writers websiteWhat About a Website?

by Ann Harth

 

Today the world can be accessed from a keyboard. As recently as twenty years ago, wordsmiths depended on radio, television, print and word-of-mouth to promote themselves and their work. They could reach a limited number of interested parties and often paid dearly to do so. 

 

Enter --The World Wide Web: The Internet. 

Suddenly, we can obtain vast amounts of information and communicate with people all over the world without leaving the room. We can take courses, give courses, network, refer, read articles, submit articles and visit bookstores. We can find websites that supply us with information or … we can build our own. 

Do you need a website?

Maybe not. You don't need a website to write, edit, proofread or assess manuscripts, but you don't need a word processing program for these tasks either. It just makes your job easier. Think of the advantages of owning a website:

  • Your site will be available internationally. Someone in the UK can visit your site as easily as a person in the US.
  • Your site will be accessible all day, every day. The Internet operates 24-7.
  • It's inexpensive. You will usually pay a nominal monthly fee to your domain host to store your site and make it available worldwide.
  • Think of your website a constant, global method of advertising.

Before you decide to become a site owner, it may help to define your goals. The following is a list of reasons why many writers take the plunge into the world of websites.

  • To advertise a product. Have you written an ebook or a collection of articles on writing? Maybe you are planning to teach a course from your site. Give your visitors a sneak preview. Throw in a few juicy excerpts from your ebook or the course syllabus. Add a positive testimonial or two. You can even set up a Paypal account and create a shopping cart on your site. It's not difficult and Paypal gives you step-by-step instructions.
  • To advertise a service. Are you a proofreader? A copyeditor? Maybe you want to offer your services as a manuscript assessor. A website is the perfect advertising tool. You can list your skills, experience and fees as well as supply contact information and submission guidelines.
  • To promote published work. If you have already been published, let the world know. Include a list of published work and a few tantalising blurbs that will encourage your visitors to want to race out and buy your book. Don't forget to tell them where they can purchase it. 
  • To promote yourself. A website that introduces you and offers a comprehensive biography is best saved for the published author. Readers who are touched or inspired by a book may be interested in an author as a person. Who is she? What makes her write what she does? If this is the case, photos, childhood stories, family history and informal letters to the public will make the reader feel as though he is included in a favourite author's life.
  • To create a site that's fun. Interactive websites that include games and graphics are popular and will keep people, especially children coming back to your site again and again. If you use characters in some of your books or stories, you will also be promoting your work.
  • To offer information. There are a number of author websites out there that give valuable information to the rookie writer. Many of these are brilliant and I often marvel at the dedication it must take to create such worthwhile sites. If you are interested in this type of website, it may help to narrow your field. The sites that are available cover many areas of general writing and submitting. Have a look and find a niche that hasn't been extensively covered. 

Building a website may sound daunting. You possibly harbour a fear of learning the dreaded HTML language or spending countless hours trying get your name to appear at the top of your homepage in the correct font. Don't stress. It's not that difficult anymore. There are many domain hosts that will supply you with the simple site-building tools that make creating a website, not only simple but fun. But be careful. Having no website at all is better than a half-hearted attempt. Before you upload your site, be sure that it looks professional, is free from errors and is easy to navigate. 

If you are lacking the time or motivation to create your own website, there are many companies and professional individuals who will build it for you. Tell them what you want and they will do it. This will take the stress out of site building, but it's not nearly as much fun.

Design your site.

Whether you build it yourself or pay someone to do it, you will need to take the time to design your site. Before you start, visit as many sites as you can. Click on the links and wander through the pages. Take notes. What is appealing to you? What is irritating? What aspects do they cover that you might find important as well? Use these notes to develop an idea of how you would like to tackle your own site.  Then:

  1. State your goal. What is the purpose of your website? It may be one of those listed above or you may have a different objective.
  2. Decide on a general feel. Do you want to convey a relaxed conversational tone or are you looking to create a more formal site that is geared toward business? What about your target audience? Do you write mostly for children or does your work tend toward science fiction?
  3. What will you include? Start with a simple list at this stage. You may want to include some of the following:
  •  
    • General purpose of site
    • Table of contents
    • Name
    • Services offered
    • Fees
    • Published work
    • Experience
    • CV
    • Testimonials
    • Biography
    • Excerpts or writing samples and clips
    • Summary of novels or stories
    • History of characters
    • Links
    • Contact information

Design a flow chart.

Categorise your list into sections and decide what you want on each page. Your home page will probably include at least your name (close to the top to attract search engines), a blurb on the purpose of your site and a table of contents. Your web builder will show you how to link your home page with the others on your site.

You can group your pages any way you like. One may display the services you offer along with your fees and submission guidelines while another may focus on your history and include your CV, published work and biography. Still another can include clips and excerpts from your work. Organise your site any way you want, but remember, the trick is to make the information simple to find.

 At this stage, you can either hand over your site to a professional or take a deep breath and dive in. Use your imagination. Be creative. Your website can be the entrance to your writing business. 

Warning: Once you learn how to build your own site, there is a real danger of tweaking and adding until the hours slip into day and the days into weeks. Website building can be addictive.

Next month: Freebies: When to say no?
 

© copyright Ann Harth. Ann Harth is a freelance manuscript assessor, copyeditor, proofreader and ghostwriter as well as a published author. She writes in all genres of children's fiction from picture books to young adult novels as well as adult fiction and non-fiction. She has successfully completed several text-editing projects for university students and authors, and is the assistant fiction editor of www.moondance.com, a  literary on-line magazine. She is also on the creative writing staff of www.storydog.com, a website for children.

More information on the freelance services that Ann Harth offers can be found on her website at www.annharth.com.

 

 

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