As much as we might like it to be otherwise, being a good writer – even being a great writer – generally isn’t enough to become a successful writer. And in this day and age, when the first instinct of many people is to Google something or someone in order to know more about them, if you aren’t on those first few pages of results, you might as well not exist at all. Unless other people are already talking about you and your writing, having a searchable platform is one of the keys to this.
Do you ever read your own writing? Not as part of a rewriting and editing process but just for pleasure? In the last five years, I’ve written over half a million words – it may even be closer to a million – in the form of articles, blog posts, book reviews, novels and non-fiction books. And that doesn’t include all the paid writing – tenders, case studies, websites, brochures and other types of marketing copy. I can’t possibly remember it all. So sometimes I go back and read bits and pieces of my own writing.
There are a lot of books out there, I like discovering new ones and I’m not narcissistically self-indulgent so after the rewriting and editing process, I’ve never sat down and read one of my own books from cover to cover. But every now and then I’ll bring up one of my book reviews, articles or blog posts and read it through.
If you’re wondering why I’m interviewing myself, you obviously haven’t read my post from Tuesday (Can’t Get Anyone to Interview You About Your Book? Interview Yourself!). Read it first and then hopefully this won’t seem quite so self-indulgent.
How long have you been writing?
I don’t know where the time has gone but it’s been over twenty-five years now. I started, like all children, writing adorable yet cringe-worthy stories for my primary school English class, progressed to angsty poetry in high school and by Year 12, I was writing a novella. When I started university, I moved into writing romance. I was so sure that I was going to be the next queen of Australian romance fiction. But I found the confines of the genre very limiting. I didn’t want to write one thing, I wanted to write everything.
As part of the announcement of the release of my latest book, Project January: A Sequel About Writing, I sent an email to the alumni group of Swinburne University where I studied and graduated with a Master of Arts in Writing. I’d done the same thing when I published Project December: A Book About Writing and they’d been kind enough to include a mention of it in their e-newsletter and a link to where it could be purchased. I hoped they’d do the same this time.
Instead, I got an email asking if I’d be interested in being interviewed and profiled as part of a series on their past students. I thought, “Why not?”.
But once I’d agreed to do it, I did what I always do, which is panic. Sometimes I feel like I have proverbial foot-in-mouth disease (not literal foot-in-mouth disease – gross!) and am prone to say things I shouldn’t. I aim for witty and end up coming off like a weirdo. It’s why I’m a writer, after all. I like having the chance to revise. And revise. And revise again. Speaking off the cuff doesn’t give you that chance.
To keep myself calm and to try to prepare for an interview where I didn’t know exactly what the questions were going to be, I decided to attempt to pre-empt what might be asked and come up with answers. That way, if they did come up, I’d have something that didn’t make me sound like a person on the low-functioning end of the autism spectrum.
Yes, essentially, I interviewed myself.
I am by no means a marketing or design or website expert but, luckily, I happen to know someone who is. When I or my editing clients need assistance, she is my first (and only) point of contact. That’s how good she is in my opinion.
Through my professional relationship with her, I have distilled some (hopefully most) of the key points to consider when developing a website for your book.
The first decision is what you want to call your website. If you have only written one book and don’t plan to write any more, you may prefer to set up a website in the name of your book for maximum exposure. If you’ve written more than one book or plan to write more in the future, it might be better to set up a website in your name to promote yourself as much as the books. Of course, you could always call your website something completely different (John Birmingham’s is called Cheeseburger Gothic – no idea why). As long as you have a good reason and it doesn’t make you and your book very difficult to find (which defeats entirely the purpose of setting up a website), then why not?
In 2012, when I released my debut novel, Enemies Closer, I decided to use the pseudonym “LE Truscott”. The book was action adventure and I was concerned (perhaps unnecessarily) that male readers wouldn’t be interested in reading a woman writing in the genre. I didn’t think too long or too hard about what the drawbacks might be. But just as there were benefits, there were also disadvantages.
KK Ness has recently released her first book, Messenger, in The Shifter War fantasy series and her pseudonym is a complete departure from her actual name (as opposed to the partial disguise I chose). I asked her a few questions about her choice to help illustrate the pros and cons of using a pen name.
I’ve been helping an internet and marketing ignorant author about thirty years older than me in the lead up to his book being published and he’s also been receiving moral support from another published author roughly his age. He’s paying a professional to put together a small website and I suggested I set up a Goodreads author profile for him so that when the book is released I – and whoever else is so inclined – can post a review. He agreed.
I signed him up, added a picture and posted his About Me text that we’ve been working on for the website. Then, since I’m on Goodreads as well, I connected with him as a friend. And knowing the name of the other author who’s supporting him, I looked her up on Goodreads in an attempt to connect the two of them.
But when I found her profile, it was empty. She’s there – her book was quite successful and has an average rating of 3.46 – but there’s no picture, no author bio, no other information except that she was the author of the book listed. I was surprised. I went back to my friend and told him what I’d found, suggesting he contact his friend and let her know her profile was there and that she could claim it. He told me she was as clueless as he was when it came to technology and being online and that he doubted she would be interested. Fair enough. She clearly doesn’t have someone like me to help her out the way he has me.