Hazel Edwards on WebsitesYour Author Image Via Your Website

by Hazel Edwards

 

If you are an 'emerging' writer, is it worth spending money and time on a  personal website?  Much depends on the type of writing you do and your potential audience.

Children's authors and illustrators are a specialist group of potential web-sites users because they have volumes of fan mail and lots of students wanting to do projects on them, BUT…

Like other solo-owner operated  businesses, authors and illustrators have to do everything , and since incomes are often small, they are wary of paying for services, including a web site.

Instead of delegating, or buying skills, they juggle-struggle with accounting, publicity, speaking and  travel bookings, office management and family life as well as creating new works and answering multiple fan mail or student questions for assignments due yesterday.

While some creators have agents, accountants, cleaners, a P.A. (personal assistant) and web sites maintained by their publishers, most do not. Some freelancers are struggling just to pay off a new computer. And some emerging authors have NO time outside their day jobs.

So investing in a personal author web site, looks like an extravagance. Options are to go to a workshop to learn how to set it up yourself, or pay a web master/mistress to maintain it.

Those who go for the cheap option of a 12 year old  relative , find that often the project starts with enthusiasm, but it is not maintained as the 'nerd' becomes popular and more highly skilled and vanishes to work for a Bill Gates' clone.

Since I am frequently asked by new writers why  I bother paying for an author web site, (www.hazeledwards.com) my major reasons are:

  • It's my international shopfront in the business of ideas. 
  • Provides teachers' notes plus current and backlisted titles with links to publishers
  • Reduces administrivia as I can refer interviewees or hosts to website details.
  • Can write pr material once and then it's available for downloading e.g. bio, hi-res author PR or book cover photos.
  • Publicists  say it saves them time when arranging media for a new title.
  • Publicises interstate 'gigs'  (with link to hosts).
  • Matches workshop/talk titles to book titles and publisher website details. E.g. Antarctic Writer on Ice orWriting a Non Boring Family History
  • Meta tags link my key words like Pandemic, Antarctica, Fake ID, or Hippo to other search engines.
  • Answers already provided for school projects as FAQs.
  • Because I work in many areas besides children's picture books, visitors discover my adult non-fiction, workshops, and lesser known Auslan signed books.

What do I appreciate in a web master/mistress?

  • Updating overnight
  • Explaining in non technical terms
  • Able to pay invoice by electronic transfer.
  • Making technical suggestions e.g. meta tags (Knew nothing about these!)
  • Giving feedback on hits on particular areas and analysis.
  • Reasonable hourly charges.

On average what does it cost to set up and maintain over a year?

I update monthly, so I pay for about an hour of time (A $49) and then a major 7-8 hour overhaul annually. In addition there is a domain name and hosting fee.

What has been the greatest unexpected benefit?

Fan mail from Antarctica

Any negatives?

Overseas readers trying to find out of print books of mine as publishers have not responded to them. But I guess this could be seen as a compliment. Also, everybody assumes authors live in USA.

I've asked other authors and illustrators for their quick responses to the same questions:

Author Paul Collins   www.paulcollins.com.au  and    www.quentaris.com  says that: 

  • People can easily find me via the "contact me" icon 
  • Gives readers a personal insight to the author 
  • Allows me to advertise forthcoming books 
  • Accurate counter (some authors cheat themselves by fiddling with their counters!) tells me how many people are interested in my work. Also lets potential publishers know that there is interest "out there" with regard to my work


West Australian author Sally Murphy www.sallymurphy.net and reviewer www.aussiereviews.com  says her web site:

  • Publicises my books and myself as author/speaker
  • Shows potential publishers my body of work and demonstrates to them that I am willing to promote my published works.

  • About her web-site   www.goldiealexander.com Goldie Alexander says:
     
    I find it helpful to have a website to send friends, strangers, and distant relatives who query if I am a 'real' writer... i.e. have I actually had something published.
  • I have a bookmark as well that gives my website, latest publications and phone number etc. Useful to hand to teachers and librarians.

Susanne Gervay explains that the creation of  the www.sgervay.com  website made her understand the ethos of her writing and present it as whole and the website is a successful way of passing on in -depth information about her writing in an accessible way.

In a web master/mistress, Paul Collins appreciates

  • Speedy response to queries and updates 
  • Creative design if they're doing changes to the site

Sally lists: 

  • Ability to answer my questions and understand what I want (even when sometimes I don't!)
  • Creative ideas re website design to make site easy to navigate yet attractive

On average what does it cost to set up and maintain over a year?

This varies  from less than A$200- $350  per annum , once the initial setting up which may be up to $2000 occurs.

Susanne Gervay  says,' The establishment of the website was around $1500 which I regard as economical given the large amount of material on my site. The cost is around $50 per month which covers my monthly updates.'

What has been the greatest unexpected benefit?

  • People contacting me
  • Fan mail

Any negatives?

  • None. When I had my actual email address on the site I suspect spammers got a hold of it. Now that I have an icon, this problem has been eradicated.
  • Illustrators have an advantage because their artwork exists and they own the copyright. Children's authors have to be legally careful about putting up named photos of children on their sites or using others' work..

Web master Jason Rhodes (http://www.jrnetworksolutions.com/ ) who has created a number of children's authors' sites and likes the creative challenge of matching the author personality to the site, says:

  • Very different from designing my corporate web sites. More colourful.

Hints from other authors with websites:

  • Declutter the site periodically.
  • Make it visual rather than verbal
  • Teachers often buy only books which have easily available teachers' notes
  • Young readers like bios written in their language.
  • Check that links to information about you elsewhere are up to date (often moved-on librarians have left out dated info and your old web site details which irritate searchers)

Invest in an up-to-date shopfront window on your mind!

HAZEL EDWARDS
www.hazeledwards.com  author of There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake (Penguin) and Antarctic Dad  & co-author of Cycling Solo;Ireland to Istanbul written with her son.

 

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