Just about all the articles, blog posts, and books you can find on author self-promotion will contain this bit of advice: you need a website. Nothing fancy, just a website with a list of works, a bio, maybe a blog, maybe a picture. But you need a website.
As a relatively new SF author—I can’t say young, and really, I’m returning to publishing in the last couple years after a decade away—I’m at the point where I’d like to follow this advice. I have a number of poems and stories published and forthcoming, and I blog here and elsewhere. Most advice is for authors marketing books, but I don’t have a book out yet (Working on it. Or them, really. Still in draft form, alas.). That said, these articles (etc.) on self-promotion also encourage you to set up a website (and accompanying social media presences) before publication, so it would be a useful exercise for me regardless.
So, what’s the first step? Not registering a domain, nor choosing a hosting service. Not determining whether I’d like to use a blogging platform such as WordPress, nor hiring a designer for a banner. Not deciding whether to blog, nor what I should write about, aside from writing. It’s not drafting a biographical sketch, nor determining how much of my personal life I should include in it. No, the first step, I’d argue, is going through the advice and questioning how, or whether I should, follow it in light of the fact that I’m a woman.
What does this have to with anything? Just about everything you could put on an author website falls into the category of double-standards. The most obvious example of this is the author photo. If I were a man, I’d have a more limited set of decisions to make. Maybe, for example, what to wear or where to take the picture.
The author picture isn’t so simple for me, though. Take makeup, for one. I don’t usually wear it; in fact, I can’t remember the last time I did. Do I do so for the sake of the picture? Do I forgo it since I don’t wear it? Should I do so, I risk the possibility of criticism for presenting myself in a way I don’t usually appear, for buying into some (male-driven?) notion of what I should look like, for thinking that I should do so to appear more “professional” (whatever that means). If I don’t, I risk criticism for trying to appear, perhaps, as if I were distancing myself from women who do wear it, or as if I were wanting to present a less feminine image.
Over the next couple blog posts, I’ll take apart some of the more commonly recommended elements of author websites and walked through my decisions about them. I’d also like to examine why we expect author websites to have these elements, and what that implies about our expectations.