My message for every author: don’t hire an expensive web designer until you make the bestseller list. Instead, focus your time and effort on creating good, catchy content and building up a network of online fans. You can create a DIY site easily that has strong site design, and great integration tools.

I honestly have faith that by dedicating a mere four hours, even a beginner can learn to create a very nice web site, and then move forward to focus on creating awesome posts. There are some amazing tools out there that make it simple to create a beautiful, semi-customized site that will link to your social media accounts.

Here are the steps to creating a site:

Step 1:  Choose a platform for your site design (see the comparison chart below)

Step 2: Open your account (follow the links in the comparison chart below)

Step 3: Gather your information

  • Photo of yourself, plus a few other photos of things/people/pets/places that you like
  • A bio of yourself (if you have a publisher, they probably already have this for you — if you’re not published, just find the bio of your favorite author and then slot in your information instead of theirs)
  • A description of why you write
  • A description of your book(s), published, past, present, or in-process
  • A list of your favorite books and authors

Step 4: Set aside at least an hour, put on your favorite album of calming music, log in to your new website—and build away! Remember, there are no mistakes! Really! (I mean, don’t accidentally upload dirty pictures to your site or anything, but other than that, there are no mistakes.) These site design platforms all have great support resources (see the links below). By the end of an hour, you should be able to pinpoint specific questions that you need to answer in order to move forward, so go ahead and get your hands dirty.

Comparison chart for web building platforms:

**Sorry for the tough to read chart: apparently one of the downsides of WordPress is that tables look crappy… I’ll redesign this soon to look better!**

 

Site Pros Cons Support Sarah’s Takeaways
Google Sites Fairly easy to use, sign in with current gmail account, syncs with google analytics… Looks dated, pre-designed themes difficult to customize Google Sites Support If you build using Google sites, it should only be a temporary site created as a placeholder. It’s just not a sophisticated enough tool to justify the time spent creating a site on it.
Squarespace Very easy to use, beautiful templates, looks completely customized with little effort. Not free… If you’re not into visuals/art, it might seem difficult to populate the site with enough images to look great. Squarespace Support I love Squarespace. If you like art and visuals, and want a vibrant, easy-to-update site, definitely consider Squarespace.
Tumblr Easy to use and update. Great for highly visual blog sites. Great for trendy topics and youth-oriented books, authors, etc. Your site will always look like a Tumblr blog… plus Tumblr doesn’t offer an export of your posts, making it incredibly hard to change platforms down the road. Tumblr support Tumblr is fun to use, but I almost consider it a social network rather than a site platform. If you have a very trendy topic, or a youth-oriented site, and highly visual content, Tumblr will work well for you.
Weebly Easy to use, easy to update, easy to coordinate with other social media sites. If you’re serious about blogging, Weebly probably isn’t the platform for you. Their blog tool was added as an afterthought, or at least that’s the way it seems when you use it. Weebly support I really like Weebly. I used it before migrating to WordPress in order to expand my blog reach. It’s a good choice for anyone who needs a simple site.
Wix Easy to use and good support resources. Big ad on the bottom of your site, unless you pay for an upgrade. All the different options can sometimes frustrate people as they get started. Wix Support I honestly don’t know enough about Wix. The one time I used them, I was very annoyed at how pervasive the advertising was, unless you paid for the upgrade. Other than that, I think they’re probably fine and easy to use.
WordPress.org Unlimited growth potential. If you eventually want to sell things on your site, or have people login to upload and contribute, or grow your blog into a business with advertisements, this is a great platform. Can be intimidating to use. You have to set it up through a domain name, so you’ll need to purchase a domain name through name.com or godaddy.com or dreamhost.com first, before getting set up…The distinction between wordpress.com and wordpress.org can be a little confusing – it’s just that so many options means that it’s sometimes tough to find instructions for exactly what you want to do. WordPress.org Support If you’re just starting out, consider starting on a different platform and then moving to WordPress when you get more seasoned at updating your site and blogging. WordPress can overwhelm beginners because of all the options.

 

If you do hire a designer, make sure that they train you on how to update a site before your business is complete. They should set up the site to your standards and ensure that there are no lingering questions about how to make updates.

If you give a man a fish, he eats for a night. If you teach a man to fish… you know the rest! Sometimes it’s a big learning curve to get online, but it’s completely worth the investment of time to have something you’re proud of that you can update yourself.

To talk about your site, email me at sarah at hey-sarah.com, and we’ll get you fixed up and ready to start conquering the web. Also, EMAIL ME IF YOU GET STUCK. Seriously. I can help! It’s normal to have questions, and I can help you by providing only the advice you need, at the level you need it.

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