By Laura Drake
I am NOT a techie. I don’t know software, I’m not a graphics designer. Heck I can’t even use a camera well!
I’m an accountant. That translates to: I’m cheap. Too cheap to pay someone to build a website for me.
Besides, I have to admit, turning my website over to someone I didn’t know felt kind of like having a new hairdresser with a mohawk say, “Oh, trust me – I have a great idea!” Besides, how could I convey my vision, when I didn’t know it myself?
Desperation pushes you places you wouldn’t normally go. I jumped in.
CAVEAT: I learned one microscopic ort of what is out there in cyberspace. I only learned what I needed, to get what I wanted. I have no doubt there’s better ways to do things; the purpose of this blog is not to tout my method – it’s only to prove that you CAN do it yourself.
10 TIPS for a DIY Website:
1. Find out what “feel” you want.
I looked at a ton of author websites. Best one stop shop is to go to a large literary agency website. They list their clients, with links to their websites. Odds are, they’ll have authors that write all genres.
Your website should be a reflection of what you write. A paranormal, historical, and inspirational author website will look very different. The website of an author with a comedic voice should look much different than a literary one. Your visitors should get a feel for your books the minute your splash page opens.
I wanted a emotional feel, with photos of people enjoying a Western lifestyle. My settings are western, and my current series is about Pro Bull Riding – so it had to be featured prominently as well.
2. Do not get intimidated.
Most platforms have “templates” you can choose from to start, then you can customize from there.
You’re going to need a company to host your website, and supply the shell for you to work in (described above.) There are quite a few of them out there.
The two I heard the most about, that were easy and fairly inexpensive, were WordPress and Network Solutions. I chose the latter. I think it cost me $220 for two years, and it included email (you’ll want people to email you there, so you’re not broadcasting your personal email address.)
This was my favorite part. I can spend hours, choosing just the right photo to convey the feeling I want. Google Images is great for browsing. Write "Beach" novels? Maybe a close-up of a weathered boardwalk in the sand. Fantasy? Maybe a clipart fairy. Let your creativity soar!
5. Pay for the photos you put on your website.
We want to be paid for our novels, so it’s only fair we compensate the photographers. But remember, I’m cheap. I used Big Stock Photos.com. Most photos were $5 apiece, and they had a quadzillion of them -- all you do is type in a term (ex: bull riding.) There are other inexpensive sites as well.
6. Decide what ‘pages’ you want.
While you’re perusing author websites, notice what pages they have. Do you want a blog? A calendar? Book review page? Excerpts and teasers from your books?
Besides your splash screen, at a minimum, I think you need a Bio, and a way for readers to contact you. Oh, and don't forget, even if you haven't finished a novel, you need to at least tell visitors about what you write -- after all, isn't that the reason for a website?
7. This is going to take longer than you think it will.
A lot longer. Plan on it. Begin waaaaay before you need it!
8. This is addicting.
I set up a simple site. Then I saw a website with “flash” – photos that fade in and fade out. Ohhhhh, I want that! So I bought a piece of software that would create this (Coffee Cup Firestarter, for like $40.) It took awhile to figure it out, but I’m SO happy with the result.
9. You’ll never be done.
You’ll need fresh content every once in awhile (monthly updates are recommended). Besides, I found I love to tinker with it to try to make it better. I take ideas I see other places and adapt them.
10. Have fun with it.
Once I got over being intimidated, I realized this was another outlet for my creativity. When I got stuck in my WIP, I'd work on the website. I was still being productive, and it used a different part of my brain while the writer part rested.
Your website has a feel. Think about when you visit someone’s house for the first time. Doesn’t it tell you a lot about them? Does it look like a movie set created by an interior designer? Or is it one of those rare houses that you feel at home in, the minute you walk in?
I’m not saying I’ve built the best, or the most beautiful website (you can see it here.) But I like it.
By doing it myself, I ended up with one that looks like me, and I think, gives potential readers a feel for my books. Isn’t that what a website it supposed to do?
And guess what? I found I loved doing it!
Have you built a website, or are you thinking about one? What lessons have you learned? Are there any tips you want to share?