fran wilde

Advice for Writers: How to be found on the Internet

Last week I posted a huge list of Asian speculative fiction writers, and yesterday I updated it to over 100 authors. It’s been linked to from several places, including Angry Asian Man (don’t read that blog? You should!) and SF Signal. From what everyone is saying, there isn’t another list like this out there, that so comprehensively includes links to websites, social media, and sample stories.

Having spent all of those hours, I understand why: most of you writers are making that information damn hard to find.

Some of the authors listed don’t have a web presence at all, and the most I could find was a wikipedia entry. Others had only a Twitter feed, or a livejournal account. Why would you do that? You want people to read your work, right? Want others to share the stories they enjoyed, gain new readers, maybe be contacted for interviews? Writing, in 2013, is no longer a career built on in-store signings and print book/magazine sales. With the ease of reading online or in ebooks, plus the power of Google, most readers aren’t going to bother tracking you down. If it’s all there in front of them, they’ll happily devour your latest work. If it’s a struggle to find you, they won’t do it.

These days, you need a website. It doesn’t have to be called “yourname.com”, though that certainly helps. It can even be a free WordPress site, “yourname.wordpress.com”, if you don’t want to spend $15 a year on building your readership. As long as there is a single, dedicated, place that pops up on search engines when someone types in “Your Name writer”. Create it, add the items I list below, and start using it. Include it in your bio when you get published online, link to it when you promote your work, and generally get used to the idea that you have a central depository to collect the artifacts of your writing career.

Make sure your website has the following sections:

  1. Contact. This can be a real form, with data fields for name, email, and comment, or it can be a page listing the ways that someone can contact you. Either way, you need a obvious spot that someone can click on to get ahold of you. So often I see editors and bloggers lamenting that they couldn’t reach a certain author in time to include them in some project. You don’t want to miss out on those opportunities–even if you chose not to take one, let it be your choice, instead of letting your lack of contact info keep you from getting a choice.
  2. List of publications. WITH LINKS. Even authors with websites forget to do this. You think that because you have a Twitter or blog on LJ you’re covered, since you can post when you make a new sale, and your current followers will all know. Sure, do that too, but make a separate page listing your past publications, and any time one is available online, link to it. New readers will appreciate seeing all of your work, and if they can immediately click on a story and read it, that’s even better. On my site, I have three different pages for this information, because I do three kinds of work: editing, writing (fiction), and writing (non-fiction). You don’t have to do that, as long as you have at least one place with this information. Remember, though, that unless you only publish one kind of writing, once your bibliography starts to be longer than two screen’s worth, it will be easier to read if you break it up.
  3. About Me. This can be your two sentence bio, it can be several paragraphs, doesn’t matter. Something about who you are, in case people go looking for it. Mine is on a separate page, and long, because it includes both a short intro and a longer section about my history, interests, and education–even a disclaimer. You can include your contact information or social media links here, though it’s better to have that on the front page.
  4. Other Things. If you plan to be at conventions, make a page listing those events. If you’ve been interviewed or appeared on podcasts, make a page for that. Free fiction on your website? Make sure we can find it!

Once you have a website set up, you can choose from two main ways of generating content. Some people use a website like a blog, but with more functionality. That’s what I do–my posts are sometimes writing-related essays, sometimes updates, and sometimes self-promotion. You can also use the website strictly for promotion–list upcoming book signings, new sales, and so on.

Personally, I prefer the website with a blog on the main page, because it’s frequently generating new content that your readers will want to see. That brings them back to you often enough they’ll also see the content which furthers your career (sales, events, etc). When you only post the strictly business news, readers often get bored, and that doesn’t help you.

Now that you’re ready to be seen, how do you draw new readers to your website? Twitter. Sure, Facebook works too, though it’s used more by older authors and readers, and of course, your friends and family, but you can’t use it as your sole source of online interaction because it just isn’t popular enough. G+ has the same problem. If you use those platforms, absolutely link to your website, and mention when you have updates. However, I’ve gotten the most new readers, referrals, and potential markets, from Twitter. It’s simple, easy to use, and as long as you’re not constantly spamming your audience (please don’t do that) it’s very effective. Make sure to include your website in your Twitter bio, and include a link back to your Twitter from your website.

Click through for samples of sites that work:  (more…)

Writer Wednesday: Fran Wilde

Photo courtesy of A. E. Bogdan

Fran Wilde is a writer and technology consultant hard at work on her third novel. You can read her short stories online at Nature Magazine and Daily Science Fiction She can tie various sailing knots, set gemstones and program digital minions. She blogs at franwilde.wordpress.com.

1. You have two novels completed and two more in progress. Tell us about them.

Moonmaker is adult science fiction. It’s my first novel, and I’ve recently received some fantastic feedback on it. The story is pretty ambitious, given that I’d never written a novel before. I am lucky to have people who believe in it, since the process of finishing a novel and getting it out there is so complex. Moonmaker combines game building and programming with a bunch of things I didn’t know much about until I dove into the research. A friend was kind enough to loan me an astrophysicist at one point (he’s awesome), so I had some great insights when it came to moons and orbits. I did a very light query on the book last fall, but have decided to take it back into editing. A few spin-off short stories are in process too.

The second novel, Bone Arrow, is my baby right now. It’s young adult fantasy, with a lot of low-tech engineering. I was a house writer for university engineering programs for a long time, and my first job was proofreading engineering articles. The tech behind bridges and towers and a few other things got stuck in my head, I guess. But that’s just setting, and offstage background. The characters in Bone Arrow — they ran away with the book. I had all these plans for what was supposed to happen, and… yeah. They had other plans. I loved watching the story unfurl. I love hearing reactions from people who have read it.

One thing I should say is that my friends from Viable Paradise who have urged me on while writing this book, and who are a really incredibly generous source of support, even while deep in their own work, have been there from the start on this. I’m very grateful for them. In addition, I took Bone Arrow with me to Taos Toolbox last summer. After an all-night plot-breaking session with my roommate and several amazing upcoming writers and friends, I’d grown a whole new grasp on how to plot story. Bone Arrow and the stories that come after are much stronger for these experiences.

The third novel is set in the same world as Bone Arrow, and the fourth is a distant-future offshoot of Moonmaker.

2. What short fiction publication are you most proud of, and why?

All of them, for different reasons. If you press me, I’d say, so far, the 2012 Nature story, “Without.” It’s short, but there’s a lot in it. I’m proud of it mostly because the story wasn’t working, even after a critique. Then I quit taking one character’s side over the other and let both characters have completely valid points, as they saw it. Then it worked. That was an important lesson.

3. You’ve interviewed an impressive collection of genre authors for your “Cooking the Books” project. Where did you get the idea to talk about writing by talking about food?

I’m having a ridiculously fun time with Cooking the Books. I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement along the way, especially from author A.C. Wise and all the writers who have agreed to be interviewed so far.

Back in a previous life, I interviewed a lot of people for work. I missed doing it. When I started the column, it felt a bit more risky: this time I was interviewing people not for a client, or a journal, but because I really cared about the answers, for me. It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

The whole thing started at Viable Paradise. Steven Gould (who not only has a new book out, Impulse, but is running for SFWA president – go check him out!) and I were talking about a recipe I had in the back pages of a foreign service cookbook. The recipe was for “Elephant Stew.” (the book also had “Stuffed Camel” and something for cobra.). The first direction is “Cut elephant into bite-sized pieces.” Steven Gould said “That sounds like a recipe for a novel.” I asked him if he’d say that in print, and we were off to the races. Shortly after, Elizabeth Bear and Gregory Frost agreed to interviews – and then people began suggesting others who might like to participate as well. I had a lot of fun interviewing more of the Viable Paradise faculty last fall: author James D. Macdonald, Macallister Stone (of Absolute Write), Bart, and author Steven Brust. The December interview with Aliette de Bodard was just amazing, and the upcoming interviews — well, they’re going to be awesome.

I’d love to have a dinner party with the recipes. Except for the marmot. And Joe Haldeman’s foxhole pizza. Also, we’d need more beverage recipes to pull off a good party. I’m also dreaming up ways to do a Cooking the Books game show at a convention.

4. Which fictional recipe would you most like to try?

Oh gosh. All of them? I love new tastes. I might skip the alien food from Neal Stephenson’s Anathem.

I’m a little limited by food allergies in real life, so that’s probably why I like fictional food so much.

The best source for someone who makes fictional recipes come to life is Chelsea over at Food Thru the Pages and the folks at Fictional Food. Not only are the recipes fantastic, the photography is gorgeous.

5. You attended Viable Paradise in 2011. Now that you’ve had a year to process that experience, what stands out in your memory as the best moment of the workshop? (more…)