18

I've heard and read from many vlogger and blogger authors that an aspiring writer should have his own webpage as early as possible. Being published or not doesn't come to it.

Now, if I created a webpage for myself, I assume I need to post my writings on it. Do my posts need to be periodical, or at least regular? What if I'm occupied with my current book and don't have the brains to write on various topics periodically just to establish a presence? And isn't that just blogging?

Not take away from any bloggers, but it isn't what I like to do. Blogging to me is very similar to journalism, which I consider a soul-draining occupation and sits at the opposite end of the writing spectrum from fiction writing.

Disclaimer

My only audience so far is family and friends.

22

Personally, I think that's a crock.

It's understandable why someone would think having a website would be a benefit, but if you have it too early-on, it will come across as amateurish at best or becomes an unnecessary financial cost at worst.

As for content, if you do make a website, it doesn't have to require constant content updates, but it should be a place where you advertise your works and sell yourself as an author. A periodical blog post telling people about your writing progress wouldn't be remiss, but you should make sure you note things that would matter to your readers at the very least.

That said, I wouldn't do it until I have something I want to share with the public and sell, either literally or figuratively.

  • 1
    If by financial cost you mean you could be doing something that made money in the time you spent setting up the website, I suppose that's true. But you can get websites completely free, and you can get your own .com to point to that website so it looks more professional for 10 bucks a year. For just about any adult that is not a considerable loss. – corsiKa Mar 18 at 16:07
  • 4
    really good answer, however, worth pointing out there is some benefit in buying the domain name straight away even though it's a cost, as someone else may register it in the interim. – Orangesandlemons Mar 18 at 17:05
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    @corsiKa not everyone has the tech savvy to make a professional-looking website, even by means of WordPress &c. – Tin Man Mar 18 at 17:56
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    @Walt You don't need a degree in computerology surgery to make a website. There are plenty of reasonable free hosts with simple website builders. – corsiKa Mar 18 at 18:48
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    @corsiKa perhaps not, but you do need decent computer literacy and a certain level of web design sense if you want it to look professional. Thus "come across as amateurish at best or becomes an unnecessary financial cost" [emphasis mine] – Tin Man Mar 18 at 18:58
12

Bloggers and vloggers by definition have an online platform on which they've built their success. Their input on the necessity of having an online platform is biased. They cannot speak for all writers. At best, they can speak for vloggers/bloggers.

Think of it this way: I'm trying to become a bodybuilder. With that goal in mind, I exercise daily, tell my wife I love her daily, and I drink three raw eggs for breakfast. Years down the line, I am a known bodybuilder, and people ask me on what I think aspiring bodybuilders need to do to get where I am.

And I tell them to exercise daily, drink three raw eggs for breakfast, and tell your spouse you love them daily.

However, did the raw eggs really matter? Can I really claim that these eggs are required to be sucessful? What about telling my wife I love her daily? Did that really contribute to my success, or is it just something I happened to do?

What's much more likely is that I'm reverse engineering my advice. I don't know that drinking the eggs or telling my wife I love her were necessary components to my success, but I think to myself "well, I drank those raw eggs and told my wife I love her; and I'm successful today, so I assume that this must have caused my success".

And that is a logical fallacy (post hoc ergo propter hoc, "after this, therefore because of this").

What I would put a lot more stock in, is to hear this advice from writers who did not have an online platform to launch their career, because these people may have a much more meaningful insight into what an online platform really adds to their popularity.
But don't take their word for it either. People are always biased based on what they did(n't) do and whether they did(n't) end up being successful. But unless they can empirically prove their argument, it is nothing more than a biased observation.

8

There are two key parts to this, and it is important to distinguish between them to help decide what steps to take and when.

Domain Names vs Websites

A domain name is an address, it is where people look to find a website, because it is far easier to remember www.google.com than it is to remember the string of numbers for a server hosting google's search page, [And you don't have to worry about anything if they change the server hosting the page...] while a website is the actual content that a user sees and interacts with.

If you have something in mind that you decide you want to use as an address for a project at some point in the future, then it is generally advisable to look into getting, and holding on to, that Now.

It is somewhat like buying property in a new town around where a railway line and station is being built. If you think you want to eventually do business there, then go shopping for your 'plot of land' now, to help ensure you're on the main street, or at least near by, rather than waiting and being stuck on a plot somewhere heading out of town - You don't have to build on it yet, but you can't build on property you don't own.

The actual Website is another matter, and you have more flexibility in how you decide to handle this. Once you have your desired domain name, then you may choose to just do nothing for the time being - If your project isn't ready for any kind of media attention, and you have nothing you wish people to know about it, then it isn't at all unusual to leave the domain name pointing at nothing.

The next step up from 'nothing' is a holding page - Minimal content, 'welcome to the site, stuff will be coming down the pipe sometime in the future' kind of thing. This really has next to no effect on anything, with very low chance of being picked up by search engines or gaining attention from an audience more than a 'points nowhere domain' does, but it also doesn't take all that much more effort than doing nothing. And if nothing else, you have proof to yourself that your setup is working when you try typing your own address into a browser.

To go beyond that will involve actual effort to create content, and what content is going to depend on your goals. Are you using the site to Build a base Before project release, or will you focus the site on expanding a base after project release?

A common method to use a site to build a base before release is to engage in social media, building up a contact base, and eventually community/fans. This is either aimed towards you/your personality, or towards a project itself.

As your community grows you expand your personal/project's website to address the next stage goals, and it might move through a few stages along the line of: - A 'business card', little more than a hub for different social media you post to. - A 'project news board', highlighting plans and how things are going. Teasing upcoming stuff to people who might be interested. - Add 'merch', at some point you have 'something' to sell. The book, related 'collectibles', whatever. - Eventually if all goes well, your site becomes a museum to your projects, and advertising zone for future projects. [And supports a thriving 'gift store' selling product tie ins.]

If you are aiming the website to support a project post-release, then you end up compressing the timescale on roll out, and it starts off being something closer to the 'museum' stage.

The important thing is that the website has some reason to exist at a given stage, and people have some reason to view it. What that reason is at any given point will push how much effort and investment deserves to go into the site.

7

Every non-fiction writer should have a blog covering the topics they write about. You are trying to establish yourself as an authority on the subject, an influencer of ideas and opinions, or a curator of taste. If you write about historical subjects (or tea, or cocker spaniels), a blog about your topic/research is a great idea. People may discover your website while searching for the topic and be interested in your approach and even buy your books because of it.

A fiction writer should consider why they have a blog – whether it is intended to advertise their books, add meta-content to existing stories (a worldbuilding wiki, for example), discuss their writing process (a writer's blog about writing), or some other purpose that boosts your profile as an experienced author (your schedule of public appearances, for example).

At minimum, every author should buy a web domain that is as close to your name (pseudonym) as possible, and treat it as a professional business card with contact info, a bio, and bibliography.

Do not use social media platforms as your only contact page since these platforms lock out viewers for arbitrary reasons (not actually arbitrary, they want everyone viewing your info to be a member of their platform).

  • +1 for non-fiction authors using blogs in advance of book publishing, but as I pointed out in a previous comment against the answer by @pixelomo, to get reputation as an authority on your subject, ideas or opinions, it is ideal to include citations in non-fiction blogs as it shows evidence that what you say is true. Anyone can make a claim without citations but are they true in today's day and age of false information on the internet. – Chris Rogers Mar 19 at 16:14
4

At the very least, I would try to reserve the URL for your real name (or pen name), and any others that may be relevant - such as the book's name, if that's coming soon. Get a dot-com if it is available. Also reserve your name on gMail if you can.

It will be easy to link a free blogger blog to that URL, or to create something from scratch later on. But the names are the most restricted resource.

  • I use Google Domains for my domains. They usually cost about $12 and up. – imatowrite Mar 18 at 18:58
  • Sorry about the "poll" - I was just trying to give a more complete answer, as I haven't bought just a URL in quite a while. – April Mar 18 at 20:10
4

You don't need a website straightaway. But it's a good idea to begin building an online presence as a writer. Two of the best sites for doing this are:

http://medium.com/

https://quora.com

Forgive me if you already know about them. Medium is a communal blogging platform whereas Quora is a question and answer site. Building up a following on either of these sites would be very beneficial for an aspiring author.

Only once you come to release your first book should you worry about getting a personal site.

journalism, which I consider a soul-draining occupation and sits at the opposite end of the writing spectrum from fiction writing

With regards to this, I have to disagree. Some of my favourite authors were journalists first, such as Terry Pratchett and Hunter S. Thompson. They refined their style while working as journalists.

‘Journalism makes you think fast’ - Terry Pratchett

https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2015/terry-pratchett-journalism-makes-you-think-fast/

  • 2
    Whilst Quora would help to get you noticed, will it get you noticed in the correct way? If you are a non-fiction writer, surely you need to be shown in a reputable light. If you follow the community rules within scientific StackExchange sites such as Psychology.SE or MedicalSciences.SE where you must cite sources to back claims, you will be seen to be more reputable than the vast majority of Quora users who are not pushed to do the same. I have seen many on Quora state factless claims which can easily be refuted. – Chris Rogers Mar 19 at 16:05
  • That's true, totally agree about non-fiction. But the OP stated he's writing fiction. – Pixelomo Mar 20 at 1:39
3

I would like to break down your description into parts while answering this question.

I've heard and read from many vlogger and blogger authors that an aspiring writer should have his own webpage as early as possible. Being published or not doesn't come to it.

This completely depends on you. But your audience is limited. Today, in the world of the Internet, your online presence can make a huge difference. You can grow your audience manifolds. You can interact with the audience and get reviews on your content. Thus, there is no harm if you start early or at least once your work is being recognised.

Now, if I created a webpage for myself, I assume I need to post my writings on it. Do my posts need to be periodical, or at least regular? What if I'm occupied with my current book and don't have the brains to write on various topics periodically just to establish a presence? And isn't that just blogging?

First of all, I will recommend you to create a website using https://www.blogger.com

(I am NOT advertising it).

I say this because it is the easiest way. You can create a blog for free, and once you think your website is doing good, you can purchase the domain. Therefore, you don't need to worry about the frequency of your posts and unnecessary financial costs. (Although it is recommended to post something worth reading once or twice a month). Moreover, I believe you should do it out of fun. Once you think this way, you will understand that this is not just blogging. (my opinion)

  • So, do you think it is advisable to have a blog early on? Do you know of good instances of aspiring writers' blogs that I could review? – imatowrite Mar 18 at 19:00
3

I agree with the fact that spreading the good work is also needed escpecailly in quality writing. If you start publishing your content from an early stage on your webpage, it will on long run de-motivate you unless you are very famous in your field wiz. writer/well-Known Author. Initial days should be utilized for Quality content only.

Why? well reasons are

  • Your focus will shift from Quality to Quantity of Post.
  • Your energy will get utilized to manage the web page and published post.
  • You need more work to grab readers attention to your posts Like Social sharing or SEO (advanced level) for your each and every post.

You got to do the same thing for your every post, and if you are not able to manage them good enough you will blame your writing for it.

So best take in initial days is to use some already built platforms for publishing, gain some audience and the see-through if you are ready for your webpage. Even though you wanted to have a webpage, post your portfolio at first and when you have a good audience, have a full-fledged website in later stages.

2

Why you might want to

So, you don’t absolutely need it, but many published authors will recommend it.

Their reasons for recommending it come down to two primary considerations:

  1. It provides a stable point of contact, a stable place where others can learn about you. For example you can put it on a business card and then hand it to a publisher and then later when they get back to their desk and have five leads that they wanted to hunt through and say “who in the heck was CR Drost?” they can come to a web site and hopefully jog their memory, “oh yeah, this was the young beardy man who was trying to convince me to do this weird fantasy story, well let me see what his social media presence looks like at least…” bonus points if you have something to read there like short stories and someone finds themselves accidentally engrossed in one of them.
  2. It can be a starting point for building a platform, a community of others who like your work. So, if you have a blog then you can have a podcast. If you have a podcast then you can interview interesting folks who have their own fanbases that are more successful than yours, and maybe those people will sign up for your email list. Keeping a platform going does require periodic reinvestment, but that idea of always having a deadline and always shipping new writing is often one of the disciplines which sharpens your skills. A lot of creative professionals also extol the value of luck: that those periodic publications give you the opportunity to stumble on something special which makes the previous month or two of work worth it.

At the base of this there is a piece of mathematics that you should know because it matters to publishers—I know, I know, if I’m talking to writers then I am likely to get an “ew, math” response. It is the mathematics of atom bombs, if that helps.

A digression on nuclear chain reactions

What happens in a chain reaction is, there are these atoms which are too fat with protons and neutrons: they want to fall apart, but they are just barely held together into an almost stable state. You can imagine that they are like dominos or something, “standing up stably” but also “precariously balanced.” Due to random fluctuations, every once in a while, one of them randomly falls over and breaks into two smaller atoms and a bunch of neutrons flies out. And then what happens to the neutrons, is what's important. Because sometimes those neutrons hit other nearby atoms, and this immediately knocks them over and they break apart and release more neutrons. And so on.

The math is not too hard once you know what to focus on: we want to identify, given one of these “free neutrons,” what is the probability that it hits another atom, times the number of new neutrons that will come out of there? Call this number N. In other words, this parameter tells you about how many free neutrons, on average, a given free neutron will create. And then if you want to start with one free neutron from some atom randomly breaking apart, the total number of neutrons that will be created from that is, itself, plus all of the ones that it creates, plus all of the ones that they create, plus all of the ones that those ones create:

total = 1 + N + N2 + N3 + … = 1/(1 – N).

You don’t need to know where this last formula came from exactly, but it’s not too hard (T = 1 + N T, (1 - N)T = 1, …). But you do need to see that if each neutron creates on average one more neutron, N = 1, then this goes to 1/0 = ∞, and for any larger numbers the formula breaks down because the sum gets infinite even faster.

Even if it is not infinite, it is helpful. For example if each neutron on average has a 2/3rds chance of creating another neutron, this says that each free neutron generates on average 3 neutrons total across its whole life. If it grows to a 9/10 chance, it generates on average 10 neutrons. For a 98% chance, each free neutron creates 50 free neutrons. So you can just use this formula with a calculator, 1/(1 - 0.98) = 50.

For nuclear chain reactions, the thing which increases N is to have more of this fissile too-fat material in one place at one time: if the neutron leaves the mass of material then it doesn't break apart any more atoms, and if it stays inside then it breaks apart some other atom. So there is a critical mass of some material, the mass where N = 1 and the thing will explode. When N < 1 we would speak of a half-life, the amount of time which halves the number of free neutrons in the uranium. Afterwards we would have to speak of a doubling time: after maybe one second there is twice as much nuclear energy in the box, then after another second there is again twice as much, and it just doubles and doubles until it's all in the box, which rapidly ignites into a destructive fireball and creates one of the world's largest explosions.

So how do we stop this? To create an atom bomb, you have to have two chunks of N = 0.7 or so, and you need to keep them at opposite ends of the bomb, and then when you are ready to detonate the bomb, you use a smaller explosion to shove these two things together to create some N > 1 and then it doubles and doubles and there is no way to stop it, boom. Actually when you hear about the way that atom bombs were developed by the US government there are some very scary stories about them trying to study this math, for example they would create a cylinder with a hole inside of it that had N = 0.8 or so, and then they would have a straight tube going through it, and in the top of that tube they’d drop more of the uranium, so that it was moving really fast through the other side, so that it would hopefully generate a critical mass N = 1.2 for just a tiny fraction of a second before falling out from the other side. This was called “tickling the dragon’s tail,” and you can imagine that if they didn't get the numbers just right and it doubled too many times while the slug was being fired through the cylinder, the whole thing might have half-exploded anyway—or even worse, might have melted the walls enough to get the next slug stuck in the cylinder so that it would jam up and fully explode for real.

Authors as atom bombs

Now here is how that same math applies to an aspiring author: to be wildly successful, you need people to tell their friends “hey there is this book I am reading and you should read it, too.” We are not talking about free neutrons, right now, but rather readers. Each single reader will on average get N of their friends to read your book.

A publisher wants a high N. Do you remember that number earlier, that if N is 0.98 then each free neutron creates 50 total neutrons? That is a marketing equation. That says “each dollar I spend to create one new reader actually gets me 50 new readers, total.” And of course if you get N = 1 or N > 1 in some circle of people, the book markets itself until everyone in that circle knows about it: no extra spending is needed. (This is thus the mathematics of “going viral,” it just amounts to the fact that a typical viewer of your content shares it to on average one or more of their peers and soon nearly everyone has gotten the message.)

Notice that this number N is not your total number of readers, call that R, who pay attention to you on social media. You can see this by just the fact that N is less than 1 but R might be hundreds or thousands or more. But if you have a large R then people will start to talk to each other about your writing, and then they will feel more comfortable sharing your books with their friends, and so on, so as R increases then N also increases a bit—if you think for instance of John Green whose YouTube videos with his brother created a whole community of “nerdfighters” who started doing awesome stuff together, the internal connections in the community foster greater sharing of his work in general.

Also, in order to build a large R, you necessarily must have either spent a lot of money (unlikely) or had a lot of viral success, written a lot of things which had N ≈ 1 so that your followers each shared with their followers and so on. If a publisher is looking at you for whether you both can make money together, then they care both about your immediate readers R who might read your book just because it was announced, and their marketing multiplier 1/(1 – N). Technically they would much rather you be a viral sensation N ≥ 1 than that you have a large following on social media, but in practice unless you are spending a large amount of money self-promoting, your success in R should point to a success in N.

  • It's very inspiring to prove your proposition (and viral events) using nuclear reaction physics. It does make sense, but I'm afraid my introvert ghost wouldn't allow me the initial energy to create an online presence and start the reaction. :) – imatowrite Mar 18 at 19:43

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