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Who Has A Website?
Mimi Speike
Posted: Friday, March 7, 2014 6:58 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014


Did you build it yourself? Do you have an opinion of Word Press vs. Go Daddy vs. Untimatewb.com? Or any others?

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What should I be especially aware of? I know nothing about web design. I'd like to be able to lay out a page as I would for print, do anything I want to, and then reproduce it for a web page. Do I have to really know what I'm doing, or can I fake it?

--edited by Mimi Speike on 3/7/2014, 11:01 PM--


Jay Greenstein
Posted: Saturday, March 8, 2014 1:43 AM

I  use WordPress. They have a good selection of templates,it's easy to use, and it's free. Forget coding your own. There's a steep leaning curve and unless you're a graphic artist the results won't be better than one of the canned formats.

 

If you like there are some premium templates that are even nicer.

 

GoDaddy, unless they've changed, host websites. They don't provide the coding. You can get a site from them, though, use a WordPress template there, and have the ease of construction of WordPress, and a URL address that doesn't have the WordPress name as part of it. My son did that. But if that's your goal you need to start that way because when you make the change the search engines will have to reacquire you and where you come up in the search engine pages—your ranking—will drop to nothing and take three months to return to original levels. My son, a family lawyer, made the mistake of switching over, and the visitor count dropped dramatically, and took nearly three months to recover.

 

There's another point with WordPress. The basic site is free, but if you want to suppress the advertising they insert it costs a monthly fee.

 

Here's my site: http://jaygreenstein.wordpress.com/bio/

 

For a paid template, here's my son's. He hosts at GoDaddy, and he did the layout himself, using the tools they provide:  http://greensteinfamilylaw.com/


Mimi Speike
Posted: Saturday, March 8, 2014 2:49 AM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014


Thanks, Jay. 

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I am a graphic designer, and I hope to create something that reflects that. I can throw together striking looks quickly in a publication app, Quark or InDesign, and I wonder if I can do the same thing for the web, pushing templates as far as they will go. I guess I'll have to experiment and find out.


HJakes
Posted: Sunday, March 9, 2014 4:51 PM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 46


I commissioned the building of my website since I do not have a talent for design, but I maintain it. It's built on wordpress, which is fairly easy to use. It's hosted through Lunarpages, which I very much like. Not the cheapest option out there, but they have excellent customer service and support, and have been wonderful about communicating issues that may affect me - even ones that originate elsewhere like the mass attacks on wordpress sites over the last few months. Even if I didn't find GoDaddy offensive, I understand that their customer service is lacking.

www.regansummers.com

Good luck!


Cathie Whitmore
Posted: Friday, March 14, 2014 8:42 PM
Joined: 7/31/2013
Posts: 8


I have a lovely website for my children's books, but the only people who know about it are those who have bought my books through other sources as my website is listed inside each book. Does anyone have tips on how to get a website noticed by the mainstream public? Probably asking for the impossible, but I'm open to suggestions. www.atomchildrensbooks.com.au


Perry
Posted: Saturday, March 15, 2014 7:39 AM
Joined: 9/17/2013
Posts: 104


Cathie's question is a good one. I have a friend who self-published a book of photography. It was very expensive to produce, and he sold every copy. But he sold only one copy from his website. How do we get our web address out there? Are there certain kinds of books that will sell through a website, and others that will not? How do we know if/when a website is worth the investment in time and money?
Mimi Speike
Posted: Sunday, March 16, 2014 4:52 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014


How do you lure eyes to your website? I’ve got ideas. No site as yet. Hell, no book as yet. But it's coming.

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I seek out a site when I see a mention that intrigues me. It may be in an article, in a magazine, or on Huffington Post, Salon, etc. It may be off an interesting poster or a bumper sticker. (That’s what I plan for my book.) It may be an eye-catching mailer. (Another one of my ideas.)

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For a children’s book, see if schools will let you display a poster. For a book of photography, do some of those heavy-traffic mall art shows, and hand out business cards. When I’m ready, I plan to create a paper-doll of my character with advertising on the back, and hand it out in Times Square. Some passers-by will be intrigued enough to look up my site. An old lady in Elizabethan garb, making a fool of herself in Times Square, may get on the evening news. I’ll be sending that paper-doll, a flamboyant Elizabethan cat, to every agent who might possibly be interested. Some may take it home to children. Maybe they’ll show it to colleagues. What the hell, eh?

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Once you’ve got a visitor to your site, you’ve got to hold them. A site promoted as A Touch of Magic had better be sheer magic, creative as all get-out, fun-fun-fun. I’m a graphic designer and I have a critical eye for that. Cathie, your site is as bland as it can be. Sorry to be blunt, but your approach needs a rethink. Ramp up the crazy, that’s what I’d do. This look is way too retail/corporate for the product you’re offering. It does not make me say, this is a true creative spirit here. I bet these books are terrific. A publisher can get away with a business-as-usual look. You have to make more of an indelible impression.

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Mostly, you’ve got to push your site outside of the search engines, and in neat ways. That’s my theory. Sooner or later I’ll find out if it works.

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I love marvelous photography. It’s too much work to look for it through Google, too much so-so stuff to sort through, but if I saw great work on display in a mall, in a gallery, you bet I’d take a card, and track down the full portfolio online.

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None of us (probably) are web designers and, believe me, at my age (67) I don't feel like learning an intricate new process. The thought alone wears me out. But do we want to have a book and a website or do we want to have a book and a website that perform? I've set my heart on the latter. And I'm going to have to do it myself. I don't have the money for a professional web designer.

 

--edited by Mimi Speike on 3/16/2014, 11:37 PM--


DCLabs
Posted: Sunday, March 16, 2014 10:14 PM
Joined: 10/15/2013
Posts: 78


Hi Mimi, I too have a website.

 

As an IT geek I've been running websites for a very, very long time.  While most of my peers were out doing cool things like sports and getting fresh air, my friends and I were hunched over computers building websites on GeoCities.  Ah 1997.

 

Wordpress, as you've heard from everyone so far, is probably the most preferred and most referred CMS (Content Management System) in use today.  Its more than just a blogging platform, however, and can be turned into a potent multi-faceted website as well.  There are thousands of templates out there which are a snap to install and make your own.  Wordpress community has also developed a massive database of plug-ins which add additional functionality to the basic Wordpress software.  If you're using it simply to host a blog, you're missing out on so much (I'm only hosting a blog, oops!).

 

Best part as a graphically inclined person you'll find it really easy to make custom to your tastes.  I'm more of a coder/admin guy so my sites tend to be pretty from a coding standpoint but rather - sterile - graphically.  Thank goodness for templates.  You can use Wordpress to get you the foundation but then tinker around a bit to give it that "you" touch.  Essentially, why reinvent the wheel?  Just customize the car that rides on them.

 

I've been with my host, Siteground, for 8 years and have no real complaints.  As a Systems Administrator I like the back door access I get and control over certain things.  At the same time their management interface is very easy to use and friendly.  That said, you'll find a similar experience at many of the other hosts out there as well; 1in1, twocows, godaddy, hostme etc.  Look for what gives you the best bang for your buck without sacrificing customer service.

 

As far as traffic generation, use a lot of social media.  Then: content, content, content.  Facebook and Twitter promotion can help build initial views but smashing, interesting and relevant content is what will grow your audience.  People only share what interests them and return to something they enjoy.  No manner of fancy social media use or tech savvy will get you those coveted return visitors.


Mimi Speike
Posted: Sunday, March 16, 2014 11:27 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014


Thank you, DC.

 

I'm not quite ready to start building a site. I'm polishing the latest iteration of my book, then I will submit it to an editor I have lined up. After that, I'll start fooling around. I can design up a storm, but I'm wondering how much I'll have to compromise because I can't get my ideas to fit the options available. I have so very little confidence, although I know I can zap a template into more than what it is, I've always been graphically ingenious. I'd like to have the same free-wheeling confidence I have in a print-publish program. Maybe it will come.

.

Am I connected to you? I'll have to check. I'd like to be able to message you with questions when the time comes. 

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Here we go again. I have such trouble remembering how to connect since they changed the format. It used to be so easy! Can you connect to me?

 

--edited by Mimi Speike on 3/16/2014, 11:32 PM--


DCLabs
Posted: Monday, March 17, 2014 11:11 AM
Joined: 10/15/2013
Posts: 78


I believe we are, if not I'll change that.  Would be happy to help any way I can as you look to set up and online presence.  Good luck polishing that WIP and with the editor!  A great opportunity.
Mimi Speike
Posted: Monday, March 17, 2014 2:51 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014


I've got my new About the Book up for the contest. I'm almost ready to send my manuscript out to the editor. It's time to start thinking seriously about a cover, and interior graphics. And that paper-doll.

 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

About the cover, I may finally have decided on a way forward. I've been debating, endlessly, dark or colorful, a head shot, good for a thumbnail on Amazon, or a torso shot, showing the garb and plenty of attitude. I'll nail the garb, believe me. That's one of my strengths. 

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I now have an approach in mind, thanks to a graphic I just noticed on the web, half illustration, have powerful design. Menacing, but fun. Fun, not fluff. I've got talking animals but, believe me, my thing is not fluff and I don't want to give that impression.  That would be shooting myself in the foot.

 

--edited by Mimi Speike on 3/18/2014, 4:27 PM--


PaulDavidPowers
Posted: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 4:03 PM
Joined: 3/4/2014
Posts: 2


Hi, I'm Paul David Powers, The Author of Tales of the Swamp Creatures and Telly Tales and currently in the planning stages for a third book in the trilogy!


But like the Cliche' I am a Starving Artist with limited income! I need exposure. It takes money to make money and  I am getting nowhere! I'm not known in the right circles.


My question is How can I  get exposure as an author, writer where the masses could see my work and possibly buy it? I know that a website is essential but my problem with that is unless it is located where people can see it, it would be like my Second Book,  (Telly Tales) on thousands of online bookstore sites but NOT Selling!


Mimi Speike
Posted: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 4:48 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014


I haven't published yet, so this is no more than theory.

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Bookstores are an outlet, they are passive. Your thing can sit there forever, gathering virtual dust. At least until you get a following behind you. You have to turn yourself into that everywhere-all-the-time Big Noise From Winnetka. Talk, talk, talk. Act up! Act out! Make people wonder, who is this nutball? I wonder what he writes.

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Shoot an email off to Hugh Howey, ask him how he did it. Then, be a pal, tell the rest of us.

 

--edited by Mimi Speike on 4/4/2014, 2:26 AM--


Lucy Silag - Book Country Community Manager
Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 1:07 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1359


We feature lots of authors and writers on our blog, and we always link to the author site in their blog post, as well as their social media channels. One of the reasons I love featuring all the different authors is that it's such an excellent education in author promotion--I get to spend a lot of time looking at a lot of different sites and seeing how different authors present themselves.

 

Here's a sampling of some that have stood out to me and why:

  • Nick Bantock, who was our blog guest today, has a site that has very clean lines and a simple design. It helps his gorgeous artwork to really stand out.
  • Alex Hughes, a SciFi author who guestblogged for us in March, has a website that is wonderfully easy to navigate. Right at the top you have links to social media, and in the middle of the page a quick, easy to read explanation of who Alex is and what kind of writing she does, plus exclusive offers for visitors to the site. Book marketers would heartily approve!
  • Similarly, BC member Kerry Schafer has ways to connect with her right up top--always an important part of building your audience--and her site, with its book-shaped design, feels inviting, too.
  • Writer Olivia Glass, who wrote our "In Defense of Erotica" post back in January, makes frequent updates to her site using a blog template. For me, it would be hard to maintain (especially since I feel like I go through long fallow periods of having no writing news to report) but Olivia does a wonderful job of keeping it up to date.

Are those useful examples, Mimi?

 

What other author sites have you guys come across and liked?

 

--edited by Lucy Silag - Book Country Community Manager on 4/3/2014, 1:10 PM--


Mimi Speike
Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 3:48 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014


Thanks, Lucy. These are excellent examples of different approaches.

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My favorite in Bantock. Clean, strong, my cup of tea. I am a gunk-it-up writer, not a gunk-it-up designer. I see he is an illustrator/designer. It shows. I really love the cover of The Trickster’s Hat, although I believe I would have played more with the font.

.

Next, I love Glass. Well organized, gets the job done. I do object to non-strategic white space. This irks me whenever I see it, and I see it a whole lot on web pages. I don’t know enough about the process to understand why.

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Schafer’s look will wow many. It is eye-catching, but I look at it from a design perspective and in that regard it is so-so. Flashy, hit-em-over-the-head stuff, and not the best use of space.

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Hughes, again, razzle-dazzle, not as readable as it might be. Many, I’m sure, love the look. I go for loud-quiet-loud-quiet, not loud-loud-loud-loud-loud. Visual rhythm. Neither of these last two pieces would you see in Print Magazine. Is that still published? I haven’t bought an issue in ten years.

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Bantock is the standout, to my eye. I am encouraged. A stellar look can probably be achieved by manipulating templates, without a lot of technical know-how. Thanks for the links.

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I have seen some damn good-looking templates on Go Daddy. But almost everyone recommends that other one, Word-something, can’t think of the name right now. Do you have any opinions?

 

--edited by Mimi Speike on 4/3/2014, 3:49 PM--


Lucy Silag - Book Country Community Manager
Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 4:50 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1359


I thought you might like Nick Bantock's site, Mimi!

 

I do have some experience with Wordpress and I really like it--it's easy to use. I don't know much about other platforms.

 

For ease of use and ease of engagement I do really like Tumblr, but that's more useful if you are looking to do a true blog, and update frequently and really build a community around your site. It's kind of like a mix of Twitter and a blog, because you can really easily share other people's posts.

 

Excited to see what you come up with down the road!


Mimi Speike
Posted: Friday, April 4, 2014 3:03 AM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014


Well, I’m studying websites, and I’m wondering.

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Why are so many sites set up rather like a newspaper page, you scroll down to read, and the configuration is such that you have a lot of dead space on either side?

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Why can’t you set your page up to take advantage of the wide screens we have today? Say, landscape? Why can’t you scroll right and left? Why can’t your page behave rather like a panorama?

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Why are so many pages set up with a masthead arrangement, instead of a looser array of hot spots, perhaps integrated into the presentation playfully?

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And I just discovered that if you bring Nick Bantock’s page way up, you can scroll right and left and the image moves behind his list of links to other pages. Interesting. Something fun might be done with that capability, I think.

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In short, there seems to be a set way of thinking about web pages and it doesn’t have to be that way. I’d love to try to make my pages active, with moving parts like with one of those mechanical picture books. No way around it, I’ve got to start doing my research. Whether I like it or not. 

.

Watching Huffington Post load so slowly sometimes, all those graphics, column by column, I gather that speed has something to do with design choices. Maybe that problem can somehow be turned into an advantage. Don't ask me how. I'll sleep on it.

--edited by Mimi Speike on 4/4/2014, 3:14 AM--


Mimi Speike
Posted: Friday, April 4, 2014 3:11 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014


Jump in here, anyone with answers. Why the almost universal tabloid layout? Other than to accommodate the old-style screens, that almost no one has anymore? 

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I’m thinking billboard, to showcase a layout. A signature look. I had a signature look at one time, probably still do. I have a deft way with type. Co-workers at a job all tried to copy me, with so-so results. It comes down to proportion, balance, weight. Even small changes undo the rapport of the elements. Tinker with a font, it’s often a whole new ball game, rethink from the ground up.

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I like to snake type around images, lead the eye around the page, have fun. I’m kicking around a gameboard look. Candyland! I collect vintage gameboards, among other things. I’ve got a roughed out gameboard-style promo for Sly, of sixteenth century Europe. Somewhere, in my scads of files. Haven’t seen it in a couple of years. I liked it a lot.

.

I don’t know if this is asking too much, as a clueless neophyte webpage creator. 

--edited by Mimi Speike on 4/4/2014, 3:21 PM--


Yellowcake
Posted: Monday, June 23, 2014 10:02 PM
Joined: 1/23/2014
Posts: 44


Most of the time as designers we look at big images, and clear space. Unfortunately google don't like that ... they like lots of words and hooks that they can index. (There are work arounds of course).

 

The trend at the moment (and I can't see it changing for a while) seems to be to create something that is responsive, so that if you look at it on a desktop it shows one way, a tablet another, a mobile a third. Using responsive CSS you can do that. A CMS like wordpress handles the content. 

 

Then we have to consider the footprint of the site, is it too heavy (i.e. file sizes of images ect) is it cross platform - enough, Is it a good user experience and is is SE friendly. Tell ya it's a bloody mine field  

 

As bandwidth gets better things are getting better for designers, but it's still a compromise, function over fashion most of the time. 

 

Typography is another whole can of worms. Once again it's getting better, but it still has a long way to go before we can design website the way we design printed files. (ease of the tools wise I mean, I know that they are vastly different animals). Things like a simple wrap around, or curved type is a pain in the arse for a website CSS. Easy in Photoshop/Illustrator. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mimi Speike
Posted: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 8:58 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014


Thanks, yellowcake. You've just scared the hell out of me. I have pictures in my mind of how I'd like to set up my book and my (eventual) website. I am a designer also. But I may have to can my fancy ideas and stick to basics.

.

What do you know about footnotes and sidebars (for e-pubs)? Is it possible to do that? And spot illustrations. Remember The Annotated Alice In Wonderland? That's what I have in mind. Am I screwed?

 


NoellePierce
Posted: Friday, June 27, 2014 1:44 PM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 227


I'm a little late to the party, and, full disclosure, I'm a digital artist, NOT a graphic designer. However, I manage the website for my writing organization, as well as my own two websites. 

 

Responding to your initial post, Mimi: I HATE, loathe, detest, despise GoDaddy. My writing organization uses them to host and they drive me batty. I was very happy with my hosting site (through which I also got my domain--it was cheaper that way and you have to get a host *anyway*, so...), but their customer service seems to have become outsourced in the last year and I had some trouble with them a couple of months ago. They've been better since, though still outsourced. Still, they're listed as number 5 (they were #2 when I first signed up with them. GoDaddy had been #10, and now are completely off the list) on this website: http://webhostinggeeks.com/besthosting.html.

 

As far as website layout, I have a desktop computer and laptop, both with widescreen, but because of my mouse, it's easier for me to scroll up and down than left and right. On a tablet or touchscreen computer, it doesn't really make a difference. 

 

x♥x


Elizabeth Moon
Posted: Saturday, July 5, 2014 9:41 PM
Joined: 6/14/2012
Posts: 195


I have four websites.   With the first, back in 1996,  I started learning HTML with a friend.  Both of us had done programming in other languages.    However, as she ended up learning HTML a lot faster (she wasn't writing books or homeschooling an autistic kid!!)  I hired her and she now has a web design business.  I was involved in the design of my site from the beginning (it's been reworked several times, of course, though it's superficially similar enough that no one's been startled by the changes.)   I have some graphics background, and she and I both knew what we liked in sites (and didn't like.)   When I started I was on a slow small-scale dial-up connection, and so were a lot of other people, so clean code, fast-loading, was a priority.   So was "looks good on both PCs and Apple,  and in Windows & Linux, does not require fancy color settings so will look good on all monitors--custom colors may not look the same on all.  Simple, clean, uncluttered.  No yellow font on avocado, or orange on red (both of which some sites used.  Really hard to read.) 

 

 This is now my main site.  It has information on all my fiction, including ISBN numbers, links to all my other sites and blogs,  contact information for me and my agent, and other professional-related stuff, plus other material people have found of interest.  For instance, because we are doing wildlife management on a small property, and I'm a reasonably good photographer, in the early years I put up a page of nature photographs (mostly) every week.  (Putting other stuff on your website draws people to it...there's more to look at than "BUY MY STUFF.")   I realized early on that readers were interested in writers as people, and presenting as an interesting person (who probably therefore writes interesting books) was a smart way to go.   (See Doranna Durgin's website for another writer who took that approach.)  IMO, your main site (if you have more than one someday) should reflect you, not just be an ad.

 

The other three sites are all project related.  One is for the fantasy world in which I write the novels and short fiction;  I came back to it 20+ years after the last of the previous books in that group, and knew I'd have to generate interest and remind former fans that this was happening.  So I designed a site for that purpose (my web designer did the coding), commissioned the header design, and (thanks to my web host's help--SFF.net) embedded WordPress blog software in the site.    My web designer took a theme we both liked and tweaked it to suggest (with color choices, among other things) the website header, and I started posting there.    Another one is for another, very different book, The Speed of Dark,  and was designed to use the original cover of that book in the header.   The last one is for our wildlife management project.  For the blogs, we used the same theme, changing colors, header, and background. 

 

By the time I started the three later sites, I was on LiveJournal, which was then stronger than Facebook or MySpace.   Any social media allows you to lure traffic to your site by blogging about more than your books...any hobbies, any other interests, whatever you feel like sharing.   For instance,  I'm now using Twitter to let people know there's a new post up on one of the blogs (the two most active are the Paksworld blog and LiveJournal) with a hint what it's about:  knitting, wildlife, photography, the new release, or a post on the craft of writing, etc.   The Paksworld site has a lot of background information about the world, far more than is in the books, and is a help to people who come to the new group without having read the old.  I've also commissioned some character art for it (there will be more in the future.)   So the site is not quite static, and the related blog is busy and has attracted a community.

 

To publicize a website: put it on all your correspondence, your business cards, any swag you hand out, and if you're on Twitter (which I thought I'd hate and now spend way too much time on every day!)  mention new info on the site there.   "Wow--my editor says TITLE will be out in the spring!  More here: URL" or (as I did recently) "New post up on [LJ link] with pix of new sock project" and the hashtag "knitting" and "socks."  (Yes, I have acquired new fans from people who came to see the socks.)   If you have some kind of blog (embedded in your site or elsewhere) make sure your URL shows up there frequently.  When you comment on someone else's blog and there's a blank to put your website URL in...do it.   But in all social media, present as an interesting person who is also interested in others, and in many topics...not constantly flogging your books or begging people to come to your site.  Someone else's blog is their home, so to speak...let them shine.  Most of my online interactions are not about my writing.  To my utter surprise, a few years ago I handed a business card to someone on the train who--having asked what I did, and learned I was a writer--immediately took the URL off the card, put it in his smartphone, looked at the site, then went to Amazon and bought one of the books, after seeing the descriptions and cover art on the site.  Right there in the train.  I was gobsmacked (and VERY happy!  I hope he liked the book, too.)  

 

If possible, get your main domain in your own name (or pseudonym, if you must use one).   www.firstnamelastname.com.   If your name is already taken by someone else, try a variant you can live with, or you can add a descriptor: www.firstnamelastname-mysterywriter.  If you want to do a project specific blog, you can use a name related to that series (as I did with the Paksworld site), one that suggests your genre.  www.blackbirdlane_detectiveagency or www.darkest_terror_tales. 

 

 

 

 


 

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