As writers, we’re already aware of the amazing opportunities that the Internet represents. More writing fields, easier access to writer’s markets and guidelines, and so much information on how to improve your craft that it could make your head spin. With all this wealth of information comes another opportunity that not many writer’s realize the potential of: Your own website.
In its purest format, a website is there to inform. It offers information for free, and access to information for pay. What twists and turns this information takes in the form of presentation, content, and delivery is where websites become something creative.
Having your own website, as a writer, there are dozens of ways that you can make your writing worth more money, attract a larger audience, and help create loyal fans. Any writer can sell their work efficiently and successfully once they are able to prove they know what they’re doing – and a website will, if nothing else, help you do that.
Here’s five ways that having a website can help you earn more off of your writing. Incorporate them into your current website or blog, or begin an outline to start one.
In the physical world, when you head to that rack of books in your local supermarket, what’s the first thing that you do? Flip a book over that looks interesting and read the back cover, right? Right after reading the back cover, most interested customers will then turn to the first couple of pages within the book, scan the writing style and content, and see if what’s presented there catches their eye.
Today, a huge percentage of book sales are taking place online, though – in the digital world. Nothing can replace that feeling of standing in front of a bunch of books with solid paper in your hand and the ability to leaf through pages at your pleasure. Because of this, the biggest obstacle to selling books in the digital world is helping a reader decide whether or not they’re interested in a title.
Amazon.com is a legendary success for a couple of reasons: first, this site offers detailed summaries and synopsis of the books they offer for sale. They also allow readers of that book to offer reviews, which a potential buyer can use to weigh their options and opinions. More recently, Amazon began a “look inside” program that lets potential buyers view the actual contents of the front and back covers, the table of contents, and usually about 4 pages of the first chapter in a book.
So you’re not Amazon.com, and you’re not a legend in your own time. That doesn’t mean you can’t emulate their tactics to do amazing things for your book sales. What can you do?
- Ask for comments and reviews from people who have already read your book, and publish these on your website.
- Offer in-depth overviews of your books – go beyond the back cover. One of my favorite authors, Jacqueline Carey, offers complete synopsis to upcoming books on her website. As an avid reader of her works, I devour these synopsis, get all excited about the book being published, and get ready to be one of its first buyers.
- Use pictures. If your book has a front and back cover designed, allow your potential customers to view them. This gives them a bit of that sense of standing in a bookstore, with tangible options at their fingertips.
- Let your readers know a little bit about you, as a person. This is a complete about-face from the Amazon.com mechanics, but it is essential to developing fans. Let them find out that you’re a real person, and share with them some of the things that makes your writing tick. Believe me, it works.
Share Your Wisdom
It is very, very rare in the process of writing that we don’t learn something new. Doing research is an integral part of any writing assignment – from a one page article to a 365 page book. In addition to research, though, the process of writing teaches each of us new things about the writing process, the writer’s habits, and the writing life in general.
As you go through your writing, save your research. Take notes of the observations you make, the insights you glean from just writing every day. Then, use these notes to generate more income – and a few pieces for your writing portfolio.
There are hundreds of sites online that publish newsletters, and even more that offer up complete articles via a website. These are great places to start submitting some of the articles you write based on the research you’ve done. Beyond the digital realm, you can always target the format of these articles to a particular magazine and get your byline in print. The idea is that even the by-product of what you’re working on can earn you some income, if you put it together and do it.
Not only will submitting these articles help you earn some extra spending money, it builds your credibility. Publishers are very wary of working with an unknown factor – they would much rather offer their contracts to someone who has proven they can write well, and write often. Build up your writing portfolio while you’re writing a book, and you’re way ahead of the game.
On the flip-side of this, you can create your own digital newsletter. There are lots of programs available to help you format and send your newsletters to registered readers, and within the newsletter you can offer bits about what you’re currently working on, what you’ve learned, and what will be published soon. If you go this route, though, definitely budget the time you’re willing to spend on creating, sending, and promoting your newsletter – it can eat a lot of time.
Finally, consider compiling the smaller bits of knowledge and special skills you’ve picked up into longer “special reports”. These are in high demand online, because they don’t require the time to read that an entire book does. All the information contained in these reports can be accessed immediately, printed and used right away by the reader. Series of special reports that are well-written, contain highly useful information, and are only about 15-30 pages in length offer huge income potential for the writer who can market them well.
Publish Your Book Online
Supplemental books, or smaller books that you can put together while you write your “major” work, offer yet another opportunity to the writer. With just a few tools (at a bare minimum, just a word processor like Microsoft Word), you can work with a Print-On-Demand (POD) publisher or offer up a member’s only section in your website that contains information only you could write.
Going the POD route, you would upload your work to a company like Lulu.com and they would handle all the sales, printing, and shipping of your work. You receive a commission check once every period. This is definitely the way to go if you want to have a traditional, bound book available to your readers – but it will cost more for your readers to purchase than a subscription area.
The subscription area would be a portion of your website that can be accessed only with a username and password. Within that area, the subscriber would be able to access special reports, ebooks, and articles that you don’t make available anywhere else.
As the Internet continues to grow and evolve, the tools and opportunities available to writers will grow and evolve as well. By spending a little bit of time each week to make sure you’re educated on what you can do, you’ll see your writing credibility – and income – grow by leaps and bounds.