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Background

I studied writing in depth before ever seriously trying it myself. I read a lot, and I looked at reputable books on the subject. Over the years, I combined what I knew into a formula which I then honed and perfected through years of trial-and-error. Now that I have that formula more or less in its final form, I want to share my knowledge with other writers who are where I was several years ago.

I think the best way to do this would be to have a website where I can have a community of budding writers. I would of course show them what I know and open it to discussion, but I'd also like to host contests (free and paid), and offer them opportunities to get started with agents and publishers, through my own connections (I myself am not yet published, so that will obviously come later). Having a community like this has always been my dream.

Question

I can't find it, but I remember reading somewhere (on this site if memory serves) that a publisher will want to create and own a website for the author and his book. It makes sense, as he then has a target he can point readers to, which most likely sends them to other books from the same publisher.

Is this true? And if it is, will there be a problem with me having my own site already/wanting to create one in the future? Will the publisher somehow own the rights so that I can't create my website, or he will own it if I do?

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    All the writers I follow (published with the big name publishers, like Random House and Tor) have their separate personal sites, where their books are listed and even sold; not a problem at all. If you want to set up an online writing community, there is a WordPress plug-in, which can turn a WP blog into one (I have to ask my webmaster the details), holler if you are interested. Happy Holidays. – Lew Dec 27 '16 at 13:10
  • @Lew Is it Writeshare? I tried that one, and after some deliberation figured it would be easier to carry out contests via email. – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Dec 27 '16 at 19:02
  • I checked: yes, he says it is what he found. We never tried it, though. – Lew Dec 28 '16 at 1:13
  • It's a great plugin, but had some features I would rather disable, like a nav menu that is at the top of all pages everywhere. I can turn it off, but not limit it to specific pages. And it's not what I want for my specific needs at the moment. It is a great plugin for what it does though. The author is responsive and open to ideas. – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Dec 28 '16 at 5:19
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Actually, many publishers seem to prefer perspective authors to have a web site and a following they can point to, as well as other social media. It's called building a platform. It all helps build publicity for the book, which is something you and your publisher would both want.

  • Hmm, that's a good point. Do you think it would be a good idea to get the site up and gather a community before I actually publish, for that very reason? – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Dec 27 '16 at 20:11
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    Yes. Do a little research on "writer's platform" and similar phrases. Apparently (based on what I've read, not personal experience, YMMV), it helps if you can say "well, I've got X followers on Twitter and Y people follow my blog" or whatever. It shows there is an audience for your material. What you don't want to do is put everything that would be in your book on your site, otherwise your followers won't need to buy the book. – Terri Simon Dec 28 '16 at 0:44
  • I agree. You want to have a web presence already built, at the time you have your work published. Search engines take time to catch up with new keywords; if you want yours to be out there at the moment of the release of your work, you might want to start working on it now. Character names, places, etc., whatever is unique to your world--put it out there now and keep writing. – Lew Dec 28 '16 at 1:21
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The nice thing about websites is that there can be more than one. Publishers, being publishers, want to promote their books, which will of course include on the web, but that doesn't mean you can't. Subject to the terms of any specific contract, and the specific promotional language/messaging they want to use for your book, you can promote your book beyond the publisher's site. And I've never heard of a publisher trying to shut down a personal web site, like a blog. If you start blogging bad things about the publisher they might object, but that's different.

Here's one example of a pattern I've seen from several authors. (Disclosure: this author is a friend.) For the book I Remember the Future, the publisher (Apex Publications) has a product page, and the author (Michael Burstein) also has a page on his personal site (he's written other stuff too) and a personal blog. Each of those sites links to the other, so the publisher clearly doesn't have a problem with it.

Here's another example from a larger publisher. Baen Books has a page on its site with links to the personal (or sometimes fan) web sites of all of their authors who have them. It's not a short list.

These examples are drawn from SF&F publishers in North America. I don't have reasons to believe that publishers in other genres would be significantly different in this regard, but you should do some searching in the genres or with the publishers you're interested in to see what you can find.

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