Sunday, July 25, 2010

YES YOU CAN Easily Create an Author Website

Since most books are now sold via the Internet, it is an absolute must that authors have an online presence; and I don’t mean a simple Amazon listing or online publisher listing. What I’m referring to is a Website or Blog of your own.

In the past I have tried to persuade most of our “new author” Blog visitors to create a Website for their book(s). Some of you have done so and might I add, done a great job of it! Others are not so easily persuaded, mostly because they think they just don’t have the technical knowledge to conquer such a task. In reality, Website development is much easier than you think.

Al Albers is an author who I have in the past attempted to persuade to build a Website for his books; finally, he has done so and his new Website looks fantastic! In this interview with Al, we will find out how the process was for him and maybe we can encourage some skeptics to give it a try. After all, writing a book isn’t an easy task, but if you can accomplish that, creating a Website should be simple enough!

Carol Denbow: Welcome Al, so glad you’re here to help our Blog visitors learn how to combat their fears and get to work building a Website to promote their books.

Let me start by asking you if you are indeed one of those authors who thought they were not capable of building their own Website?

Al Albers: Before I begin, I want to say, “THANK YOU, CAROL” for the interview; it’s much appreciated. I hope my experience in creating my Website will encourage others to take the plunge.

I was positive this was something I could not do. In fact, two years ago I was given the book FrontPage for Dummies so I could learn how to build a Website. As I started the process, I realized it was going to take time—lots of it. I managed to build two pages, but there were a few “glitches” that I couldn’t figure out. After a frustrating hour, I came to the conclusion that I needed to decide what was more important: the Website, or the new story I was writing (I had alternated my weekday evenings so that one night I’d work on the Website, the next night on the story). Right or wrong, in my mind, the story was more important and that’s where I focused my attention.

My new plan was to work on a Website after the second novel was published. Sadly, that didn’t happen. I had an idea for a third story (I’m almost finished) so I jotted down some notes and then began writing.

The Website would again have to wait.

Carol Denbow: When you decided to take the plunge and give it a try, what was your first step in the process?

Al Albers: The first step was to decide whether to return to FrontPage or hire a Website designer. As fate would have it, I was talking with author Clyde Dowell and he asked if we could swap Website links. I told him that I didn’t have a Website…yet. After I related my story, I found out that he created his Website on Yahoo in a matter of hours.

“You don’t need to learn HTML?” I asked.
“Absolutely not,” he replied. “Everything you need is at your disposal; all you have to do is add content.”

Later that day, I learned that Microsoft Office Live also offered a similar service. After I read the FAQs and the information in the other links, I compared notes; I decided to use Microsoft.

The issue now, was when to begin. I didn’t want to work on this in the evening hours, so my only option was a weekend. I played devil’s advocate by asking myself, “What if it takes longer than one day?” That’s when it dawned on me that the July 4th holiday weekend was less than two weeks away. Furthermore, I had planned on taking one day of vacation to have a four-day weekend. Perfect!

Now that the decision was made, my first step was to decide what page titles and their respective content did I want to include on the Website. Fortunately, I had my original notes to fall back on.

For those contemplating taking the plunge, my suggestion is to look at what others have done, and not just authors. What you’ll find is that there is a lot of commonality, specifically, a bio, product or service reviews, and a blog, to name just a few. Authors include their book covers, an excerpt, and reader reviews. Since the protagonist in my novels is a magician, I included a page that gives the visitor a smidgen of information about the two main magic organizations in the United States, including hyperlinks. So do your research; you might find a great idea for a page on your Website.

Carol Denbow: Were you surprised at your ability to do-it-yourself?

Al Albers: I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it would be much harder, but the hard work is done long before the Web design begins. By that I mean the page titles, content, pictures, book covers, etc. Once you have these parts readily available, placing them into their respective pages is easy. If you’re not happy with its initial look, it’s easy to change the page format and start anew.

Carol Denbow: Did you need much computer experience to complete this project?

Al Albers: You don’t need to learn a computer language, nor do you need to buy a “Dummies” reference book. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with these books. I have a few and they’re helpful. If you can type, cut, and paste, and know how to save your work, you can do this project.

Carol Denbow: How much time did you need to invest before your site was first published online?

Al Albers: I have to answer this question in two ways. For the Website, I completed it in one day—a Saturday. The following day, I accessed the site and carefully read each page. I found a typo and that took all of two minutes to fix. For the content, it was about two hours. I had to search the computer’s hard drive to find the information from my initial foray two years earlier.

The important point to remember is that you’re not writing a complete chapter of your book in one sitting. Once you’ve gathered all the information, the next step is to drop the bits and pieces into place. I sincerely believe an author can create their Website over a weekend.

Carol Denbow: Do you need to update information on your Website and if so, how often?

Al Albers: Some pages may not need to be updated, for example, an excerpt from your book. Other pages may need to be updated when you have new information you wish to share. When I created my Website, I was in the process of having my books converted to e-Books, so I added a note stating that they’d soon be available in this new format. When my publisher notified me that they were available, I updated two pages of my Website. There’s nothing written in stone that dictates when an author should update their Website. In my case, I’ve made two updates to it since the 3’rd of July.

The day after I added the last one, a light bulb went on. “How will a visitor know if I posted something new?” That’s when I realized I needed to add some notation that indicates new information has been posted. On the “News” page, I added “updated on 7/23/10.” When the visitor clicks on that page, he or she will see a complete list of recent (and not so recent) events.

That said, don’t let your Website become dormant once it’s up and running. Continually adding something will encourage visitors to return to see what’s new.

Carol Denbow: Was it easy to add different pages to your Website, i.e., contact page, bio, etc.?

Al Albers: It was very easy. There are various templates available and each has generic pages that are ready to be populated. All that needs to be done is to rename them to reflect your preference and choose the page layout. After that, you cut and paste the content. One thing I strongly recommend is that you click the “save” button every 10 or 15 minutes. There’s nothing like having your computer burp at the most inopportune time, and in that microsecond, see your work disappear.
I’ve only added one new page since the Website went online. Once I had the information to populate the page, it took all of 15 minutes.

Carol Denbow: How expensive was it to build your Website?

Al Albers: Microsoft Office Live hosts the Website for free. When you initially start, you’re given what’s called a “fourth domain name.” That means there are three “dots” in between the URL (uniform resource locator) name that identifies your new Website. I wanted a standard domain name, which I had to purchase at a cost of $14.95/year (a bargain if you ask me). There is a link to do that on the Microsoft Office Live site and the process is explained in great detail. Trust me, it’s very easy. By the way, you are not required to buy a standard domain name, it’s an optional feature.

The only thing you’ll need to remember is to initiate the process to renew your domain name a month or so before your year ends. If there’s an option to renew for a longer period, two or more years, you may want to consider taking advantage of that deal. Bear in mind that if you don’t renew in time, the domain name goes away.

The last thing I did was to add a personalized e-mail address. In my case, I used al@alfredalbers.com; no sense making it complicated. The reason for this personalized e-mail is to allow visitors to leave feedback, or ask questions about your books, and not send their questions to your personal (home) e-mail address. By the way, there is no cost for this feature so I would definitely take advantage of it.

Carol Denbow: Now let’s show our viewers what you created. What is the link to your Website?

Al Albers: www.alfredalbers.com

Carol Denbow: Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. Al, hopefully you have persuaded some of our visitors to step up and get more exposure for their books by building their own Website. I know I was glad to hear you finally did!

Again, visitors take a look at Al’s Website at www.alfredalbers.com. You can do it too!

4 comments:

Lillie Ammann said...

Al's site looks great. Another good alternative is to register your domain name and install WordPress as both the Web site and blog. That makes it really easy to update information, and you get the search engine benefits of a blog along with the ability to create static pages.

Lillie Ammann
A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye

Nicole MacDonald said...

I'm making my blog my website *grin*

publish a book said...

Fantastic website, I'm going to tweet this excellent post.

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