The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

Why a *pre-publication* web presence is important

At this point, pretty much everyone is convinced of the value of an author’s web presence.  Yay.  But I’ve seen too many authors shoot for the book’s publication date (or a couple weeks before) as the launch date for their website.

This is about four months too late.

Typically, four to six months before the hardcover publication of a book, the publicity department sends out galleys to magazine and newspaper book editors as well as to some broadcast producers and online journalists.  When I follow up with galley recipients, I’ll include some information about the book in the text of my email message, but it’s helpful for me to be able to link to more information online — links are an extremely effective and unobtrusive way for book publicists to provide the media with the additional details that could sell a writer or editor on a book.  They are also vital tools for bloggers whose posts are lent credibility by links that direct readers to further information.

I’m not saying the complete author website needs to be up and ready six months before the book’s publication date.  I’m not even saying the author has to have a web site at all.  But I am saying it’s a really, really good idea for *something* — a website, a social networking profile, a blog — to be accessible when galleys are mailed out.  An author without a web presence is a bit like the proverbial tree falling in a forest with no one around.

The more information a website has the better, of course, but it’s also okay also to add to the site in stages.  Realistically, busy authors may simply not have the time or the money to create beautiful websites at this stage in the game (or ever).  Here are a few quick and cheap suggestions for getting online fast:

Create a website with basic information first: If you don’t have or don’t know a lot of information (blurbs, book tour dates, etc.), first create the website with the basic information that you do have: a JPEG of the book cover, an author bio and a summary of the book.  Make sure to mention both the publication date of the book as well as the publishing house and include contact information for the author and / or book publicist.  Your publishing house can suggest web designers that work within a variety of budgets, but you can also put together a website yourself for free.  (Of course, these sites look like they’ve been put together for free, but because all the hard, program-my stuff has been built in to the templates, all you need to do is follow a few basic instructions.)

Add the cover and a tag line to an existing author website: Many authors who already have websites will initially post just the cover of their upcoming book and its publication date.  This is a simple and effective way to get the word out about a new book.  (Just don’t forget to go back later and add more information about it!)

Create a Facebook fan page for the book or a profile for yourself:  If you don’t have the time and / or money to create or update a website, create a Facebook book fan page / author profile for free.  You should post the JPEG of the cover as well as your bio, a summary of the book, and contact information.  Make sure to mention both the publication date of the book as well as the publishing house.

For authors who can invest the time in a robust web presence (which is almost always a good idea these days), you can find more information about social networking on this site or you can check my blogroll (on the right side of the page) for other helpful blogs, but the suggestions above cover some of the basics.  Anyone have other ideas for how authors can establish a web presence quickly and cheaply?

May 11, 2009 - Posted by | Online Marketing | ,

34 Comments »

  1. Well said – but let’s agree that the traditional publishing model does not do much to support the author. While your information is dead on – it would be most relevant to the author at the time of signing. A sales and marketing strategy to enlist fans and cultivate advocates really needs to be developed in parallel with the development of the ms. IF the author hopes to maximize the impact the published work will have.

    Comment by Mark Bloomfield | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  2. You’re right, Mark. Starting to think about promoting a book while it’s being edited isn’t a bad idea. Although I’m certainly not suggesting contacting every book editor in the country upon signing a contract, there are many small steps an author can take early on like setting up a social networking profile. Busy authors can even do this to procrastinate — creative juices not flowing? Take five minutes to create a Facebook account. Have an editor who asked you to rewrite a chapter and you don’t know where to start? Take another few minutes to add to the profile. Ultimately, successfully promoting a book online will take a lot of time, but it doesn’t mean you can’t start small.

    Comment by Yen | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  3. Thanks for the insight, Yen. I will be sending this to a published romance author I spoke with yesterday who finds the self-promotion aspect to be the most difficult facet of writing. I think the web is a wonderful medium for authors to reach their current fan base and hopefully expand it.

    I have found Twitter to be a priceless promotional tool, since authors can use it to reach out to people and allow fans to feel some sort of personal connection. Speaking for myself, I know I’ve logged into Amazon after connecting via Twitter to buy books I may have never heard of otherwise.

    Comment by novelwhore | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  4. Frankly, an author should have a web presence, period. Everyone goes on and on about platform, and being on the web is part of any platform these days. Having a site shows a potential publisher that’s mulling over your proposal that you’re serious, plus it provides an opportunity for you to present more of your background than one paragraph in a query email can present. It also provides you with a supplemental home base for extra-curricular author activities, like speaking engagements and such. I do a lot of presentations at libraries, and my site, CliveYoung.com, provides bookers with a place to find me on the web–and note the reviews of my latest book. It’s all cumulative.

    Comment by cliveyoung | May 11, 2009 | Reply

    • You bring up an interesting point when you note that a *pre-contract* web presence can be beneficial. I myself am in publicity so I don’t buy books, but yes, I’ve heard editors discuss the importance of an author’s “platform” and an online presence is certainly one aspect of that.

      Comment by Yen | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  5. It’s also important to have the website up by the time the catalogue copy comes out. Booksellers use the catalogue as one way to decide on ordering books. Have your URL in the catalogue.

    It depends on the genre/book, but I spent a LOT of time on my website and it paid off (here are just a couple of examples of what a fabulous website can do for a book):

    Several months pre-pub, I went into a large indie bookstore in the San Fran area and talked to the owner. I mentioned, “I bet I have the best author website you’ll ever see.” She said, “Oh yeah? Let’s look,” and did – right there. She started clicking through, laughing and within minutes said, “I’ll contact your publicist and arrange for you to come do a signing.” (I hadn’t even asked to do one.)

    Rights were recently sold to Taiwan. My agent told me that after the publisher saw my website, they decided to do a big publicity push for the book and make it a lead title.

    Spend time on your website. It’s your calling card and often the first impression people will have of you/your book.

    Comment by Queen of the Road | May 11, 2009 | Reply

    • Great point about being able to list an author’s URL in the catalog. If the website is ready in time, the URL can also be listed on galleys (for hardcover books or paperback originals). Although neither catalogs nor galleys will typically be seen by the general public, they are essential for generating interest in a title among booksellers and the media.

      Comment by Yen | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  6. Queen – You make my point. To explain this dislocated marketplace I tell authors its a 16th century technology (book) – and a 19th century business model (take the goods on a cart to market) – trying to operate in 21st century time. Publishers USED to be the filter for everything. In reality – publishers today have a privileged relationship with the retailers and media. The AUTHOR has a privileged relationship with the reader. Publishers own the ‘sell-in’ to those channels – but authors need to understand they own the sell out. No publisher can begin to be as compelling as the author in engaging their audience to become fans and advocate on their behalf.

    Comment by Mark Bloomfield | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  7. Completely agree. Authors also need to understand that the more they do for their books, the more the publisher will do. Authors can not only build excitment in potential readers/booksellers, but in-house, as well. The website can help do this.

    Comment by Queen of the Road | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  8. Oh god no no no not Facebook.

    WordPress is free and works better with Google. Plus, people won’t have to sign the frig up to *read* a WordPress blog.

    I hate Teh facebook!

    Comment by Mike Cane | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  9. As long as the web page stays true to the authors identity and doesn’t descend in to sales speak we’re in good shape:

    http://iloveclosing.com/2009/05/11/dictionary-of-sales-bull/

    Cheers
    TC

    Comment by The Closer | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  10. […] Why a pre-publication web presence is importantYen talks about the importance of being findable. […]

    Pingback by The Daily Square - Rockin’ of the Ten Thousand Edition | Booksquare | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  11. I’ve been keeping a blog to build interest in my memoir but I fear I might have started WAY TOO SOON. I spend hours/week blogging and have got over 100 followers so far, but am still revising my chapters after a first edit. I sometimes wonder if I may be spending too much time on the blog, too soon. Any suggestions?

    Comment by Guttsy Writer | May 11, 2009 | Reply

    • If you have a hope/expectation that your book will sell – you can’t be too early. And tactically, you’re doing a good thing by reading other blogs, commenting and connecting to potential readers. But – are you looking at websites the core readers for your book visit? Commenting there on your experiences, sharing your insights … building your audience? Budget living – travel – parenting? Posters on your most recent entry lament – but THIS IS the work of an author. There are upwards of 200,000 new titles published every year. There is no publisher marketing campaign that can break through the noise out there. Its up to the author to connect with and motivate readers.

      Comment by Mark Bloomfield | May 12, 2009 | Reply

  12. Not only should an author have a web presence but the sooner they start the better. These days it can take a while for things to get “seasoned” online, meaning that the longer a site is up easier Google will find it, the more (incoming) links it will have, etc. We also find that authors come to us, book in hand, ready to do a site. Most of the time they wait this long because of budget (and often they didn’t know they should do it sooner), but here’s the reality: you don’t have to have a ton of money to launch a site, in fact instead of getting a social networking profile on Facebook why not consider Squidoo (the brainchild of the brilliant Seth Godin) – Squidoo loves authors and you can brand yourself to the site. Meaning you can name your page whatever you want – so, for example, your book title. It’s a great site, check it out – but whatever you do, do get a web site. Soon.

    Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/Bookgal

    Comment by Penny C Sansevieri | May 12, 2009 | Reply

  13. […] Penguin publicist articulates the reasons why have a prepublication presence is so important. (Why is this even a question anymore? According to the Make Information Pay seminar, 5.3% of sales are made from awareness raised by an author’s website). Speaking of online presence for authors, Estatic Days has some PR tips for authors. Authenticity, credibility are so important. […]

    Pingback by Tuesday Night Link RoundUp | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary | May 12, 2009 | Reply

  14. As a blogging book reviewer, I say you ABSOLUTELY must have at least a basic website, unless you’re Stephanie Meyer and have no need for readers to find you because everyone in the world already knows who you you are and what books you’ve read. This is especially true if you write in any genre whose readers are particularly Internet-saavy, like Young Adults and Science Fiction. I’ve been told one of the first things a reader does after reading one of my reviews is to click on the author’s site address at the bottom. I try to include an ‘If you like this, you might like that’ suggestions too. And, remember, I receive ARCs well before the release date too.

    Comment by kimberan | May 13, 2009 | Reply

  15. So many great, insightful comments! I’d just add that on the publicity front, having a website, blog, etc. to refer to with galley follow-up is really helpful. I’ve found the most effective follow-up presents new information and story ideas to a media contact so that the publicist has a reason to reach out other than checking in to see if a review/article is forthcoming.

    Comment by Kama Timbrell | May 14, 2009 | Reply

  16. Agents and editors need to educate authors to the value of websites going “live” at the galley stage rather than waiting to launch one at pub date. And your suggestion that the site can evolve as the pub. date approaches is exactly right–and in fact keeps the site fresh. I predict that the days of printing press releases and press kits will soon be over, as will the automatic review mailing of hard copies. We’ll soon be introducing books via links to their websites, and sending review copies only by request and via download. Think of the time, money, and trees saved!

    Comment by Christina | May 14, 2009 | Reply

    • Hear, hear! I would love to have literary agents discuss the importance of an author’s online presence if only because agents work with authors way before anyone in publicity or marketing (or even editorial) does.

      As for press material and review copy mailings, I for one won’t miss them. I think it’s essential that we get out the information, but that doesn’t necessarily need to involve paper.

      Comment by Yen | May 15, 2009 | Reply

  17. […] Why a Pre-publication Web Presence Is Important A writer can’t go anywhere on the web without some discussion of platform, it seems. And Christina Katz would remind us that platform is not just web presence. But web presence is an important component, and Yen, who works in publicity at a publishing house, provides the reasons to get your web presence going sooner rather than later. […]

    Pingback by Writing Roundup, May 15 « Jen’s Writing Journey | May 15, 2009 | Reply

  18. […] Book Publicity Blog explains Why A Pre-Publication Web Presence is Important. ( “I’ve seen too many authors shoot for the book’s publication date (or a couple weeks […]

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  19. […] timeline as for what happens to a book when.  After reading a great piece over at the Book Publicity Blog about the importance of an author having a website built prior to publication, I realized it might […]

    Pingback by Marketing timeline « Romantic Reads | May 18, 2009 | Reply

  20. Great advice here, thanks. I thought I was being premature as my book doesn’t come out until July/August, and my website is already up and running. I see now I did the right thing, and it wasn’t too early. And I won’t delay my planned blog until the book is out now – I’ll go ahead and start it anyway.
    Victoria Twead
    (Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools)

    Comment by Victoria Twead | May 26, 2009 | Reply

  21. Well said, Yen. So many of my book promotion campaigns these days are online-only campaigns. In those cases, when I’m not sending out books and traditional media kits via snail mail, it’s critically important to have a Web site to steer the media toward. And as you say, a big benefit of having a site up is that you can send the media to it, and get them interested in the book (and the author) even before the book is published or well after a book’s sweet period for publcity is over (even months or — in some cases — years after it’s over).

    Stacey Miller
    S. J. Miller Communications

    Comment by Stacey J. Miller | June 12, 2009 | Reply

  22. […] Why a pre-publication web presence is important […]

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  23. […] Book Publicity Blog has a terrific post about Why a *pre-publication* web presence is important. Their focus is mainly on websites, so be sure to take a good look at this. I still need to take […]

    Pingback by Friday Forum: Platform « Girl Meets Word | August 15, 2009 | Reply

  24. I run a series of blogs, including blogs that are the online world equivalent of lifestyle magazines. Whenever I review a book that is yet to be published I go looking for additional information.

    Too many authors are wonderful at writing their book, but really let themselves down pre-launch by not actively engaging bloggers for reviews, interviews, or posts that publicise their upcoming launch.

    By the way, one of the other commenters here, Victoria Twead who wrote Chickens Mules and Two Old Fools has done a marvellous job of promoting her book by following your advice, and I think will be very happy with sales once it is published. Other writers could learn from her.

    Comment by Ronda Viva | October 30, 2009 | Reply

  25. Thank you for the compliment, Ronda Viva, and I like your RondaViva lifestyle magazine very much.

    ‘Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools’ is released now, and I’m very glad I put in the hard work before it was launched. As far as I can tell, sales are going very well.

    I’ve twittered and blogged, squidooed and joined forums. The only thing I haven’t done is Facebook. Probably a mistake but with my dial-up connection (I live up a remote Spanish mountain) I just can’t navigate round it.

    Victoria

    Comment by Victoria Twead | October 30, 2009 | Reply

  26. […] timeline as for what happens to a book when.  After reading a great piece over at the Book Publicity Blog about the importance of an author having a website built prior to publication, I realized it might […]

    Pingback by Marketing Timeline « | April 7, 2010 | Reply

  27. […] Why a Pre-publication Web Presence Is Important A writer can’t go anywhere on the web without some discussion of platform, it seems. And Christina Katz would remind us that platform is not just web presence. But web presence is an important component, and Yen, who works in publicity at a publishing house, provides the reasons to get your web presence going sooner rather than later. […]

    Pingback by Writing Roundup, May 15 « Uncategorized « Jen's Writing Journey | January 7, 2011 | Reply

  28. […] the rest of the post on The Book Publicity Blog, and also see What Not To Have On Your Book Website on the same […]

    Pingback by Why A Pre-Publication Web Presence Is Important. | Publetariat | January 3, 2016 | Reply


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