After building up anotherhartmanauthor.com since 2016, there’s a few things I’d like to share about what’s worked for my site’s style, or even “brand.” That’s exactly what your website is – a visual representation of who you are as a writer.
The only prior experience I had with such things is my church’s website. For two years I built it up, made sure the public knew about upcoming events, and let them know what we were all about. While I still attend services there, I couldn’t do three sites (I also help with a local nonprofit website). Each one takes loads of time, and not everyone has it to maintain a site.
The truth is, a lot of agents and publishers are looking to see if you have an online presence. And, while it absolutely isn’t a necessity, they do want to see if you have an outlet to, eventually (if you haven’t already) market your work. That’s exactly why I referred to your site as being your brand. It all comes full circle.
I’ve maintained this site for three whole years. I tried to be clever enough to name this article “Three Tips On Maintaining a Writer’s Website,” but I thought of a few more items as things progressed. So here are, ahem, four tips on how to maintain a writer’s website:
Look for a Platform YOU Understand and WANT to Use
You don’t have to understand how things work right away. You know about “author envy,” right? Where you get jealous of folks who’re already further along in their publishing journey than you are? The same can be said for “website envy” as well.
I’ve tried MySpace, Blogger (fair warning, Blogger makes it INCREDIBLY difficult to delete one’s account), and several others. WordPress works the best for my current needs, with ample opportunities and outlets to expand later on. That’s a key – being willing to grow as you grow. Your website grows as you add more content.
Be willing to learn. Be willing to grow.
Let’s face facts, shall we? You can spend an entire day on one social media site and not get any actual work done. All those cute cat gifs can wait. They’ll always be there. You also don’t need to have an account with every single outlet either. If you like Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads, use that combo. If Facebook and NetGalley and Wattpad are your thing, run with them.
Here’s the first take away: The great thing with *most* of the aforementioned sites is they offer ways of connecting you from one platform to the next. Some keep up with the “trends” more than others, but at least they give users the opportunity to showcase their chosen networks.
Read Other Blogs
Creating content, building an online presence, and doing any of the following tips isn’t everyone’s forte. Much of it I learned through trial and error – what works and what doesn’t, what takes up TOO much time and what’s just right. Okay, that last sentence sounds like I paraphrased Goldilocks and the Three Bears. But trust me, you’ll know when you’ve discovered your niche, and that it’ll be just right for you.
Admission: I’m not as good with this as I’d like to be. Just as I’m terrible in not keeping up with my NetGalley book review list. One way I’m attempting to remedy this is including a Blog Round Up section in my new monthly eNewsletter called The Bulletin. Five seemed like a good choice, and coincides with the Five Question Interview series. The similarity being with the number five.
The take away is my next point:
Be Consistent and Follow Through
Updates, short stories, blog posts, online series…the list of content you can include on your site goes on and on. and the like, readers appreciate at least some consistency
Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
I tried writing oodles of short stories just so I’d have some content. What did I find? That my focus was torn between concepts, worlds and characters that had nothing to do with each other. It drove my OCD crazy, so I stopped. I may post something here and there, but short stories really aren’t necessary.
Honesty. I think most folks appreciate it. Those who don’t usually have ulterior motives. This past Spring I hosted The Five Question Interview series. To be completely transparent, I almost quit halfway through. Did I bite off more than I could chew? Perhaps. Am I glad that I followed through? You betcha.
Here’s the next take away: If you start a series or a project, and you know folks are following your progress, let them know if you decide to scrap it. Or if you’re taking a break to reset.
Stick with an aesthetic
This logically follows the previous tip in consistency. You know those image collages folks make for their works in progress? I think one of the more popular ones is called #WedWIPAesthetic, or something along those lines. Here’s a tip-within-a-tip:
Think of your website as a template for how you want your future book covers to look. What era are your stories set in? Are they modern or more historical? Are they light in theme or urban and gritty?
The great thing about photo editing sites like PicMonkey, BeFunky, Ribbet and Pixlr (just to name a few), is their versatility. Many of them offer a free version you can practice on. Can you layer things? Add filters, text and specify dimensions (many sites have different graphic requirements).
Make friends with your web host’s tech team (if they have one), because they KNOW things (or should know things) like CSS coding, widgets, and tweaks you might not think of.
Make friends with your web host’s tech team (if they have one)
Here’s the last take away: You don’t have to use the same graphics everyone else is, or pay someone else to develop a website for you. The great thing about having control is that you can grow it at your own pace, without depending on anyone else to do the legwork for you.
After all that was said here, I’ll leave you with one final tip: you don’t need a fancy SEO, a team of developers or even a paid account with a web host. What matters most is how comfortable you feel putting yourself out there so visibly through a website. And give yourself time to learn, develop and gain a sense of identity in this online world.
I’m not gonna lie. I had loads of help with this thing that you see before you. Don’t forget, however, the most important thing – your writing.
Everything else is secondary.
Even a website.