Many people you hear from these days will loudly and stridently say You Must Have A Web site if you want to promote and sell your books. And, to a degree this is true. But there is so much more to the concept than just running out to spend $400 or so to have someone design a professional site for you. Here are some thoughts on the subject.

1. Why a Web site? What value is there in having one?

Part of the answer is the question of where else are you going to be able to display and market your work? Has your publisher spent some thousands of dollars putting your book out with all the reviewers, newspapers, billboards and so on? Have you been able to have Reader’s Digest put an ad in their magazine that millions will see? How else will you get the exposure you need? Remember the three biggest words in the publishing industry: Exposure, exposure, exposure.

Think of places you’ve seen Grisham or Patterson’s latest novels. Will yours be displayed in someplace roughly equal to theirs? If not, again, where will you get the exposure?

2. Where else can you get exposure?

There are many Web sites out there which will enable you to place your book cover and perhaps a short synopsis with them so people will see you and the book. With some of them you can get some amount of free exposure. Others can be a few dollars for a few months placement. Are you there? Are you trying to be there? Again, if not, where will you get the exposure? One site you should check that will give you 24/7/365 exposure at a price anyone can afford is The Author’s Inn.

In order for you to sell any books at all, people somehow must see you and your book. Simple as that. Even James Patterson, the most prolific writer of our age, still has to let people know he has a new book out before they know to go looking for it.

So, the answer for most of us newbie writers who haven’t yet acquired a Patterson following is that we have to create our own exposure – thus the need for our own Web site. But, before you jump in to invest time and/or money in putting one together, here are a few ideas and caveats.

1. What are you doing?

Sounds like a dumb question given the title of this article, but really, what are you trying to do? And the answer to that is to get exposure for YOU and YOUR BOOK. This Web site is NOT the place to have pictures of all your children, the new puppy or your vacation. It is not the place to combine your book marketing efforts with your side business of pottery manufacturing or business consulting. The ONLY things that should be in this Web site are YOU and YOUR BOOK. Anything in the site that distracts from those two things should not be there.

2. Speaking of distractions.

What is the topic of your book? Mystery, romance, historical fiction, biography? Perhaps if you have a children’s nursery rhyme book you can have pictures of nice little animals in the site and so on. But, if your book is one of the heavier topics, NO dancing bunnies, humorous sidelights, mouse click-overs that display messages that have nothing to do with your
book, no links to other places that will take people’s attention or presence away from your topic. YOU and YOUR BOOK, that’s all. Get rid of the distractions. If people click out of your site for any reason, the greatest chance is that they will not come back. Your job is to get them TO your site and then to KEEP them there.

3. What is in your site?

Do you have a really well written, short biography and book synopsis? Long is not necessarily better. Everything that happened in your life is not necessarily exciting to readers. An entire chapter of your book (on the front page of your site) will not necessarily hold people’s attention. It is a proven fact: Too many words will have people skipping over them and perhaps just clicking out of your site. So what do you need?

First: Very well written, very well proofed, and very well thought out exciting and influencing language that will keep people reading. Read it yourself, over and over - OUT LOUD (our ears hear much differently than our eyes see.) If it doesn’t excite you and make you want more, it needs to be re-written. Maybe you need to have a friend read it for you (yes, they will still be a friend afterward) and give you an honest critique.

Second: Are your pictures, both yours personally and your book cover, professionally done, or at least excellent quality digital camera shots?

Is your biography picture well poised? Is your hair combed? Do you have decent quality clothes on? Is the background a good one? Again, is the quality GOOD?

What about your book cover? Is it the best it can be? I have several novels in front of me. Some have the author’s name and the book title well centered, in a font that is large and easily readable, and basically a very light and bright color on a contrasting background (so it easily stands out.) Others are the opposite: flowery, exotic type that is hard to read, colors that blend into the background and therefore can’t be read easily, or too small. Remember, if people are browsing the bookstore or an Internet store, they will quickly pass by a book they can’t easily read, especially if it’s the spine of the book in a bookstore.

No matter what your book editor or graphic artist says, it is YOUR book and if you don’t feel it is projecting what you want to say to the public, get it changed.

This has just been a cursory beginning for all the information under the topic, but it is a start. Before you start building your own Web site, go to the sites of several of your favorite authors, writers in your own genre especially, and see what their sites look like. Look for the things noted above and anything and everything else in the site that looks good, or not. Look at the ideas presented, what they lead to and what they present. Colors, font styles and sizes, types of pictures and so on. Then COPY the site. No, I don’t mean that exactly. But, will your site look as good as theirs, even on a limited budget? Will your site set out the message about YOU and YOUR BOOK as well as theirs does? Be sure it does. It might be your only chance people have to see your message.

If you would like to see an article on the whole subject of writing and publishing a novel, check out “So You’ve Written a Book. Now What?” by Jim Magwood. You can find it at the site, The Author’s Inn.