Navigating the Online World as a Writer
It’s not easy being a writer. Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Now, despite the fact that most modern writers will be sitting down at a computer keyboard rather than a typewriter, it still doesn’t make the ‘bleeding’ any easier. Writing takes skill, courage and perseverance in order to see it through. Likewise with getting your writing out there and into other people’s lives.
Luckily, since Hemingway’s time, the internet has shown up as a wonderful tool for connection, research and self-promotion. However, along with providing self-publishing resources, bookselling resources and even online libraries, the internet can be a scary and overwhelming place. Read on as we examine some of the pitfalls it can be easy to fall into as a writer online, and how to avoid them.
Make It Easy
These days, most people turn to the internet first for the things they want or need, and leave real world options as a last resort. Whether that’s trying a new yoga workout, taking a few spins around the roulette wheel or looking up a recipe for the evening meal, the internet can deliver at the click of a button. In the offline world, you’d have to book into a yoga class, travel to a casino or read a cookbook to achieve the same results. It’s useful to keep this in mind when you’re looking to publish writing online, or promote your self-published work on the internet. People who are searching the web for something to read are looking to make things easier for themselves, so don’t trip yourself up at the first hurdle by making your work difficult to find or digest.
This can mean basic maintenance of your online presence, i.e. making sure that links work, bumping your name up to the top of search results, regular posting on social media and making sure that you’re using up-to-date and popular platforms. It can also mean ensuring that your work looks appealing on screen; this can involve checking the layout of your website across different formats (mobile vs full webpage), choosing a noticeable and memorable front cover for your published work, and confirming that your work is compatible with e-readers. It takes time, but it’s worth it.
Don’t Get Bamboozled
As with every other service available on the internet, the self-publishing world can be a tricky one to navigate. There are many platforms out there that will promise you everything yet deliver a sub-standard service in the end, jeopardising your venture and crushing your creative dream in the process. This is why it’s important to do plenty of research before you decide on which website to trust.
A good first step is to think about what you would look for in a published item. Would you want it made available for e-readers? Or as an audiobook? If you’re thinking of a printed item, does it need to be portable? Or is it more of an objet d’art and would therefore benefit from a hardback binding? Asking these questions can help you to narrow down the publishing services on offer and decide which will be the right one for you.
The second step is to dive deep into the reviews section of your chosen self-publishing website, checking customer service feedback, product quality control, reliability, pricing, turnaround time and value for money. If you get it right from the beginning, then you will not only save yourself time and money, but also achieve your creative dream more quickly.
Accept Support Gladly
Even in the self-publishing game, you don’t have to go it alone – well, not entirely. John Donne said that, “No man is an island”, and this can certainly be expanded to include any writer hoping to self-publish. As well as having friends, family members and colleagues in your life who may be offering you both practical and emotional support along your journey, there is also plenty more support to take advantage of online. This ranges from helpful programs like Grammarly, which can help you to improve your grammar, to the publishing guides offered by websites like Smashword and Lulu.
You will also find that there are whole communities of writers just like you who are hoping to self-publish and self-promote their work to success. It can be both educational and reassuring to join these networks of real people found at publishing sites like Scribd and IUniverse, on forums at WritingForums.org, and in countless social media groups on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. Take some time to check out these resources and you will most likely find that a lot of your burning questions are answered by those who have already been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
Once you’ve been through the process yourself, you can even turn around and offer those behind you a helping hand by answering questions on forums or even writing a blog about your experience of the self-publishing experience.