I’ve written articles about different needs for an author’s website, tackling them one at a time. In helping a friend set up her author website, I realized I don’t have a “starter’s guide”. This is that guide. This is for people who want something simple, cheap, and that they can maintain themselves.
Step one: Register
for Blogger.com, WordPress.com, and Gravatar.com
Why all three? The first two are the most popular blog sites. They are well-structured, safe, and free. The last one is the globally recognized avatar service that works on most blogs and web forums. It’s also free and safe. More on why that is important later on.
Now, play with both Blogger and WordPress, use all the features, post dummy posts and pages (they can be deleted later). The goal is to decide which platform you find easiest to use for you. Once that’s done, delete all the fake posts and pages from both.
Please note that WordPress.com does have “more features” you can pay for, but they are unnecessary at this point. Self-hosted WordPress sites, like this one, are wonderful and I recommend them, but also unnecessary when you are starting out. It’s easy to move your site from Blogger and WordPress.com to a self-hosted site.
Step Two: Set Up Your Domain (Your URL)
This is usually YOURNAME.com. This sends a professional message to visitors. It’s fairly cheap ($8-$25 per year) and easy to do. If you move your site from Blogger to WordPress or vice-versa, people will always find you. There are many places to set up you domain, too. Shop around, then attach it to your blog. This is free to do with Blogger; WordPress.com charges a yearly fee for this.
Step Three: Set up the Template
A template or theme is the like the spine of your site. It determines the size of your header (logo), if your sidebar is on the left or right, the style of your content, the size of your footer, etc. Find one you like and click the okay button.
Step Four: Personalize It
Create a custom header from a personal image or from one of the many free-for-use images around the net (never just take an image). Make the background a solid color or put an image there, too. You can also change font size, colors, etc. This is an important step. You need to make your site stand out. This will also help stimulate your creativity for posting. If you have no graphics skills, you can hire an artist or post on a writers forum asking for help.
Step Five: Set up Your Pages
Pages are static, do not show in feeds, and do not list a date, while posts are listed in reverse chronological order, show in feeds, and have a date posted.
Pages to set up: about me; contact me; projects, books, and/or in progress works. Optional pages: newsletter, agent/publisher information, media/press kit, your specialty stuff such as a writer’s workshop, sci fi group, etc.
By default, most blog tools show your blog feed on the home page. Decide if you want a static page for the homepage instead. If you do, set that up. For more information, click here.
Step Six: Set up Your Sidebar
This is where all your business goes. Set up the widgets. A widget is a box in the sidebar providing various ancillary tools and information. You’ll need:
- a navigation widget — this can go under your header instead, that’s up to you;
- an RSS widget — this is where people can subscribe to your blog;
- a search bar;
- a categories/labels widget; and
- an archives widget.
Step Seven: Set your Copyright
I prefer these in the footer as most people are used to looking for them there. However, you can put it in the sidebar. It should read something like:
© Writing and images copyrighted unless noted otherwise and may not be used without prior written consent from the author. All rights reserved. You may quote without permission if you give proper credit and links.
© Copyright 20XX YOURNAME. – All Rights Reserved
Step Eight: Write your Welcome Post
This is a short post introducing yourself. You can include a posting schedule and information on what you plan to post about.
Step Nine: Build Readership
Technically this is an optional step. You can turn your comments off and not visit other blogs. But if you want people to come and read your stuff, I recommend this step.
Visit other blogs. Find ones you like, add them to your feeds, and leave thoughtful comments on their posts. This is where having a gravatar is good, when you post your avatar shows up automatically, which helps people recognize you and gives an increased legitimacy to your Internet identity.
When someone comments on your blog, return the kindness, visit his or her site, and leave a comment.
Reply to comments left on your posts when it makes sense.
That’s it. That’s all you need to do to get up and running. Of course, there are lots of little things you can do, but that can wait. Take a look at my other articles on Building & Creating Websites.
Any other suggestions?
image from Pixabay.com