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Starting an author's website as an unpublished author?
Ian Nathaniel Cohen
Posted: Monday, July 15, 2013 1:38 PM

I'm going to take some advice I've frequently heard and set up a website for myself as an author using Weebly (supposedly have a wesbite makes one look more professional to an agent).  However, I don't have any fictional works published yet - I have one complete manuscript I've been sending out query letters for, and various other works in various states of non-completion.  I'm also waiting to see what happens with some short fiction I've submitted to Everydayfiction.com.


With this in mind, any tips for an author's website if said author hasn't published yet?  Do any of us unpublished authors have a website of their own I could take a look at as an example?  (Or can anyone point me in the direction of one?)

--edited by Ian Nathaniel Cohen on 7/15/2013, 1:40 PM--

Posted: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 12:23 AM
Joined: 7/3/2013
Posts: 20

Hi Ian,


YAY! Something in my area of expertise   I apologize, in advance I know this is going to be long winded and probably way more than you wanted, but I'm a digital strategist so I love this stuff.  Basically, I work with businesses to develop strategies for growing their platforms and readership.  As far as experience goes, I've consulted with many businesses you have heard of - but I really don't know how much I can say due to NDAs - I am considering writing a book about all this, but that's all beside the point. 


I figure Ill just write out a bunch of info, it may be useful to others as well:



Getting started with building your platform now is an excellent idea.  It takes time to form a solid following/reader base and you really need that reader base to exist prior to publishing because

1.  (I haven't worked with Author's but from what I have heard and can guess as a marketer) Publishing houses will be more likely to buy your book if you prove you have a readership of interested people willing to buy - less risky for them.

2.  This makes it easier to sell your book, and start raking in important things like Amazon reviews, soon after publishing because you have a loyal following. 



So, to start digging into your specific questions...

No fictional work published yet - that is fine.



What you want to do, is start seeding information about your book and generating interest.  To do so, you should also focus on what you can blog about that isn't related to your book, but is related to your target audience - and perhaps other authors in your genre as they are likely to be potential buyers as well as great people to network with for reviews.


The trick here is not to be too promotional - this turns people off.  You want to provide interesting, informative content that people are likely to share.  To make this even more difficult, you want to do this on a consistent basis, to keep those readers interested.


I just started a blog in the last week or so.  What I am doing is:

Writing book reviews within the genre I am interested in publishing in.  This is fantasy in my case.  This allows people to see what I personally really like about some books, and really hate about some books.  This will give people an indication of what to expect from my book. This may turn out to kick me in the ass as I wrote a scathing review of a much loved fantasy  book, but I'm all about being unfiltered.

Sharing resources I discover that may be helpful to other writers in my genre.

As I write more, I will be sharing tidbits about my book.  Not enough to give anything away, but small teasers.  Perhaps a tasty bit of dialogue here, or glimpses into the world I have built, as I get closer to publishing, I plan to share things like the cover of my book, difficulties of finding an agent, etc.


Basically, show you are human.  Just like a character you are writing, you want people to be able to relate to you.  This will over time grow a loyal following and generate interest.


Some tips:

Hosting and Domain Names:

If you are using a service such as weebly, I highly suggest getting your own domain name, so its something like IanCohen.com (which unfortunately isn't available but you can brainstorm) and not something like Iancohen.weebly.com. Nobody will remember to type in Weebly, it is not as popular as extensions such as .wordpress.


I advise self-hosting wordpress, it is easier and more affordable than one would imagine.  This gives you the opportunity to do more with it as you go, while a platform like Weebly is limited.  Additionally, you dont have to worry about Weebly going out of  business and you losing all of your posts.  If you must do something like Weebly, than Wordpress.com is a better option as that will be hosted on Wordpress servers but still allow you to have your own domain. (There is wordpress.com and wordpres.org - which is self hosting).


Hosting is cheap, I use hostgator and have a giant server but you can get a server for around $4 a month, which is worth it in my opinion: http://www.hostgator.com/shared


Self hosted sites tend to rank better in search engines (Google) than sites hosted on a platform.  Having a site that is better optimized for search engines increases your chance of discovery, increasing potential readers, etc.


As far as domain names go, something memorable and easy to type. Nothing too long.  For example IanNathanialCohen.com might be a bit on the lengthy side, but since IanCohen is taken, you might want to do that.


Other Channels

To increase your readers, you will want to do social networking as well.  The best place for this is probably Twitter as you can quickly share updates and interesting links, etc. 


Google + is a good channel because it allows you to take advantage of their authorship algo.  You know how sometimes you do perform a search query and you see peoples pictures next to the search results?  This is due to Google authorship, which requires you to have a Google + profile, that links to your blog.  This has been found to increase clicks to sites by over 30%.


Pinterest was good but they changed a bunch of stuff lately and its really hard to get any visibility there now.  If you enjoy Pinterest, then by all means, use it.  I find it entertaining so I use it.


LinkedIn might have good writing groups you can join for networking and sharing blog posts.  I haven't checked because at this time I really want to keep my fantasy/professional identity separate.  Something to consider if you use LinkedIn and don't want people from work being all nosey.


Sticking to it:


I will tell you right now, maintaining a blog and growing your reader base is more difficult than it appears. You really want to post consistently as this is 1. good for rankings in search engines, 2 it keeps your name in peoples minds so they dont forget who you are, and it makes them more likely to subscribe to your blog by email or feed.


It will be disheartening at times.  You will often feel like you are talking to a wall.  Sometimes you will be.  The trick is to keep going, this takes time.



As far as blogs of unpublished authors, mine is quite new and I have to say with this  - do as I say, not as I do.  I can't be as consistent as     
I'd like because I work 10+ hours a day, and still need to find time to write.  I dont have G+ because I already have so many social networks for professional use.  But maybe seeing what I am doing may help. 


 There is no real right or wrong here, the only real "right" thing is provide valuable information and be a human.




One blog I recently found is this one, which I really like


apparently he has been blogging for awhile but just got a publishing deal and his books will be out 2014.


I cant think of any more unpublished author blogs at this point, a lot of review blogs such as:

http://acerbicwriting.wordpress.com/ who I believe is also in the process of writing a novel.


I have a whole list of other blogs I follow, if you would like.  Many are published, some are just for book reviews, or publishing tips, etc.



Hope this helps!









Ian Nathaniel Cohen
Posted: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 9:48 AM

Actually, it does help a lot.  And I'd call your post "detailed," rather than long-winded wink.


Interesting comments about the blog idea.  So, since my work typically has a lot of swordfights in it, and I'm a huge fan of swashbuckler fiction (books and movies), maybe a blog post about my top ten favorite movie swordfights?  Stuff like that?


I'll also look into wordpress as opposed to Weebly.  (And I'm definitely planning on using my full name in any URL.)


I also just set up an Author page on Facebook for myself yesterday. 


Thanks so much!

--edited by Ian Nathaniel Cohen on 7/16/2013, 9:49 AM--

Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 10:23 PM

I started blogging in or around 2000, I think it was, back when you had to request an invite from someone to get on LiveJournal. In 2002, I moved to a domain; I shared space with someone I'm still friends with. I didn't get serious about wanting a "real writers website" until around 2006. I started tinkering with WordPress on my own domain and set it up so I had two blogs under one domain name - one for my writerly stuff and one for my personal stuff. In 2008, I moved to a different webhost and consolidated those databases - that I'm still using. (same webhost, same databases lol)

I didn't start shopping Midnight around until June 1, 2009, and it didn't sell until February of 2012. But I had myself well-established online before then, and I like to think it helped, at least some. I had an anthology come out October 1, 2009; it's still selling. And you know what - I keep forgetting to put "buy me" links on my website for that anthology, and it's pushing four years out. Oops. I can't do that with Midnight -- ha ha ha!

What I did do before I had anything really to promote was put up a page that listed some of the copy editing work I'd done, what current projects I had going, links to excerpts of things I'd written, things I'd done with Apex Publications. Stuff like that. Including a links page to where my stuff was online - like the blog posts I do for Apex Magazine.

I recently redid that page into a Bibliography page -- with the anthology still missing! OUCH! -- http://mariadkins.com/maris-books. But it's going to have to receive a big overhaul closer to the time Midnight launches in March because it's a mess. Like right now, the Midnight link opens up a search results page for posts tagged Midnight. I need to get in there and put up excerpts from the story, and eventually I'll be able to put up the promotional blurbs and links to the early reviews.

I pay $30 a year for hosting and $7 a year for my domain name. I learned CSS and PHP so I can go in and tweak WP theme codes and make them more personalized to suit me.

My url is my name (http://mariadkins.com), so it's easy to find me. That's who I am everywhere online (except Tumblr and Flickr). Once you get everything set up, it's not too early to go ahead and get a set of matching business cards, too. Get matte finish - you can't write on the glossy ones well (not at all with some pens!). And don't get anything printed on the back - that's valuable real estate. That's where you put notes, your phone number, etc, etc, before handing over the card to the person you're giving it to. hey buddy. had fun in room 512 during the con! Write me when you get home! See you next year! For a good time call 8675309. Or some such.

you really need that reader base to exist prior to publishing

Yes, yes you do! And May, the two bullet points you listed, stuff like that goes into your marketing plan.

focus on what you can blog about that isn't related to your book

Or like me, just blog. I blogged all about my hysterectomy last year. Those were some seriously popular posts. :snort: Also, I have a son with chronic kidney failure and a transplant, so that gets a lot of face time on my blog, as well. Too, sometimes when I'm having trouble trying to figure something out, in life or in writing, I'll blog about it. When my father-in-law passed last month, my husband started fundraising for a new fire truck for his hometown fire department. I pasted the information about the drive into my blog.


For me, it's about what you're comfortable putting out there. I know people who blog absolutely everything about their lives - under their real names, to boot! No holds barred; they just jump in and go for it. I'll never feel comfortable enough to be that candid. I have two things I just won't blog about, so nobody will ever see those things mentioned anywhere on my website. Just don't ask what those things are - I won't tell you.

May said she's doing same genre book reviews. I've done book reviews for eight years now. But I'll review whatever I can get my hands on that's of interest to me. I didn't even have a sure-fire solid genre for Midnight until I started shopping it. And currently I'm writing YA. So my interests are a bit scattered. It would be difficult for me to plug myself into one category and stick with that.

Not enough to give anything away, but small teasers. 


I have 43 tags. Just 1 category; daily. Seems the tags I use the most are - of course - writing, worldbuilding, favorite phrase of the day, and oy vey phrase of the day.


Here's an example of a favorite:



Here's an example of an oy vey:



I don't make near as many metrics posts as I used to. It just used to be a way for me to keep up with what I was doing in a given time. Now that I'm off-schedule and everything is just ridiculous, it's impossible to even try. But here's an example of one of those:


For example IanNathanialCohen.com might be a bit on the lengthy side, but since IanCohen is taken, you might want to do that.

Or use icohen or some other combination.

I will tell you right now, maintaining a blog and growing your reader base is more difficult than it appears.

Yes. I got some serious burnout and didn't post a whole lot at all between 2010 and ... well, now, really. I'm still playing the game of trying to get back into the habit of regular blogging.


Well, right now, I'm really trying to get back into the habit of regular anything, to be honest. It's a slow, tedious process.

I feel like I'm leaving out half of what I intended to say, but with hope, I've gotten some of my points across!

Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 10:25 PM
Ian Nathaniel Cohen wrote:
maybe a blog post about my top ten favorite movie swordfights?  Stuff like that?


I did a guest blog for a magazine once that was a run-down of my top 10 favorite songs of all time. That was rough!!

Mari Adkins
Posted: Thursday, July 25, 2013 1:46 PM
I like her ABOUT page:


Ian Nathaniel Cohen
Posted: Saturday, July 27, 2013 11:16 AM
Alrighty, I'll get to work on some of these.  Thanks!

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