Welcome to my new blog, inspired by questions raised on the Writing and Publishing email group. It seems there's a lot of confusion about web pages and making them and--even more important--making them work for you. This blog is going to focus on addressing those issues for the benefit of authors. If you're reading this blog, I'm working from the point of view that you already know *why* you want a web site: exposure. As a general rule, people don't buy what they don't know is out there.
So, to begin, let's start with the next big question: *when* do you need a web page?
I take the stance that the sooner you develop your "web presence" the better. This doesn't necessarily mean shelling out cash for electronic real estate, though. A web presence means how much you come up on a search engine's response, or how much 'net cred you get on the groups and forums you belong to. It's how active a member of the internet community you make yourself. Most important, though, your web presence is the message you take into cyberspace.
What does that mean, the "message you take into cyberspace"? The internet is a growing extension of our local communities. Just as your clothes and your body language and what you say tell people you see face-to-face who you are, the text you type and the videos and sound files you share give your fellow netizens insight into your personality and just how polished and professional you are. Before deciding when to set up your customwebsite.com, decide what message you want to communicate. Are you a hard-hitter or laid back? Are you a details person or is the big picture more your style? Are you publishing for the money, the glamor, or the crazy need to get these damn stories out of your gourd?
Once you know what image you want to present, it's time to look at the next factor in deciding your publicity plan timing points: How much self promotion do you need to do? If you're still writing your first submission, don't sweat the web site. If you have that first manuscript in hand and you're sending out query letters, definitely get set up on MySpace, and think about the web site. If you've just signed your first contract, that web site is knocking on your door. If your first book is in stores, yoursite.com is clearing its throat beside you. Self-published authors and authors with multiple books in store who lack a web site are missing a key component of their marketing strategy.
The next post will be on what a web site does.