3 Reasons to Have a Website If You’re Unpublished

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When I tell writers it’s mandatory they have a website, those who are unpublished will immediately ask, “But what do I say on my website if I’m unpublished?”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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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So, what do you say on your site if you’re unpublished?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  • Don’t belabor your unpublished status. You deserve to have a site if you’re unpublished; it helps indicate your seriousness about your career.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.
Still have questions about the benefit of a site or what should be included on it? Ask in the comments! Resource: Check out my May 2011 newsletter on One-Step Website tools! 
Posted in Digital Media, Marketing & Promotion.
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

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 co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

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. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (March 2018).

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.

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66 Comments on "3 Reasons to Have a Website If You’re Unpublished"

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Cynthia Morris
Jane,  I get the value of having a web site for your book. I’m nearly decided on this but wanted to see what you think.  I’ve got my web site for my business, Original Impulse. It’s dedicated to coaching writers to start and finish their projects.  I’m thinking to have the web site for my novel Chasing Sylvia Beach embedded in this site. A tab at the top of OI will lead to the ‘home’ page for CSB with several other tabs there – for events, media kits, etc.  It will look slightly different but will be hosted on the… Read more »
Florence Fois

Do think the same applies to unpublished writers who have had blogs up and running for any length of time?  Thanks Jane, your posts are always informative.

Anittah Patrick

If you want your site to be more visible to Google, consider having at least 13 pages. (Blog posts count!)

MamaSim

Hi Anittah, does that mean each blog post counts as a page?

Anittah Patrick

 The quick answer is “yes”. The more comprehensive answer is “it depends”. The reason it depends is based on your index  / no index settings as it relates to tags and categories.

But basically: yes. To a search engine, each post is a distinct page, so long as it has a unique URL. 🙂

Anonymous
This is an awesome post, Jane!  When I started out on my writing journey; I had no idea where to began. I knew that I wanted to eventually write a book, but where to even begin making myself known as a credited writer.  So one of the first things I was certain of was that I had to get my name out there in order for people to know what my intentions were.  It made perfect sense for me to have a website up and running before I actually got published. That’s the main reason I started Releasing Me Today.… Read more »
Karen Lenfestey

Jane, I was guilty of not putting in much time building a website. Then one day the newspaper which interviewed me for an article about e-publishing asked for my web address. I thought “If the paper is going to publish my web address, I should have one!” Thanks to weebly.com I could easily put together a professional site in a short amount of time. Each day I thought of more things to add to it, too. So, it can’t hurt to start early.

Hopeperlman

Jane, 
As always, your post is incredibly helpful. I’ve been thinking about having a website. I’ve already been blogging for several months on my topic.

My question is really an “I’m confused.”  I’m on blogger, but wondering if I should switch to WordPress. I’m also confused whether WordPress can be the holder of my domain name, or if I need to go to Go Daddy or another place like that, set up a website, and then link my blog to it.

I apologize if you’ve answered this before. I just don’t quite get it. 

Carolyn Branch

You convinced me quite some time ago. I bought my name and set up a site. At first, it was awkward, but now I enjoy blogging and look forward to sharing book reviews and helpful sites I find.  It may not ever help me in a business way, but I’m glad I did it, just as I always am when I follow your good advice!  Thank you!   http://carolynpaulbranch.com

Diana Flegal

Great advise Thank you again Jane for being a great source of information. 

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Patricia Gligor

Jane,
I started my writers forum (a blog for writers and readers of mystery novels) several months ago. I post regularly and interact online every day. I also belong to a writing/marketing group. I’m unpublished to date. My question is: Do I need a website in addition to my blog now or can that wait until I’m published?

Maureen Crisp
Hi, I started my blog as I was told I needed a web presence now that I was published…. I created a book blog website that linked from my weekly blog…and then proceeded to learn about blogging…Three years on and I have a weekly roundup of publishing tips and trends…for writers in my country. I have learned a huge amount from following people like Jane (whom I often refer to as the Great Jane!) At the moment I am in the process of creating a website for an ebook project which will be linked again from my weekly blog…which I… Read more »
Kathleen
Hi Jane I love the way you’ve distilled domains/websites/blogging sites and the need for an online presence into a post that is easy to follow/understand. I know from personal experience as a WordPress website designer that this can be very hard to explain all the differences.  Rita Ashley forwarded your post to me and I’m so glad she did. Can I mention that I am running my annual WordPress Website Giveaway? It’s a fully loaded website on the wordpress.org platform with static pages, a blog, optimized with social media icons, analytics and all the other website requirements.  Normally I donate… Read more »
Darla McDavid

Hi, Jane,

I created a writer’s blog a few months ago as a way to restart my writing life. I’m unpublished and new to this, but I’m using the blog/website to dig into the world of writing. Your advice here means a lot to me because it seems to show that I’m on the right track. Thanks!

Jane Bretl
Jane, Well, this emerging writer owes everything in her blog-world to you, for the inspiration and information received during one of your writing workshops.  Before I heard you speak, I had never even read a blog; several weeks later, I was off and running, laying the foundation for a new career.  When I started blogging, I started writing the outline for the next chapter in my life, because as I sit here at the keyboard, almost exactly three years later, that is what has happened.  You are a continual source of valuable writing advice, publishing encouragement, and focus on what… Read more »
cast29

Enjoyed this post, Jane, and checked out Jane Bretl’s site.   Thanks for the link.

I’ve been thinking about establishing a website, and have been researching info, so this is timely for me.  I’ve been blogging for a few years, learning and writing, and all of that time I’ve followed your blogs and newsletters.  I keep coming back for more.

It’s on my to-do list for early 2012.  Thanks for the motivation.

DG Hudson Blogs
http://dghudson-rainwriting.blogspot.com/ 
http://dghudson.blogspot.com/

Darrelyn Saloom

Wonderful advice with a great example from the lovely Jane Bretl. 

Glenda Parker

thank you for the great post. It was a lot of help to me. I am unpublished and I am doing all that I am learning. I appreciate all the sound advice.

Glenda Parker
http://glendaparkerfictionwriter.blogspot.com

CaroleRNBSN
Hi Ms. Friedman, Thank you for this timely post, and valuable advice. My blog relates to health information/education, and contains excerpts from my memoir-in-progress. Is it ok for me to post a link to another article, as long as I give credit to the author, and acknowledge the copywrite? Here’s an example:  http://healthapotamus.blogspot.com/2011/11/how-to-eat-elephant.html I don’t want to be guilty of “stealing” someone else’s work, but in my opinion I have given the original author credit enough that others would want to visit his site.In addition to all the tips from you and some of your commenters, here’s one that can… Read more »
Shari Lopatin
Jane, I couldn’t agree more! I started my blog about a year ago (you were my FIRST expert Q&A … THANK YOU!). I started it to gain an audience as a writer. But what I’ve garnered from it (besides the audience) is serious new media experience. In fact, I’ve obtained so much experience, I’ve become the “social media expert” at my 9-5 salaried job, even according to my company’s leadership! It’s great because now I can bring a lot to the table professionally. I even taught an intern some stuff she didn’t know–and she’s a student at UCLA. I’ve become a… Read more »
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[…] But I do recommend every writer have a website, and using WordPress or Blogger is a good way to do that for free and still conquer the learning curve. (See my post here.) […]

Atiya Townes

Funny I should stumble across this a day after I had the same genius idea for my upcoming book. Would you recommend putting up short stories AND character developments? I only ask because when ever I get stuck on a page I immediately go to a back story about a certain character.

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whoopsie

Hi and thanks for the post.
One question though. Do you think it’s prudent to publish a chapter as a post? I think if people stumble across my blog they might like a sample of what I’m writing but my fear is that I’ll be ripped off as I’ve been plagiarised in the past. Am I worried about nothing?

Kausar Bilal

Wow! a very encouraging and useful article for me as I have recently started blogging in the context of Pakistani woman. Hope the details hidden in links will help me a lot!

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[…] Should you start a site if you’re unpublished? I say yes, because you don’t want to tackle that learning curve at the moment you actually need the site. You’ll need and want the time to get comfortable with how you update the site and how it behaves—not to mention you’ll likely learn how to better structure and organize your site based on feedback. A website is never finished—it is a work in progress. Hopefully this is good news rather than bad. For more, read my earlier post, 3 Reasons to Have a Website If You’re Unpublished. […]

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[…] Lit Agent Janet Friedman lists three specific reasons why it’s good to have an author website even if you’re unpublished. […]

Angelabsurdist

This makes sense to me. Thank you. I will be following you on Twitter.

James Tilton

Thanks so much for this post! I used your suggestions while creating my website: jamesmtilton.com. I’d love for your to check it out. Either way, thank you for the helpful tips!

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[…] about whether an unpublished author needed a website, I came across this article by Jane Friedman, 3 Reasons to Have a Website If You’re Unpublished.  She is a must to follow for future writers. I have spent many a time, reading through her […]

Penelope Grace

This is such great advice! I wish I read this article earlier. My co-author and I would definitely be interested in taking your advice to heart, but we have been online for… Eh… I think we still have time to change.

R&R

Hi Jane,
Your website is very informative! So, I just finish my novel- MG, and as I have 13 drawings, and also a book cover, I though I could have them on the website.( I don’t have one yet) Is that something I should consider? How about the first chapter? Wondering…..

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