures, or excerpts, a personal website can promote in a unique style that best suits the genre of your unique work.  And in the world of the Internet, there is no restriction of where your work can reach, possibly attracting a global audience of devoted readers.
If you’re already an established author with one or many books under your belt, you may already have a website. The saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’ springs to mind; alas, the majority of us do. It can be the same with your website. If your design isn’t appealing and professional, this can, unfortunately, reflect the same impression on your work.  Take a careful look at your website and compare it to that of a highly popular author. Be totally honest and ask yourself: is yours as good as it could be? Ignore the fact that they’ve had ten top bestsellers – their websites have promoted that work and sold the image of a much-loved author. Consider this: if people get the impression that your work is good by the professional design of your website, there is more chance that they will buy it.
You may feel as if you neither need nor deserve a professionally-designed website, that your writing is not good enough or the one that you have is ‘fine’, but remember, it is a worthy promotional tool and gives an impression, so it should be a good one. Whether you are releasing your first book or have already built up a fan base, a polished website can give an extra boost to potentially increase your chances of fantastic sales figures.

Websites for All
Not all writers necessarily produce books but this doesn’t mean that professionals such as journalists and short story writers can’t benefit from a personal web presence. It can be a great way to advertise your writing or editing services and you may even gain work from someone who has seen an example of your writing online. A simple email address, if prominently placed, can encourage enquiries that may even turn into a wonderful opportunity. And opportunity can’t knock if they can’t locate your details, can they?
Have you recently completed work or a manuscript that you are considering sending to agents and/or publishers?  WAIT!  Before you do, look into getting a professional website. Some agents admit to visiting websites of writers they will potentially represent, to find information and genuine impartial opinions of the author and their work. Consider placing the first chapter or a selection of your writing on your own website for visitors to sample and accept their reviews and comments. If your writing is good quality, the readers will acknowledge it as such. What better way to promote your hard work?
Self-published authors can really use the Internet to their advantage. Some companies that offer the self-publication of your work do just that; print your book and then may offer help with the listing of your work with various retail companies. If your book is represented by a publisher, they will have a well-researched routine for stocking your title in the major book shops and Internet sites; however, some self-publishing companies don’t offer the advantage of their experience and contacts. Whether you are fortunate to have this help or not, a website designer can help you achieve the possibility of greater exposure online and give you a chance to shine.

Get Blogging
As I said previously, a blog is a great addition to a website. You need a website to showcase your work and a blog or news reel will keep your readers interested in hearing what you are working on or have recently published. It can allow friendly and fun interaction between yourself and your ever-growing number of readers. Certain blog software that website designers use allows fans to ‘follow’ your posts and, if they like, comment on each entry. Now, consider the vast amount of bloggers and followers around the world. Each person can see what new blogs their friends are looking at and they will then easily be able to have a quick look at this recent addition. If your posts are intriguing and the design is as eye-catching as your website, they too may add you to their following list and you can achieve an ever-budding list of potential readers. And if you are fortunate enough, they may even mention your work in their own blog and create even more interest.
Despite the work, blogging doesn’t have to be a chore. If you choose a subject that interests you, such as your progress with writing or the struggles and solutions you come across, it can become a time of day that you really look forward to and enjoy more and more. Maybe you could blog at the end of every other day and record how many words you managed to write, how you overcame your fight to concentrate, or comical things that distracted and inspired you such as the postman that caught you in your dressing gown at noon because you were having such a flourishing morning of writing that you lost track of time! Then again, everybody blogs differently and you could blog weekly, daily, or whenever you have something new and exciting to tell. And remember, with every struggle or achievement you reach, your followers can sympathise, encourage and congratulate you along the way.
As well as promotion on your website, a blog can be another opportune place to display your work and get feedback. You could potentially increase your chances of publication by a phenomenal amount if the comments on the first chapter/poem or article that you posted on your website and matching blog are voiced enthusiastically and praised positively.  This also gives an agent or publisher a chance to see the amount of followers you have and these followers are all people who will potentially buy your published piece of work.
Social media has become a central tool to websites, and blogging, Tweeting, and posting on Facebook contained in your website keeps your pages looking fresh. This not only keeps your visitors interested, but it tells Google and other search engines that your website is regularly updated, benefiting your search engine optimism.

Show Me the Money
Owning an attractive website need not cost an arm and a leg or become time-consuming, but, as with writing, you should do your research. If you think you can’t afford a professionally-designed website, I certainly would not advise that you consider a cheap alternative company that offers plain templates. Unless you are an experienced website designer, it will show none of the character in your writing and once the content is in place within the template it can be very difficult to move, resize, and have what you want, where you want it. It can turn out to look like a site disaster and can do you more harm than good.
If cost really is an issue, contact a website designer and ask them what they can do with your budget. It can be daunting to justify the cost at first, but once you start the process, it can be a fun and enjoyable experience. They may be able to offer a discount for less pages or payment spread over an agreed time. But at the end of the day, at least you will have a website that is custom-designed to suit your work and style.
Website and graphic designer Aimee Fry ( has the experience of working with both authors and journalists, including Adele Geras, Mary Hooper, Judith Spelman and Terry White, amongst others, as well as partnering with publishers to offer in-house design to their published authors. They offer professional, bespoke designs at a very competitive rate. It can prove to be a great investment for any type of writer.
And remember, a website designer can offer much more than an attractive design – they can help your website get noticed and appear in keyword searches, help with social media, provide a management system to keep your website up-to-date, and install optimizing tools such as Google Analytics that you alone may not be au fait with! After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. I see a constant demand for posts like these.

    I too thought getting a website was a waste of time, considering I'm not even published, but I find it is now invaluable.

    I had NO idea how to create one but RapidWeaver for Mac was both beautiful and easy to use. I invite you to view mine and see what $79 and four hours did lol.

    As for blogging, I honestly thought it would be hell. But, as you said, you can write whatever you want to write about. Keep it true to your voice and taste, don't try to copy anyone, and if you only feel like writing a small paragraph then do just that (people will probably appreciate a shorter post anyway).

    I did talk to an agent and she agreed with what you posted. She mentioned she googles a prospect's name to see if they have been self/trad published before. She also looks up their website and blog, if any, and checks them out on Tweeter to view their following and whether they are actively tweeting.

    Thanks again for your excellent post Aimee (and Rebecca).