Web Presence for Writers

by Debra Page, STC Houston Secretary

We all experience times in our careers when we need to promote ourselves as writers or technical communicators, such as when seeking a new job or a new contract assignment or when promoting a book or other product.

Louis Hemmi of Hemmi’s KoolWEB Project introduced us to the importance, affordability, and relative ease of establishing your own website to promote your writing career. Hemmi’s major focus was how to measure your website’s effectiveness through web analytics to help you get your best return on investment (ROI).

Your Website

Websites are crucial marketing tools. You need to have one. Did you know that, for less than $100 a year, you can have your own website with over 100 GB of disk space? According to Hemmi, you should avoid using “free” web hosting sites because the ads are distracting to your potential clients and can damage your professional image. Some good web hosting sites are GoDaddy and Fat Cow, and there are many others.

You start by outlining your requirements; begin with the end in mind:

  • Decide whether you are you going to sell books, or your services, or both. Determine whether you will sell eBooks that can be downloaded, or books that need to be shipped. These decisions affect what payment and distribution features your website will need.
  • Decide whether you want to build your own website or pay to have a professional build one for you.
  • Learn how using web analytics can help you evaluate, refine and enhance your website for maximum effectiveness and profitability.

First of all, you need to develop your very own “brand identity.” You need to choose your domain name carefully; then you need to decide on an appropriate metaphor, the navigation methods, and a consistent theme for your entire site. (For example, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter website uses a desktop metaphor designed in Adobe Flash).

Hemmi cautioned that, while Adobe Flash can provide you with very attractive web pages and superb navigation, it separates your site from search engines and web analytics tools. If you do use Flash in your website, it will impede your abilities to capture visitors and to measure your ROI.

Online newsletters and blogs can help you establish rapport through your website; however, blogs require a special commitment because they are very difficult to maintain. Hemmi recommends that you do not invoke email clients; you really need CAPTCHA to screen out spam. You can get good, simple, inexpensive PHP contact forms from www.BestWebForms.com.

Finally, to maintain your professional online image you will need to provide frequent, fresh web content because websites do not work well on “auto-pilot.” At the very minimum, you should list all of your publicly available work, your tour dates, speaking engagements, book signings, news of your community service and upcoming work.

Web Analytics

Web analytics is the process of analyzing visitors’ website behavior. Hemmi recommends using Google Analytics; it is free to all advertisers, publishers, and site owners, and it provides you with a user-friendly, visual dashboard.

With Google Analytics you can access vital information about your website, including:

  • Vistors – location, browser, operating system, and screen resolution;
  • Traffic sources –direct (URL) searches, keywords, ad campaigns, and referrals from other websites;
  • Content – landing and exit pages, depth, and amount of time spent; and
  • Goals – the conversion of visitors to customers based on shopping cart use, etc.

You use this information to make needed marketing revisions to your website.

Website Examples

Hemmi compared and contrasted some features of the following websites:

  1. J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter Site at http://www.jkrowling.com.
    Pros: Big-budget site by Lightmaker.com. Fun, attractive and interactive; available in six languages, Flash or plain-text, and enhanced accessibility options; updated constantly. No cons.
  2. Eliot Pattison at http://www.eliotpattison.com/index.html.
    Pros: Static but attractive site for mystery author. Fast, easy to navigate; no bells or whistles. Cons: Invokes email client; some text and graphics are low-contrast, difficult to read
  3. Xuni at www.xuni.com.
    Pros: Hosts many authors; attractive graphics; offers interesting “before” and “after” views of sites; not completely up-to-date but close. Cons: No contact form, just invokes email client; text is sometimes low-contrast and difficult to read.

Hemmi’s Recommended Writer’s Resources:

You can join www.youwriteon.com to give and receive feedback on your writing. Top sellers receive free critiques from editors for leading literary agents and publishers, and a publishing deal is offered to the author whose work is the most popular of the year. Other resources include:

Hemmi’s Recommended Web Metrics Resources:

Louis Hemmi can be reached at Louis@Hemmi.US.

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