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Feb
12
2015

How to Set Up Your Author's Blog/Website -- by Marisa Wright

These days, if you want to be an author you must have an internet presence -- no question.  However, there's a lot of misunderstanding about what kind of presence you need.  Common questions are:

  • Which one do I need, a blog or a website, or do I need both? 
  • What platform is best (e.g. Blogger, Wordpress, Weebly, Wix, self-hosted)?
  • But isn't Facebook/Google+ enough?

I'll look at each of these in turn.

Which One Do I Need, a Blog or a Website (or do I need both)?

The answer to this question is - there is no difference!   Once upon a time, a blog was a daily personal diary and a website was a series of static pages.  Today, they have merged. Most good website software allows you to do both at the same time.

So nowadays you need only one site, which acts as both a blog and a website, and you can arrange it however you please.  The important thing is to have a front page which tells your readers about you as an author.  If you have books, websites, blogs or articles already published, you can provide links to those.  Here's mine:

MarisaWright.com

You'll notice that right now, it consists of only one page, plus a "contact" form so people can contact me.  When I'm closer to publishing my novel, I will add a full page to publicise that book and will probably start a blog section too.   Right now, the site achieves three goals:

  • It ensures that no one else can buy the domain name marisawright.com;
  • It establishes a website with the name marisawright.com.  That's important, because Google respects age -- so when I need my website to promote my novel, Google will trust it more;
  • I can link to it as a bio when I write an article or take part in a forum on other sites.

A word of warning:  if you want to have a blog on your author website, do consider what you'll blog about.  What impression do you want to convey to your readers?   If you wanted to present yourself as a professional doctor, for instance, you wouldn't blog about your obsession with Wonderwoman costumes.  The same applies to you as a poet or novelist. Keep it professional!  

If you have a specialist subject which you're passionate about, but which doesn't fit with your author persona, it's best to create a totally separate blog.  Specialist blogs can be very successful and a vehicle to make money from your writing (though be warned, there is a learning curve to that - it's not as simple as "just write and they will come, by any means). 

Tip:  If you don't have a specialist subject, please don't waste your time creating multiple blogs - they won't help your profile and will just suck up your valuable time for no benefit.  You will get far more benefit from speading your writing elsewhere - guest blogging, social networking sites, forum posting.

If you have some miscellaneous blogs now, and they're not getting traffic, delete them!!  Save your posts, wait a month or so, and then start re-publishing them on rev-sharing sites like HubPages, Zujava, Seekyt and Infobarrel, or look for guest posting opportunities.   If they are on related subjects, link them to each other (and to your new author website if it's allowed).  They may not make much money but they will do far more for your profile sprinkled around the internet, than they will ever do on your own, unvisited blog. 

Which Platform is Best?

For your author website, I would always recommend Wordpress.com as the best platform you could possibly use, for several reasons:

  1. It's free;
  2. It is powerful and fast-loading;
  3. It has good SEO;
  4. Your site will be easily transferable if you ever want to change platforms;
  5. It's easy to "attach" your own domain name;
  6. It offers easy-to-manage, reader-friendly navigation menus;
  7. It's easy to revise your site;
  8. Your site becomes part of a larger community where you can connect with other site owners.

If you are considering any other platform, the criteria above are what you should measure them against.

Why Not Wix or Weebly?

I would never recommend Wix or Weebly (two other platforms often used by newbies).  Weebly fails criteria 2, 4 and 8.  Wix fails criteria 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8.  

My biggest concern about Wix and Weebly is that if you are ever unhappy with them, there is no way to save your site and move it elsewhere - you just have to close it down, and start all over again from scratch somewhere else.  What if they decide to start charging?  What if they close down?  It's a risk no website owner should take.

Why Not Blogger?

Blogger is OK.  If you look at the criteria, it satisfies all except numbers 6 and 8.  Blogger's only real disadvantage is that it's more difficult to create reader-friendly navigation (after all, how many readers will bother to trawl through posts archived by date?).   

However I would only recommend Blogger over Wordpress for one reason, and one reason only:  advertising.  If you want to run advertising on your site (e.g. Adsense or Amazon or other affiliate ads), then you can't do that on Wordpress.com.  However, I don't think that's an issue for your author website.  

Let's face it, your author website is your place to form a relationship with your readers.  You don't want to be selling to them (except your own book of course!).   The ban on advertising doesn't prevent you linking to your own book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or wherever, provided it's just an ordinary hyperlink (i.e. you don't use an affiliate code).  So it shouldn't be a handicap. 

Why Not Self-Hosted?

If you don't know what that means, then don't worry about it.  Self-hosted just means that you sign up with a hosting provider, install some website software and run your own show.  That gives you total freedom and total control, and some would say that if you're serious about being a writer, you should do it.  However, it's completely unnecessary unless you're planning to blog for a living. 

The good thing about Wordpress.com is that if you do decide to upgrade to self-hosting in the future, it's possible to transfer your whole site seamlessly and easily from Wordpress.com to a self-hosted Wordpress.org site. So that avenue is always open to you.

...but isn't Facebook/Google+ enough?

The short answer is no. 

Think about it.  When you're choosing a professional -- whether it's a doctor, physio, or any other service provider -- which one would you trust more:  the one with just a Facebook page, or the one with a proper website? 

It's much harder to convince people to buy your book when they can't pick it up in a bookstore.   You need to do everything you can to persuade them to trust you!  A professional-looking website is an important part of that. 

Besides, when (not if!) you find a publisher for your novel, they will require you to have your own website.   Google respects age, so having a website that has been in existence for a while - even if it's only one page - is better than starting with a brand new one.  Also, if you leave it too long, you may find your pen name has already been taken.  Ideally you want the one with .com after it (.net is second best).   If you can't get one of those, you should create a compound name (e.g. your name with "writer" or "author" after it) rather than settle for a .info or any of the other suffixes.

So head over to Namecheap.com and find your name now!

 

 

Posted by Marisa Wright 12 Feb 2015 at 03:34
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Responses to this blog

Dorothea 15 Feb 2015 at 11:37  
Hi. I have a question. I'm a writer, but I'm not published and haven't submitted anything in over 20 years. I've just picked up writing again last October, and so I'm wondering if I could make a blog or website about my struggles as a writer. And if it can be done, how do you write in a blog or website? I've never done one before.
Candance 15 Feb 2015 at 11:43  
You're welcome to create a blog about any topic you like. Wordpress is indeed the best blog tool to use. Once you sign up, the website pretty much holds your hand and shows you what to do. You can look at some tutorials here.
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Dorothea 15 Feb 2015 at 12:39  
Thanks so much, Candance.
Annehwhite 17 Feb 2015 at 10:52  
I agree that WordPress is extraordinary. Available templates are free, flexible, and attractive, and they are so simple to learn and work with!
I've had to ask a professional to make a few CSS changes only twice. (I don't know code.)

The well-illustrated softcover book "Blogging for Writers" has been especially helpful to me. As has my Google Analytics account, also free. I've learned what to blog about, and what not to bother with, just by watching my stats. It's exciting to see readers/followers from geographical areas where I don't know people personally.

Two suggestions: First, work on the craft of writing first, then publishing, and the blog will develop in time. And, second, figure out what your aim is for your blog: Process Journal blog (you write what you like, what supports your writing, and disregard the Analytics stats), or Platform blog (you write what people want to read, to follow; what a publisher will want as proof that you have a following). I've found that there's a huge difference between these two approaches. I've tried to steer a halfway point, but truth be told, I lean toward the former, and my stories and essays seem to find appropriate homes at good literary journals.

Oh, and one more thing, as I've studied other writers' blogs, I have noticed that many of them are too personal, too self-referential to the point of embarrassment. If we writers want our blogs picked up, as recommended links, by good writers' sites — like New Pages, and there are several good ones — we have to ask ourselves with every entry, "How does this contribute, how is this helpful" and "Who cares"?
Monaluisa 17 Feb 2015 at 15:08  
Great post and good comments too. As a former Blogger, I can say that WP has really great 'writer/author' friendly templates and analytics. When I moved from Blogger, my subscriptions increased and I was able to tie my twitter account to it (where I like to share resources and info).
What I like about other writer's blogs are when they are clear what they'll write about (kind of a mission statement), interests which relate to the subject matter of their novels or their novels in process, their supportiveness of the writing community, and sharing resources.
What I dislike are the writers who regularly tell me how many words they wrote, what contests they participate in, 'musings', and regular reblogs of other people's posts.
It's hard to keep up with the blogs that post daily; twice a week is fine.
Annehwhite 18 Feb 2015 at 05:54  
In the blogs I follow — which are intentionally few, or when would I write? — I notice that the writer has in an "About Me" or "About This Blog" section a (as you call it) clear "mission statement." I find these very helpful. If I'm going to be taken on a wandering path of poetic musings, I want to know; if, on the other hand, I'm going to be told how to approach the revision of a novel, I want to know that too. Helps me decide how much to follow, or if.

Monaluisa, what blogs do you read? Who's really worth reading twice a week? Who has that much good stuff to say? Or is it expected filler and chit-chat? Your recommendations?


Monaluisa 18 Feb 2015 at 19:48  
Hi Annehwhite,
I read blogs that help me to write better and those that involve some interest of my own. I find Storyfix.com by Larry Brooks and Writer Unboxed helpful for writing (Storyfix more than WU). Maria Popova's incredible literary reviews at brainpickings.org . A couple of blogs by authors who write historical novels for Young Adults, since I write YA; one on YA books that feature diversity; one on wine; one on water scarcity (EatLessWater.com), and a couple on poetry. Most of the bloggers post once per week, so it's easier to keep up.
Darkocean 18 Feb 2015 at 21:02  
Great advice, thank you.
Annehwhite 23 Feb 2015 at 07:54  
Thanks, Monaluisa. I enjoyed Brooks's review of FSOG, which I haven't read, but his argument for story physics is really good. Writer Unboxed is interesting also, but as you say, less so than Storyfix. More filler, I think, more blah, blah, blah ...

Would you be willing to share your choices of poetry blogs? I'd like to follow a good one.

Also, if you run across a good nonfiction blog, would you send me the site?

Thanks.
Dlavon 23 Feb 2015 at 17:36  
This is great information. I love WordPress and have been running a blog there for the past three years. I've never had any problems, and was welcomed with a wealth of information for the newbie blogger when first starting. WordPress is definitely the way to go.
D. Lavon
Jordyleigh 18 Mar 2015 at 21:48  
This was really great to read and just happened to coincide with when I was thinking of starting a blog! One question: At the very, very end, you mentioned namecheap. Is that only for those with self-hosted blogs? Thanks heaps!
Aukgwriter 19 May 2015 at 04:17  

NameCheap.com

There are so many places to register your domain name. Is this your recommended choice? I did a little research into registering domain names and what to look out for in the small print, and it seems to be a bit of a minefield.

I want to make the right choice, does anyone have an advice on this?

Is NameCheap.com the best place to register?

Thanks
Shar52815 12 Jun 2015 at 18:29  
This is a great conversation. I have a Wordpress.net website, and did use NameCheap.com to obtain my domain name. I don't think it makes a great deal of difference who you use. NameCheap was less expensive. I created my website a couple of years ago not thinking too much about readers. I just wanted to write....I needed to write. Now I have a different sense of what the site should be, but it will take some reconstruction to get there. I would agree that it's good to have an "About Me" page, but in my case I way overdid it, and have to revisit that. It takes a lot of time to set up a site, so some thought up front is well worth the time spent. I love blogging, and writing short stories. It just came most naturally to me, so I continue to do it. I will be posting some here soon and look forward to hearing from critters!! : )

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