CINCINNATI -- Few aspiring novelists feel comfortable in the world of web design and marketing.
But in order to get their work published, they need to market their work, and a website's usually an essential ingredient.
That's the need that Shawn Mummert aims to address with Writer Digital, which creates "no-worry websites and digital for authors."
Before he left in 2015 to work full time on his IT consulting business, Cincinnati Creative Partners, Mummert worked five years as the senior director for information technology for the Cincinnati Museum Center.
His collegiate work, however, had all been about English literature -- he earned a master's degree in the subject from Miami University. He wanted to do something that would unite his interests in literature and technology.
A year ago, he started Writer Digital, and began taking clients in January. He now has five, with several others in the pipeline. It took a while to get the messaging right and figure out where his sweet spot was -- authors who have a draft they're either self-publishing or shopping to agents.
Many of them either don't have a website at all or have one that looks like it came from a "cookie-cutter template." He uses software from WordPress that enables clients to easily maintain and update their sites on their own.
He charges $1,350 to build a basic website, and $2,850 for a more advanced version, which would include help with social media, search-engine optimization for every page of the site and a shopping cart for selling the author's books. It's all designed to be mobile-friendly.
He also does custom development. For example, he built a message board for a client who wanted to start an online book discussion group.
Many of his clients and prospects have come from Jane Friedman, a consultant to aspiring writers in Charlottesville, Virginia. She met Mummert in early 2008 at an arts and literature event.
"I feel like Shawn knows everyone who's anyone in that area in Cincinnati," she said.
At the time, she was working in the Cincinnati office of F + W, a media publishing company. One of her roles there was publisher of Writer's Digest.
When Mummert told her of his new business, she began sending him potential clients because she trusted his work. Her new clients often ask her if she can build a website for them, she said, and she refers them to Mummert.
A website is essential for aspiring authors, she said, especially to help non-fiction writers build an audience so they can get published.
"I consider it foundational," she said. "It's ground zero for getting things off the ground."
It's hard for writers, and creative people in general, to think of themselves as a brand, Mummert said. "At first blush, it can feel dehumanizing," he said.
He tries to make writers understand that they haven't sold out, that they are still their work, and the fact that they're following marketing rules doesn't diminish them in any way.
Managing the workflow from both of his businesses has been a challenge, he said, especially because his Cincinnati Creative Partners projects can be pretty time-consuming. Working on his own, he sometimes misses having colleagues down the hall to talk with.
But he's really enjoying working with authors.
"I am passionate about connecting creative people to their audiences," he said. "Helping quality work thrive makes our culture a better place to live in."