Marketing is a slippery slope for most of us. One piece of that puzzle is creating a website to help promote you, your work and your wisdom. I tried Blogger for a few years, but I outgrew it. I tried making my own website. (Hilarious laughing here.) My search led me to Jennifer Davis of J Davis Web Design. By looking at other author websites and talking to them, I discovered I didn’t have to go it alone. Most of the time when Jennifer hears from me these days it’s because I’ve screwed something up, scared I’ve been invaded by spam monsters or want to change something. Oh yeah. And I have deleted things where she had to swoop in and rescue my words. I’m a mess. And she is a goddess! Are you blushing, Jennifer? Tell these folks why having a website is so important.
J Davis Web Design
- How can writers best use their website?
An author’s website is the best place to house everything about an author’s work:
- Showcase your in-progress and published books (with cover images, blurbs, buy links, and excerpts).
- Include a page that digs deeper into who you are as a person (hobbies? day job? favorite books or authors?).
- Provide an easy way for readers to contact you with a contact form.
- Interact and educate with blog posts (which can be automatically shared to your social media accounts, saving time).
- Link to your social media accounts (or even have social media posts or tweets displayed on your site in a sidebar).
- Can authors create their own website?
Yes! But you’ll need time, a reasonable level of tech-savviness, patience, and most importantly, acceptance that you may not achieve the site of your dreams—in many cases, because the theme or template you chose has limitations—it simply wasn’t designed with what you have in mind. A number of my clients previously created their own websites and either became frustrated with the complicated setup or found they couldn’t achieve what they truly wanted with a stock theme; thus, they turned to me.
- What pitfalls to watch out for when finding someone to create your website?
- Do not pay more than necessary. There is a wide range of pricing for web design, and I am stunned by what some designers charge for a simple information-only website. Ask around first.
- I’ve noticed a number of designers charging high-end prices to set up a website based on a commercially-available theme. While some of these themes can be complex (with oodles of options to wade through), why not pay less and have a custom theme that does exactly what you want?
- Be sure any designer you are considering has a portfolio of sites they can show you. Don’t just look at pictures. Get the site links and look at the sites the designer has created. You want to be sure the designer can achieve the functionality you desire.
- Do not work with a designer who insists only THEY can make changes to your website. The entire point of a WordPress site is so you can maintain and update your site when you need to.
- What are the steps for having a custom website created?
- First, I ask authors to view the sites I’ve designed (from both my client portfolio and my demo WordPress sites) and pick one to be a “starting point”. This does not mean the author’s website will look exactly like the chosen site, only that it gives me an idea of where to start with the custom design.
- In order to give the rock-bottom price I charge authors, I don’t create the page background or header illustrations. In terms of backgrounds, there are numerous free web backgrounds available online. A photo works well as a background too. The background can be overlayed with an opaque layer to ensure readability—such as with Tierney’s website! Illustrations for the header can be purchased from any number of stock image sites for very reasonable prices. Some authors have chosen to have a “signature logo” created by a graphics designer, otherwise I will use one of the many Photoshop fonts.
- Authors provide any photos they want used on the site. If the image desired was not purchased or labeled as free and reuse, be sure to obtain permission—do not simply take photos from the internet!
- Once authors have their hosting account and domain set up with a hosting company (see below on “Choosing a domain name and web host”), I install WordPress, the custom theme, all the necessary plugins, and set up the sidebars (there are many wonderful widgets available in WordPress).
- I create the Home Page, Contact page, Author Bio page, Books page, and blog. Additionally, I provide an instruction doc on how to use WordPress, as well as free email support. And all the WordPress sites I design are responsive (meaning they automatically adjust to be viewed on a desktop computer, smaller devices such as an iPad, and smart phones).
- If the author has an existing blog on WordPress.com or Blogger.com, I can import the blog posts into the new site. If the author’s blog is on a different platform (e.g., Wix, Weebly), where the RSS feed can be exported, the blog posts can still be imported into the new WordPress site (albeit without images). There are additional options for importing sites created on other online platforms.
- Choosing a domain name and web host.
To have a custom WordPress website, you will need a domain name and a hosting account. In terms of domain name, most authors chose a domain that incorporates their author name. If your name is not unique, you might add “author” to the domain (such as janedoeauthor.com). As for hosting, I have found both Bluehost and GoDaddy to be easy to work with for both domain management and site hosting, but any major web host is fine (and by major, I mean, not a web server running in someone’s basement). You want a hosting account where you have access to all the WordPress files both via a built-in File Manager from your hosting account and FTP. And don’t worry—I can walk you through all the “techy” details.
- How did you get started in web design?
I created my first website in 1996 for a research project while working on my master’s thesis. I hadn’t intended to be a web designer, but with every research project I worked on, I was asked to create an accompanying website. Word of mouth led to additional requests for my web work. Now I work from home where I spend half of my time on web design and the other half writing! I am a published romance author under the name Kira Shayde as well. I love that I have both the technical aspects of web programming and the creative outlet of writing.
Thank you so much, Jennifer, for giving us the low-down on creating a website. Have you checked out all of my website? tierneyjames.com keeps expanding as I journey into writing. Now for all of you creative people out there–get started for the new year. Why wait?