If you've been brushing up on some of the ways you can promote your own work, you might have noticed all the emphasis on social networking. Social networking is great, and it's the best way to utilize "word of mouth" promotion. The entire social networking setup punches every button that people have that causes them to engage. Your avatar becomes familiar. People begin to remember and even look for your username. So make sure you chose both carefully. Remember "branding" - what is your genre, your niche, your style? You should always use your author name as your user name, whether that's a pen name or your real name. You want your online audience to begin to associate your avatar image and name with your voice and you want to become a part of their mental landscape - you want to become a landmark in their online lives. Chose avatar images that represent your writing style, represent you, and don't change them often or very much.
But let's take this back a step or two and go old school for a moment. Author Websites.
It's never too early to set up an author website if you're serious about a writing career. Even if it's something you do on the side for fun. Even if all you do is submit to small lit journals like ours. It's a small investment, but an important one, and it's a business expense come tax time. There's no reason to spend hundreds of dollars on a web package, either. There are a number of companies that will set you up with a website and domain for very little cash.
Personally, I like Yahoo because they handle both the domain and the hosting and it comes with a couple of web building tools that even a 10 year old can figure out. But there are others, so check around and find the best deal for yourself. Bravehost and Tripod are other web hosting companies that are cheap and come with site building tools.
Remember you don't want to launch a career in website building, so don't get too mired in the technicalities. Find something easy and affordable and get it up online. Search engines rank older websites higher in their search results, so it pays to invest in a site and get it up and running as soon as you can.
Once you've got your domain (use your author name as the domain name if possible), you should spend some time planning what kind of content you want to put up. I recommend against putting your home address and phone number, pictures of your children or anything else that might help some crazy stalker violate your privacy or put you in danger. That's just common sense.
Add your author photo (if you have one), a bio, a bibliography, and links to your social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, etc). A lot of authors have embedded their twitter feeds and blog posts into their home page. Updating the content of your site by adding news, essays, blog posts, etc. keeps the search engines coming back, too.
You can use excerpts of your own work, inspirational quotes, images, etc., to keep the page interesting. Do be mindful of image use laws. You can purchase great stock photos from iStock for very little, or you can use Flickr creative commons for free (with credit). Find images that reflect the genre you write in.
Your author site should be the foundation of your online promotion. It's the stable home of everything else you do online to promote your work. It's well worth it to spend some time setting it up and updating it on a regular basis.
Next time, I'll go into some SEO tips that will help make your author site friendly to search engines...