Hi, I’m Aleesah Darlison. I’m an author and the owner of Greenleaf Press.
Through the many author talks, writing workshops and public appearances I do each year, I get to meet a lot of people. Many of these people are aspiring and emerging authors who are just finding their way in the industry.
I remember what it was like – not that long ago – to be an aspiring author. Everything seemed so far out of my reach and I didn’t really know if I’d make it or not. Being an author isn’t like other jobs. You don’t apply for the job of author and start earning money straight away. There are uncertainties every step of the way.
Sometimes it takes years of commitment, practice and patience before you secure your first writing job or snare that first publishing contract. If you take the self-publication route, you have to write and produce the book yourself, investing time and money to do so and then work darn hard selling it. Especially for self-publishers, the journey can become less about the writing and more about the business of being an author.
Nobody hands you the title of author on a platter. It takes an incredible amount of hard work and self-belief to achieve a writing dream.
And getting published takes more than just writing a book. Of course, that helps, obviously, and writing a good book helps even more.
But on the path to publication, there are many steps to be taken.
I’ve seen authors and illustrators successfully carve out a name, a niche for themselves BEFORE they even had a book in their hands. It can be done. It is being done. And you can do it too.
If you build it, they will come.
One of those key steps towards establishing yourself before you’re published is to develop a presence in the market – both physically by attending networking events and ‘getting your face out there’ and also digitally. Being online and present and interacting through social media and creating digital content via websites and blogs.
It’s all part of the process of developing what we’ve come to know as an Author Platform.
I know it sounds strange and slightly nerve-wracking. This path is not for everyone, but in many cases it is a proven way to success.
Years ago, you had the book in your hands with your name on it before you went around telling people that you wanted to be an author. We were too shy, too new, too humble to even think the words let alone speak them.
People might consider us a fraud if we did.
Today things are different. With the internet and all the information on it available at our fingertips, now more than ever it’s important to have an online presence.
Putting the cart before the horse as such can help you focus, stay motivated, and realise your dreams more quickly. Not only that, having a website tells people who you are.
Just because you’re creative, doesn’t mean you can’t present a professional image to the world.
An online presence might start with something simple like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
But if you’re serious about becoming an author and getting noticed, you’ll have your own website and possibly your own blog. I don’t want to alarm you… but you may even start to consider YouTube as a way to tell people about who you are.
I know, video is scary stuff!
But the statistics and predictions are in – within a few years, 80% of online content will be video.
Many authors-in-waiting will tell me that they don’t have anything to put on their website.
All it requires is a little careful planning and thought. It isn’t hard creating content. After all, we’re authors, right? Creating content is what we do for a living.
In this era of content marketing, social media is virtually made for authors.
Now is your time to shine! As an author, you’re in the best position to create the content necessary to tell your own stories – your background and history and the stories behind our books.
Your website is a crucial shop front and information booth for yourself and your books. If you expect people to buy your books, they’re going to want to know about you.
If you expect people to book you for school, library and preschool visits, they’re going to want to know about you.
Trust me, people do research these things. Especially if they’re shelling out money for something.
If you expect publishers to publish your story, they’re most likely going to want to know who you are and what sort of profile you have in the market. Do people know you? Do you have supporters, followers, a ready-made audience who will buy your book? Are you a publishing success story just waiting to happen?
What do you think is the quickest and easiest way to check someone’s credentials?
You guessed it, a Google search. It’s the same thing you’d do if you were looking to buy something. You’d check it out on the internet first. I know I would.
But if you don’t have a website, people can’t find out about you. They can’t verify that you’re for real, they can’t validate who you are.
They won’t buy your books if they don’t know who they’re buying from.
Beyond the uncertainty and humility, lies a clear path for you to take as an author. An online presence is crucial for your future as an author.
Here are five straightforward ways an author website can help you.
An author website will show prospective publishers that you’re professional, committed and here for the long haul. With the images and content that you show, you can project your own unique branding, image and style. Be the author you want to be seen as.
Having a website means you’ve got an online store offering your books for sales 24/7. If people are able to buy your books online, you have the potential to earn money while you’re sleeping.
Your website should include relevant information about you as an author, it can also contain information about your writing journey, what associations and groups you’re a part of and even list writing tips and resources. Importantly, it will also provide information about your books, enticing people to purchase.
Building Your Email List
If you include a contact form or newsletter sign up page, you can gain access to crucial contact details of people interested in you and your books.
A really useful page to have on your website is a Links Page, listing other useful sites and resources. When you set up this page, make sure you contact the author, illustrator, publisher or organisation so that you’re linking to so they know about it. If you’re lucky, they might reciprocate and add your website to their list of links too. You gain the benefit of being promoted on another website and you’ve made a friend. Connect with them on Facebook or other social media and the links just keep getting stronger.