Developing a Website for the Unpublished Writer

Thursday, March 29, 2012


     While sharing news about my new website, www.sandrawarren.com, more than one of my unpublished writer friends have remarked, “I know I should have a website but I’m not published yet so I don’t have anything to post.” Well, I’m here to tell ya’all, as I told them, they are wrong. They’ve got a lot to share. 

     Before I begin, let me just say that all the good and fast rules for marketing apply to putting up a website. Make it interesting. Keep the writing short and concise. Show off your writing ability. How you convey facts about you, your life and your writing, spotlights your writing skills. If your website is creative, lyrical and poetic, visitors to your website will assume that your story writing will be also. 

     The first thing you need to do is decide what you want your website to convey about you? Is the website for family and friends? Your writing career? Something else? Assuming it’s for your writing career, your focus should be on all things related.

     Next on the list, think about how many pages you might have.  Even though you lack published books to talk about, you’ll be surprised at how many pages you can still fill. Check out other published author websites and take note of how many pages are devoted to their books. I think you’ll be surprised. 

     We'll start with the INDEX PAGE also known as the HOME PAGE.

     The HOME PAGE is the first page folks see when they punch in your URL or website address. Like the cover of a book, consider it the COVER of your website. On it you will put information to introduce your website and entice visitors to look further. It will include buttons that will link visitors to additional pages of information. Think of the buttons like chapters in a book. Chapter one, would be the HOME PAGE, Chapter two, the ABOUT PAGE, Chapter three, the CONTACT PAGE, Chapter four, the BLOG PAGE, etc.

     Well now, looky here. We’ve just started and already we have four (4) buttons/pages for you. And as we go along, I can guarantee we’ll think of other possibilities.

     Let’s take a look at each of those pages in-depth, the ones that you, an unpublished author, can post right now, and discuss what your content might be. Keep in mind that any or all of these button/pages can be changed later.

     Here are five pages (see, I’ve already thought of one more) that you can post on a website right now: 
  1. HOME PAGE – first page
  2. ABOUT PAGE – tells us about you
  3. BLOG PAGE – connects to your blog
  4. CONTACT PAGE – has your contact information
  5. WRITING PAGE – about your interest in writing and the genre/s you prefer to write

     Remember: as you contemplate page content, keep the focus on writing, if that’s your purpose for having a website. The following lists are meant to stimulate your ideas. They are not meant to be used verbatim. 

     Here are possible things to put on your HOME PAGE:

  1.  Inspirational thoughts about life, writing, pets, anything that interests you and influences what you write. Perhaps a quote from your favorite author or a mantra that keeps you writing.
  2. Whatever it is, keep it short and sweet
  3.  Include a photo or photos of you and/or things that mean something to you. It could also be an artistic rendering instead of a photo.
  4. Use colors you enjoy. Colors are windows into your personality.

     The ABOUT PAGE is where you might tell us:
  1. Who YOU are.
  2. Where you’re from: born? raised?
  3. Unique things about growing up – are you an only child? Tons of siblings? Where you lonely? Did you live in the Australian bush or a farm in Iowa?
  4. Books you loved as a child. Did you hide in books? Did you live in your books dreaming about the characters? Did you put on plays and pretend?
  5. Teacher or teachers who influenced you? How? What?
  6. Are you well-traveled? Where do you love to vacation? Are you a hiker? Camper? Stay-at-home person?
  7. Again, whatever you say, say it creatively and stay short and sweet.

     Possible things to share on a WRITING PAGE: (Some of these things could be additional pages within the WRITING PAGE.)
  1.  Defining moment when you knew you had to write?
  2.  Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
  3. Who has most influenced your writing?
  4. What genre/s do you love to write in?
  5. What genre are you working in now?
  6. Persons, books, conferences, author links that have helped keep you writing.W
  7. What keeps you going?
  8. You gotta read this – book/s that you’ve loved and highly recommend.
  9. Projects you’re working on. You may not want to divulge too much of the story but a one sentence pitch might entice an interested editor.
  10. Do you have a solution for writer’s block?
  11. Tell us about your rejection letters.
  12. Where do you write?  Office? Basement? Staring out at mountains? In the kitchen after the kids are in bed?
  13. When do you write? Middle of the night? Morning? Anywhere, anytime? Are you in a critique group? If so, how many are in it? How does it work? How often do you meet?
  14. Write a review of your favorite author’s books or shin a spotlight on other writers you admire.
  15. If you could write like any other author, who would it be and why?

     Things to include on your BLOG PAGE:

     This goes without saying. If you have a blog, you’ll want it linked to a button on your Home page so that folks can toggle from one to the other and vice versa. A blog allows you to share your thoughts on a daily basis. Having it hooked up to your website will encourage followers and allow them access to your creative ideas in greater depth.

     Things to include on your CONTACT PAGE:

     You’ll want to be computer savvy and computer smart about the CONTACT PAGE. Think long and hard about putting your personal street address and telephone number on your website. For security reasons, consider the following:
  1. Create a new email account and post that address. (Most website software will allow you to create multiple emails so wait until you’re website is being developed before doing this.) 
  2. If you want an address to post, rent a postal box from the United States Post Office, and use that address. 
  3. Another option is to add a contact box on your page, as I did at www.sandrawarren.com . Folks who fill out the contact box indicate why they are contacting me. This gives me the option to respond. In addition to the information someone fills out in my contact box, I also receive information, which allows me to report spam or any problems that may arise from receiving their request.  

     Sad to say, this is the world we live in and if we’re going to be on social networks, we have to protect ourselves. 

     So there you have it. You may be unpublished, but I’ve just helped you find information to fill a five button website.  Now your excuses are gone. What are you waiting for? Get that website up and running so that when the book cover arrives for your first published book, all you’ll have to do, after you do the “happy dance,” is add that BOOK PAGE button.  

     If you haven’t read my previous post, Want a Website? Here’s How in a Nutshell, be sure to take a look. It contains the basics of putting a website together.

     I’ve shared my experiences, thoughts and ideas, now I’d love to hear yours. 

Want a Website? Here’s How in a Nutshell!

Monday, March 26, 2012


The powers that be tell us we, as authors, need to be “hooked up” to the available social networks. But how to do that is confusing to many. Building a website is particularly difficult.  My new website www.sandrawarren.com launched a few weeks ago. So, while it’s all still fresh in my mind, I’m going to attempt to break down the process in simple terms, sharing what I wished someone had shared with me.

What comes first? It’s the old chicken or the egg thing.  So, I’ll begin with the homework you need to do first and then move on to the technical side of it all. Your journey may start differently.

A website is a rather permanent site on which you present yourself as a writer. How you want to do that is totally up to you. And that’s the hard part.

To build a website, you’ll need the following:
  1) A web master and/or web building software and the 
      knowledge to do it yourself.
  2) A clear vision of what you want; your goals included.
  3) A hosting company on which to park your website.

Let’s begin with number one - A web master.

To build a website, you'll need a web master (person who builds websites) or website building software.  A computer savvy writer may consider building one themselves, but most will use a web master, who might just be the teenager down the street, to do it for them. If you feel up to the challenge of doing it yourself, check local community colleges for classes, online instruction, or find a web master willing to teach you. I was fortunate to meet a web master who was willing to train me to do it myself. In order to do that, I had to purchase the website building software.

Web masters can charge anywhere from $100 on up for a website. Most are in the $500 range. Some charge by the website, some by the hour and some by the page (each button takes you to a different page). Be sure to ask if the price will include X number of changes after the website is launched. I can guarantee that you’ll want to make changes once it’s up and running. Also, ask how long it will take. And as usual, buyer beware: ask to see other websites, go to them and contact the owners and ask how the web master was to work with; was the website built in a timely fashion; where there hidden charges; did the web master do what you asked him/her to do?

One of my goals was to be able to manage my website and make changes myself, so I wouldn’t have to rely on someone else and pay additional for changes. My previous website was managed by a web master. I found it to be a constant frustration and vowed that when I revised it, I would maintain control. Within the first two days of launching www.sandrawarren.com, I uploaded changes five times!

Two web masters I know, both claim they can create a website in two hours for anyone, IF, and that’s a big IF, they are given all the information the person wants on their site.

The second thing you need to build a website is a clear vision of what you want your website to look like; what you want it to do for you.

Check out other author’s websites and note the buttons/pages they have. What do you like/dislike? How easy is it to navigate the site—go from one button/page to the next? One author’s website I visited had a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page that I found interesting. I added a FAQ page to my website because of it.

Here are some additional things to consider to help with your vision of what you want:

    a) The Home page: Do you want text or photos or both? This is YOUR chance for a first impression. It’s what folks will see when they come to your site. What is it you want them to learn about you right off? This page will have the buttons on it linked to your other pages.

    b) Number of additional pages/buttons you want. A page is not like a normal written page. It can be quite lengthy. It would include everything you want under a particular topic heading, or button, i.e., Home, About, Contact, Books, FAQ’s, etc.  Within a given page, you might have two or more additional pages. Go to my new website, www.sandrawarren.com and click on the button that says, “Books.” Under Books, you have three choices; Children’s Books, Adult Books, Educational Books. The Book button links you to three (3) additional pages. You may not need anything like this. It’s all up to you. 

    c) All the text you want to appear on each page. (This is the hardest and most time consuming part.) Every word you want on your site should be saved and ready for easy download per page. Type it out first, use spell check and have others edit it before you give it to your web master. Your web master is not necessarily going to want to edit anything you give him. Make sure each page says what you want it to say.

    d) Any photos – saved as .jpg files and located for easy download, along with instructions as to where and on what pages you want the photo/or photos placed.

    e) A list of KEYWORDS to imbed in your website. Think of as many words or combinations of words folks might use to find you. For example, let’s say that you write books about alligators. Keywords might be: alligators, gators, stuffed alligators, alligators in Florida, Florida gators, swamp creatures, alligator logos, alligator farms, alligator hunter, alligator stories, alligator book, books about alligators, writer, nonfiction writer, children’s writer, etc. etc.

    f) Do you need a shopping cart from which to sell books? Or will you link your books to your publisher’s website? Your web master will need to know this. If you want to list your books, he will need book descriptions, as well as cover photos and purchase information.

    g) All website building software comes with multiple templates or patterns, on which to input your information. Once you choose a template, you can then change colors, add or remove graphics, photos, shapes of boxes where you input text, etc. So if a particular author’s website impresses you, present it to your web master as a sample of what you have in mind.

    h) It is acceptable to copy other’s web site templates/or patterns. It's like making cookies with a cookie cutter. You might cut out the same shape but the decorations will be uniquely yours.

The third thing you need to consider when building a website is who will host it?

Building a website is like making a Garage Sale sign. No one will know you are having a sale much less come to it, if the sign stays in your basement. You have to find a yard to put it in so people can find your sale. The same is true for a website. You can build it but then you need a yard, a HOSTING COMPANY, who will send it out to the world.

    a) If you are working with a web master, he will recommend a hosting company. The price you pay will depend on how many features your website needs. Mine, with the shopping cart and ability to sell books, is still considered a basic site. I do not pay extra for hosting. The hosting fee is an additional charge over and above the website building charge, one you will have to pay monthly or yearly. Many companies offer hosting packages for less than $10/month. The company I’m using charges $6.95/month. Hosting packages are usually paid for by the year with offers of additional savings if you purchase more up front.

    b) You’ll also need a DOMAIN NAME. Your domain name is unique only to you and is the name someone will type in to get into your website. The domain name you choose may already be taken so have in mind additional names folks might think of to find you. There can only be one name for every .com or .biz or .org. However, more than one domain name can be hooked up to your website. I have two; www.sandrawarren.com and www.arliebooks.com. I’ve owned both names for over ten years. Click on either and you’ll go directly to my website. There is usually an additional charge for domain names although some hosting companies now offer them as part of their hosting package.

Now you know what to do or at least how to get started, so get busy. Build that website. And, I do hope your journey into the process has been made a little easier because of this post.

This post is comprised of things I had to think through to create my own website. It is not meant to be a lesson in website building but rather a pattern for discerning things to consider when creating your own. Your path may be different, but many of the things I needed to consider, you will also.

Watch for my next post: A Website for the Unpublished! Don’t have a book published yet? Wondering what you could possibly put on a website. Stay tuned.

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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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