Hello all! When I decided to blog about author websites and blogs, I realized there was no way I could fit everything into one post. Not if I wanted to go into detail. So I decided to turn it into a series. Today is part one and we’re talking about getting started.
I’ve been creating my own websites since the 90s. Anyone remember Geocities, Tripod, Angelfire? Yep, I used them all. Back then, I created everything in Dreamweaver and uploaded via ftp. Keep in mind, I knew next to nothing about html. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. I played around with site building on and off, creating graphics, trying new styles and platforms.
And then came the time to put those skills to use. I had just signed my first contract with a publisher and I needed an author platform. Before I could think about Facebook or any other social media, I had to establish an author homebase.
At the time, I had no idea what a blog was or what it entailed. A friend told me about Blogger, so I shopped around a little and went with Blogger. Slowly I started customizing, looking for themes outside of what was offered which would fit my needs. After that, I started playing with widgets and html. Google became my best bud. Anything I wanted to do but didn’t know how, I Googled. Everything I did with Blogger prepared me for the upgrade to Wordpress, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
With today’s technology, building your own website is much easier than it used to be, with website builders doing most, if not all, the coding for you. You don’t have to spend hundreds or thousands on a website. I know I certainly couldn’t afford to pay someone to build a site for me, and as I was just starting out, I couldn’t justify the expense. Though it’s far less expensive these days to get a really nice site designed for you. But this series is for authors who want to do it themselves.
Tip: It’s never too early to start your author platform.
Once you get published, you’re going to be busy with a billion other things: edits, galleys, production forms, marketing, promotion, and everything else. The more you have already done, the more you can concentrate on your release and your writing. It’s much easier to update your website once you’re published, than it is to build it up from scratch. There’s a great deal of information you can include regarding your work in progress, your journey as an unpublished author, etc.
So where do you start? There are plenty of free website builders out there. I highly recommend having a website with a built in blog. If you already have a blog, let’s say with blogger, and you’re going to build your website in Wordpress, I would recommend linking your blog to your Wordpress site via your menu. I’ll be getting into that when we get to the design portion of the series.
When I decided to move on from Blogger to a website builder that was both easy to use and allowed me the freedom I wanted to customize, I tried out a few different builders: Weebly, Winx, Web.com, and a few others I can’t remember at the moment. They weren’t the right fit for me. Don’t be afraid to sign up with these free web builders and play around with the building tools. If they don’t work for you, delete or close the account. Obviously you don’t want to link a domain name or start sharing links before you’ve decided whether the builder you chose is right for you.
After trying several builders, I went with Wordpress. Now, there’s a big difference between Wordpress.com and Wordpress.org. Wordpress.com is rather limited in what you can customize, but again it depends on what you need and how much you want to change or be in control of. With Wordpress.com, if it’s not available in the theme you choose, there’s not much you can do, and certain types of coding won’t be permitted in your widgets. It also doesn’t allow plug-ins.
Wordpress.org allows you to upload plug-ins, customize html, and use scripts in your widgets. It’s not self-hosted like Wordpress.com which means you’ll have to have web host. If you go this route, make sure you do a good deal of research before choosing your host. The problem with cheap web-hosting is that the space is shared (unless you opt for the more expensive dedicated servers), so if your site uses up a lot of memory and causes spikes in their CPU, it will be shut down until you sort it out, and let me tell you, your blood pressure will skyrocket while you try to sort it out. With the amount of websites growing, companies providing shared web-hosting are overselling space on their servers. You don’t want to have the constant hassle of your site going down, so ask around and find a trusted web host. I’ve been told Dreamhost, Hawkhost, and Stablehost are good places to start.
Next Monday: Author branding. I’ll also list those free online image editors, since it’s relevant to coming up with your author/website brand.
Have any questions? Just leave them in the comment box below.photo credit: NathanaelB via photopin cc photo credit: ghwpix via photopin cc