I had the pleasure of presenting a seminar on writer/artist websites at the past conference, a totally awesome gig as it bridges two of my fave things: design for communication and writing/illustrating! Hmmm, maybe that’s three…. Anyway, after holding said seminar I’ve had a few questions asked of me that are pretty common so I though I’d share the answers here!
1.) Do I really need a blog?
There are scores of pros and cons on who does and doesn’t need a blog and staunch proponents in both camps, but when looked at strictly from marketing standpoint I’d say the only groups of children’s writers that truly need to have a blog are YA writers. Here’s why, while the target audience for picture books are young children who have not yet started to read, the majority of marketing is done to adults who will purchase the book for a child. These adults may or may not have access to the internet and even if they do they aren’t necessarily going to follow an author or artist blog. They will visit a web site, and it’s a good idea to have said site updated on at least a bimonthly basis to encourage return visitors, but they will not be stopping by once or twice a week to see what you’re up to as a rule.
Middle grade writers should also have a website but the need for a blog is minimal unless it is something you really want to do. Which leads us to YA writers and why they need a blog. The target audience is pre-teens and teens, with some overlap into college age readers. This demographic group is technologically savvy and highly skilled in social communication and will want to know not only more about your characters and their world, but more about you as well. The mroe you can connect with your readers, the more your fan base will grow, the more books you will sell. The math is easy. YA writer = have a blog!
2.) Do I need to secure the domain names of my current and future books and create websites for each of them?
Ugh. No. Talk about a marketing nightmare!
Let’s say you end up writing 20 books during your career as a writer, that would equal 20 websites that need to be maintained and paid for. So if we roughly estimate your domains and hosting at $100 a year (and that is a very low estimate) you’ll be at $2,000 a year in maintenance fees alone. That doesn’t count the cost of paying a developer to create and edit the sites if you aren’t doing the work yourself. If you are doing the work yourself, how much time for writing are you losing?
In addition, you want your readers to come to one location to view all of your work, not hop from one site to another.
Create an author and/or artist site and make the domain your name if you can, or some form of your name (for instance, Sally Jones is a pretty common name so writersallyjones.com might be an option). Give each of your books their own page on your website.
3.) I have a business website, can I hook it to that.
Unless your business is directly related to your story (for instance you have a bee business and you write picture books about a family of bees), no. A website is a marketing tool and needs to be focused on your writing without any distractions or deterrents to the writing. In other words, your entire site needs to be relate to who you are as writer and/or artist.
4.) What do I blog about?
Whatever is relevant to your current book. The idea is to build a reader audience and not a writer audience. Again – a website is a marketing tool and while your fellow writers will most certainly buy your book to support you, the bulk of your sales should come from your target audience. Speak to your readers.
I had a friend who wrote contemporary YA and one of her books dealt with anorexia. She had marvelous blog posts about girls and even some guys who suffered from eating disorders and had beat the disease. She also posted information on how to find help if you or a friend had an eating disorder. Find the common thread in your book and search the web for on topic stories. Post excerpts from relevant articles and discuss your thoughts and invite your readers to share their thoughts.
That’s it for now! Got a question about websites? Feel free to email it to me and I’ll post an answer in the future.