Writing Tip: How to Determine Your Online Persona Before the Book

One of the biggest misconceptions writers have about beginning to create an online persona is believing their website has to be all about their books. So if they don’t have any books published yet, how could they possibly have a website—whatever would they talk about? 

The most important point I want you to remember today is this:

Your website should be about YOU.

You are the brand. You are the face and voice of your brand. Your books are your product.

When you understand this concept, you begin to see how to build an online presence long before your books are a reality. You are a writer now, today, perhaps long before the books even take shape. But as a creative person I believe you already have things to share with your future readers. 

Hopefully you read my Writing Tip: Why Writers Need an Online Presence Before the Book and understand why creating an online presence is a critical component for being an author in today’s technological world. Once you’ve accepted the reality of today’s writing world, the bigger question becomes: How do you determine your online persona before you have a published book? That is what we are going to look at today.

Take some time with this next step. Don’t rush it. Let it simmer in your brain for a while.

Think about who you are. What are you passionate about?
Do you have any hobbies? What do you like to read?
What causes do you champion in real life?

What environment do you prefer to live in?
Do you have a chosen career?

Now think about your writing … your style, the characters’ personalities, the setting and circumstances, the underlying themes. What aspects of your writing is a direct or subtle reflection of who you are today? Could you write about any of those aspects?


Here is a Questionnaire that delves into this topic a bit more.


As you Review the Questions Below, Keep These Three Points in Mind:

• Is this authentic to who I am?
• Is this something I can write about long term?
• How does this relate to my writing?

Questions to Help You Determine Your Online Persona 

Do your characters have a career that matches your own life experiences? Might readers find those experiences interesting or informative?

Do you have a hobby? Is it reflected in your writing? Would you enjoy sharing aspects of your hobby with others?

Do you and your character share similar traits? Is it something that would interest others?

What genre do you tend to write in? How does it relate to your life or your reading preferences? Are you involved in activities that support that genre?

What settings are prevalent in your writing? Do these places have special meaning to you that you’d like to share with others?

What basic core belief do you hold dear that may also be a common theme in your writing? Is it something you’d love to share with readers and maybe connect to hear their stories?

What interests in your everyday life might tie in with aspects of your stories, such as helping the needy, championing environmental issues, or fighting crime?

Does your writing reflect a personal stance you hold in the real world? Is it something you would enjoy expounding upon in more detail?

Working Example:

Here is an example of how I used the thought process above to figure out how to design my initial website, before the books. And then expand upon it as the books became a reality.

My main characters are all quite self-reliant or become that way during their character arc. They spend a lot of time in the wilderness and know survival skills. My personal philosophy matches that of my characters. I constantly strive to be more self-reliant in my own life. It’s authentic to who I am. I knew this was a topic I would never grow tired of researching or writing about. And there is an almost endless supply of topics to choose from.

It became clear to me that it could be the perfect way for me to start a Website/Blog. On my website I shared my past and how I became interested in being more self-reliant. I shared my nature-related poems and short stories. And I Blogged about all kinds of topics that fit into that self-reliant heading. I attracted other readers interested in those topics.

When my books were published, they were added to the website and took the spotlight. I already had a built-in audience of readers who would probably enjoy reading about characters and stories like mine. And that’s what this is all about.

Don’t get me wrong, I still had to experiment a bit with the whole Blogging aspect before I got it right for my purpose, but by taking time to think about that one step I saved myself years of trial and error. And I worked out all the kinks, before the books!

The big side benefit to going this route comes when you are finally able to add your books to your website and you’ll have so much more to offer readers than the chant of “Buy my book—Buy my book.” Readers will more likely purchase your book because they find you interesting, so they believe there’s a good chance your book will also be interesting.

So where do you go once you’ve figured out your online persona?

Stay Tuned for Writing Tip: How to Create Your Online Persona Before the Book


I’d love to hear your experience if you try this process – did you find it helpful?


  1. Dale Amidei

    Writing clarified many of my core beliefs and made me someone closer to the characters who came along during the process. So far as ‘Is this the Real Me? Um, No. I tone Real Me down for my online persona. I might otherwise unintentionally set some unsuspecting social media contact’s hair on fire.

    • indy

      Heh! Having read your books and your blogs, I believe I understand what you are saying…although the characters in your books aren’t based on the real you, the act of writing those characters helped clarify your core beliefs…and you’ve been able to use a “toned-down” version of those as a base for the topics of your blogs and to create your online persona. So would you say your online persona is authentic to who you are, but used in a more subtle presentation?

      • Dale Amidei

        Yes, it’s me, being less of a jerk.

        Maybe I should pretend I’m online all the time?

        • indy

          Ha Ha! Seriously though, you make a valid point—that we can present ourselves in a more “personable” fashion for social engagement, yet still stay true to our authentic self and our core beliefs. Good point. And thanks for the feedback to the Blog!

  2. Ann Young

    Excellent info! I can’t think of anything I would add to the Questionnaire; it included some questions that I haven’t thought about in my own process of building an online persona. I think writers will find the blog entry and questionnaire informative and useful.

    • indy

      Thank you so much reading this and taking the time to give me feedback, Ann. I deeply appreciate it, especially as I prepare this content for a workshop presentation. And I’m so glad you found it helpful. :0)



  1. Writing Tip: How to Create Your Online Persona Before the Book | Indy Quillen - […] creating your online persona with some self-examination and by answering key questions in my Blog Writing Tip: How to…
  2. Writing Tips: Why Writers Need an Online Presence Before the Book | Indy Quillen - […] Here’s a link to the next step: How to Determine Your Online Presence before the Book  […]

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