This is a guest post from Melissa Donovan, founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.
As I wander around the web, I come across a lot of writers who spend their days in cubicles, and then fill up their evenings and weekends writing. Some of them are just starting to submit their work. Some of them are already published authors. In fact, more and more of them are self-published authors with decent repertoires. They dream of quitting their day jobs so they can write, full time, for a living.
To achieve their dreams, these writers have to successfully market their work and sell their books. The burden of marketing almost always lands squarely on an author's shoulders, whether the author has chosen traditional publishing or self-publishing.
The vast majority of these writers are making one big mistake in general: they are not treating their writing like a business. I know, all the artists roll their eyes and get angry when I say things like that, but there it is. If you don't treat your writing like a business, you will fail. That's all there is to it.
Luckily, the Internet makes running a business a whole lot easier than it used to be. It still requires a lot of time and energy, but it's not as costly and it's much easier to do yourself.
As a writer striving to make a career out of writing, your number one asset is your website. Through your website, you can connect with agents, editors, publishers, other writers, and most importantly, readers.
Below are the five most common mistakes that writers make on their websites. These are big mistakes that could result in missed opportunities and they are mistakes that are easily repaired.
1. No Bio
In business, an about page is one of the three standard pages every single website should have (the other two are home and contact). It's not unusual for this to be the second most visited page on any website (after the home page).
For an author, this page should be called a bio (short for biography), and every writer's website should include this page. Agents, editors, and readers are interested in knowing what you're all about, and this is where they'll go to find out.
What to include: Your full (pen) name, your purpose or mission (to publish a novel, for example), credentials, and achievements. Check the bios of successful authors for examples.
2. No Social Media Presence
A lot of writers and business owners initially rail against social media, but once they learn how to use these sites effectively, they're hooked. There are huge communities of readers that you can tap through sites like Twitter, Facebook, and GoodReads. In fact, many writers (including myself) will tell you that using social media marketing properly can lead to publishing opportunities and increased sales of your work.
Tips: Make sure you get a Facebook page (also called a fan page or like page) as opposed to a personal profile, and make sure links to your social media profiles are clearly visible on your website.
3. No Contact Information
This is probably the single biggest mistake that writers make on their websites. They hide their email addresses somewhere or forget to include them at all. If you're already a huge success, then maybe you don't need to make yourself accessible via email. But what if an agent is interested in representing you? What if an editor wants to publish your work or offer you a book deal?
It's not enough to leave your blog comments open and share links to your social media profiles. You should provide a clear and easy way for visitors to contact you privately.
What to include: Create a contact page and make sure it appears in your navigation menu. Use a form for privacy (a form hides your email address).
4. The Content is Not Polished
If you're a writer and you want to be considered professional, every single word you publish should be polished. Yes, the occasional typo will slip through. That happens to everybody. But when a reader or publishing professional comes to your site and every published page reads like a first draft, they're going to click away in search of writers who know how to proofread, edit, and use good grammar.
Tips: After you finish composing a page or a post, read through it a couple of times to clean it up. If possible, let it sit overnight and give it a final review before you publish it.
5. The Design is Abysmal
There are so many lovely free website and blog templates that there's no excuse for having a cluttered, ugly, difficult-to-navigate website. Nobody wants a cookie-cutter site that looks just like dozens of others but it's a heck of a lot better than having a site nobody wants to visit at all. We get it. You're a writer, not a designer. If you can't afford to hire a professional designer, get a decent freebie until you can.
Tips: Use a blog as your website platform. There are tons of free blog themes available. I recommend getting a self-hosted WordPress site.
This weekend, set aside a couple of hours to step back and look at your website. Are you making any of these mistakes? Look for other areas of your site that could be improved. Read through some of your content and check for typos and other mechanical errors. Take a little time to clean it up, and then get back to your writing. Good luck!
Do you have any questions about your writer's website or blog? Add them in the comments below.
About the Author: Melissa Donovan is a professional website designer and copywriter. She is also the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.
Top image: Flickr CC Mouin M