A few years ago having a website was a nice little feature to have for your business or to keep your family and friends up to date. But these days, especially in the book business, having a smart website is a necessity. The site has to do many things: get you known, get your subject known, get people to buy your book on the subject essay Writing.

Unfortunately most writers aren't internet experts, much in the same way that they aren't marketing experts. But to be successful with your book these days you have to be both. This primer will get you going. FYI, one of the smartest writer's websites I know belongs to Tim Bete. He won the 2005 Writers Digest Award for Best Writer's Website and he provided a few of the tips below when he spoke to The Book Sistah Inner Circle in September 2006.

Don't Wait: Put Your Website Up First

A lot of writers tend to think of a website as a promotional tool that they'll put up after they sell their book to a publisher. But here's the thing: if you don't have a website it'll be really hard, if not impossible, to sell your book to a publisher. As we've discussed in this newsletter before, when a publisher buys your book, they're really buying your platform, or the audience that you can bring to the table. One writer recently emailed me that her agent had been told, "Why would anyone buy her book? No one knows who she is." Unfair or not, that's the way most publishers think.
But you can use your website (or blog) to get yourself known. You can start servicing your audience, posting articles and soliciting publicity for yourself and your work. This is where you start.

Use Your Name

There's a big trend around having a domain name that reflects your subject matter (LivingWithToddlers.com) for instance. But remember, as a writer, your brand is YOU. You want to get your name known. So no matter how many domain names you own or use, make sure one of them is YourName.com. It's easier for people (especially editors) to find you when you use your name. When you have an unusual name, like mine, you can also use your first name alone as a domain. I do both!

Connect With Your Audience

A website is your opportunity to engage your reader. Get them talking to you! Publish a newsletter that provides valuable content for your audience. Give them insight on what you're working on, let them in on your thinking process. Once they know you and your work, they'll be all the more excited about buying your book or books when they come out. Your audience can also help you write your book--ask them what they want to know, what they need help with. Send a brief survey telling them you're gathering information for the book. Here's a great secret: people want to help! They'll be more than happy to pitch in--and more likely to buy the book because they helped create it!

Put Up Writing Samples--And Distribute Them

Your website is a great place for editors to find you. You may not have to work as hard seeking out a publisher or freelance assignment because when you have a solid website, chances are the editor will find you first. To be ready for them you'll want your site to have lots of writing samples available. Perhaps you post your newsletter articles on your website as well. You'll want an editor to be able to see immediately that you're able to deliver the goods.
Here's another tip: allow your newsletter articles to appear on sites other than your own. Distribute your work on sites such as EzineArticles.com or iSnare.com. Your work will appear all over the web on other people's blogs, newsletters or websites, making it that much easier for your name to turn up when an editor is searching for a writer.

Learn How to Update Your Own Site

You'll want your site to be alive--meaning fresh material, updated information and correct information expert Writers. That can be difficult to do if you're constantly having to find someone to make these updates for you. Do yourself a favor: purchase HTML editing software such as Macromedia's Dreamweaver and learn how to make simple updates on your own. It's not as difficult as you might think--many of these programs are similar to or as easy to use as your average word processing program. I bet you'll be creating your own pages before you know it!