Friday, January 31, 2020

Should Author Websites Be For Readers Or Other Writers?

Photo Courtesy of VisualHunt

In my last post, I promised to explain what I would do with all those author names I’ve been collecting in preparation for building my author platform. Unfortunately, the gastrointestinal illness that swept through our house, along with a bit of procrastination on my part, put an end to that promise. So in the meantime, I’d like to respond to a few of the comments I received in that previous post. 

A few of you mentioned that since I have this blog, I already had an author platform. In one sense, you’re correct. I’ve posted on this blog off and on for the past seven years and, in the process, have made many new writer friends. I learned so much about the writing process over that time, I can scarcely believe I’m the same person who first began writing Hogwarts fan fiction ten years ago. So yes, this blog is a great platform for connecting with other writers. 

Unfortunately, it’s not such a good platform for connecting with readers. 

Reason #1. The purpose of an author website is to give your readers a chance to come and meet you as a person. They don’t want to hear about the trials and tribulations of learning how to write, or read about the intricacies of book marketing. They want to learn about an author’s books, his likes and dislikes, and what he’s currently doing. 

Reason #2. I have all sorts of plans for my author website, and there’s no way I can do those kinds of things on Blogger. 

Reason #3. Although I love the title of this blog, it doesn’t seem terribly professional for my author website to be named after another author’s IP. 

My current solution is to keep this website going, along with having a dedicated author website. It’s not that I’m excited about running two different websites—especially when I haven’t been terribly rigorous about posting here as of late—but I think it’s the best way to go for now. I may eventually merge the two once I become more established as a writer, but in the meantime, I think keeping two separate websites is best. 

Is it possible for a writer to have a single website that caters to both readers and other writers? Of course, it is. (I’m looking at you, Elizabeth Spann Craig) But until I understand what my author platform should look like, I think I’ll keep my options open.

Until next time...


Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Road To Publishing – Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts chronicling my journey to publication.

Photo courtesy of Visual Hunt

“So much to do. So much to learn.” 

Okay, I finished the first draft of my debut urban fantasy last month. I’m pretty much done, right? All I have to do is polish up the manuscript, have it edited, and then upload it to Amazon. The champagne is cooling even as I type.

Hold on, not so fast. According to everything I’ve read, I should have been working on my author platform long before now. I should already have an author website, an email list, and a tribe of followers on social media. I should have already begun connecting with other authors in my genre. I should already have a small, yet rabid, group of superfans.

The sad truth is, I don't have any of those things. (Hangs head in shame) My focus the last few years has been on finishing my book, not worrying about how I would sell it. Luckily for me, I’m a slow writer, which means I still have plenty of time to accomplish these things before my book comes out.

But where do I begin? I know I need a dedicated author website, but what should it look like? How often should I send out newsletters, and what should they contain? Which social media platforms should I focus on? What should I put into my automated email welcoming sequence? I’ve spent the last two years researching all this book marketing stuff, but there’s a big difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. In the end, I have to decide which approach works best for me. So, with all the aforementioned questions, what should be  my very first step in my grand plan to conquer the book-reading universe?

Build a list of comp authors.

Not what you were expecting, was it? Think about it. If I want to evaluate the various techniques for building an author platform, what better way is there than studying how other authors go about it? Having a list of authors will allow me to:
  • Compare their websites
  • See how they engage with their readers
  • Discover what social media platforms work for them
  • Find out which editors and cover designers they recommend
  • Lots of other things I haven't even thought of yet.

So how am I compiling this list? 

Step 1. Find 20-30 authors in my genre, urban fantasy. I'll want a nice mix of A-listers, B-listers, as well as authors who are just starting out. Each group has different strengths. Finding them is easy. I read urban fantasy, so I already know seven or eight names of authors whose books I enjoy. By entering their names on Amazon, I can peruse their “also bought” lists and find more authors. This shouldn't take more than an hour.

Step 2. It’s important to find authors outside my sub-genre, too. In my case, there's epic fantasy, magical realism, dark fantasy, etc. Do their platforms differ from urban fantasy authors? If so, how? And I don’t want to forget science fiction authors either. My story weaves in some science along with the fantasy elements, so finding authors that mix fantasy and science is a must.

Once I have all these names, what am I going to do with them? I’ll tell you next time.


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Insecure Writer and Stepping Into the Publishing Arena

Today is January's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

It’s the start of a new year, which also marks the beginning of my roller-coaster ride of becoming published.

Last year, my goals were to finish uploading my Hogwarts fanfiction to Wattpad, complete the first draft of my urban fantasy, and begin making contact (once a week) with other authors in the fantasy and science fiction genres. 

As you might expect, the results were mixed—mostly due to events beyond my control. 

Back in February, I was downsized by my company, causing major disruptions both to my family and my writing.  The edits to my fanfiction ground to a halt, as did my plans to connect with other authors. Needless to say, searching for another job can be kind of time-consuming.  

I'm happy to say things have finally settled down. The job market in my area is not good, at least in my area of expertise, but I eventually settled into tutoring chemistry online. It doesn’t pay nearly as well, but we have enough savings to keep us afloat, so all is good. And in a classic “lemons to lemonade” bit of self-delusion, I took all this as a sign that I should become more of a full-time writer. 
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Hey, at least I finished the first draft of my WIP. Woohoo!

So, now it's time to get my butt into gear and buckle down for the real work of publishing my story. Editing the book, formatting it, uploading it to Amazon, and then marketing the darn thing isn’t going to happen by itself. So here are my 2020 goals.

  • Publish my urban fantasy.
  • Make significant headway on the sequel.
  • Connect with other authors in my genre.
  • Build an author website.
  • Post on this blog (the one you’re reading now) on a regular schedule again.

The original goal of this blog was to chronicle my journey as a writer. Although that journey will never really end—there’s always more to learn—my focus has changed over the past few years. These days, I’m more interested in the marketing side of things. For this reason, this blog will now be concerned with chronicling my journey to becoming a published author. I’ll still have the occasional post on the craft of writing, but mostly it’ll be about the trials and tribulations of publishing. 

I’ve done tons of research into topics like reader outreach, marketing, and publishing, but to be honest, these are just abstract concepts floating around my head. It’s figuring out what to do on a day-to-day process that I have to figure out now.

I’ll keep you updated. 


P.S. This month's question asks what started me on my writing journey. Just consider the name of this blog and you'll have the answer.