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Writers On The Web

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 puberty.

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 sites.

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 audience.

But how, you may ask, can I do it being a humble low-techie type?

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 revenue.

Once you have a decent domain name and have built or hired someone to build a site, it's time to start thinking like an editor.

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 site.

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 possible.

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 you possess.

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 keywords.

SEO can be very complex. Big companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get top Google rankings.

SEO in a nutshell:

  1. Put into the Title tags the precise key words you feel will bring people to your site. The first word is the most important one.
  2. Put text on your pages and include keywords. And remember that the search engines don't index words that are part of graphics.
  3. 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 get there.

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.

  1. You want a central space from where you can maneuver to any other space, including print, with relative ease and speed.
  2. You want to understand the new digital publishing system that will, down the line, succeed the old print system.
  3. Actively find people who will be interested in your writing.
  4. Make connection with an assortment of others, including writers.

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 being re-built.

Here's another article on the fate of the book. And it reminds us why the Net will make some inroads in book publishing.

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 tribe.

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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David Eide
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David Eide
copyright 2000-2016