Writers' Websites Part 3 - E-Publishing: Where to Start?

by Marg McAlister


Until now, you may have thought of an e-publisher as the online version of a regular publisher. The good news is that the definition is way broader than that.

"E-Publishing" simply means "electronic publishing". (E-mail means "electronic mail".) Anything that can be created on your computer and sent into cyberspace for other people to download has been e-published.

Do you realise how much this frees you from the traditional constraints of publishing? It is HUGE. If you wanted to publish a book on gardening or landscaping, you just write it, turn it into an e-book and sell it from your website.

If you want to publish a book on how children can cope with bullying - as Wendy Nichols and Robyn Collins did - you write it, upload it, set up some links to a payment processor and you're in business.

Suppose you had a child that was being traumatised by bullies at school, and you had a chance to buy a book telling you how to deal with it... do you think you'd buy Wendy and Robyn's book? (Especially once you know that this has been written by two ex-Principals - and they offer bonuses of sample letters to write to the school and sample incident reports!) I'm sure you would.(Try Googling FREE FROM BULLIES.)

The Internet offers instant solutions. Keen fans can find out more about their favourite authors; writers can find a proofreader or critique service; any kind of information can be located and downloaded within minutes. YOU are poised to take advantage of this!

  • You don't need a traditional publisher.
  • You don't need to haunt the mailbox waiting for a 'yes' from a publisher (you are the publisher).
  • You don't have to wait six or twelve months for your book to be available.
  • You don't have to rely on newspapers and magazines for publicity - you can be your own publicity machine!

This is all you need:

  • Your own talent and skills
  • A computer and a word processor
  • A web hosting service
  • Website creation software
  • An understanding of how to create websites and e-products, and how to sell these online

You will provide some of these. Various sources online, and the ever-growing content in this website, will provide you with the rest.

From My Perspective…

I would assume that anybody who has subscribed to the Writing4Success Tipsheet feels reasonably at ease with e-mail and finding information on the Internet (but I could be wrong!) After all, when you've been around the Internet for a while (as I have), you tend to forget how intimidating it is for complete beginners. They log on, and it takes them weeks to feel confident using email, let alone finding their way around the World Wide Web.

Then someone (i.e. me) starts rabbiting on about how you can promote yourself as a writer and market your work or services on the Internet. It's enough to make you feel you need a couple of painkillers and a good lie down.

So let's get down to business here. Let's assume that even if you can handle email and you're used to locating information on the Internet, you're new (or fairly new) to the idea of websites and e-publishing… and it's all a bit much right now! How can you make sense of it? How can you find simple, easy guides to help you through the maze? Can you really create a website to promote your books? Can you really create and sell e-books of your own? Can you (gulp) actually get to the stage where you're even running an internet business?

There are easy answers to all of those questions. I'm not going to give you twenty options for each thing you might want to do. You'll just be confused even more. What I'm going to do is refer you to SOME resources that I know (through many nights and weekends of internet surfing and research) to be reliable and useful. These are not the only ones. Do talk to other writers about what has worked for them.

 "Aaargghhh! I Know Nothing!"

You're a real beginner? Okay. Then let me tell you this: you can spend many hours surfing around and trying to find out information for nothing - or you can spend a bit of money and find out what you need to know quickly. I've done both. I do recommend you spend time on sites with no-cost information - there's some terrific info out there on the Net.

BUT - do be prepared to spend some money, and don't be put off if it's priced in the currency of another country (most often $USD). Just decide what you need to know most, and invest accordingly.

"I Know a Bit... But How Do I Set Up A Website?"

This would be the biggest block among people who are keen to promote themselves on the Internet, and want to sell their wares. How do they set up a website?

What you'll find is that more and more people are offering to do it for you. You can go to the Internet and find places where you can set up a 2-page or 5-page or 10-page website for a set fee. I'm not talking about web designers here. I'm talking about companies that will make it easy for you to set up a site with a few clicks of the mouse. No knowledge about HTML or anything else needed.

Alternatively, you can invest in a program likeExpression Web (Microsoft's Website creation program that used to be FrontPage) XSitePro or Dreamweaver and do it yourself. I've used all three, and I'll be blunt. Dreamweaver is powerful and has some terrific features - but even after going to a six-week evening course to learn how to use it, I found it a bi-i-ig learning curve. AND it's expensive.

How-to guide for Expression WebExpression Web, on the other hand (besides being much cheaper) is fairly easy to learn to use. If you're used to using other Microsoft programs, like Word or Works, with their easy interface and Wizards to walk you through things, you'll find Expression Web or FrontPage pretty easy too. If you have a copy of Expression Web, or you decide to buy it, then my advice to you is to ALSO go out and buy a simple guide to using this program. (I've given you an example right here: this is the book on my shelf. Take a look at your local bookstore or Amazon.com) You will then have advice at your fingertips whenever you run into a problem - and you'll probably encounter a lot fewer problems anyway, if you follow the guide!

However, XSitePro is probably the easiest of all. It's cheaper than Dreamweaver but certainly not free - but, as other members who have used it to create websites can attest, it is extremely easy to use. It comes with three manuals (which you have to print off yourself, or have printed) but they are VERY comprehensive.

X Site Pro Essentials"XSitePro Essentials" is probably the one you need - it comes in at around 250 pages: if you use XSitePro, then have this printed in colour somewhere like OfficeWorks.

Second, there's a Tutorial Workbook, which is excellent for running you through the basics. Spend a few days with this and you'll have no trouble creating your own website.

Finally, there's the GI-NORMOUS "XsitePro Tools" which is around 1000 pages and contains everything you're ever likely to need. Just keep this on your computer and refer to it if you need to.

If you'd like to watch a 'showreel' video showing what XSitePro looks like and what it can do, watch this video  (Note: XSitePro's ease of use makes it appealing for Internet marketers who are setting up websites as a career - but don't let that put you off: one of the best things about XSite Pro is that it is very easy for beginners, but you can do a lot more with it as you become more confident. Youcan very easily create a nice-looking writer's website. Notice that there is actually a writer's website featured in the video!)

BUT - there are two more options. First, anyone can download Open Office completely free of charge. And Open Office Writer lets you lay out a page (just as you would in Word) and then save it as an .html page - which is just a web page. However, you might find that the layout for your website is a bit hard to manage at first. This program doesn't actually lay out a website for you - it simply lets you save pages in the right format to upload to the Internet.

Finally, there's a really easy option. You can register with a Web Host (choosing the domain name you want for your writing site) and set up a WordPress Blog. Many web hosting services allow you to install WordPress by clicking on a few simple links. You can blog about writing or your books; write articles; add separate pages and sell your services/work from your blog. It's quick, easy and you can just make short posts whenever you like. Once you have your domain name (website name) you can always change it to a 'proper' website later.

© Marg McAlister


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