Super big thanks to Jim for stopping by today with an excellent post on websites. Don’t forget to check out all of his work too or I will swat you! :D And of course… his website :)
Let’s talk web sites… yeah, that’s right – web sites.
In today’s world of online presence and in the spirit of selling books, a web site seems like a necessity. An online place you call home. A piece of virtual world you can use to promote your books, even when you’re not online.
But how much is too much for a web site? And what exactly do you need on a site for it to be effective?
I choose this topic today because I just spent the past weekend, yet again, changing my site. In the past year, I’ve changed my site – without lie – almost a dozen times. I’ve changed themes, plugins, links, etc. I’ve done it all. And now that I sit back and look at my site and finally feel that I have something that works, I realize that (1) it’s the most basic concept of all I had and (2) I’ve lost enough hours working on my site that I could have written another book.
What should a web site do?
We’ve all seen crazy animated sites with elaborate menus and more links than we care to count. But if you’re a writer, step back, and think about what your site needs to offer. Sometimes the best sites are the most basic ones. The ones like Jen’s here… you’re greeted with her pretty face, followed by a subscription option, and then her books, her pages, her links. It’s simple and it works. It’s what she needs to make sure anyone who comes here (on purpose or on accident) knows where they are.
I started way back in the middle of last year, dead set on creating a site so cool, people would worship me. I bought WordPress for Dummies, upgraded my hosting through GoDaddy and went to town… I quickly found myself lost in themes and plugins.
Themes and plugins. Themes and plugins.
And yes, these are big decisions to make, but when deciding what you’re going to put on your site, make sure it maximizes the viewers experience without annoying them. On my original site, I had so many links to Facebook and Twitter, half the time the site wouldn’t load, and it eventually crashed.
Back to the drawing board I realized that there were some features from the WordPress.org site that were different from the free blogging service of WordPress.com. Each of which had features that I liked! I felt a little stranded… I wanted a functioning blog but a site that showed off my books all at the same time. (Please note that I mainly talk about WordPress because it’s what I’ve always used. I’ve tinkered with Blogspot before but find, as a reader, their comment system is so annoying, I often leave sites without commenting because I don’t have an hour to spend waiting for it to work…)
Those who want a quick, effective site, can register your name through the WordPress.com site and then purchase the domain name. You can buy it for about $12 a year to have YOUNAME.com (if available). And if in time you decide to upgrade to the hosted WordPress.org you can actually export your blog files and import them into the new site. Now that is handy.
I also have to note that when decided your site name, please try to use your author name. I say this because another goal you have is to be picked up by search engines. If your site is www.IEnjoyTheIdeaOfEatingPizzaAtTwoInTheMorningWhileWatchingOldTVShowReruns.com and you’re an author, I can’t say that can help you. I’ve personally seem some strange name for sites for people who are just authors and nothing more. If you have a secondary hobby and need a second blog set up, that’s fine, but I would try and go with your name first. That way if someone is looking for you, it’s a little easier.
So what finally cracked me on the blog versus site thing?
Well, I decided I needed a blog and I needed a site. Not one or the other. I needed both. I needed an actual blog where I can share my writing experiences and have it be functional as a blog. And I wanted a site to have for basically reference. I’ve seen other authors out there do this and it works for them. I wanted interaction on my blog, the ease of use, changing, posting, etc. I wanted to be able to manage my blog from anywhere, at any time, which I have now.
So I registered my blog (www.JimTheWriterB.wordpress.com) and that is where I blog from. I keep it about writing, the business of writing, news about writing, etc. I try not to make it a big sales pitch for myself because I want people to go to that site with the intentions of learning something about writing or the business of writing.
My main site is www.jimbronyaur.com and that has the pages for my books with previews, where to buy, the trailers, etc.
What this gives me the capabilities I’ve been dying for. People can visit my blog, read, learn, and yes, I have a link to my books from there. And the same for my main site. If someone goes there, there’s a link over to my writing blog. It works for me and I’m finally happy.
So what about your site? What to do?
Well, a registered domain is not required. There are plenty of authors out there who don’t have a “true site” (meaning their sites have .blogpost or .wordpress after the name). Having a web site and selling books don’t have to hand in hand. Just ask an author like Terri Reid who has sold over 60,000 ebooks and has NO site and NO blog. (Interview is here on my blog with Terri: http://jimthewriterb.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/terri-reid-sells-60000-ebooks-in-her-first-year/)
When you do make the decision for a site, consider your options. I’ve spent hundreds upon hundreds of dollars on my site only to revert back to the most basic form I can put it in. I’m selling books, not trying to mesmerize you by having flash all over my pages. Go to my site now… it’s simple. A welcome message, links to my books, and my Twitter feed. That’s all I need. You can see my book trailers, find out how to email me, and you can click over to my writing blog. The system works for me. I can manage my blog everyday, with ease, and then when it’s time for my main site, I can log in, change what I need, and be on my way.
Jim Bronyaur is the author of the thriller novel, The Devil’s Weekend.
He’s active on his writing blog www.JimTheWriterB.wordpress.com.
You can follow him on Twitter @JimBronyaur
His upcoming release is a horror novella titled No Laughing Matter.