YOUR PROFESSIONAL WEBSITE
By Linda Adams
You've just decided to put up a website to promote yourself
as a writer. Obviously, you want to
make it look the best you can, but you don't have a lot of web design
experience. What should you do?
Start by thinking of it as a professional business site, not
a personal site. It is marketing
you as the writer, so you want to make the best impression. After all, you don't submit a manuscript to an editor with
coffee stains, ripped pages, or in the wrong format.
The same applies to your website. Show
them your best.
Okay, you may not want to spend $25 a month on a paid host.
Especially since free sites are still available.
Let's look at what the free sites offer.
Advertising on every page, some of the ads blinking incessantly ... popup
ads that are equally annoying. Such
annoyances on the free sites damage your professional image as much as a
Worse still are the problems that can come with the free
sites. How about that time the
server crashed for two weeks, and you had to recreate all the files because they
were lost? Or the time the site
shut down because your site exceeded the bandwidth?
Is that the image you want to present to a potential agent
for your work? Professionalism
counts. If a website is worth
doing, it is worth doing well. Yes,
it will cost money for your own site. But
the message it sends is invaluable. It
says you are serious and committed to your writing.
My co-author had strong doubts about our site until he saw what I did,
and now he's my biggest fan.
You'll need to carefully plan the content layout.
All the pretty graphics in the world aren't going to help if you have
three pages of fluff and ten pages under construction.
One site for a professional organization had nearly thirty links under
construction--and the site had been up for a year.
That wastes the time of the visitors, and they won't come back.
The main page is the most important.
It is the first impression your visitors have of you.
Many people try to write some kind of introduction to their site or
themselves. This actually defuses
the impact your site because it tells instead of shows.
Instead, you want to show them what you are.
List a few of the highlights on the site you feel may interest them.
Of course you should have a publication news section, but it should be
relatively unobtrusive and not the focus of the entire page.
You can have a link to an internal page containing more details.
just published your e-book and you want to promote it. Shouldn't it be really, really big so everyone knows you've
Ah, but you're doing a professional site.
You're not bragging to the world "I've been published!"
You're marketing yourself, and it is, quite simply, classier to keep it
subtle and professional. This gives
you a quiet suavity most sales sites will never have.
But before highlighting your e-book, think of your bigger
purpose. If all you want to do is
sell one e-book, then that should be the focus of your site.
But if your writing career goal is mainstream, you need to be attractive
to the primary publishing houses and your readers.
Until e-books make big money, emphasizing you e-book decreases your
attractiveness to the publishing houses. Think
of what's important to you: fringe publishing or the money that comes with a
Your general content should include a biography and writing
credits if you have any. As samples
of your writing, you might want to have writing tips, articles on your expertise
in your hobbies, or other material related to the subjects in your books.
This can help build your credibility as an expert.
Your novel? Save that to
submit to an agent or publisher. Professional
writers know that publishers don't troll the Internet, searching for the next
bestseller. Especially not when
they receive thousands of manuscripts in the mail each day!
When would they have time?
Now that you have some basic text to work with, you'll want
to add graphics to make your site more attractive. The Internet is a very visually based medium, and visitors
expect to see some graphics on your page. But
before you start using graphics, remember the following:
Less is more. A few well-chosen graphics will go a long way.
Ideally, your total page graphics should be no more than 25
kilobytes. A common problem with
graphics is that people think scaling down the graphic to a smaller size changes
the file size. A 1.4 megabyte photo
will still be 1.4 megabytes whether it's 8x10 or 5x7.
Which means it may take five minutes for your page to load.
Thirty seconds is too long, so five minutes is really out of the
question. A good graphics program
will help you reduce the file size to something more Internet friendly.
Insert several appropriate images on each page.
Keep them small and simple so they are not visually screaming at the
visitor. Animated images and Java
applets immediately draw the eye to the image and away from the content.
Is it really necessary to have a fly follow around the cursor? It might look neat--for about fifteen seconds.
Then it gets annoying. And
it always looks immature--not the image you want to leave with a publisher.
Your graphics should complement and accentuate the content, not overwhelm
For the page background, use a simple color, preferably
white. If you look at a few
corporate websites, you'll see they stick with a standard white and add emphasis
with color using graphics and text.
not use an image for a background? What's
wrong with that? Simply this: it
distracts the visitor from your content. A simple white background sets up the expectation that you
are professional writer. Remember
what your goal is: to market yourself. What's
the first impression you want to visitors to have--what a pretty (or worse,
busy) background or what can this writer do?
It's not hard to build a website. Anyone can do it. But
it is hard to build a website that goes beyond the basics to be an effective
marketing tool for your writing. Take
the time to do it right, and you will leave a very good impression with agents
Linda Adams maintains a professional website for actor David
Hedison. She has been published
in the anthology "Let Us Not Forget," a tribute to American
veterans, and is currently co-writing a women's Civil War thriller. Website: http://www.hackman-adams.com.