Unpublished? Create a writer website anyway

Published authors have websites. That is the norm these days.

But what about unpublished writers, like you and me? Should we spend time creating a website when we don’t have any published work to promote?

In an interview with literary agents Andrea Hurst and Associates, writer Jane Friedman (former publisher for Writer’s Digest) thinks we should. She believes a professional author website is “without question” the most important area a writer should be focusing on now to build a career.

Here’s a summary of Ms. Friedman’s advice for unpublished writers:

  • It’s never too soon to establish a website. Ms. Friedman notes three things that call for writers to get started now:
    • The learning curve that’s involved in creating and keeping a site;
    • A website is a work in progress always; and
    • You don’t want to start a website on the day it’s supposed to produce results.
  • A hub, not a blog. Ms. Friedman makes clear that by website she doesn’t mean blogging. Instead, a writer’s website should be the center of everything you do online, and where anyone can find out about you, your writing, and your contact information. Writer’s Digest describes the author website as your business card to the world:
    • to inform people about who you are; and
    • to market your writing efforts to your target audience: potential readers or clients, publishers, editors, or agents.
  • Create one even if you don’t have anything to put on it. As an unpublished writer, you may think you don’t have anything to put on your website.  Ms. Friedman says, “Maybe that’s true, but I don’t care.” Create one, she says:
    • if you’re serious about a long-term career as an author;
    • to learn the technology;
    • to become comfortable now with having and cultivating an online version of who you are;
    • to experience how powerful having a website is; and
    • to cultivate opportunities and contacts while waiting to be published.
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just do it, she says. Ms. Friedman describes your website as “your single most important marketing and advertising tool, aside from your professional partnerships/relationships.” There are plenty of tools available to make a simple website. I recommend WordPress and here’s why.

I took Ms. Friedman’s advice and started reworking my Afternoon Tea blog, which houses my writing collection. The biggest change is my home page. Before, visitors would see my latest posts on my home page. Now the first thing they see is a Welcome page with a tab for latest posts:

Updated December 2014: Click here to see the NEW site, DarlaMcDavid.com.

That’s the top half of the Welcome page. I’ll also be moving all my writing categories under one Portfolio tab and adding a Contact tab, among others. If you visit my Facebook page, you’ll see that I’m using the same images here as I work to keep my look consistent across the Web.

Under the fold, the website looks like this:

This area is where I’ve added my twitter feed, a blog award listing and my photo. I’ll be adding a short bio, links to my other social media sites, and a Follow form. Eventually I will be changing the site name to have my name out front.

It’s all preliminary and I’m having a lot of fun with it.

All of this may sound premature to you, if you’re still working to get your writing published. Take the advice of a publishing professional like Jane Friedman and get started. Websites aren’t reserved for published authors. Get the word out now that you’re serious about being a writer. Then you’ll be prepared for when that wonderful day arrives: your work published and ready for the world to enjoy.

What do you think about Jane’s advice for writers and websites?


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4 thoughts on “Unpublished? Create a writer website anyway

  1. Thanks so much for this post, Darla! I used some of your suggestions while creating my website: jamesmtilton.com. I’d love for your to check it out and let me know what you think. Either way, thank you for the helpful tips!

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    1. Hi, James — I’m happy to hear that the post was helpful to you. Your website looks great. The home page welcomes well with those few bold colors and your friendly photo. Your bio is short but, boy, is it packed with just the right information to intrigue an agent, plus it shows off your personality. Technical: It may just be me, but when I click on the Home and Contact circles, I get nothing. I do get to the pages when I click on the words at the top. Currently I’m working on a third website, darlamcdavid.com, which will take the place of both this site and my Afternoon Tea site. It’s been a slow-moving project due to my day job (elementary school administration). I do hope all goes well with your site and your book!

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  2. This is such great advice, as usual Darla! I met an agent at a conference and she was very impressed that I had a real website, not just a blog. Aside from the technology involved (I married well – an IT professional!), it’s no additional work over a blog because once you have it created, it’s mostly just the blog page that you update regularly anyway.

    A huge benefit is when you make it big (we have to dream!), you don’t have to try to migrate your current blog followers to a new URL to find your website.

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    1. Yes, dream on and dream big, Cindy. I keep hearing the “only one percent get published” statistic. That’s a tough number, but it is a number and we can make it our goal to be part of that one percent!

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