Slick ways to present your work online

Whether you’re an impoverished beginner who is self-publishing and still trying to build an audience, or an established pro who bathes in honey on a twice-weekly schedule, every writer needs an online presence these days. But you’re not just a blogger, you think to yourself, you’re also a published author. How do you jazz things up to make yourself look every inch the successful writer? Let’s have a look…

One thing many authors do to demonstrate their work is to include samples on their web site. Perhaps it’s a chapter excerpted from your latest paperback novel, or maybe it’s the first three poems from a 12-poem cycle about depression that you had printed onto untanned baby seal skins as a political statement. Whatever the nature of your samples might be, you don’t want to just cut and paste the text into your web site. That’s the technological equivalent of scrawling them on a bathroom wall. You want to try to reproduce not only the text, but the actual experience of seeing them in a professionally produced book. (Although if you want to reproduce the feel of decayed seal flesh sliding through your fingers, you’re on your own.)

When it comes to providing a rich visual look for your samples, with a glitzy simulation of page turning etc., that part is fairly easy. Consider this sample below, a preview of my novel Strange Places.

[scribd id=59380220 key=key-6zv0lvyjof7pfbvi8a9 mode=book]

Pretty nifty, huh? Nice feel, great look. And would you believe that this is both easy to do, and completely free of charge? The tool that makes this magic possible is a web site called Scribd, which is a social networking site built around publishing. Think of it as Flickr for documents. The heart of their system is iPaper, which is what they call the fancy PDF presentation tool you see above. The workflow for creating a writing sample for your own site is as follows:

  1. Create a sample of your work in DOC or PDF format
  2. Create an account on Scribd (if you don’t already have one)
  3. Install an iPaper plugin for your web site*
  4. Upload your sample to your Scribd account
  5. Click on the “share” tool for your newly uploaded sample
  6. Cut and paste the Scribd embedding code into your own site
*Each web/blog engine will require a slightly different setup to permit iPaper embedding like this. For WordPress, I first had to install the Simple iPaper plugin, which took me about 11 seconds, but that was the only prep required. I have also worked with a similar module in Drupal, and I know that there are quite a few more. Just look search for “iPaper” in the plugin gallery for your particular web engine.

The details of that last step depend on what kind of site you have. In my case, I’m running WordPress, so here’s the extent of the magic code that I had to cut and paste:

[ scribd id=59380220 key=key-6zv0lvyjof7pfbvi8a9 mode=list ]

Pretty easy, huh? In addition to getting a very slick and professional looking preview tool to show off your writing samples on your site, those samples are also visible to visitors at the Scribd site, so it gives you even more visibility than you’d get from just hosting a PDF download on your own site. And when it comes to self-promotion on the internet, you can never have enough exposure. I know that through the Scribd site itself, my samples have been viewed over 20,000 times. That might not be much for a mid-list author in the middle of his career, but for somebody just starting out like me, that’s a pretty big number.

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About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.