The advice to writers is fairly universal: tell the damn
story and get rid of everything else. Write what you know.
Show, don't tell. Write with particulars, not generalities.
Revise until it hurts.
Here are some new types of advice brought in by the digital
publishing system: get a base of operation and then move
out toward an audience. Give your writing a 24/7 presence.
Use your writing and research skills to build up a resourceful,
entertaining site. That's the short list.
Professional writers are told again and again that the
writing is not enough. They have to be business-minded and
learn how to market their wares. Now they must add a new
dimension to their skill set, mainly, build and navigate
the passageways of the digital publishing system.
The young will naturally do this. And all the generations
that follow will know how to make web pages by the time they
are seven or eight years old. They'll start blogging in
Teen-agers already think of e-mail as for "old people,"
and prefer IM.
Those older or in the middle of a writing career have a
harder time of it. But these types are the ones with the
knowledge and experience to show the path to the future.
Simply start somewhere and build out. Keep it simple, keep
it elegant. Keep it resourceful.
In the resource box below are plenty of articles that bring
practical advice to the making of writing web sites.
In the space we have here we'll go over some
ideas and tips that will help you if you have a web site
or decide to build one. The resource box includes articles
on making sites or references to helpful sites to get
started. Plus, there are some examples of writing web
The change in publishing is real. I'm not convinced that
"citizen journalism" or every-person-a-writer is meaningful.
These are novelties that will fade in time.
What people want now and will want in the future is resource,
entertainment, skill, self-improvement help, and consideration
of their time and energy. If a writer can pound these things
into a piece of writing or a web site they will have an
But how, you may ask, can I do it being a humble low-techie
Make sure these details are in place:
>>>>> B u i l d I t A n d T h e y W i l l C o m e <<<<<
Like anything else you need a plan, a "mission statement,"
and some understanding of what needs to get done.
There are two basic reasons why a writer would develop a web
site. One would be to collect his writings, display them, get
feedback, and refer them to editors and agents.
The second reason would be to develop a revenue stream
through whatever expertise the writer may have. This is the
exciting prospect. Anyone resourceful enough to write a
book can make a web site that will, over time, generate
Once you have a decent domain name and have built or hired
someone to build a site, it's time to start thinking like
If you do decide to have a professional build you one check
this site out first. He advises on getting your domain name
first, before looking for a web hosting company that will do
everything for you.
A good magazine editor looks at his publication as a
presentation, gift-wrapped for the reader. He will ask
himself, "who is my audience, what do they look for in
this publication, how can I make it easier for them, how
can I get them to view the publication as theirs?" Ask
these questions. Look at the placement of words, graphics,
headlines and so on.
A magazine editor will display text and graphics to
highlight the theme of the magazine issue. A writer's
web site should grasp the story being told beyond
the index page and design it accordingly. The audience
is getting tired of the media kit/brochure type of
Involve the reader in the story of your site. And don't
make the mistake that many editors do when they design
the cover lines and headlines to the magazine. Since
they've read all the copy, know it inside and out they
will often write cryptic, obscure lines that are
meaningless to someone seeing the magazine for the first
time. Keep the audience in mind and be as clear as
The index page of a web site is filled with cover lines
you'd find on a magazine cover. Every cover line is an
invitation for a reader to go beyond the scanning and
actually open the magazine. And then the story or article
has to be presented in such a way that the reader will
read beyond the first paragraph or two.
According to the Patterson's in their book, "The Editor-
in-Chief," cover lines are one of three types. They are
either labels, statements, or questions. When thinking
of cover lines for your index page think of interesting
angles of attack into the content the reader will click
to. Make those angles of attack meaty and pointing to
the core of what the content is.
Focus on the presentation and get people inside the site.
That is the key to having a successful web site.
If nothing else this is great practice for the writer to
understand what it means to "write for an audience."
To build and maintain a web site is an adrenaline rush.
And it can be followed by a terrible let-down. Once you steer
through these clashing rocks then you can do some business.
One thing you must do and that is constantly change content
on the site. The more energy that goes into the site, the
more return you'll get. Not only that, search engines can
tell when a site is refreshing content and rewards them
with higher rankings.
Any content you put on your site is protected by your
copyright. You can take the original content and use it
many different ways, in different markets. You can develop
the material into book length material. You can try to get
involved in the various syndication models being set up
on the Net.
I keep coming across well-known writers who tell interviewers
they love their web sites because they have conversations
with readers. Start conversations with your readers!
>>>>>>>>>>>> B e A P r o f e s s i o n a l <<<<<<<<<<<<<<
Use all the copywriting techniques to make the copy on
your site concise and meaningful. The writers who studied
and wrote poetry in college can put that effort to use.
If you intend to sell hard-cover or e-books from the site
put samples that people can read. Put a representation
of your writing on the site for a free preview and
promise some more free stuff so people come back.
The writer's ego may take a bashing for awhile. It may
feel like rejection if people don't come back or don't
buy the book or the service. If the ego gets control at
that point it's doubtful you'll make the changes necessary.
You need to understand that this new publishing system is
not efficient. You might not be attracting the right
audience for the type of material you have. After you
placate the ego go back and look at your marketing effort.
It usually hasn't taken into consideration the kind of
people who are interested in your subject matter.
Always refer to your mission statement. Have you set this
site up to sell your book? Are you giving up some of your
precious work to seek out an audience? Are you using the
site to prep new work?
>>>>>>>>>>>> S e l l S e r v i c e s <<<<<<<<<<<<<<
I see a lot of writers bundling their writing efforts with
services like copy editing or teaching classes. Do a good job
in explaining these things. Get testimonials. You must have
a professional look to get clients, especially now that
everyone is on the beast.
A freelance writer must think in terms of revenue streams;
the writer-on-Net must think of the interface she creates
as a potential revenue stream through which she can thrive
as a writer. Remember that most professional writing is in
a definitive niche that has a market. Cultivate that in as
many ways as you can.
In the new publishing milieu you are not simply writing
pieces for magazines, web sites, and newspapers; you
are cultivating an audience by the sheer talent and expertise
There are plenty of ways to exchange money through the
web interface without getting a costly merchant account.
PayPal and Clickbank are two services to look at.
>>>>>>>>>>>> M a r k e t i n g<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
CyberJournalist.net listed out 22 or so "drivers" that
bring people to online media. It is very instructive and
rather surprising. The number one driver for people in this
inconclusive survey is "Entertains, absorbs me," followed
by, "Looks out for people like me." Near the middle of the
survey is, "Helps and improves me."
I know with C/Oasis I've done very little promotion of it.
But, over the years, thousands have gone through that little
site, from around the world. How? Through Sunoasis Jobs,
this newsletter, finding it through search engines, people
mention it on message boards, and listings in market books.
There are three standard internet marketing techniques.
They are search engine optimization, linkage, and buying
SEO can be very complex. Big companies spend hundreds of
thousands of dollars to get top Google rankings.
SEO in a nutshell:
- Put into the Title tags the precise key words you feel will
bring people to your site. The first word is the most
- Put text on your pages and include keywords.
And remember that the search engines don't index words
that are part of graphics.
- Put a lot of content on and change it as frequently as you can.
And don't forget to register with Google, Yahoo, MSN and the
rest of them.
Linkage is simply a matter of finding sites similar to yours
that could benefit from some pro quid quo. Get in touch
with the person who runs the site and offer to exchange
links. There are companies who will run linkage campaigns
for you but you're better off doing it yourself, a little
bit at a time.
Buying keywords does work. Sign up at Google or Overture,
put a limit on the daily budget you'll spend, develop a
spiffy ad, and focus on the keywords that you believe
persons interested in your material will use. And don't
forget the ads you can place on your site. With enough
traffic you can generate a fairly painless revenue stream.
Doing these simple things by-passes a lot of the print
publishing distribution system and enters the sleeker,
more efficient system being developed by Google
and others. As we mentioned it's not there yet. It requires
a general user who knows what he or she is doing. The majority
of people are learning bit by bit how to maximize their
self-interest on the beast. They have a ways to go but will
We mentioned the prepping of material and it's an
important point to make. There's the natural tendency to
edit writing as it goes from one platform to another. A
writer will edit and revise on paper to a certain extent.
But if she puts that writing in a computer file she will
find the energy to edit and revise again. And, when she
puts it up on a web page she gets another view of the piece.
The process does nothing but improve the writing.
There are some key things to keep in mind.
- You want a central space from where you can maneuver
to any other space, including print, with relative ease
- You want to understand the new digital publishing system
that will, down the line, succeed the old print system.
- Actively find people who will be interested in your
- Make connection with an assortment of others, including
I wouldn't choose one publishing system over the other; I
would straddle the two, test them out, see which one works
best for you. One day a writer will wake up and realize that
the digital system is not a luxury but a necessity. Don't
be late for the show.
The habits are changing. Reader habits, writer habits,
editor habits, advertiser habits. The whole thing is
shifting and what was only a dream a few years ago is
rapidly coming to fruition. Whether we like it or not this
is most demanding, exciting, changing, dynamic period in
the history of publishing. We are living through it; it will
get way beyond what we can know.
Our mantra is that the whole damn literary system is
Here's another article on the fate of the book. And it
reminds us why the Net will make some inroads in book
A book takes a long-time to get published and circulating.
It can be up to a year and a half and by that time the
subject may be obsolete, no longer of interest, changed
because of new evidence, discoveries, etc. You, a writer
with a lot of expertise and resource, can build a site
based on the subject, keep it up-to-date, and undermine
the danger a book has of wandering out in the world when
the crowd has all left the scene.
A web site is flexible, a book is fixed. A web site is
flexible because a human being produces it. The book is
fixed because it is produced by costly machines where
one mistake gets the human beings fired.
The challenge for writers in the future is that there will
be so much written material, accessed by so many people,
writers will have to continually invent new ways to
stimulate readers and keep them interested in the writing.
That is going to require enormous flexibility in the writing
The one skill all writers will need to acquire is knowing
when new opportunity knocks.
Readerville is a community of author web sites.
Advice from Writers Market.
Advice from Victoria Strauss.
Advice from Jane Dorner.
An example of a writer's web site.
Kurt Vonnegut site.
If you have any questions about careers in freelance writing
don't hesitate to ask!
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