Let’s say you send a query letter to a magazine or a book proposal to an agent. She reads it through and feels there’s potential—it looks like there’s a match between you and her publication or agency. What’s the next thing she’s going to do, most likely?
She’s going to type your name into a search engine and then click around the links that come up. “Let’s see what we can find out about this writer…”
What will she turn up? Maybe some articles you submitted to an online organization? Comments you left at someone’s blog? Your Facebook and Google+ profiles? Maybe the race results from a 5K Turkey Trot you ran last Thanksgiving?
Is that it? Is that all she’s going to find?
If so, you may need to set up a permanent residence. Your virtual home.
If you’re a writer working on building a writing platform, you need a website.
Help Industry Professionals Find You
When you secure your own little plot of online real estate, an editor at a publishing house or literary journal can type your name into a search engine and find articles and “About” information that you compose, that you want him to see, that represents you well, that reflects your personality as a writer.
Your author website is presented in your voice and features ideas, stories, and topics you tend to write about along with samples of your work—everything you publish there serves as an online portfolio.
It’s the hub of your writing platform. The foundation.
Other platform efforts may be super-fruitful, but you still need to have one space where you control your image and content.
Help Readers Find You
Of course, it’s not just industry professionals who may search for you. Don’t forget readers.
Who are you trying to reach? What do you write, and who would read your work if you could just get it into their hands? Again, you want to establish yourself online with the kind of content that will draw those people and help them find you and your work.
Imagine if they were to find in a magazine’s archives a story you wrote. It intrigues them, and they search for your name. If they find nothing else about you, that’s a missed opportunity. You could have made a connection with readers, invited them into your space, and welcomed them.
All the other places you might start making friends online—on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter—they all offer various strengths and opportunities to connect. But to help people really get to know you as a writer, think about inviting them over to your place for a visit.
A Website That Reflects You and Your Work
Your website doesn’t have to be fancy with lots of bells and whistles—not at all. It can be simple. At the very least, you want a clean space that doesn’t mislead people about the kind of writer you are and the kind of writing you produce.
If you write thrillers, you probably don’t want a lot of white space with flowers in the header. If you write reflective, serious creative nonfiction, you probably don’t want a hand-drawn comic strip like The Oatmeal featured front and center on your home page.
And you want a way to get content out there from time to time, even if you aren’t regularly blogging.
A Simple, Flexible Online Home
You can set up a self-hosted website, which will require a monthly fee, but if resources are limited, don’t wait. With all the free and inexpensive website options out there, there’s no need to be a wandering troubadour with no permanent residence.
Come up with a basic idea of how you want to present yourself to the world, and find a simple template that will allow you to create some content—pages people can click on to get to know you, and maybe a blog feature that allows you to write and publish your own content.
Just get started and soon you’ll see what you’d like to add or remove. Your “permanent” residence online is not really all that permanent—on your website, you can knock out walls and reorganize any time you wish.
The Wandering Troubadour Needs a Place to Call Home
Troubadours rarely had homes of their own and instead traveled widely, taking stories and poetry out to the world.
We may have opportunities to be modern-day, virtual troubadours, writing guest posts and articles that are published elsewhere; speaking at events or being interviewed on podcasts; publishing books that are distributed in bookstores and through online avenues like Amazon; penning poetry, short stories, and essays accepted for publication in literary journals. Going out into the world like that is another platform-building opportunity for you that we can talk about in another episode.
But I feel it’s foundational to set up a virtual, or digital, home base: a writing space of your own, where people come to you—even if they first meet you while you’re out and about as a wandering troubadour. Your online home doesn’t have to be the fanciest house on the block; it just needs to be easy to navigate and easy to understand.
You need an author website.
At your website, you can provide the link to the essay contest you won, or to the article you landed in a regional travel magazine, or to the book you independently published.
You could ask visitors some questions or give them a little gift that reflects something about you or the work you do, not unlike serving someone a cup of tea and a slice of coffee cake if he dropped by your house one afternoon.
Your Writing Platform Starts with Building a Home
Building your writing platform doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. Start with creating a home base, a permanent residence—an author website with your name attached to it, so you’re easy to find.
Gradually increase your presence there with content related to your genre, themes, or “brand,” if you will, so when readers and publishing industry gatekeepers Google your name, they find you—and like what they see.
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- Fistbump Media: “Are you launching a new blog website? Or is it time for some freshening up of your existing one? Either way, we have affordable plans to help you get just the right look for your site.”
- Hostgator: “HostGator provides every customer with the necessary tools to get a fully-functional website up and running as quickly as possible.”
- WordPress.com: “Create a free website or easily build a blog on WordPress.com.”
- Wix: “Wix unites beauty and advanced technology to create your stunning website. It’s easy and free.”
- The Basic Components of an Author Website (Jane Friedman)
- Your Writing Platform episode collection
Building a platform sounds overwhelming, exhausting. Where do you even start?
Join us in Your Platform Matters!