Part 2: Creating Your Author Website and How To Start Blogging
Last week, I shared my descent into social media and my guiding philosophies for interacting with others on the internet. Now, I’m going to discuss creating a website and how to start blogging.
Your Author Website
Your website can stand alone, or it can also be your blog. Even if you don’t care to blog, having a landing page, with your name, and links to any books you’re selling, can be useful and help when people are googling you.
Where To Get A Website
For those unfamiliar, a domain name, i.e. “www.amazingwriter.com” doesn’t come with much, other than the address. You still need to create a website and find a host for it. A host is a place you can save the files that make up your website and lets the internet know where they are so people can find you.
- If you can afford it, try to buy a domain name.
- Suggestions: Your name or motto
- Caution Against: Book titles
- Publishers often change these
- You’re not planning on being a one-hit wonder, right?
- WordPress, Blogger, and Wix are the main ones I hear about these days
- Even if you’re NOT blogging!
- Also, Tumblr, but that’s a different style of social media
- I use WordPress, the free edition
- I may be a software engineer in my spare time, but that doesn’t mean I want to give up valuable writing time fussing with a website. I let the perfectly nice pre-existing ones work for me and roll with it.
- Back it up regularly
- Choose a clean theme that doesn’t have too many bells and whistles
- Remember that YOU are your main product, you want people to buy your books when you publish because they like the way you write when you AREN’T trying to sell them something
Setting Up Your Website
Design or Pick a layout. More graphical or fancy layouts are typically more for photographers or social media gurus. This is about your writing, let your writing do the talking, not all the fancy gimmicks.
Create some pages.
- A contact page, with your email, etc.
- An about page, with your biography.
- Profiles with photos do best, so make sure to have a writer picture of YOU here. Use the same picture on all your social media–YOU are your brand, and you want consistency.
- A page to share links to all your writing (either online or to the store selling your work)
Blogging – [Wordpress]
If you’re going to blog, pick a style of blogging and try to stay consistent. You can choose a theme (it doesn’t have to be writing!).
- Writing Tips
- Short Stories
- Note: This counts as first publication, so DON’T do this without a password protection screen if you intend to sell these shorts
- Do you run? Curl? Do woodwork? Sing? Travel? Belly-dance? You’re a writer, if you want a following, you should be able to make your hobby sound interesting, even to non-hobbyists
- Book Reviews
- NOTE: This can get tricksy as a writer. As a general note, it’s best to only share the books you loved and leave the criticism to readers and people who can’t be mobbed with 1-star ratings by resentful fans.
- Writing historical fiction? Share your research!
- People LOVE pet pictures and stories
- NOTE: You can mix in all of these and more. Set up a schedule and manage your readers’ expectations.
As recommended by Anne Allen, slow blogging is better than fine. Your blog is here to support your writing, not the other way around!
- If you do short to medium posts? Once a week is plenty!
- If you do long, heavily researched posts? Once every 2-6 weeks is perfectly acceptable!
A blog post should always have an image associated with it. Preferably, more than one. Maybe you’re setting a ‘featured image’, or maybe you’re including it in the posts.
You can always set a default image for your website: that will get displayed in search results for your website, or when you share links to your blog when that post has no image associated with it.
Many bloggers like to include GIFs on their blog, and WordPress now has a library of common use images you can use to spice up your post.
I like to try to create my own images, but sometimes I don’t have the time to make them look the way I need, or I just don’t have images that work for the post.
I sometimes struggle with images that look good in all 3 layouts (computer, tablet, phone) because they resize and clip images as needed and sometimes that distorts the image poorly. For me, it’s a work in progress.
Sharing Your Posts
Most of my views come from Facebook. Some from Twitter and the WordPress Reader. (And, for one page, search results.) So, sharing my posts on those spaces is pretty key.
You’re going to need to come up with a quippy tagline for your post, that’s honest, engaging, and less than 280 characters long. Oh, and especially on twitter? You’re gonna need some hashtags.
Personally, I struggle to find the right balance between engaging and sounding like lame-o click-bait.
I usually hashtag with the twitter tags I use the most, that are relevant to my topic. If you go to twitter, you can type in hashtag ideas and see the hover-text, letting you know how many other people used that hashtag. Sometimes it’s “250 people used this hashtag in the last hour” (or day), and sometimes, it’s “25 people have used this hashtag.” (Ever.)
Remember, you can share the blog post link more than once.
I know it feels super uncomfortable, selling yourself and spamming your friends and followers. If it makes you feel any better? Only 10% of your Facebook feed even sees your posts.
I share in a couple writer-themed groups (according to their rules), I share when it goes up, and again around 5/5:30pm on Twitter, when people are commuting and maybe checking their feed again. (Social media gurus say you should tweet like 6 times a day, but I don’t like spamming up my feed that much.)
I usually reshare my posts on Monday, on Twitter, with #MondayBlogs.
I’ll go more into hashtags next week.
Resharing your blog on your personal, pre-existing social media is a great way to get started. Be excited, be personable, don’t make us feel like you’re selling us tupperware*!
But honestly? The best way to get followers without spending money, (short of going viral), is to follow other bloggers! And add quality comments on THEIR posts.
- Be kind and contribute a thought or suggestion (if appropriate) that adds to the conversation at hand
Letting others reshare your blog is a great way of getting more readers.
Letting others post your blog post on their own site is a little trickier, but can have good value.
- Check out their site first, being posted there is an implicit approval of their blog! There are a number of things you should assess
- Quality of posts
- Frequency of posts
- Ad usage (both on the site and otherwise)
- Post topics
And that’s it. Now you know what is expected of a writer and/or writer-blogger.
Get a domain. Pick a theme and schedule and keep to it. Use images and share your posts on social media.
If you have a website or blog, what am I missing? What challenges did you run into?
For the rest of you? Best of luck!
*If I don’t capitalize it, that means I’m not referencing the brand, right?