Originally, I started the Art of Submission column with a set idea of where I wanted to go with it — I would cover the entire submission process from finding markets and submitting pieces to signing contracts and getting paid. Having arrived there, I realized that I had overlooked what I consider to be a vital part of submitting work — having a professional, comprehensive, delectable online presence.
There was a time not too long ago when having an online presence in any form — web page, blog, Facebook page, twitter account — was voluntary and, truly, considered a necessity only for advanced writers. You know, those bigwigs with novels on the best-seller lists, the ones who were backed by big publishing houses, the ones that already had a following.
But those days (so says this techno-geek) are long gone. Today, readers and editors want a bite of you — whether you’re offering up morsels of writing on your blog or your daily word count on your Facebook page. To deny them this is, for better or worse, to lose out on things like viral marketing, reader feedback and, possibly, publishing opportunities. Editors today want to know that their writers can not only write, but that they can also present and promote themselves. They want to know that you’re going to put your newest cover online where people can see it, that you’ve have a solid following via your Twitters posts, and that you know how to drive traffic toward your latest published work. The days of sitting at home and writing in total private hasn’t disappeared entirely, but it’s definitely going to way of the snail-mail submission. Pretty soon we’ll be talking about, “Remember those good old days, when all we needed was a website?”
Unfair to ask so much of today’s writers? Probably. But having an online presence is also a great opportunity to broaden your readership and your presence in the publishing world if you do it right.
Of course, there are so many opportunities online and it’s so ever-changing that the very idea of having an online presence is daunting to many writers. Do you need a web page or just a blog? Must you have a Facebook page and a Twitter account? What about this new FourSquare thing or that old Flickr thing? How do I use YouTube and why? And what in the hell is a hash tag?
Over the next few columns, we’re going to look at building your online presence one step at a time, from the basic must-haves all the way to the things that would be awesome, but aren’t necessary. To get started, let’s look at some of the basic things to think about before you jump in and start building your online presence.
Before You Begin:
How much time and money do you want to spend? As with most things, there is a time/money equation when it comes to online goodies. Many things can be built for free, but they require time. If your techie skills are abysmal, then there’s a good chance you want to stick with the very basics OR you’ll want to hire/trade with someone who’s got the skills. Otherwise, it’s far too easy to spend twenty hours a week on your online presence and only two on your actual writing. On the other hand, if you’ve got a head for the internet, then your concerns are in the other direction — don’t spend so much time futzing with your site that you forget you’re a writer first and foremost.
How ‘present’ do you want to be online? Some writers have nothing on their website beyond a vague location (Earth), and email and some snippets of their latest writing. Others have images, their snail mail addy and their day-to-day activities. It’s a good idea to decide early on just how “out there” you want to be — you can always add more information later, but it’s really hard to get that half-naked image of you off the web once it’s out there.
What is your overall feel? Just as with any other business, you’ll want to think about “branding” yourself. Look at other writer’s (and other creative people’s) websites and blogs to see what you like. Think about things like colors, images and objects. Purple, pink and red are often, in my opinion, overdone for erotica pages — what other colors do you think of as sensual and as being “yours”? In addition, things like silk sheets, roses and body parts all clearly say “erotica writer” but they also do nothing to separate you from the crowd, unless you find a unique way to use them.
When you look at Alison Tyler’s site, her sense of playful, light eroticism is easily identifiable through the pastel colors and candy hearts. Madeline Moore’s site is an inviting pink and cream collaboration, accented with photos, all of which makes for a warm and welcome online space.
My site, www.shannagermain.com, is done in neutral tones with a lot of photos — unusual for an erotica writer, but which work for me for a number of reasons: The gold represents my long blond hair which is one of my physical trademarks; I like the look and feel of parchment and linen; and there is a timeless quality to the old-world colors that appeals to my sense of craft and dedication as a writer. In addition, the colors do double-duty for my non-erotic work, which is often literary and slightly dark.
The goal, I think, is to choose a look and feel that is yours — colors, objects, words and images that represent you and your writing — and then to carry that over to whatever online forms you choose to use. There’s no need to be identical, but if you can use the same colors on both your blog and your webpage, or use the same great photo of yourself for all of your social media options, it will make it easier for readers and editors to find you and to remember what your writer brand is.
You’ve Been Very Very Bad
While you’re thinking of what to do, it’s also important to think of what NOT to do. Please, for the love of all thing sexy and curvy, do not be an offender of any of the following:
- Do not make things repeatedly bounce, jiggle, or flash your readers. This says one thing and one thing only: Pounding headache.
- Neon be bad. Odd, unreadable fonts be bad. Sparkles probably also be bad. Cute kitten clip-art (unless you write furry and pet play stuff) should be kept to minimum.
- 4-point font in baby yellow on a black background is impossible to read. So are excessive typos, misspellings and lack of proper paragraphs and punctuation.
- Music that can’t be turned off is not always a great idea, nor are huge pictures of big cocks that come up on the opening page (not that I’m in any way against naked cocks, but so many editors and readers use their computers in public places these days that perhaps a little discretion is in order).
With those basic parameters in mind, start thinking about the online presence that you want to create, then come back for the next column, where I look specifically at blogs and websites and answer questions like: what’s the difference? do you need both? what must any great writer’s website have?
Until then, happy web surfing. May you not be inundated with neon, unreadable fonts, or huge pictures of naked cocks. Okay, scratch that last one. I’m adding that to my list of what every erotica writer’s website really needs.
December 2010 – January 2011
“The Fine Art of Submission” © 2010 Shanna Germain. All rights reserved.