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Website for Unpublished Author?

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Give me the real hard truth here. Is it worth the expense and time to create an author's site before I've been published? I have an agent and we are shopping around two manuscripts, but we are still in the early stages. Do you typically wait until if/when you are published or have a publishing contract?

In that same vein, do you have any favorite first-time or still-new author websites you can recommend? All the sites I've seen are for established authors, with several books out in the world.

Thank you!
#1 - May 08, 2018, 10:27 AM

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I started a website before I was/am published. I did it to show prospective agents that I had a web presence and social media didn't "scare me". LOL. You can do websites really inexpensively, at least for very simple ones. Domain names are about $10 a year, and many hosting sites offer inexpensive "templates" for less than a hundred dollars a year. Some are free.

But, you have an agent, so maybe it doesn't matter if you wait to have one until you have a book. Does your agent have an opinion?

I swear there was a discussion years ago with "pre-published" authors shared their websites. You might have to dig in the back pages of this board to find it. But you are welcome to look at mine - I don't have any books but I have a few magazines published that I decided to highlight on one of my tabs. It's www.debrashumaker.com.

Which reminds me, I should probably take a look and do a few updates to it!
#2 - May 08, 2018, 12:00 PM

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Give me the real hard truth here. Is it worth the expense and time to create an author's site before I've been published?

It might be. I've recently heard of a case where a Big 5 editor wanted someone to have a website before the manuscript went to acquisitions.

But you don't have to go to much expense, and I'd be surprised if much was required besides a landing page. I know a sizable group of first-time authors, and they virtually all went with one of two options: Wix or Squarespace. When it came to getting something up fast that was clean and easy to navigate, Wordpress was passed over due to less ease of use.
#3 - May 08, 2018, 01:13 PM
Adventures of Jenna V. Series
Caroline Grade Mysteries
The Journey of Emilie
Anne Bradstreet: America's Puritan Poet
www.marciahoehne.com

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As above. You can include a page about you - relevant work history, interests, etc. If you have other publishing credits, such as articles and short stories, you could include them on a Publications page. Just some ideas!
#4 - May 08, 2018, 03:39 PM
I've Got Eyes! - Amicus Ink (August 2018)

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I've been looking into Wix, and they have a store app, as well. I don't know how that would work with traditional publishing (as I'm looking at self-publishing and also selling photographs), but it might have ways for you to showcase your books regardless.
#5 - May 08, 2018, 03:47 PM
Robin
Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BSR6CPJ/

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Thanks to you all! My agent doesn't yet have an opinion about it (I haven't asked her yet and probably should)! I have a Wordpress blog site and find it hard to use, mainly because I don't update it very often and forget how to do things (really not my forte). But it sounds like you're saying Wix or Squarespace are even easier to use, which would be amazing.

Do you have any favorite sites you can recommend so I can gather some ideas? My day job is not at all related to what I write and I don't have any previous related publications (I'm a lawyer, so most of my publicly available writing is not children or picture book friendly).
#6 - May 08, 2018, 06:27 PM

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You don't have to go to a lot of expense. You can use many free platforms like Blogger. You don't have to blog. You can just have a couple of static pages about yourself and what you write. Hobbies, pets. Pictures help.

I started a website many years ago when 2 magazine editors told me I needed to have one so that they could send people someplace to look at my work. I was pulling my hair out doing everything from scratch but it was worth it because I learned a lot and it brought more work. A few years later, I started blogging. Since I enjoyed it very much I stopped paying for hosting a couple of years ago. I just use the Blogger platform. It's easy to use (no pulling hair out) and free.

Good luck!
#7 - May 08, 2018, 06:30 PM
TEN EASTER EGGS (Cartwheel/Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces

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Two of my favorites:
https://carolinestarrrose.com/ -- multi-published, agented, uses WP
http://faithehough.blogspot.com/ -- unpublished, unagented, uses Blogger, but you can see the range of her talents
#8 - May 08, 2018, 06:36 PM
TEN EASTER EGGS (Cartwheel/Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces

Hi Autora,

I believe it'll be worth it.  :yup So editors and readers (or anyone who's curious about you) have a "home" to visit and learn about you. Social media platforms are scattered everywhere and we post about almost everything we like -- films, food, ideas, books etc. But for a website, it's focused. Focused on you and your children's lit taste.

Some questions to help you start off:

- Who are your ideal visitors? -- Editors? Readers? Fellow kidlit authors?

- What do you want to give or share with them? An insight on the children's books you like? Your personal kidlit journey (why you're pursuing this)? Etc.

- I agree with having at least an "About Me" page, a Home page, and a "Contact Me" page (very simple form linked to your email. You never know who in the industry might contact you once you get published).

I'd suggest starting simple. 2-3 pages are good enough for now. You can always build later on!
#9 - May 09, 2018, 12:39 AM
Writing & Illustrating Quietly Bold Kidlit

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In what seems like ancient history now, (maybe six or seven years ago  :confused2) a few folks on these boards mentioned that the function of a website for yet-to-be-published writers was either a place holder for future content or an internet presence that showed prospective agents/editors that you are not a loon or someone they should avoid. I thought that was funny. (Well, kind of)

I don't know what the function is now, and it certainly is not necessary. But, like all the posts above said, it is probably a good idea providing you do it with taste and indeed know for whom you are putting it out there. (Full disclosure: I didn't until I had my first contract and at a publisher's urging.)
#10 - May 09, 2018, 01:24 PM
THE VOICE OF THUNDER, WiDo Publishing Aug 2012
THERE'S A TURKEY AT THE DOOR, Hometown520 July 2011

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http://mirkabreen.BlogSpot.com

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I do think, minimally, if your name as a domain name is available, it makes sense to buy it "before you become famous." LOL. It's nice to use your author name as your website so you are easy to find. Someone said they have heard of people who try to make $ off of domain names by scanning "deals" sights and buying names of people who they thing would want websites and then ask for a high price to "sell the domain name back." I have a hard time believing that's true, but in this day and age, nothing really should surprise me anymore.
#11 - May 09, 2018, 01:39 PM

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it certainly is not necessary.

But in the eyes of a publisher looking to acquire, it might be. Hopefully, those who don't yet have a site will be tipped off by any interested editor to put one up if they know it will help their bosses be receptive in the acquisitions process.  I learned of such a situation with a major publisher just this past week.

In a case like this, I'm not sure you have to decide who your audience is before you put up a simple site. Later, when you want more pages, you might add one for writers, one about your speaking gigs, one directly aimed at readers, one with publicity stuff, etc.  But when the object is to put up an "I'm a writer" landing page, a bio, and a contact page, I don't know if there's need or time for a lot of audience analysis.

And dkshumaker is right. Buy the domain name. Usually either yourname.com or yournamebooks.com is a good choice. Anyone with a common name may find it's already taken and may have to -- or want to -- add "books," "writer" or something like that to their name. I know someone whose domain name is namewriter.com, because her real name also belongs to a porn star.   :aah
#12 - May 09, 2018, 01:43 PM
Adventures of Jenna V. Series
Caroline Grade Mysteries
The Journey of Emilie
Anne Bradstreet: America's Puritan Poet
www.marciahoehne.com

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Thank you all for the very helpful advice and musings! Looks like I have some good website-creation in my near future...
#13 - May 09, 2018, 06:14 PM

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This is an interesting topic to me, and I definitely think it's an individual decision. I asked my agent this exact question several years ago. He said he didn't believe it was that important. He thought that I should create a web page once I had a book deal. I was happy with his answer because I didn't have any desire or interest in creating a page.

I now have a publishing deal, and I still don't have a web page. My editor and publishing house have not said one thing to me about setting one up. Perhaps they'll ask me to do so once we get closer to the release date.

The question of whether agents and editors look to see if an author has a website when they read manuscripts is varied as well. This gets asked a lot at conferences. I would say that I have heard from more editors who do NOT look at an author's web presence than those who do. I suppose this might vary a lot depending on the size of the publishing house. I get the sense that bigger house editors simply don't have time to look.

Honestly, I think whatever you decide to do is fine. If you have the time and interest to make your own, do it. If not, don't sweat it.

Jody
#14 - May 10, 2018, 05:06 PM
MOSTLY THE HONEST TRUTH (HarperCollins 2019)
Twitter: @jodyjlittle
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Honestly, I think whatever you decide to do is fine. If you have the time and interest to make your own, do it. If not, don't sweat it.

Man, I love this. This is an interesting topic for me, too. Poke around to see what you'd like if you're curious about where this might lead to. But if it gives you too much stress and dread, then like Jody says, don't sweat it.

Maybe you'll do it when it feels more right for you? Or not at all.

For me, I'm always a little excited/curious when I tinker with my website cos I treat it like my own online Fixer Upper project. There's always stress, too, cos I'm terrible with the widgets and stuff but I know I want to do this. (I've re-vamped it 3 times in the past 2 years because I was so confused if I should serve my readers or my freelance kidlit clients or my corporate clients, and the ultimate proportions for each group. Everyone wants different teas and I just want to make sure I serve them what they want without losing my identity.)

An extra bit:
Don't know if it's just me but from a reader's pov, when I read books that fascinate me, I'll Google the authors for their websites.  I want to know more about them and their other books, their taste, or just get to know what they'll say to us readers or read their bio stories.

If an author doesn't have a website, it's cool. It won't affect my decision to check out her other books. But if an author has one, and it's simple and warm and carries her humour or style, I'd love her a wee bit more. Like Joan Bauer: http://joanbauer.com/ --> her homepage with all her book covers is an inspiration and for some reason makes my inner MG self very happy. : )
#15 - May 10, 2018, 09:07 PM
Writing & Illustrating Quietly Bold Kidlit

https://carryusoffbooks.com/
My Clearest Me
Little Orchid's Sea Monster Trouble

Here's some quick points to consider:

- Agents and publishers DO look to see if you have a website.
- Most publishers will not provide any assistance with your website - that's actually a good thing. It's better to keep control of it yourself.
- Having a bad site is probably worse than having none at all. Credibility is key.
- Wix is total junk, don't touch it, seriously. If you are going the DIY route use Squarespace.
- If you do nothing else make sure to secure your author name as a domain straight away.

Recent blog with some great advice from Shayla Lee Racquel
https://shaylaraquel.com/blog/websitemustdos

The first line of that blog is something I want engraved in stone! : )
"Don’t expect people to take you seriously as a professional if your website isn’t professional. "

Hope that helps!
#16 - May 18, 2018, 04:07 AM
« Last Edit: May 18, 2018, 04:10 AM by Liam Fitzgerald »
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