9 Steps to Get your Author’s Blog Up and Running

blogI’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.

Or simply:

© 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.

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That’s it. smile 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

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53 Comments

  1. Why would anyone turn off comments?
    I never did get a domain name. Oh well.

    1. I really don’t know, but it’s becoming trendy.

  2. These are great. I tried WordPress, but stuck with Blogger. I had to blog for a while to figure out how I wanted everything. There’s a lot of tweaking involved to get it right.

    1. Yeah, I went through a few transitions before I settled on a look. Summer is a great time to set it up I think ’cause there is less blogging activity, so newbies can get their feet wet.

  3. Great tips! I ran down the list and was thinking, “check, check, check…”

    You always have such helpful posts. 🙂

  4. Good tips, thank you! My summer plan is to work on my website and possibly switch from Blogger to WordPress, so these will come in handy. Thanks for putting this together for us!

    1. That’s a lot of work, but worth it.

  5. I remember I had no idea how to build readership in the first days 🙂 Like, where to find other blogs and such things…. I still don’t really know it 🙂

    1. Same here. I can’t remember how I started finding blogs. Now, I mostly look though comments at other peoples sites and if I like the comment I click through.

      1. That is how we all do it… but it was very frustrating in the beginning…. and still is because I still can’t really find for example other movie or showbizz related blogs…. maybe mine is the only one LOL

        1. I don’t really understand why Blogger doesn’t have a directory. WP.com has one, though I think it use to be better.

  6. And always get a feel for the blogging world first. Know how it works and sample other blogs.

    1. True! It may not be right for you.

  7. I never did put that copyright thingy on my blog. Oops!

    1. We shouldn’t have too, but unfortunately we do.

  8. And don’t forget to have fun, have fun, have fun.

    Good post Miss Holly. I’ve never tried WP or the other one before but never say never.

    1. Gravatar isn’t a blog platform; it’s just an avatar to have available across the net.

      1. I’m confused by your comment?

        As for WP, I’ve not used it yet, but never say never.

        1. Blogger and WP are places where you actually blog. Gravatar is not. When you sign up, you associate your email address with an image so when you post on blogs/forums (like this one) your avatar shows up (like the commenter’s above and below.) I hope that helps.

  9. I know people don’t like comments, but it seems silly to turn them off. Maybe if you are heading out of town or are really busy, but blogging is about relationships.

    1. I agree. It’s a major part of blogging.

  10. Put your face on your blog, if you’re comfortable. People like to see who they’re reading from when they pop in. It’s part of that personal connection. Of course, if you’re going for distant or authoritative, Whatever. That works too.

    1. Or if you’re not ready to be that public.

  11. Gravatar has messed me up on free WP sites. I have to login with twitter and then leave a link. It’s weird.

    I should add a copyright to my blog. Good idea.

    1. I haven’t had that problem with gravatar, but I use a different email address for the .com sites.

  12. This is SO AWESOME!! I wish I had had this when I started blogging, Great guide!

    1. Thanks! Me too. It seems simple enough at the beginning, but ends up being overwhelming.

  13. A lot of helpful and very clear information, Southpaw. I use Blogger as my site, but I also use WordPress for an organization I do volunteer work for. I’m still not clear on how to use it. Blogger is so much easier for me. It must have been created for dummies because I dove right in and got my blog up and running. For the organization, I’m still diddling around with widgets and themes and all kinds of things I don’t understand.

    1. They are two different animals! I started on Blogger, and when I looked at WP the first time it was bizarre. I spent a week off and on just playing with it and that helped. Now, I understand how it works and what parts compare to Blogger.

  14. Great list, Holly!
    This is really helpful.
    I must admit that when I started out, it was purely trial and error. More error, of course.
    The only thing I need to add is the copyright thinggie.

    1. Ha yes, I think we all bungled though it in the beginning.

      1. With regards to my Nailpolish Story, it will be published on Monday 06 July.
        Nailpolish Stories is a wonderful site. Check it out. You may want to submit a piece.

        1. I have been reading the pieces. They are really fun.

          1. .. and a great way to practise concise, tight writing… a win-win situation… 🙂

  15. Excellent information, Holly. I use Gravatar, but to be honest, I’m still not sure how it works. I Blogged with Blogger for several years then switched over to WordPress, but I still prefer Blogger. It’s more intuitive, flexible, and less expensive. With WordPress, I have to pay because I want my post titles to be in teal (!).

    1. No way! I knew they charged for special themes and widgets but not for simple css stuff too.

  16. Nice comprehensive list. The hardest part for me was setting up a template and personalizing the site because it took me forever. I would tweak things incessantly. For my blog now, I ended up hiring a designer, which helped. I’m working on creating a new site right now and am doing it myself this time, and it has been time consuming. I’ve never heard of Gravatar. I’ll have to check it out.

    1. Yup, I still do tweaking. I think the last thing I tweaked was changing the archive and category icons to a red that matched my color scheme. Very people probably even see those, but I had to do it. 😉

      1. Wait nope, it was moving the side widget from the right to the left!

  17. I’ve tried WordPress for a little while, but I found it too clunky and difficult to use. Blogger is so much simpler. I still haven’t gotten a domain name yet, but it’s on my to-do list once I have the funds to do so.

  18. Those are all great steps. I tried wordpress before going to blogger and I’m happy with my blog. I’ve been trying to narrow the focus and trim the sidebar clutter. I’m kind of a slow mover though. 😉

  19. how much more simple can you make it!
    i even learned something – i now have my copyright statement on my blog =)
    thanks!

  20. SO MANY people leave out that step about visiting other people’s blogs to build readership. If you can’t take the time, why should they? If you don’t care about readership, if you just want to put your pearls of wisdom out there so that when you are a famous author, readers will flock to you for advice — okay then. Most of us don’t get to that point. Or at least not easily. 🙂

  21. HI, Holly,

    Very informative and I forgot about the copyright step. Excellent idea… Your post focuses on the ease of web design and social media.

    Thanks for the info on Gravatar… sound like something we all should have. And one must build relationships for social media to work well and build readership…

    1. Ah yes, if you have a gravatar, your image will show here too.

  22. Thanks for the valuable insight! This great for aspiring writers and I shall post it via FB.

    ♥.•*¨Elizabeth¨*•.♥

  23. Wow did you make these steps simple to follow- great job! I’m a few short, myself- one of many areas of my life that needs work!

  24. My blog is Blogger; my website is WordPress. Love Blogger. WordPress makes me crazy. I have a question. But I need to share a little background so the question makes sense.

    I think I want to move the content from my website to my blog. Actually, I probably will need to recreate it, and that’s fine. I want to use my domain name for the combined site of blog and website. But I want it to be reached by both my current Blogger URL and my website URL. Do you know if that’s possible?

    1. You can do it, and moving the pages to blogger is a lot easier than moving all your posts! You’ll need to decide which theme you prefer – you can do both styles (what you have or what’s on WP). I think it is easier to manual move the pages over so you can fix any formatting difference. It’s easy to set your homepage to static on blogger too. When you move the domain to blogger when people click your blogspot URL it will just refresh with you updated domain. I’ll email you this, and some examples. 🙂

      1. Hi Holly – I know I’m very late here … been keeping it til the time came to read properly …

        You mention it’s easier to move pages over from Blogger to WP … what do you mean by that?

        Really good notes and points to take into consideration … the relationship thing about blogging – building up friends and contacts … and we wouldn’t be here – if we didn’t have that style of blogging … ie being ‘good bloggers’ … I was guided to start with and then suddenly twigged I needed to spread my wings via comments on blogs I liked … and hey presto other commenters started to appear, and then somewhere along the line the A-Z started and that’s really set the (our) blogging world alight..

        Thanks so much for this – Hilary

        1. You (more or less) download the posts/pages and upload them. There are a few things that need to be done, but it’s not complicated. I’ll try do a post on it when I get back.

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