Before we get into content, let’s talk a little bit about design. You need to pick a theme or symbol to represent you. Something that’s unique to your site and your work. In advertising, we call that branding.
I have this really cool pen that my mom got me as a stocking stuffer one year. The barrel is clear, and there’s a little light in there that changes colors. I turned it on, put it on a white sheet of paper and started snapping photographs as it changed colors. That silly little gift, with the light orange, has become my symbol for Archetype Writing. I have it on my site; I have it on my blog. (I also have it on notepaper and my business cards. I'm getting oodles of mileage out of that pen.)
Scenes from Mary Lindsey’s novel Soul Purpose take place in Old City Cemetery in Galveston, Texas. I did the graphic design for her site, and we decided to use a beautiful angel grave marker to mark her “brand.” She then took this a step farther by including more of the cemetery and other monuments from her story in a Photos section of her site.
If nothing leaps to mind, you can start with a site template and worry about branding later. But definitely keep your eyes open for something unique to represent you and your work!
Moving on to content, here are a few pages you definitely want to include.
Include a brief, interesting biography. Here are a few examples.
Carrie Vaughn is the bestselling author of a series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty, as well as numerous short stories in various anthologies and magazines. She's also a contributor to the Wild Cards series edited by George R. R. Martin.
Stephenie Meyer graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree in English. She lives with her husband and three young sons in Phoenix, Arizona. After the publication of her first novel, Twilight, booksellers chose Stephenie Meyer as one of the "most promising new authors of 2005" (Publishers Weekly).Include a picture of yourself — it helps your readers feel more like they’re “meeting” the writer, and assures them that you’re a real person!
Some writers create longer biographies, and that’s also fine. In addition to the “official” bio above, Stephenie Meyer has an “unofficial” bio that’s much longer. Jodi Picoult also has an extensive biography page.
Never use your website to replace the biography section in your query letter, and never ask an agent to go to your website to read an excerpt from your novel. It’s fine to include your website address on your queries, but don’t count on the agent clicking on it!
A simple list of publications is adequate, but it’s even better if you have a cover scan and a brief synopsis for each story or novel. If a story is out of print, you may be able to post it on your site, but double-check your contract to make sure it’s okay first.
If you’ve published a novel or been included in an anthology, don’t forget to link to places your visitors can buy the book!
Your Unpublished Projects
If you write novels, consider creating a separate page for each series or project. And don’t be afraid to share a little bit of your work. Mary Lindsey has the first 15 pages of her novel Soul Purpose posted on her website. Thanks in part to this, she was approached by an independent film company and her book is now being made into a TV series! (We’ll let you know more as things move along.)
Be careful if you’re unpublished — don’t create pages for umpteen projects; instead, pick between one and three of your best works and showcase those.
Never post your work in its entirety — nobody wants to pay to publish something that’s already available online for free!
Many if not most website owners use a blog to provide updates to site visitors, so provide a link if you’re also blogging.
Along the same lines, you may want to provide links so interested visitors can also find you on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, or other social networking sites.
Always stay professional on any site you link to from your website. Don’t bash agents, other writers, or the publishing industry in general. And don’t bash yourself, either. Agents want to represent someone who’s going to get out there and sell herself, and obvious insecurities may make them doubt you can do it.
If you have questions, suggestions, or other comments, definitely let me know in the Comments below!
Dr. Carolyn Kaufman is a clinical psychologist and professor residing in Columbus, Ohio. A published writer, she runs Archetype Writing: Psychology for Fiction Writers and an associated blog. Visitors will find not only articles about psychology tailored to their needs, but they can ask Dr. K their writing/psychology questions. She is often quoted by the media as an expert resource.