Beyond “What You Know”: Growing Your Own Media Pulpit

sage.gif By Sage Cohen

What do you want editors, publishers, and readers to find when they look for you online? Does a Google search for your name lead them there today? If not, a website and blog could be the perfect one-two punch for pumping up your online presence.

A basic website functions much like an online brochure. It gives readers the key information you want them to know about you, such as: your credentials, links to publications, biographical information, upcoming readings and events, writing samples and a bio or resume. Because creating a website involves an investment of time, energy and money, this is a good way to demonstrate that you take your writing career seriously.

A website may give you greater confidence in your own work, while increasing your legitimacy in the eyes of your readers. If you want to see what’s possible in the realm of writer web sites, search for some of your favorites and see how they’ve presented themselves to the world.

A blog (weblog) is a simple, low-cost, user-friendly type of website comprised of individual “posts” or entries. (A few popular blog hosts are typepad.com, wordpress.com and blogger.com.) Blogs allow users to write and “publish” an entry in seconds. Writers use blogs to reinforce their expertise, publish writing, and share resources, ideas and inspiration. Because blogs are interactive, readers’ comments may teach you a great deal about your writing, its impact on your audience and your platform. Blogs are also a wonderful way to expand your community of likeminded thinkers and writers.

Recently, I encouraged a coaching client to start a blog to reinforce the platform she’d established with her web site and client work. Within weeks, she had 50+ daily readers–people she didn’t know previously–participating in a dialogue about the topic she is most passionate about.

A few years ago, I created a website in hopes of taking my writing life more seriously and a blog as a daily challenge to write and publish. I had no idea at the time what impact these choices would have on my writing career. Since establishing and growing my online presence, I’ve been invited to speak, teach, lecture, edit and organize. The audience for the readings I host has multiplied. Prospective students have visited my website and then decided to take my class. Journalists who found me online have contacted me for interviews. I’ve even had business writing prospects stumble upon my creative writing website and decide to work with me because they were impressed with my “other” life.

A web presence is like a trail of crumbs leading all who are interested right to your (virtual) door! Whether you choose to start with a website or blog, your key goal should be establishing an online trail that you feel proud of–so when folks do a Google search for you, they land somewhere that gives them an experience that is representative of you. Then, paced with the evolution of your writing career, you can build your media pulpit slowly over time.

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Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic, forthcoming from Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. Her poetry and essays appear in journals and anthologies including Cup of Comfort for Writers, Oregon Literary Review, Greater Good and VoiceCatcher. In 2006, she won first prize in the Ghost Road Press annual poetry contest. Sage holds an MA in creative writing from New York University where she was awarded a New York Times Foundation fellowship. Sage teaches Poetry for the People and Personal Essays That Get Published.

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