Web stroll: Special sites help build your platform
ONLINE COLUMN: Web Savvy
Published: October 7, 2008
|The Internet gives us so many options for building a brand you could spend all your online time just learning new things. Curiosity is any writer's best friend, and these are websites I've come to rely on after stumbling upon them in various ways. In the brand-building process, inspiration is the first thing that comes to mind. What do you want your brand to say to editors, readers and possibly sponsors?|
For inspiration, look to BookVideos TV, not to be confused with C-SPAN 2 BookTV. Both channels can be found at YouTube. One of my personal favorites at BookVideos TV is a brief glimpse at Natalie Goldberg, whose iconic book Writing Down the Bones can be found on many writers' shelves. (See video below.) No laptop for Goldberg—she talks about where she likes to write, and gives a nod to the basics by saying, "I have a cheap spiral notebook and a fast pen."
|A new favorite is 'The Marshmallow Experiment,' a promotional video for Philip Zimbardo's book The Time Paradox. The videos at this site are primarily shorts less than 5 minutes long—produced with marketing in mind but offering a wealth of insight into what makes other successful writers tick. The shorts can also be used as a model for your own book or Web site promotion.|
You can't live on inspiration alone, and one challenge for all online writers is style. Every publication or Web site has its own preferences for style, and most writers will have a style guide on the shelf. But for quick reference, two sites have saved me untold hours. For a basic editorial style guide, the University of South Carolina provides a free online resource with a handy table of contents for quick finds. Another guide, 'Writing for the Web,' by Sun Microsystems is also an excellent resource. Neither site can take the place of your own style guide or the specific guide an editor prefers, but both sites are valuable for anyone who writes for online publications.
Other Web sites are treasure troves of material about all aspects of writing, including the business aspect of our profession, at Neiman Reports and the Knight Digital Media Center. You could spend days just reading at these sites where you'll find information about everything from where to get business cards for a very low price to issues about ethics in new media, a subject that deserves more attention in my opinion.
Freebies are good for any writer, and author Terry Whalin has just made a new e-book available free, 'Platform Building Ideas for Every Author.' Whalin is a fellow ASJA member, but I bumped into his e-book by accident. He's authored many books and is in demand as a speaker, and his advice is spot on.
Last but not least is a repeat recommendation—Google Tools for Webmasters. If you maintain a Web site, this resource is key to search engine success. Some of the resources are complicated; others aren't. But if you take time to learn the ropes, you'll have access to all sorts of data, from keywords visitors used to find you to how many people have subscribed to your site. Don't let the term 'webmasters' scare you. If you've built a site or blog, you may not be the world's most technical guru, but you are a webmaster.
During a recent talk at a book festival, someone asked me, "What's the most important thing for a freelancer?" I could've written a book in response to that question, but instead, I settled for a basic, and responded, "Curiosity."
If you don't know something, look for it. Chances are it's right there on the Web just waiting for you to find it. And when you look, you'll find unexpected nuggets that may help you elevate your own brand above thousands of others competing for visibility.
--Published Oct. 7, 2008
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Florida journalist Kay B. Day has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. The author of two books, she has written for The Christian Science Monitor, United Press International, The Florida Times-Union and Sky News. To read Kay's other Web Savvy columns about writing for the Web, click here.