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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:
I'll look at each of these in turn.
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:
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:
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.
For your author website, I would always recommend Wordpress.com as the best platform you could possibly use, for several reasons:
If you are considering any other platform, the criteria above are what you should measure them against.
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.
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.
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.
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!