Friday, June 04, 2010

Ellery Adams on Establishing an Online Presence

Ellery Adams
A Killer Plot
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Pub date: June 2010
Agent: Jessica Faust

(Click to Buy)

Perhaps you’re ready to pitch agents or have already begun and have started getting bites. Suddenly, your dream of being a professional writer is closer to becoming a reality. What else can you do to prepare? I recommend establishing an online presence right now.

Step 1: Create an author page on Facebook. Befriend other authors in your genre, book reviewers, librarians, booksellers, agents, editors–anyone who could prove to be a useful connection once your book sells.

Trade Secrets of Facebook: On your professional page, avoid photo albums of family members, girls in bikinis, or scenes from poker night with the guys. You want your page, from the favorite quotation to the books you like to read, to be a reflection of you and your work. Don’t litter it with YouTube videos or political statements. Allow your daily updates to express your “voice.” You could even create a page using your protagonist’s name. By the time your book comes out, you’ll have 5,000 friends just waiting to buy it.

Step 2: Create a website. It’s never too early to put your work out there for all to see. For unpublished writers, I suggest a simple website in which the graphic design reflects the feel of your book. If you write romance, your website should be romantic. I don’t mean to sound overly simplistic, but I’ve seen dozens of author sites that send the wrong signals due to poor color choice and graphics.

Writing Resume Page: Like your Facebook page, keep your personal life private. Include a page that shows off your writing. Add links showing your flexibility as a writer. For example, even though you’ve penned an urban fantasy novel, you also have samples of newspaper articles, short stories, poetry, children’s tales, works on Smashwords, etc.–that have been published. This is your writing resume. Go ahead and post it.

Professional Associations: Here, you can mention that you’ve been a long-standing member of RWA or MWA, etc. Add positions you’ve held. You could also include conferences you’ve attended. This might be a good place to mention contests you’ve won.

Contact info: You never know. Someone in the publishing field might want to send you an email. If your current email address is, you might want to create a new one that sounds more professional, such as Same goes for the name of your website. Use your author name or the title of your series. Try to keep it as short as you can.

Trade Secrets of Web Sites: Looks Are Important: Trust me, unless you’re an IT person, you want a professional to create your site. It costs less than you think and a homemade site often looks just that–homemade. You want sleek, polished, pleasing-to-the-eye professionalism.

Once you’ve got a website and a Facebook page that you routinely update, the transition from unpublished to published will be much smoother. You’ll announce your release, post a cover, and already have thousands of followers dying to pre-order.

The Boy Scouts knew what they were talking about: Be Prepared. And good luck!

(For ideas on website layout and design, feel free to visit my website––or send an inquiry to my fabulous web designer, Brian. His site is, and he’d be glad to answer any questions.)

Ellery Adams is the author of the new Books By the Bay Mysteries. The first installment, A Killer Plot, was released on June 1st.

In the small coastal town of Oyster Bay, North Carolina, you’ll find plenty of characters, ne’er-do-wells, and even a few celebs trying to duck the paparazzi. But when murder joins this curious community, the Bayside Book Writers are there to get the story...


Erika Marks said...

Thanks for this, Ellery.

And you make a good point about the look of an author's site. Establishing a mood that accurately reflects the author's work makes all the difference in someone stopping by and staying or just driving on.

Best of luck to you, and congratulations!

Erika Marks

Joseph L. Selby said...

There is so much advice about researching agents before querying, but so few people say "research web design before building a website." So many aspiring authors say they don't know enough about the internet or websites and rather than learning, they find a tool that is easy or turn to a "friend." (So rarely is that friend qualified to create something professional for you.)

Web presence is part of the business of writing, and a part that an author can focus on even before publication. Build that brand. Google yourself and find out your competition. Go to Go Daddy and search various iterations of [yourpublishedname].com to see what's available and then buy it even if you're not ready to create a website.

Blogs are not a website. They're a blog. Know the difference. Websites are a place for you to sell yourself professionally, not personally. Know the difference. You are advertising your brand, you not the real you. Know the difference.

The one point I will disagree with is not including anything personal on your website. I think not too much personal information should be shared (common taboo subjects like religion, politics, etc. are easy to avoid), but giving a few nuggets establishes a sense of relationship even if one doesn't exist. It's easier for someone to say they like book X more than it is to say they like author Y. If they feel they know Y, even somewhat, it engenders a sense of loyalty that turns a fan into an evangelist.


Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

One small thing that is often overlooked when blogging or having web sites is to have them property "Meta Tagged". Meta tags are the keywords that you or your IT person program into your web pages. These are the key words that search engines use. It doesn't help if your site doesn't come up in common keyword searches. Try it. If it doesn't come up then you need to work on your meta tag key words.
Blogs have a feature to add tags - take the time to use them. It's the difference between being discovered in an online search or staying in obscurity.

Malia Sutton said...

Great Post!!

wry wryter said...



uGH !

Hey...I just discovered my keyboard has a caps-thingy.

Who needs a pro...I got you guys.

Melanie L Moro-Huber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melanie L Moro-Huber said...

Sorry about that double post.

This is just a bit too simplistic. It's not as easy as "Just make a webpage or a facebook page and they will come in droves ready to buy your book."

Though the quality and the professionalism of the layout is important that is not going to make much of a difference if you don't do the basics.

There is a lot of work to building up a following, most authors who have been writing and blogging online for a long time will tell you that having an "online presence" takes a great deal of work and it won't add much to the sales if that work isn't done.

For example, there's a difference between having followers and having readers who are willing to buy your book.

Many readers are also writers and
to find readers who will take an interest in your work, you actually have to take an interest in other writer's web-pages. The groundwork for developing a fan base means putting in the time to do some reading and taking an interest in other people's work.

Connections are made one by one, not in droves and readers who will buy a book don't just fall from the sky.

By commenting and actually caring about what other writers and other people are doing, this establishes the online web presence that is genuine, so others will actually care about what you are writing and trying to sell.

It simply will not work (unless you are Stephen King) if you do not do some of this groundwork.

People don't just randomly fall into your webpages...they have to be led there.

AND it is kind of a karma get what you give.

Also, it is quite easy to make a very professional looking page using the many blog templates available for the lay web-designer.

Several server hosts offer the option for blog publishing for free. When you are a starving artist type, just beginning as an author who can't afford to pay someone to design a website for you...a blog does just fine as long as you keep it professional looking and are clear up front what the purpose of your blog is. For example if you write non-fiction, post non-fiction pieces. If you write about gardening, post gardening pieces. Kind of a duh, really. Some people blog for family reasons or as a diary type of entry which may be why there is the view that blogs aren't as good as web-pages. However, I disagree as I've seen several blogs which are just a professional looking as a webpage.

It ain't all that difficult.

Thanks for this post.
Interesting to consider.

Melanie L. Moro-Huber
6:54 PM, June 04, 20

Francis said...

@Melanie: I don't think Ellery was saying all it takes is a website. It just helps.

I've been designing websites for the past 12 years. I was twelve when I started to mess with Photoshop and HTML editors. Today, I'm 23 and I still do graphic and web designs in-between semesters. I also do professional photo shoots, and have a professional website and portfolio to reflect this.

You can tell within 5 seconds if a website was botched or was made by an amateur. Think about it: a website/blog is your online business card. You spend HOURS working on queries, synopses, then perfecting your manuscript drafts over and over. Overall, you'll probably have spent months on your novel. You make sure everything you send to an agent looks as professional as possible. The same care should be given to your online presence.

A good website will run you 500$ for something basic. Up to 1500-2000$ for a more elaborated site. I spent over 150 hours building my site, and I'm sure it'll pay off, because it has for my clients. Consider getting a bludomain template flash site (100-300$) if you want style for cheap. It's flash based, easy to use and edit... it's meant for photographers, but it could easily be used by writers.

I'd like to add that getting forums (boards) for your site is also a STELLAR way of getting traffic to your site and form cohesion between the fans. Even more so than commenting on blogs. Boards like Invision IP and phpBB are absolutely free. Forums are also amazing to lure more people to a community. If they stumble on a site which has forums that are active, they might read and lurk around, then be convinced to buy the book. At first, it'll be your job to keep the forum active, eventually, it'll be self-supporting.

I am convinced a strong online presence is not only great but necessary nowadays. Looks play a huge role, whether you admit it or not. As a photographer, I can tell you that :)

You should also consider getting your own .com address so you can get a professional e-mail address. allows you to have your own address, such as Godaddy has that for you for 50$/year and allows for an unlimited amount of addresses, including your domain. Agent will prefer receiving mails from than

Catch my drift? ;)

Thanks for the post, Ellery!

Melanie L Moro-Huber said...


I hear you. And I don't disagree in the least. Just saying there was more to it is all. AND There are things that can be done to spruce up a blog too, like using customize templates with little to no html no-how.

Good input you offer. However, realistically speaking not many new writers have 10 dollars laying around much less 50 or 500 to invest in a website.

Content, above all else, indicates quality. If the writing is solid no matter what the venue, that's the meat and taters. A good web-page and professional contact info is also important but you can take a cow and dress it up for church, when it starts singing with the choir people are gonna notice that's a cow up yonder a-mooing...

Praise is praise non-the-less, and I ain't got a thing against cows so let the cows have their day.

Horrible, horrible. That just kept getting worse and worse.
Well my sense of humor and bovine reference is showing some southern silliness there.


Joseph L. Selby said...

With continuous growth in mobile browsing, I would be averse to directing a new site builder to a Flash-based resource. I think they'll put a lot of effort into something that won't give them full coverage of a market that they could have otherwise been available to.

If you want a website and not a blog (rule number one, if you have a blog you have to blog), but you can't afford a designer and can't do it yourself, I always point people to Some of it obviously plays to a younger audience, but some of it is very classy and can make for a good website.

As for forums, having run a robust forum of my own, unless you have an audience to populate it, forums are a huge headache (I'd also recommend SMF over PHPbb because of spam issues). An empty forum is depressing, makes a poor impression on newcomers, and still requires management from spammers. Once you have an audience to interact with, then forums can be worthwhile. But if all you're doing is building a web presence, Twitter, Facebook, and participating in blogs is a far better use of your time.

Anonymous said...

I went to

At the bottom are a row of links. The first two - Home and Books - don't work.

Remember, if you pay someone to make a website, don't just take their word that it's finished. Go through and click all the links, sign up for a newsletter, send yourself a comment, etc.

Francis said...

Flash is definitely going out, bludomain will be converting their templates to HTML5 when that happens, so it is not a lost investment.

I disagree on the forums. I've been a moderator on a site that has over 1.2 million members ( for five years now, it is widely popular. I've frequented much smaller forums where they were less than 20 members, and it was just as much fun. It's your responsibility at first to make threads and keep the forums active, just like it is yours to keep your blog updated with frequent entries. I've also ran a 2000 members forum for a game called EVE Online. Long story short, my experience with forums is really vast, and I am confident they make a difference. The best suite is definitely vBulletin (without a doubt). phpBB are just as safe as SMF if you apply the patches. I fail to see what kind of huge headache they are... once they're installed they're super easy to use, all you have to do is apply patches on in a while.

Melanie, I understand not every writer has money to spare, but saying most don't have any is not true. I am a full time university student and found the money to invest in my writing, by buying books or other supporting material. There comes a time when you'll have to sacrifice something, or make compromises in your finances. Dreams don't happen out of thin air, you need to work for them. If it means I don't get to eat takeout for 3 months or I don't get to drink wine for a while, I'm fine with it.

Look is just as important as content. You should give both as much attention as you can. I'll leave the farm animals metaphors to you :)

Annette said...

Great post. Thanks!

Find it interesting that no one has mentioned creating a blog instead of a website. WordPress is seriously easy to use, you can find professional looking templates for less than $100, customize them a touch, and you're up. And you can make a WordPress blog have the look and feel of a website with static pages.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm late to this post. But one of the things I think is most important about social networking (for those who might be intimidated) is to have fun. I've made wonderful contacts through networks like facebook with people from all over the world. I actually met a well known European book reviewer last summer while she was traveling in the US and we had a three hour lunch. Even though authors have to promote themselves online, and at times it's hard work, it's not just about selling books. It's also about improving the quality of your life.

And the other thing to remember is that what works for one author is not necessarily going to work for another. Personally, I don't have web sites. I have blogs that give detailed info about my books so readers know what they are buying. I also have best selling books in several genres with my own name and various pen names.

If web sites work for an author, wonderful. But they don't work for me and this hasn't hurt sales of my books. If anything, sometimes I'm put off by author web sites because they sound more important than they should. I like humility; I think it sells books. A self-indulgent web site gets tired fast.

Again, take all the advice out there, absorb it, but then apply it to what works for you. Because each author has a different journey.

Mohamed Mughal said...

Useful post! I'll use it to tweek my FB and web-site.

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