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Create your own author website - with the minimum of tears

edited July 2010 in - Resources
I guess most authors appreciate how important it is to have their own author website these days, but not all may realise why. The most important reason is that this will become the hub of your online presence. Whenever, and wherever, you appear on the web there should be a link to your website. (You should also include your web address in all published hardcopy, as well, of course.) For a very small annual fee you can assign a domain name (such as yourname.info, yourname.co.uk, or yourname.com), with the great advantage this will never change: no matter what method you use in the future to create and maintain that website, and no matter who hosts that website. This ensures links to your website never get 'broken' due to changes of address. A personal domain name also means you will be able to have a permanent email address such as ‘contact@yourname.info’). If a personal website is to be your hub, then, it follows it should be your highest priority: so everything else can point to that stable hub.

As a webmaster with my own travel website (http://www.synergise.com) I decided very early on to create my own author website (http://www.iankingsley.com) to be ready for the publication of my debut novel in August 2010. Although I had the ability to create this from scratch, I decided to look into what are called ‘website builders’ to see if one of these was up to the task. The advantage would be that they would use the very latest standards and techniques (unlike me), and they would get me off to a flying start.

I found that most of the best website builder allowed you to try them out for free, so I tested quite a lot. Unfortunately, none allowed me to do all of the more unusual aspects I had in mind, such as random text selection, password-protected pages (with minimum account intrusion), etc. But they are definitely up to the needs of authors who just wish to create a fairly simple website with the minimum of time-and tears! To help, I have crystallised my thoughts about those website builders I tried out and have written a couple of articles to help fellow-authors in this area. These, and other articles, are listed on my author website at: http://www.iankingsley.com/articles. If you want to more easily keep abreast of future articles aimed at demystifying the subject of websites then I invite you to follow my blog; this will announce new entries. I know technology can be tricky, and even if you have been involved in it all your life, as I have, there are always areas of specialisation you know little about. I hope the starter article on website builders (http://www.iankingsley.com/articles/001-website-builders.php) helps to convince you that you can create your own author website.

I will also be writing other articles of interest to authors because, over many years working in technical publications as author and editor, I have developed some helpful and time-saving techniques I would be happy to share. Perhaps the easiest way to know about these is to follow by shiny new author blog at http://iankingsleyauthor.blogspot.com/ where they will all be announced when they are published. All these distractions take you away from your real love: writing. If my articles can help minimise that task then I am happy to help - although I am not up to the task of answering individual queries since I would then have too little time to do what I love best: writing!

Comments

  • [quote=ewordsmith]For a very small annual fee you can assign a domain name[/quote]

    That's all very well and good if you can afford it. Unlike me, I am poor and I can't afford a domain name.
  • Surely you can afford £6 a year Pixie?
  • Not without a bank account or a job I can't, no. And I'm not making my parents pay for it when they have enough to pay for themselves.
  • Fair enough, you'll have to get washing cars :D £6 a car...only have to do one! Woo :D
  • Well I'm not being funny but that only works out at about one and a half pence a day. I find more than that in copper on the street everyday if I could be bothered to pick it up. As BR says that's one car clean or any other chore.

    But he didn't come on here saying it was compulsory anyway so why bother complaining about it if it isn't something you are going to do anyway? A lot of writers as well as other people trying to promote themselves find it necessary to have their own website. Some just use blogs and that is fine for most until they start making money from the thing. That's the point of this thread, being ready to promote your work when it becomes available. Foresight is always welcome before a rush.

    Thanks for the links and the advice and links Ian.
  • LizLiz
    edited July 2010
    I thought the same Ian. I think if I'd had the time I would probably have been able to build something... but it would have boiled my brain and left me without creative input for writing!

    In the end a friend, using one of those website building things, built one for me, but it was too complicated and couldn't do what I wanted it to do.

    So in the end I bit the bullet and looked at local businesses who build websites for you. Their work is all available for you to see on the web. The difference in quality and attention to detail, clarity and beauty were incredible. So were the differences in price.

    I phoned up any I liked and got quotes for what I wanted in particular... the prices ranged from £2,000 down to £300. The £2,000 one would charge extra to supply a magnetic poetry set, which was what I was after. The £300 chap, local in Bristol, whose manner I liked, and his unfussy website design etc. said he could do it in the price.

    So I chose him and have been really pleased what he produced. I know even £300 seems like a lot of money, but that included all the things I needed and the hosting etc. and he will upkeep it any time I need anything done, AND teach me (when I get round to dropping in!) how to change things on there myself. And it's there now.

    He also did things I hadn't thought of.. for instance in the magnetic poetry, you can drag words and make a magnetic poem. But if you click on a word it takes you to a poem with that word in.

    For me, that hassle-free way was the way to go.

    http://www.poetlizbrownlee.co.uk
  • LIz I love your site and the magnetic poetry is a brill idea. Beautiful and simple layout. Also like the readings on QuickTime.
  • Thanks to Ian for the thread, I hope some TBers will find it helpful.

    I'm a web designer and manager, but tried a site builder (not sure if I'm allowed to say who with). I found it too restrictive and it never fitted my screen (on four different PC/laptops using different browsers and platforms). The support was poor as they use a third-party site builder, and they never resolved the issue (you don't get access to the templates to alter the dimensions in the html).

    I ended up letting the site expire, and do everything on blogger.com now, especially as you can now add additional static pages - it suits my purposes fine and has lots of template options.

    Think I've mentioned it before, but a lot of publishers and writers' circles' websites are some of the worst I've seen! I specialise in writing for the web techniques, usability and accessibility. I think it's lazy when people don't consider their audience.

    BTW, Liz's site is lovely. Worth the extra money.
  • I looked at this and thought, great, then my editor emailed to say the company are dealing with the website next week, I think I will get my own page on their website which will suit me fine.

    Apart from that, it's good to have this info. Thanks.
  • Hey there! I said 'a very small annual fee'! Trust me! Google 'buy .info' or whatever to see sites that sell them for under £10 pa! If you cannot affort that then how do you afford a broadband connection?
    Look at: http://www.cheapdomainnames.co.uk/domains.html? to see examples with co.uk for £5.48 for 2 years, and even the normally expensive .com from £7.99 pa. You can even try out example names and get the prices quoted back for you. Most website builders let you buy and assign a domain name to your created website at a later date and quite cheaply. You can out up a test site FREE! See that Pixie? Free?
    Read my article now to see a comparision of the best contenders, and then check out my brief review in Part 2.
    I do not recommend you pay someone to do a website for you. Why pay an arm and a leg, and provide them with all the real information to use when you could be pasting it into a website builder? A site with only a few pages can remain free. You can use the generic website name they use (although not good for long-term) and then won't even need to buy a domain name. You can start with a free site this way and upgrade later when you want to expand. There are too many preconceptions coming back on this thread not based on evidence. If you can work Word then you can use a website builder (after a bit of practice). But checkout my article rather than waste time with more difficult ones!
    Lily, I am not saying a website builder will be as good as a web designer, but for someone without the time to gain that experience, they are a gift. Yes, there are drawback and limitations. That's why I wrote the article.
    Has anyone actually read it?
    And finally... you might get a great website from a designer for four figures (or three if you are lucky), but what about making changes to it? You need to keep it up-to-date. Guess what. If you paid someone to do it, you either have to pay them more for this service, or let them teach you how to do it yourself - a way you won't want to know!
  • edited July 2010
    [quote=ewordsmith]Hey there! I said 'a very small annual fee'! Trust me! Google 'buy .info' or whatever to see sites that sell them for under £10 pa! If you cannot affort that then how do you afford a broadband connection?[/quote]

    Because I don't pay the bill...my dad does.
  • Just to be aware, ewordsmith, some members on the forum are 14/15/16 years of age, so they would need to seek permission from parents. Life isn't always black and white.
  • LizLiz
    edited July 2010
    I think you have some preconceptions... My chap doesn't charge for updating or whatever, and has already supplied me with simple written instructions for adding/changing poems and using the blog. I only have to go in and see him to get the rest of the info, he said he'd show me and as I learn better by seeing and doing rather than written instructions i will.

    I also had some strange mails sort of like spam and he sorted all that for me as well. I wouldn't have known where to start.

    As I have my website, I haven't read your info, but probably will out of interest...
  • I rather think I had a bargain with mine at £2 domain for two years.
  • [quote=ewordsmith] Most website builders let you buy and assign a domain name to your created website at a later date and quite cheaply. You can out up a test site FREE! See that Pixie? Free?[/quote]

    And yes, I've tried these websites. Useless for my purpose on what I want them for.
  • ewordsmith (and anyone else with an opinion) would you say a website was better than a blog? - and if so, why?
  • I have a blogspot one and a personal website. The personal one was given as a gift. But I put both content on each. I'll keep on forking out for the paid one as I was surprised to get LeeHughes.Net, so I reckon 'hopefully' in future years if things pan out as I want I'll be able to be financially okay to have a more professional website. But for now it does what it needs to do.
  • Sorry I cannot help you, Pixie. But there are others this might help.
  • A website is dead money if you want to share information only, such as your work (stories/poems/whatever), your ideas, opinions, thoughts and ramblings etc, because a blog is exactly what that is for, and is very versatile.

    Websites (with the exceptions of organisations/charities) are out to generate money. So unless you have a service that you are providing and making a living from, then a website is surplus to requirements.
  • edited July 2010
    Not really Red, Blogspot only lets you have ten pages, which is 9 more that they used to, but with the website I regularly add trunk stories to it, because I can have whatever I want and then link it through blogspot. It's not dead money when I go backstage into the stats and see how many 'unique' visitors you get, so my name is getting out there. It only costs me £6.99 a month, that's nothing to try and up my profile.
  • [quote=Red]A website is dead money if you want to share information only, such as your work (stories/poems/whatever), your ideas, opinions, thoughts and ramblings etc, because a blog is exactly what that is for, and is very versatile.

    Websites (with the exceptions of organisations/charities) are out to generate money. So unless you have a service that you are providing and making a living from, then a website is surplus to requirements. [/quote]

    Or... if you have a book to promote, Red! It then becomes the core of your onlinemarketing. Otherwise, as Red says, a blog is better. This thread was intended for published authors - or those about to be published.
  • I have my own website that I am building, for a service that I will be providing.

    I also regularly write web pages, do behind the scenes stuff at work and all that boring teching stuff. Unique visitors are a useful key indicator, as are their IP addresses to use for marketing purposes.
  • [quote=ewordsmith]This thread was intended for published authors - or those about to be published.[/quote]

    I was just wondering, you don't mention who Sandman is being published through and you said, 'Hopefully August'

    And there's nothing on Amazon, and they usually have a book listed up to two months ahead of publication.

    Have you been picked up by a publishing company, or self-publishing?

    Just wondering.
  • [quote=Red]Life isn't always black and white.[/quote]

    Unless you are Charlie Chaplin.
  • Or a zebra?
  • Or an opossum.
  • They think horses can see some colours so zebra are probably similar.
  • The Life and Times of Being a Barcode by 5 035766 040149
  • Glad "they" get a mention.

    Couldn't last another day without knowing what "they" think.

    Sorry Liz but in MY world, zebras is black and white.
  • [quote=LeeH]The Life and Times of Being a Barcode by 5 035766 040149[/quote]

    If a barcode got arrested and went to prison would the guards be able to see him in his cell?
  • edited July 2010
    The ISBN of 'Sandman' has not been issued yet. Publishing through the New Generation imprint of Legend Press. There is some effort being made by them to publish as quickly as possible because I hoped to catch some local interest in this novel to tie in with the tourist trade in the location of the setting, but this is pushing things, so August is the hopeful target. I am planning for August, fingers crossed. My website already included details of the setting, by the way: http://www.iankingsley.com/books/sandman/setting.php
  • [quote=SilentTony]If a barcode got arrested and went to prison would the guards be able to see him in his cell?[/quote]
    Not if they were barred.
  • I think they would, but the Home Office needs to address this so that the guards can't get extra Tesco Clubman Points by getting Big Bertha from cell 3a to go in and let him put his scanner to work.
  • edited July 2010
    I added a link to my earlier post above to the setting for 'Sandman'. I reckon it is a good marketing ploy to have a real setting and then trying for more exposure in that area.

    I'm off for a break until next week, but feel free to play with this bit of string. I''ll check how many knots there are in it next week.

    Bye for now.
  • knots whole hazelknots
    Cadbury take them and they cover them in chick lit

    give me enough string and I may just ......"throaty gargly noises"
  • ewordsmith, I paid for web design because he did a classier job than I could ever do, for both my spiritual website and my historical one and he updates for me as and when as part of the deal. As Liz said you are making assumptions here ... my spiritual website is set up to sell and it does. I am not happy with the thought of a blog, everyone does that and it is good to be different. A website, static and attainable and easily searched for, yes. Hence my publishers going that route for me soon.

    Oh, and the person who destined the site is a TBer who does an excellent job for well within most people's means if you really want a class product. I had a compliment on it just yesterday from someone who criticised the new John Jarrold site, (said it was the equivalent of a note left with a rusty nail through it. I advised her to send her query elsewhere!)
  • ewordsmith said "Lily, I am not saying a website builder will be as good as a web designer..."

    Please don't think I'm after work! Heaven forbid. I freelanced as a designer for several years and gave it up as I couldn't cope with clients who want something for nothing, don't listen to best practice and then expect the site to earn them millions without lifting a finger. I refuse to create sparkly pages with animations all over the place, mulit-coloured/multi-fonted text. It goes completely against the grain, not to mention style and common sense.

    I work in the public sector now and use content management systems - I rarely turn to Dreamweaver any more except for some of our really old sites.

    TBers, if you do go down the website route rather than/as well as blogging and are not IT-literate but want to be able to edit it yourself, then ask your designer to make sure it is 'content managed', then you won't need to pay them to do you updates for you. If they can't do that - go elsewhere.

    If you're interested a recommended site for usability and accessibility is webcredible - http://www.webcredible.co.uk/ - particularly the Resources section. Their newsletter's worth signing up to as well.
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