Writer's let's get real for a minute. GONE are the days when you could pine away on your typewriter, creating your genius in written form, and be discovered by walking that ream of paper into a publisher's office. These days, thanks to the amazing invention of POD, KDP, and all other initials that allow anyone and everyone to become published -- you have a LOT of competition out there. That's good. Iron sharpens iron, and just because there are more fish in the sea doesn't mean you can't still rule your corner of the ocean! However, it's more imperative than ever that you use all the tools at your disposal to get seen. Whether you intend to be a full-blown indie author rebelling against publishing houses, or you wish to ONLY publish via a literary agent married to a publishing house, you NEED to make yourself visible to the world; or rather, the e-World. In short, YOU NEED a website. A good one. You, as a writer, NEED a web presence. For your readership to find you, for your potential future agent BFF to find you, for media contacts to locate you, you NEED a website. And for the love, there is NO reason it can't be a clean and polished site. In fact, if you want to be taken seriously as a writer by trade, you need to make it really count here. On that note, here are my suggested 2 steps to a more polished online presence.
Step 1 Get it LEGIT <<<-----------
This is likely the one area you need to spend a little money in. Not alot, but a little. Sure there are FREE websites and web blogs and web domain services out there but the use of a free services is typically very noticeable in both your URL web address AND the ads placed around the site. I get it, becoming a writer is risky and often not lucrative and those free sites are so fast and easy. I get it. I do. If all you wish to do is have a free landing page to house your blog then by all means, rock that free website and domain and call it yours. GO DO YOU, MAN! But if you plan to really make writing a career....you need to invest a little skin in the game and think of yourself as a commodity to be marketed.
YOU are a product. Your name, your pen name, your writing, etc. These are things you want readers, agents, publishers, to see as tangible and long-standing. For a small price, that is WELL spent, you can invest in a legitimate domain name for your website that takes you from "hobbyist" to "legitimate". And don't go crazy trying to secure some weird extension. Keep it simple. Use your name or your pen name or your book series name and secure it in .com, .net. or .org formatting. It's a small subtitle shift but it counts. And before you panic thinking that building a legitimate website is expensive and hard, I give you WIX! I have ZERO web design experience and I created the site you are on RIGHT NOW....in a weekend! It doesn't have fancy animations and such but it doesn't NEED to. My goal is a landing place for my writing. WIX was a quick solution for that. Wix can find a domain, host you, and set you up in an hour or less.....it's BRAINLESS easy and you'll have the beginnings of a polished web presence. JUST CLICK IT and get it done already! And while you are at it, if you intend to be on social media at ALL for your writing, go ahead and secure those profiles at the same time so you have a consistent online presence.
Step 2 Get it POLISHED <<<-----------
I'll be very plain with you in that this is the one area that nearly everyone makes the mistake of ignoring. Yes, you are a writer, not an actor. You want to be authentic and present your work as an elevated craft and it's not about your looks etc. Okay, WE GET, your super smart and talented. But again, if you don't present a polished overall package when you present your body of work, guess what. You could end up with your manuscripts in the slush pile of the literary world before you even begin. Many agents troll the internet when reviewing a potential author to see if you are sell-able as an entity. While you don't have to be a super model, if you can at least present your BEST self, you'll do better! To speak to this in particular I asked the amazing Lindsey Ganter, professional make-up artist (emphasis on the artist) about the overall purpose of a solid, polished, picture. This was her take.
First impressions are lasting impressions! Here are a few rules from my team training page that I want to share (in brief). Simple tricks to good pics that anyone should follow if they want to be .... uh, followed.
Lighting! Get in front of a window with lots of natural light flowing through. DON'T take pictures in your bathroom using artificial yellow light as it will yellow your complexion.
Experiment with good angles! The best photos are from slightly above center. This will help avoid the dreaded “double-chin” and is generally a better and more flattering angle for most people. Never take a photo from below....that creates shadows in unnecessary places!
Enhance the original! There are a plethora of photo editing programs for FREE that you can find on the web. Using filters and editing tools like light enhancers and sharpeners can be helpful too. BUT - don't overdo it! Keep it as original as possible but brighten and enhance the eyes and smile if necessary.
To help further emphasize her point, Lindsey offered this before and after of herself. Now clearly she is a MAKE-UP ARTIST so her after is going to look decidedly different than what us humble writers will aspire to. But the point is this, If you are shopping for a make-up artist to work with you, do you hire the girl in a ponytail taking a bathroom selfie, or the polished well-lit photograph of someone who clearly is invested in honing their craft? Same applies to you as a writer. You must SELL yourself.
You can take good pictures yourself or your can hire a photographer....it's about whatever YOU want to present. But it doesn't have to be costly. You don't HAVE to pay a lot of money on this but DO you invest your TIME. Take my website for instance. It has a mix of both casual and professional. Check out the About page or my Media page. All told I spent maybe 300 bucks for every image you see here. and I could have likely gone without spending even that. I wanted the pics to be authentically me, but the BEST version of me I could manage. Some of these are done with my husbands camera at home, and some by a professional. But the image was INTENTIONAL and not a flippant afterthought. I use the same series of pics across all my social media sites as well so that no matter WHERE an agent or columnist or publisher finds me, it's a consistent and polished image. As Lindsey says, "CHECK YOUR PIC BEFORE YOU CLICK!" WISE WORDS FOLKS!
Don't short-change your work as a writer by short-selling YOURSELF as the talent who created it. YOU do deserve to be presented in the best way possible. You ARE worth the time and money to do the work and it IS important for your career. Get it legitimate, Make it Polished, then JUST KEEP WRITING!
To see more of Lindsey Ganter's true artistry, check out the following:
Facebook: Lindsey Ganter
Her AMAZING make-up Creations: Lashes by Lindsey
Lindsey's Make-up Biz: No Limit Lashes by Lindsey
To read more about the business of writing check out the following: