Building an Author Website Step Two: Key Decisions

Building an Author WebsiteIf you’re still with me after Building an Author Website Step One, I assume you agree that, as an author, you need a marketing hub open twenty-four seven as the foundation for your marketing platform.

With an author website as your base, you can incorporate all the strategies available to you as an Internet marketer, such as social media, blogging, and video.

At this point you could hire a website developer to do the job for you, as I initially did — only to regret it later.

For one thing, it was difficult for me to explain to a professional web designer exactly what I wanted as far as the design and inner workings of my site were concerned. I thought  she would miraculously come up with something so awesome and suited to my needs that I’d be blown away. After all, she was the expert, right?

Wrong.As I soon discovered, a website developer cannot read your mind. The site my designer came up with was as generic and lack-luster as the instructions I gave her. I had no clue as to what I wanted and needed. Many of the images and ideas for my website didn’t come until later as I familiarized myself with the web-building process.

Another reason you may prefer to build your own website is that by hiring a professional to do the deed for you, you won’t learn all of your website’s inner workings. Each time you get stuck or want to make a change, you’ll have to ask for, wait for — and pay for — outside help. I, for one, tweak my website almost weekly as I discover new ways to make my site “snap, crackle, and pop.” I cringe at the thought of how much it would cost in time and money if I had to contact a website developer each time something new and exciting popped into my head.

In the process of building your own author website, you’ll learn the ropes gradually and discover ways to add the bells and whistles as your ability and understanding increase. Think of it as putting together a basic wardrobe and then accessorizing it later to make it uniquely your own.

An exception to my do-it-yourself advice is for authors willing and able to spend the money to hand this time-consuming, and often frustrating, task over to a professional. Maybe you want to concentrate all your efforts on your writing or you simply know your limits when it comes to technology. Or maybe you know of a website designer you trust due to a word-of-mouth recommendation. Then go for it and skip the rest of my posts, or read them  as a way to understand all the work that’s being done for you and how to proceed from there.

Author Website Key Decisions

Let’s move on to the important next step that, if thought out carefully, will save you major headaches down the road.

You’ll need to decide:

  • if you prefer a simple blog or a website as a Complete Management System (CMS).
  • what website-building platform to use.
  • if you want to sign up with a hosted or self-hosting service.

I’ll take you through the decisions one at a time.

Blog or CMS

Your first impulse may be to start a simple blog instead of building a website with a complete management system. I don’t blame you. Starting small often works to your advantage.

No use of getting in over your head, right?

A simple blog is fast and riduculously easy to set up and you’re probably anxious to get started. However, I advise you against it.

A simple blog is fast and ridiculously easy to set up and you’re probably anxious to get started. However, I advise you against it.

Well, in this case, taking the easy route may cause you to regret it later.

For one thing, if your blog becomes a success (Which is what you’re aiming for, right?), you’ll outgrow it just about the time you’re really going to need it. Plus, in time, you may not want to blog three times a week or even weekly. Instead, you may want your blog to serve as a site with static pages, a place to highlight your books and offer links to your social media sites, press kit, and awesome reviews rather than keep up a constant conversation with your fans. In other words, you may want an author website that serves as a complete management system.

I know of what I speak. In April 2010, I started a blog called Enter the Between with a blogging service called Blogger. I worked hard. I worked diligently. Google search engines loved me. Last time I checked,  293,478 visitors have stopped by for a view. BUT… And this is a big BUT. When I realized that I needed to upgrade to a complete management system, I’d invested too much time and acquired too many followers to simply shut down my blog — one of the reasons I still offer a link to my Blogger blog from the author website I created later.

Not an ideal situation.

Website-building Platform

I won’t offer you a choice here.

As far as I am concerned, WordPress is the best website-building platform available to you as an author. It’s easy to set up. It’s powerful. And it’s free. You don’t need to know code. WordPress software does all the technological mumbo-jumbo for you.

CNN uses it. The US Post Office uses it. As does the White House. Believe me, it’s the only way to go.

With WordPress, you get your very own Administration panel, and then the really fun stuff begins.

Hosted or Self-Hosted

Again, you can take the easy route by starting a hosted blog at WordPress. com. Or you can take a route that’s a bit more complicated by self-hosting with WordPress.org., a move that will reward you ten-fold later.

I originally chose to go with a hosted blog at WordPress.com., only to move to WordPress.org later.

Yep. Blew it again.

I learn things the hard way, but you don’t need to.

The thought of self hosting scared the heck out of me. I learn things the hard way, but you don’t need to.

Don’t let fear of the unknown or lack of confidence cause you to short change yourself, SELF HOSTING with WORDPRESS.ORG is the way to go.

If you’d like a second opinion, there’s an excellent article here comparing self-hosted WordPress.org to hosted WordPress.com.

I’ll go into further detail about self-hosting with WordPress.org in later posts. For now, you might want to do some research on your own. There are many helpful articles available on the Internet about self-hosted author websites.

After you’ve made the three key decisions I listed above and have done your research, head on to step three, where you’ll learn about purchasing and registering your domain name, something you should do ASAP.

If I’m progressing too slowly for you, or if, gasp, I’m confusing you, pick up WordPress for Dummies, a book I relied on to get me through what sometimes seemed like a confusing and scary jungle. Other books that were a great help for me were WordPress to Go and WordPress Websites Step-by-Step.

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