Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Interweaving the Writer and the Web

You've heard it before--every serious writer should have a web site. You've thought about it already--the set-up, the design process, the maintenance. And it all seems too overwhelming. This article will help dispel some of the fears and myths associated with creating your own site.

The first belief you must carry with you is that every writer should have a web site, no matter what stage of career you are in. Whether just starting out, or multi-published, the internet is a powerful marketing tool from which all writers can benefit.

As soon as you start writing, you should investigate and register your domain name. Use the name you will be writing under (pen name) as your domain name. If you have a common name which is already taken, consider adding a suffix like: or If you aren't sure which name you will be using, purchase several domain names. They can be bought for as little as $7.95/year if you lock in for several years.  Don't renew the names you won't use.  Your ownership will be automatically cancelled. 

Once you have a domain name, start investigating hosting sites. Prices range from free, to upwards of $35/month, depending on how much space you want, and what services you need, such as e-mail accounts and e-mail forwarding. The more you pay, the more space and services you receive. Free sites such as will usually have banner ads that pop up for every visitor to your site. The price may be right, but do you want your visitors dealing with pop-up ads? You may also be limited to use of their templates, with little customization options.

After setting up your server, you can start the design process. You can design your page by using templates (usually available through free hosting services), learning to write HTML code yourself, or purchasing software which writes the code for you, such as Microsoft Expressions or Adobe's Dreamweaver. 

The first step in design is to define the purpose of your site. The purpose will define the content. Here are several purposes, and the basic content for those sites:
  • Promote novels and other published works--For established authors, this will include pages for your books, a bio, writing tips, news, and links as a start.
  • Promote non-fiction--For authors published in non-fiction only, this site would be more subject-oriented, with articles and links on your area of expertise, and contact info.
  • Educate Readers--For the unpublished author, this site could include a bio, monthly column, offers for speaking engagements, etc.
  • Educate Writers--For the author who wants to help other writers with their careers, this site would include writing tips, bibliography, links, etc.
A basic site should include a simple home page with links to other pages. The Table of Contents on your home page should have links to top-level pages only, for ease of navigation. Include a photo and brief welcome note on your home page, and move more detailed information to other pages to avoid clutter. Your home page is your first impression, so keep it as simple and clean as possible.

Keep subsequent layers to a minimum, and when designing these additional pages, stay within a theme which reflects your writing. Again, keep the design simple. Dark backgrounds are hard on the eyes, and small, fancy text is difficult to read, no matter how pretty it is. Use tables to align graphics and text within any borders you may choose. Keep graphics small so they upload quickly for the viewer. Finally, always include a copyright notice on your pages.

Once your pages are designed, they need to be uploaded to the internet using FTP software. But don't think for a minute that your job is done once your pages are uploaded. If you have a web page, you need to make a commitment to your visitors to keep your pages up to date and well maintained. Keep content current, fix broken links, and bring new information up front as it develops.

You also need to publicize your site. You can do this by submitting your site to search engines, joining listserves, using your domain name on your stationary and in your signature tag, requesting links on other relevant sites and even starting your own listserve.

Feeling overwhelmed after reading this?  Contact Michelle Prima at: for help on designing your web site.

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