Should Your Book Really Be a Book? How About a Website First?

One of the key points from my January webinar about salable nonfiction book concepts
is that not every concept (or author) is ready for immediate book publication.
Sometimes you should start by building a site and a community around
your topic, and see where things lead. If you generate interest and
gather people around you, then:

  • You’ll have a built-in audience for your work that you can interact with and reach out to for ideas
  • You’ll be building your author marketing/promotion platform that will help sustain your writing career over a lifetime
  • You might experience role reversal: editors/agents approach YOU about a book deal.

One author in my webinar, Marsha Toy Engstrom, presented a wonderfully focused concept related to book clubs, with a targeted and identifiable audience, but it just didn’t feel like a book project (yet). I suggested she start with a site. She recently wrote me to say:

Although I’ve had both a literary agent and book editor give me a thumbs up on the book concept, I certainly took your advice to heart. “Build a Website” has been on my laminated list for quite some time–however, your feedback was my impetus to stop working on the book, and start working on the site. Since you are to thank for its creation,  I wanted to share it with you: I think it’s fun–which should mirror the tone my book will take.

So ask yourself (even if you’re a fiction writer): Would it make sense to start off with an online site, project, community, or social group? Why does your project need to be in print first? If you’re wondering: How do I make money if I’m not publishing a book or selling a book, you might be in for a big surprise when you find out how much—or how little—most authors earn on book sales. And remember: How are you going to sell a book without having a reachable readership first?

Note that my next webinar is on Feb. 26, on self-publishing (particularly for writers who aren’t sure if they should pursue it or not). You can register here.

Photo credit: Ian Wilson

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0 thoughts on “Should Your Book Really Be a Book? How About a Website First?

  1. dave malone

    Jane, I really like your comment about "seeing where things lead." I think that is important. Especially if you view writing/publishing as a very living breathing process. I am taking great joy of late in making my work very web-oriented, and even trying out video as a medium. And when I went back to my writing desk this week to put together a volume of poetry, I felt a nose-dive in my energy. I’ve had to work a little bit about making it feel vibrant, and I’m good now. And I know a poetry volume is merely yet another piece of my writing/publishing life and I’m embracing it too, for to paraphrase Bill, it’s something I have fallen into, and I do enjoy it.

  2. Evangeline

    Deciding to build an audience before pitching my nonfiction (and my fiction) is why I chose to begin my blog Edwardian Promenade. I am honest in saying that I wanted to pitch to Writer’s Digest a non-fiction reference book in the vein of the "Everyday Life in…[insert time period]," but realized it was wiser to show there is an audience for the book. And so far, it’s paid off!

  3. Bill Peschel

    I find this fascinating, in part because that seems to be what I’ve fallen into doing on my site. If nothing else, it’s committing me to writing material regularly, finding my voice, getting feedback from readers, and taking pleasure in seeing the readership grow a bit at a time.


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