Last week, I launched my own website. www.DeeErnst.com.
There were no bands playing, no confetti. Champagne bottles were not popping all over a grand hotel ballroom. Celebrities did not come up, grasp my hand warmly, and murmur their congratulations.
There was very little media coverage.
However, the three people who worked diligently on the project all sent emails bursting with promise and praise, and my husband and daughter were suitably impressed.
As for me, well, this was just another step in my journey to become a real-live, grown-up author. I decided I needed a website for several reasons, one being now that I was making money, I needed to start running up some expenses, or the US Government would take away a big chunk of it come April of next year.
I realized that there were people out there who did not – gasp – shop exclusively on Amazon, but still might like my books. In fact, there were people who didn’t have ANY ereader, and how could I reach them?
I wanted a place to touch base with my readers, because I actually had readers. I’d been collecting emails from women who took the time to tell me what they thought of my books, and I was shocked when the ‘group’ I had been saving them to reached capacity – 100 addresses – and I had to start another.
So, I remembered a great woman I had met a writers conference, found her card, and gave her a call. She and her business partner were up for the job. They met with me, and the ‘tech guy’ who would actually put everything together, and a few checks later, we were off.
There were lots of decisions to be made when designing a website, decisions about things I never thought about. Not just content, but the look of the site, how I wanted people to feel when they landed there. So, I started looking around at other writers’ sites, to find out what the people who had been doing this for a while were doing.
Susan Isaacs had a great site – the front page had her standing in front of a vegetable stand. Now, that doesn’t sound too exciting, I know, but she’s one of my favorite writers, and she is very much, to me at least, a New York City writer, and the photo of her really sent that message. Then there was an events section, where you could find out where you could hear her speak about all the great things she was involved in.
I’m a New Jersey writer. Should I try to convey that? Maybe take a picture of me at a toll booth on the Garden State Parkway?
But an events page? I don’t think Back-To-School night will qualify.
So, maybe not.
Next, I went to Jennifer Weiner’s page. It had a great banner across the top with a quote from Time Magazine about her latest book. Then, below her name, were the covers of her two latest books.
Hmmm. I only have two books, period. The third isn’t even past the first draft stage. And Time Magazine will not return my calls.
The Martha Grimes website was pretty cool. Her site had her picture, a fan-out of several of her books, and under Latest News, an announcement that she had won the 2012 Grand Master award from the Mystery Writers of America. Congratulations, Martha! You deserve it! But since I hadn’t even been nominated for any awards…
Then I decided to try an Indie author. I found Elle Casey’s website. She had a really neat banner thing that moved across the page, with all her books listed, as well as a few advertisements for Kindle stuff.…wow, this looked great! Of course, there was, once again, the whole ‘only two books, Dee’ thing, but still.
So when I was talking to the team, I had lots of good ideas about what I did and did not want. I didn’t want ‘The New Book’ to be the focus, and not just because I didn’t have one. I didn’t have awards to brag about, events to invite people to, or quotes from national magazines to highlight. What did I have?
I had characters that I wrote about that people seemed to connect with. Women over forty who were strong and funny and had friends and family around them. Maybe that should be the focus. So I found a great quote about an ‘ older woman’. I had a new photo taken of me that’s really rock-and-roll, but I declined to have it Photo-Shopped. Although I was really temped. Okay, so he took out a bit of glare, and a few shadows, but that was IT.
We put together a Q&A where I talk about the kind of women I write about, and what it’s like to start living your dream in your forties and beyond. I also have separate pages for both of my books. And I’ve got a really cool banner that can move.
For someone who would be happiest writing with a quill and parchment, this next step into social media and sophisticated technology is pretty scary. Luckily, all the really hard work was done by The Write Room, LLC, and they did a great job.
We’re all struggling to keep up – with the latest, newest, fastest, most popular. It’s a tough world out there for the best of us, and especially for an Indie writer like me. I thank the stars for all the lucky breaks and great opportunities I’ve had regarding my books and readers. I’d love you all visit my site just to see if I got it right. It’s still something of a work in progress. Tweaking, I believe, is the technical term. We’re still tweaking. Soon, I know it will be perfect. I hope so.
And I really hope nothing new comes out anytime soon. If I have to go through something like this again, it could get ugly.