As a writer, I’m lucky because I’ve also spent time in the web design community, so I know just how important a website is in creating a brand, an identity. Writers who have agents, and writers who expect they’ll be able to land an agent, need to start thinking about it now.
I’ve been running this web site and blog for a year, and I’ll admit that even launching it was audacious. I get that. When richardlevangie.com went live last April, I was still four months away from finishing my first draft of a middle reader.
So I’m not technically an author. In fact, I only planned to start submitting my work — a middle-reader mystery — to literary agents in December, after my fourth draft was finished. But as a journalist, with a long list of magazine and newspaper credits, I believed my chances were better than most, so I planned ahead.
Let’s lay the groundwork. If you’re just starting out, and haven’t published a word, then you have loads of time. If you’re skilled, but haven’t yet written your novel, or you haven’t yet polished it until it shines, you have time.
But if you’re looking for an agent, or agents are reading your manuscript, then you’d better get with the program. I’ve slowly been immersing myself in the world of publishing, and I’ve been shocked at how cavalier so many published authors — and, to be honest, agents — are about their online identities. It’s as though their web presence is an afterthought. An author will throw his website together three weeks before the book hits the stores, and it looks like it.
If you want to be a professional writer, you have to act like one, and it begins with creating a professional website that won’t hurt your book sales.
That means that you need to hire a professional web designer.
Technology is a wonderful thing, and it’s possible to buy software that will allow you to build a website with a minimum of fuss. On the Mac side, programs like iWeb and Rapidweaver can really make short work of the process, and I’m sure Windows users have a legion of choice, too. You can also find web-building platforms offered by the biggest web hosts.
And that’s fine. If you’re planning to create a personal site for family and friends.
But the moment that you want to create a professional site for a professional business — and, as an author, you need to be an artist and a entrepreneur — you need someone who knows what they are doing.
I know enough about web design to be considered dangerous. By that, I mean that I trust myself to create simple, elegant websites that hold together, but I quickly get in over my head when I reach outside my comfort zone. I’ve worked really hard to get as good as I am, and I know that most potential clients would be better off finding another designer to create their site.
It’s a multistep process. Websites need to look pretty, and have a tight, compliant structure, but they also need to communicate, to help introduce you to people who may want to buy your books should you be blessed with a publishing contract.
In this series, I plan to talk about websites and authors. I don’t have all the answers, by any stretch, but you’ll get a better understanding of the issues involved, and you’ll be able to ask good questions that your web designer must be able to answer. In addition, if your website isn’t working for your professional career as a writer, I may be able to help you figure out why not.
It’s going to be a good series. If you’re a writer, you shouldn’t miss it.
Look for it every Monday or Tuesday for the next several weeks.