I’m privileged to offer you an article by romance author Linore Rose Burkard. She was my guest on Jan. 25, 2009. In her interview, she shared the story of how her Inspirational Regency, Before the Season Ends, which she originally self-published, was picked up by Harvest House.
Linore shares six strategic steps to building that all important Web presence. She’s proof her approach works, for that’s how she sold so many copies of her book that she captured the attention of her editor at Harvest House and landed her two-book contract.
I’ve Submitted My Book—Now What?
By Linore Rose Burkard
First of all, if you’ve finished a book and begun to submit it to carefully researched publishers, congratulations! Most people never finish the book they dream of one day submitting. But don’t think your work is done. In some ways, it’s just beginning.
Assuming that you’ve written the best book you are capable of, your focus needs to shift from writing to establishing yourself online. This is not to say that you should stop writing. Once you submit your work, in fact, it’s a good idea to move right onto the next project, the next book. This keeps your creative juices flowing, and in the event a publisher does like your work, it won’t be long before they’re asking to see what else you have.
On the other hand, editors and publishers like an author to have an online presence, or platform. If it comes down to a choice of publishing only one of two authors, one of whom is well established on the web, and the other isn’t—chances are they will choose the one with a web presence. Why? Because the writer who has been networking with other writers, creating a website or blog, interacting with readers, and so on, will likely be better able to market her work once it is published. Better marketing leads to better sales, and, let’s face it, without good sales our publishers can’t stay in business! Authors today are expected to be partners in the work of marketing and promoting their books.
So, what to do? Where to begin? Here are my top six steps to establishing yourself on the web.
1. Get a Website or Blog.
It’s best to have a website where you can post examples of your writing, book covers, reader testimonials, a media kit, and a bio, among other things, but if you can’t afford a decent website, better a blog than nothing.
Using a free blog hosting service like Blogger is okay, (it’s industry standard), but don’t use a free website where the host name intrudes on your domain name (i.e., JaneWriter@freewebs.com). You want your name (or pen name if you’re using one) to stand alone. After all, it’s your name as a writer that you want to impress people with, not your choice of web server. So, make sure you can get the domain of “JaneWriter.com” and nothing else. My website, for instance, is LinoreRoseBurkard.com. Period.
For your blog, it’s a good idea to use your name as well, particularly if you don’t also have a website. Your goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to find you on the web—if an editor or agent likes your submission, I can almost guarantee the next thing they’ll do is put your name in a search engine like Google’s and see what comes up. They want to know about you, the person they may be interested in publishing or agenting. If they have to jump through hoops to find anything on you—or worse, come up with nothing at all—that says you haven’t established a healthy web presence.
2. Get a Professional Headshot of Yourself.
A professional photo is an utter necessity for a writer who wants to be viewed as a professional. You’ll need this photo for your website, blogs, social networking sites, and just about anywhere you can set up a profile page on the web; not to mention your publisher will need it for promotional purposes, the back cover of your book, and perhaps their own website. This is not the time to pull out your favorite family vacation picture, no matter how good you think it makes you look! Unless it is a close-up of your head (face) and is very good quality, chances are it will broadcast to the world that you aren’t a professional—the very thing you want to avoid! So, even if you go to your local Walmart for the photo, get it done.
3. Use Email as a Tool
Another component of a professional writer’s arsenal is a dependable email account that reinforces their image. Don’t use Juno or other free servers unless they are very dependable and won’t suddenly cause your inbox to vanish, for instance, if you go over their quota.
Instead, your email address should reflect your professionalism. Don’t use a cute email addy to try and get a smile. If you want your name to be known, your email is another chance to get it out there—every time you hit the send button! My email for all business is Linore@LinoreRoseBurkard.com (through my website server). This tells recipients not only my name, but my website address. Every email can also be a free advertising opportunity because you will craft a signature tag to function as one. My signature tag includes my full name, website URL, Blog URLs, and can also feature my book’s title, a phone number, or anything I decide to put in it. You can do this, too.
4. Start Growing a List
Whether you use a website or blog, you need to set up an “email capture system.” Don’t worry—they’re fairly easy to come by. This is the little box where people who visit your site can enter their email and sign up for your updates or newsletter. (Yes, you may have to start a simple newsletter!) Having a group of readers who like what you write, and sign up to get more of it is a big plus to publishers or agents. It means you’ve already got a start on that all-important aspect of marketing—finding your audience.
5. Write Articles and Book Reviews
When you write an article and distribute it to article banks (this is free to do), you will include a brief bio—carefully crafted to include your website or blog URL and an offer to sign up for something free—which is equivalent to leaving your “calling card” wherever these articles are posted. Ezine editors and bloggers are always looking for free content and turn to article banks for fodder. When your article is used by them, you reach a whole new audience you would never have gotten your name in front of otherwise. Your articles then, are free promotion. Write them well (anything you post on the web should reflect your professionalism and may be read by an agent or editor), and you will gain readers and add to your email list.
The same goes for book reviews. If you have the time, read other books in your genre and then post a review on Amazon, ChristianBook.com, and other popular review sites. You don’t get a bio box when you do this, so use the “ID” as a place to advertise who and what you are. For my Amazon reviews, for instance, I use “Linore Burkard, Inspirational Romance Author.” People can click on it and find out more about me and my books if they want to.
6. Join! Comment! Participate!
Every serious writer should join a good writers’ group. Online, I know of no better one than ACFW—The American Christian Fiction Writers. You’ll find critique partners and candid advice from seasoned authors, and you can ask questions to your heart’s content. In addition, you’ll be making all important contacts. As you get to know others, guess what? They are getting to know you! Your signature tag will help them click through to your sites. Your email list will grow. When they like you, they may want to buy your book (once it’s published, of course). And in the meantime, you’ll be learning and growing in ways you just can’t when you go it alone. Opportunities abound on these lists, from entering contests, joining other blogs, taking online courses, and forging friendships.
You should also join other social networking sites, and always, always, set up your profile page as the professional writer you are. Every time you leave your name and website URL on a social network, or anywhere on the web, for that matter, it’s like “stamping” that place with your presence. Remember the old “John Doe was here”? Today, you want to do more than that—when I leave a comment on a blog, or a remark on a network, I’m saying, “Linore the romance author was here.” And letting people know where to find me.
The Web has enormous power to help you get the word out about you and your writing. Use it for its full potential, and you’ll find yourself with a healthy platform to impress an editor or agent and stir interest in your work!
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Linore creates Inspirational Romance for the Jane Austen soul. Her characters take you back in time to experience life and love during the Regency England era (circa 1800 – 1830). Linore’s books include her debut novel, Before the Seasons Ends, which is currently available. The sequel, The House in Grosvenor Square, will be released in April 2009. Her stories blend Christian faith and romance with well-researched details from the Regency period.
Leave a Comment for Your Chance to Win!
Linore will stop by on March 23 to reply to comments. On March 24, I will choose one name from all those who left a comment (with email address when prompted, which I don’t share). The winner will receive a $5 Borders gift card.
Congrats to the winner: Sherrinda
You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!
If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by your blog hostess, Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and March 31, making sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) You may enter once per post.
On April 1, Keli will choose one person who will have her choice of four covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)