As one peels away the onion, there is a lot that can be written about starting and maintaining a website. Here are the very basics.
Not so fast. Does a writer really have to bother with a website? For almost every serious writer, the answer is yes. Readers and others expect a writer to have an online presence. They will do an online search and look for a website. In turn, a website is one of the best ways for a writer to control his online presence and public profile.
Can’t a writer just rely on Facebook? No. On a website, a writer provides structured information. Facebook is about social engagement. They change their platform all the time, in part to earn advertising dollars. See Jane Friedman’s blog.
What should a writer’s goals be in having a website? A website should provide:
- Clear information about the writer and his expertise (home and bio pages) for viewers and search engines.
- Synopses and reviews of all his books and other content (novels and reviews pages).
- Links to retailers of his books.
- The ability to interact by blogging, email (contact page), collecting email addresses for a newsletter, posting works in progress and links to social media.
- Data collection so that a writer can judge his digital efforts.
See this blog by Jane Friedman.
Okay. How does a writer start and maintain a website? In the broadest terms, the choices are:
- Hire a web designer experienced with author websites. Your site will look great but of course you have to pay for the design and ongoing hosting and maintenance. For self-published writers, that cost may be prohibitive.
- Self-host using “content management systems” like WordPress.org. Roughly, self-hosting is where the writer has access to all of his website files and the servers where those files are stored/hosted. The writer has broad ability to customize his site and add functionality (plug-ins) and analytics. However, the writer is responsible for security, backups and management, and may still need a designer’s help. For an excellent blog on self-hosting, see this blog by Jane Friedman.
- Operate your site on someone else’s domain. For example, this blog uses WordPress.com. This is the simplest and can be virtually cost free. However, while becoming more impressive, customization using themes and analytics are more limited. Also, the domain might disappear.
For all choices, the writer must purchase a domain name. Hopefully [author name].com is available.
Does a writer need to blog? WordPress.com and some like it began as blog web hosting services. Sites operated on WordPress.com are now easily customized to be websites without blogs. I’ll have more to say about whether a self-published writer should or should not blog in a future post.
What is SEO? This is not a disease but an acronym for search engine optimization. A writer will want his website/blog to appear as high and often in online searches as possible. There’s an entire industry that strategizes how to do this based on search engine algorithms. The good news is that sites like WordPress.org (self-hosting) and WordPress.com (domain hosting) are, I’m told, quite good at handling SEO.
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