Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wednesday Writerly Ways~ Websites

Part of getting readers to follow you and know you is a website. Last week's topic was on platform building and this is part of it. What's the sense of publishing a book, if it doesn't sell, right? It's all about marketing.

When I first learned about platforms or reaching readers, I realized I needed a website. A daunting thought by any stretch of the imagination. There are domain names, building a site or hiring someone to build it, and maintaining a site. It was basically overwhelming for me. Now keep in mind, I was a computer programmer in an earlier life.

The look has to be just right. There had to be a reason why people would frequent your site besides the books you were selling. I had two choices 1) either build it myself (DIY), or 2) have someone else build it for me. I mentioned before about me being eclectic, eccentric, and creative. This is not without built in complications.

1. Website DYI- There are tons of programs and books on the subject. There are even sites on the web that help you build your site in a preprogrammed templates.

1) Searching for a domain name- this can be easy or complicated depending on what name you pick and let's face it, the internet is full of websites. I did a web search under my real name...a psychologist in Texas has my name and has a website.

 Part of this search was using various last names including my maiden name, my ex's name (not that I wanted to credit him with anything other than a sperm donor for my terrific children), mother's maiden name, my grandmothers' maiden names, and names I made up. They were all taken at least once.

I do this also with writer names too. If another person or writer has your name that could be a bad thing or a good thing, but when there are seven with your name, it can be confusing really fast for a reader to find you. This can be cheap or expensive depending on the domain name you pick.

2) The design- KISS (keep it simple stupid). The more complicated it is; the harder it is to get around. Have you ever been to a website that had tons of flashy things, twenty buttons or windows to find what you wanted, or scrolling banners that slid in and out while you were trying to read something? Was it enjoyable? And yet, there isn't many websites that I'll visit that doesn't have one or multiple of these items. Keep the bells and whistles to a minimum. With my personality that can be difficult.

3) Maintenance- Who is going to maintain your website? Are you going to DYI all the html files and formatting? What about adding text to update your site as you publish more books? What if you want to add more picture do you have a resource available to convert your picture to the source code?

As I said, it can be daunting. Or if you have a couple thousand dollars lying around, you can go with option two...hire a company who specializes in web design. I didn't.

I went with a website company with templates. There was a fee for registering the domain name and hosting fee...all in all about $105 a year. Relatively cheap. I spent hours picking a simple background, the perfect layout, just the right amount of pages or tabs and voila, I had a website. This was the best semi-professional way to my way of thinking.

What I didn't take in consideration at the time 1) How the website would appear in the SEO, 2) The cost over the years versus the profit, and 3) the exposure I would gain.

  • The website appeared on search engines as hosted by &#$% the main website which irritated me to no end because you have a limited amount of space which will show on a search engine search. This took up valuable space.
  • The amount of views was small because nobody knew who I was and there are TONS of other websites. That's all the internet is.
  • For months the website got one or no hits at all. I believe after the first year and the end of my contract, there were sixty hits. Now I've been a previously, traditionally published author of nonfiction books and articles for decades, but I could not draw people to my site. I was disappointed but the lesson was learned.
When it was close to the end of the first year of my website, I messaged a friend who designed several sites. It was before publication of my second novel. A bookstore wanted my website address before setting up a book signing.  I didn't want to use the one I had previously plus it was under a new author's name.

My friend asked me if I had a blog. Did I have followers? On average, what were my hits per blog? What was the main subject of my blog? I told her. She told me that me I already had a website and didn't need a new one.

While once upon a time (she writes twisted fairy tales) there was a difference between blogs and websites, today there is none. A blog can serve as both. Thank you, Charlotte! You saved me a ton of $$$$.

What an eye-opener! It was so simple. Did I have a following? Did I promote my books? Do I talk about me as an author? Do I entertain readers? Do I offer other information? Yes, yes, yes YES! I had a website without doing double the work. What was even better, Blogger/Blogspot is owned by Google which means they love it. It appears in other search engines as well. Wheeee! Can you say "jackpot" and "cha-ching"? Add Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds, e-mailability and keywords...double jackpot in possible hits.

Granted for the most part, there is a set guideline on the design of the site...just like the other one I paid for. There are constrictions, but isn't everything on the web...we are governed by size, layout and html. It's free so there's no cost versus profits. :) There are analytical tools available to see how many hits per blog and where their from. I can maintain it myself. I can add, delete, and update it to my heart's content. Best yet, I was already doing it so why not have it do double duty?

I frequent a lot of blogs and websites of writers and nonwriters. I see something I like and incorporate it in mine. It may not be exactly the same, but the idea for it may have come from another source. I can change it every month if I want to but that would be crazy and time consuming so I prefer quarterly. Do readers find this disconcerting? Possibly, but the important thing to note is that I can do-it-myself.

So why do you need a website too as an author?

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

4 comments:

Zan Marie said...

I, too, had a DIY website for a couple of years and then realized that my blog was all I needed. I do still pay a tiny bit to maintain my domain name. Now my blog has a blogspot address and my domain name that is my professional name. It's the best of both worlds. ; )

J.L. Murphey said...

Made sense and cents to me too.

oc1dean said...

Thanks for the explanation of what you went thru. I debated with myself if I need a separate website, so far the answer is no.
Dean

J.L. Murphey said...

Yep, that about covers it. Your blog does everything you need it to do.