Monday, April 03, 2006

Do Writers Need a Website?

In today’s increasingly high-tech world the desire to have web space to promote yourself is becoming ever more popular, not only for selling your work, but also to market yourself as a writer.

So why should authors have a website? One of the most important reasons is that it is an ideal way of publicising your self. Publicity is so important, anything an author can do to help sales and increase familiarity with their name, the better.

Having a website means prospective publishers and buyers of your books are able to look up more information than they could get off a publicity sheet. You do not need to have published a book to have a website. You can promote your articles, short stories, poetry or forthcoming novel in the same way.

Many writers build their own websites. There is a wide range of software available, such as: Dreamweaver, FrontPage, Serif WebPlus 9, FrontPage, Freeway Express and Adobe Go Live.

If you plan to make your own site, you will need to buy a domain name. This is the unique name that acts as your web address. These can be bought for a few pounds from a web host, addresses are cheaper but .com addresses give a more worldwide feel to a site. It is a good idea to buy the domain name from a web host.

Once you have made your site and bought a domain name you will need to buy web space by paying someone to host your site for you. When deciding on a web host it is preferential to find a company who you can talk to on the telephone.

When uploading a site it will depend which host you use whether you can you can upload direct to http (HyperText Transfer Protocols) with programmes such as FrontPage or if you will be working with ftp (File Transfer Protocols) and will then need a file transfer application such as CuteFTP or SmartFTP to upload your web. Both can be downloaded free from the Internet.

There is plenty of information free on the web to help you build your own site and some excellent books around. Spend some time looking at other sites to see what works and what doesn’t.

If you are making your own site it is relatively cheap in monetary terms but you have to be prepared to invest the time into building and maintaining your website. A slap dash presence is worse than no presence at all. The most expensive part of web design is time.

Alternatively, you can pay an outside company such as mine, Sunrise Webs I can build a website for you to your own specifications. I will also organise your domain name and host company for you.

It is important to consider what to include on your website. Websites should be well organised, logical and need to be kept up-to-date. Viewers should be able to navigate easily and find all the information they need quickly. Visitors who find your site via a search engine may not come in on the home page so put consistent navigation on each page.

Every site needs a Home Page. This is the first page retrieved when accessing a Web site. It acts as the starting point for a user to access information on the site and contains navigation for the rest of the site. When creating Web pages, the ‘home’ page has the filename ‘index.html,’ which is the default name. The ‘index’ page automatically opens up as the ‘home’ page.

Web pages can be as big as you like so there is no need to squash everything together. People like plenty of white space just as they do in books and magazines. If you use a coloured background, make it light. Black websites are off-putting and difficult to read. Make sure the font in all your pages is consistent. The look of your site has to reflect the target market of your work. A web page must be clear, uncluttered and download fast and try to put the most important stuff at the top so browsers do not have to scroll down to find it.

Include your contact information, and your agent’s details if you have one, and include a links page, as reciprocal links attract more traffic.

The advantage of web publishing in comparison to books is that the pages do not have to be static. You can have moving icons and illustrations. Make sure the pictures are in a suitable format, such as a .jpg file or gif, and the correct resolution for their size. Slow loading pictures are off-putting so keep file sizes as small as possible without losing quality. Remember, too many moving pictures can be distracting.

As a published author you can use a website not only to publicise your work but to sell your books. You can set up direct links to Amazon or your publisher’s online bookstore. It can act as an online CV and advertise the other services you may offer such as workshops or if writing for children, school visits. If somebody has enjoyed one of your books, it helps them to find out about the other books you have written.

Other pages recommended to include on an author’s website are: your books and their reviews, cover blurb, biographical information and some background articles on your characters, themes or non-fiction subjects. Also, if you can come up with that something extra that isn’t included on other author sites that is a bonus. Other suggestions are sample chapters, links, tips on writing and a link to your blog.

So, do writer’s need a website? Yes, definitely.

The site can generate more contacts and interest in your writing. You can refer potential editors to your site so they can see a range of your work and editors who have worked with you in the past can use the site to get in touch.

The net is available 24 hours a day, everyday. An online presence will market your work to the whole wide world. It is an excellent marketing forum and should become an ongoing part of your business as a writer or illustrator. The Internet is here to stay as a communication media. Utilise your resources. Remember your website is a business tool.

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