If you are an author, you need a website. Your website is your store, your voice, and your public presence. Readers will find you and your books there.
Some of you will say, “But I have no money, and I know nothing about managing a website.” Frankly, neither do I, but the tools are free and easy to find and use. You don’t have to know anything special.
Because we are ALL cash-strapped and perhaps we aren’t IT specialists, what you want to know is how to get a website up and running at little or no cost to you. It is shockingly simple.
I am fluent with WordPress and Blogger, two free-to-the-author platforms, and I will explain how to get started with both platforms.
My first website was a free Blogger site, and I still have it, although I converted it into a book review site when I went with WordPress.
I went with WordPress because the finished product looks nicer and it’s a little more versatile. Like Blogger, WordPress is a free, open-source blogging tool, and content management system. I stayed with the free option for seven years, but now I own my domain and pay an annual fee, so I don’t have to have advertisements interfering with how my site looks.
I also have several other sites on Blogger (Blogspot), which is also a free, open-source blogging tool and content management system. I prefer Blogger for ease of use, but it is limited. I love the way WordPress looks when you get to the finished product stage.
There is a small learning curve for each. But with very few skills, I had a decent-looking website at no cost to me, using the fine tools and templates provided by the wonderful people at WordPress or Blogspot--and you can too. I still use the same theme that I began with.
The thing that is so awesome about both Blogger and WordPress is you have the option to use them in what my husband-the-programmer calls ‘wysiwyg’ (pronounced wizzy-wig) or ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get.’ The user does not have to know any programming or coding–all that is done for you already, and you just organize it the way you want it, within certain limitations.
If you want to use WordPress, visit the WordPress home page and select the 'Sign Up' button to register for a WordPress account. You'll need a valid email address (that has not been used to create another WordPress account) to sign up for a new WordPress account. Follow the steps and bam! You have a blog.
But you can also do this via Blogger (Blogspot), Google’s free blogging tool and content management system, also an extremely simple process.
Whichever platform you choose, I suggest you use your author name. I used Connie J. Jasperson. This links your author name to your website, which is why you are doing this in the first place. Pick a title for your site—my website title is Life in the Realm of Fantasy.
When I began, I used the free domain, which gives you a .wordpress.com ending after your blog name, such as http://myblogname1.wordpress.com.
If you begin with Blogger, you get a .blogspot.com ending.
In WordPress, begin with finding a template. Open the left-hand menu and go to Customize and click on Themes. Select one of the many free templates. Once you find a theme that you like, you are ready to go. I use the Pilcrow theme for my site because I like the versatility.
In Blogger, you will also come to a screen with many options. I suggest you just start at the top of the menu where it says template and begin playing around with it until you find the look and style you like best. You will be able to see most of your changes in the area below the Template Designer.
In both WordPress and Blogger, I keep the template simple because it is easier for people to read.
Once you have decided on that catchy title for your site and the color of your fonts and background are all organized, decide the layout. You can make it one column with no sidebar, or with one or two sidebars. Sidebars are good places for advertising your books and book trailers, along with many other things you want to share with the world, such as blogs that you follow.
Most importantly, this is where you can offer those who wish to follow your website a place to sign up.
The trick with sidebars is to keep them from junking up the page, which I have a tendency to do.
In WordPress, you will click “Upload.” This will take you to the part where you REALLY customize the look of your website. Open the menu on the left and begin customizing from there. Click on Customize and go to Widgets. You can add your book images there, and links to Amazon or other sellers, along with all sorts of other wonderful things that will make your site uniquely yours.
In Blogger, click "Apply to Blog" in the upper right-hand corner. This should take you back to the Blogger page, where you will look in the menu on the left and click on the "Layout" button, just above the orange Template button. On the right hand side (yours may be different, depending on how you chose to display sidebars) click on “add a gadget.” This does the same as a widget does in WordPress.
In both WordPress and Blogger, you will find many options to make your site look great, from inserting images to ways to add html code for embedding videos. You can get fancy with the header or use the header they offer you. The appearance of your site will evolve over time, as mine certainly has.
Both sites have awesome and informative help in their FAQs, and I suggest you make good use of them. Everything I know was learned by my asking questions and going out to their FAQs.
Do take some time to play around with arrangements. You can preview it, but if you accidentally hit publish, don’t freak because until you add content and tell folks it’s out there, no one will see your mistakes. Take as much time as you need to get comfortable with the system and remember that anything you don't like can be undone.
The next post will cover blogging, and why having a place on your website where you communicate with your readers is a good way to interest them in your books.
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Portions of this article were published on Life in the Realm of Fantasy, Creating your Author Blog part 1, 18 May 2018, ©Connie J. Jasperson All Rights Reserved, Reprinted by Permission.
Connie J. Jasperson is a published poet and the author of nine novels. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies. A founding member of Myrddin Publishing Group, she can be found blogging regularly on both the craft of writing and art history at Life in the Realm of Fantasy.