When I tell writers it’s mandatory they have a website, those who are unpublished will immediately ask, “But what do I say on my website if I’m unpublished?”
I’ll answer that question in a moment, but this question assumes that there’s no benefit to having a site unless it’s to market, promote, and sell a book. But there are several good reasons to start a site even if you’re not yet established.
- Get over the learning curve. While it’s easy nowadays to get a full-fledged site up and running in 24 hours, even with your own domain name (through services such as WordPress.com), you still need to learn new systems and become accustomed to new tools. Don’t wait to start this process until the day you need a site. Educate yourself in advance. Start building a simple site today so you can have a killer site when it’s most important to you. Here’s an example of a simple and effective site by an emerging writer.
- Build awareness. In marketing communications, you have to distinguish between goals that are to (a) make a sale and (b) build awareness. At least half of the advertising you see is meant to build awareness rather than make a sale. Why? Because we’re more likely to buy a product we’ve been hearing about—assuming a positive impression has been formed. Having a site (and participating in social media) helps build awareness of who you are and what you do. As positive impressions collect, it’s an investment in your future success as an author or provider of services.
- Open up opportunities. You never know who might visit or stumble on your site. You never know who’s listening. You never know who’s searching. When I had my own website that wasn’t connected to my employer, many more opportunities opened up because it was clear how people could contact me, what I could offer, and who I was already offering it to.
I consider items 2 and 3 to be gravy. No. 1 is the biggest deal; get comfortable with the tools before you get into the serious work.
So, what do you say on your site if you’re unpublished?
- Keep it simple. You might need only 1-2 pages on your site, your welcome/summary page, and another for an extended bio. Your site should link to your other social profiles online (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc).
- Don’t belabor your unpublished status. You deserve to have a site if you’re unpublished; it helps indicate your seriousness about your career. But you don’t need to explain, at length, your journey to get published or your attempts to find an agent. Briefly describe the type of writing work you do, and leave it at that.
- If you do have credits, list them. They don’t have to be major credits. Local and regional publications count, as do blog posts and online articles. Link to anything that’s available to read online.
- You don’t have to blog. If you are interested in blogging, here’s my 101 advice (in PDF form).
- Include contact info or a contact form. A good head shot is nice, too.
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.