Friday, May 25, 2007

Writers and Websites

The following is the text to a talk I'm giving tomorrow to the California Writers' Club, Inland Empire Chapter.

Do I Need a Website?

Back when I was young and flippant, I informed my dental hygienist that I brushed twice a day and asked if it was really that important to floss my teeth also.

“Only if you want to keep them,” she replied without a missing a beat.

So it is with writers and websites. If you’re serious about writing for publication, it’s time for you to look into creating a presence on the internet.

I Googled Myself

In today’s marketplace smart people seeking information on a subject or person turn to the web. I just typed my byline Carolyn Burns Bass into Google and came back with hits filling the first four pages. Some of those hits are directly culled from my websites, but many of them links to book reviews I’ve published and responses that I’ve made on other people’s blogs and MySpace pages.

If an editor wanted to look deeper into my publishing history, it would not be hard to find more than enough information to prove that I am a serious writer, serious about being published.

You and Your Platform

Agents and editors banter around the word “platform.” In today’s publishing world, authors are packaged as commodities. It’s beyond genre, category, or voice. It’s about how the publisher can market the author along with the book.

A platform to the publisher/editor is a way to sell books. A platform to the author is a way to sell ideas.

A platform is not just the stage on which you stand to pitch your product, it’s the product itself. In the case of authors it’s more than just the book, but what drove the author to write it. It’s the backstory of the book, the story before the story and after the story ends. The author’s beliefs and passions are the foundation of his or her platform; what he or she would write about if they weren’t writers.
  • Martha O’Connor, author of the novel THE BITCH POSSE, uses her platform to raise public awareness about diabetes; her young son was diagnosed with type 1, juvenile diabetes while she was writing the novel.
  • Barry Eisler, author of the John Rain series of thrillers, has a CIA background and writes political views in his blog.
  • Tish Cohen, a self-described agoraphobic in the making, is author of the recently released TOWN HOUSE, a novel about an agoraphobic man’s struggle to live with is phobias. Tish has a “What’s Your Phobia” section on her website.
  • Good Girls Kill For Money Club is a blog written by a group of female mystery authors, reveal the mystery behind other authors with insightful questions and commentary.
  • LitPark, operated by Susan Henderson, former editor of Night Train magazine, and author of the upcoming, TAP ROOT, uses the metaphor of a playground for writers to answer questions of the week, read about upcoming new books and authors, and share personal anecdotes.
  • Ovations, my primary blog, espouses my platform in this log line: An ovation is rousing, prolonged applause. It's a display of public homage or welcome. More than enthusiastic hand-clapping, it's a way of rewarding hard work, showing gratitude, or offering praise. Ovations celebrates the unfinished script of life, where the earth is the stage and people are the stars.

Not only do these blogs promote the author’s platform and books, they can help other authors create an online presence and begin the foundation of their own platform. They invite you to join the conversation by leaving a comment. Your comments are forever logged to the world wide web and searchable to anyone around the globe.

Three Easy Ways to Build Your Platform
  1. Read blogs and comment frequently on your favorites.
  2. Begin your own blog or MySpace.MySpace is the easiest “website/blog in a package.”
  3. When you have something ready to sell, be it a novel, non-fiction proposal or finished manuscript, think about opening a website.

How to, Where to Blog

There are dozens of free blog hosts. If you want to add bells and whistles, such as running polls or surveys, you can pay some blog hosts for upgraded accounts. I host my primary blog at Bloggger, yet I also have a LiveJournal account that is cross linked to my Blogger account. I cross link, so that if I comment on a LiveJournal blog (my agent has a Live Journal blog), it includes my picture and a link back to me.

MySpace is not just for teenagers. It has the biggest tent of talent in the world wide circ us. Here you’ll find pages and pages of authors, news about their books, tours, special offers, and often a blog. I have a MySpace page filled with a wondrous variety of authors, artists, acrobats, and all kinds of people from around the world. These people, some who contacted me and other who’ve sounded interesting enough to me to contact them, are my “friends.” I have 493 friends.

Rather than list the plethora of free source websites and blogs, visit this site and then surf until you catch a site that looks easy or interesting to you.

If you don’t see anything that appeals to you there, just type in your search browser: blog hosts. You’ll get pages and pages of blog sites and offers.

Other Important or Helpful Sites for Writers

I have long been a supporter of Writer’s Digest’s annual survey and publication of its 101 Best Websites for Writers. Surf these links and enjoy the ride.

If you attend my talk, I'd love to hear your comments here. If you're a regular reader of Ovations, you're already blog saavy, but I'd still enjoy hearing from you.


Laura L. Mays Hoopes said...

Hi Carolyn,
Thanks, your talk was very helpful and interesting yesterday. I made a blog ( today and I'm having a problem. It has a connection to some 'atom' website below my blog entry, and I can't get it off. I can't even see it in the blog entry editor or the customize editor. Can you help?
thanks so much,
Laura Hoopes

RL Covington said...

Thanks for the information. It stirred within me a long held desire to have some type of web presence. I perhaps need some guidance on a good, user friendly, unexpensive way to get a web page up and running and the form it may take. Also, I have meager credits at this point, and I am encouraged to keep working and pouring my stuff out to poetry houses to produce more credits and at least get a Chap Book published for now.
Cheers and thanks again.
Bob Covington