Since my education and background are in the art/marketing end of things I thought I'd start a little something extra on my blog. I'll call it Marketing with Mandy mostly because it lets me talk about myself in third person and feel really important. *grin*. These will pop up on my blog as I have time to get them out and will deal with topics/questions I see popping up on the net from other authors. I hope you find them helpful.
Q: I'm an author. Do I really need a website?
A: Yes. This will be one of your most powerful and affordable marketing tools. I know it can seem overwhelming at first but trust me, it's worth it in the end.
Q: I'm a new author and I don't have a website yet. How do I go about getting one?
A: There are many ways to do it. I suggest finding a hosting site. Here are some I recommend.
They have hosting plans starting at 3.99 a month. Used them when I first started. At the time they just didn't have enough space to offer me (I'm a webspace hog… if you ever use as much as me I'll be shocked LOL) This has since changed and they're now offering plenty of space.
They have an easy to use template and interface for those who are a bit nervous.
They offer Frontpage extensions (this is something those of you building in front page will want to have to make it easy on uploading) They start at 4.95 a month and are saying that they'll give you're your domain name free.
IX Web Hosting --PC World Mag rated them #1 so I guess that's saying something
I use them and I love them, they offer packages as low as 2.99 a month linux and MS hosting servers to host on (if you don't know the diff, don't worry but I'm guessing you'll want to host on MS hosting ones. I use linux ones but it's your call. If you don't know which, ASK THEM. They are nice people. Also, they have front page extensions too. The others ones might but I didn't go digging to find out. You get one free domain name with the 2.99 package.
Q: I don't really have the extra money to spend on a .com or .net/my own domain. Can't I just use a free service?
A: You can. I would HIGHLY advise against it. For one, you get what you pay for when it comes to these. I really don't think it's a good idea to have your homepage cluttered with ads and popups. I also think it's impossible for anyone to remember your web addy if it's longer than The Faces' number 12 hit You Can Make Me Dance Sing Or Anything (Even Take The Dog For A Walk, Mend A Fuse, Fold Away The Ironing Board, Or Any Other Domestic Shortcomings).
I think you see what I'm getting at here *snicker* It's much easier to remember www.yourname.com or .net than it is something long with a lot of backslashes in it. In addition to all of this, you're very limited on what you can do on the free sites.
Q: I don't have any skills when it comes to building webpages. Is there an easy way to do it?
A: Most of the places I listed have website creator programs that they offer for quick set up. Microsoft Frontpage is a great program that comes with templates built into it. There are many places that sell website templates some are even for free. Just read everything they say. Some require you to have certain programs loaded on your computer to use. Like Frontpage or Dreamweaver.
There are also a good number of people/companies out there that market web design to authors. (I know nothing about these places but some of the authors they have listed are names I'm familiar with… if you use someone or offer this service be sure to post your/their link in comments section!)
Dream Forge Media
( I lied I know a little about them. Several authors I'm very close to use them and love them)
Q: What should I have on my website?
A: You need to have your books there/easy to find (Make sure you have BUY links for your books—make it easy for the reader to find them). Trust me when I say making them go on a hunt in search of how to buy your book will NOT result in a sale. It will leave them clicking the close button and moving onto to something else.
Excerpts from your contracted works is always nice. Be sure to put your copyright info on there.
An author bio.
A little bit about your coming soon books/projects (remember not to post WIPs on the web).
Email/Contact -- a way for readers to contact you.
Those are the basics of what you should have on your site. If you offer more, WONDERFUL! If not, you'll at least have the barebones of what you should have.
Q: What should I NOT have on my website?
A: This represents you in the writing world. Use caution as to how you present yourself. I've seen author sites that have pictures of their cleavage and nothing else (not a head shot either, just breast one). While having a nice rack is an admirable quality, it's not really going to put your best foot forward. Yes, it's putting something forward but I don't think it's what you'll want in the end.
Avoiding hard to load images (ones that are too big) is another biggie. Text that can't be read because it's either too small, too big or too bright. Keep in mind, not everyone will have the same fonts you have loaded on your computer, loaded onto theirs. It's best to stick with fonts that are preset on both PC and Macs. If you have something special you want to show up with different text, like your header/banner, you'll need to make this in a picture/photo program and save as either a jpeg or a gif.
When designing for the web the resolution needs to be lower than it would be for printing. So, 72dpi-150dpi tops (I do almost all of my graphics at 72 dpi for faster load times).
I'll get more into this in the coming weeks, giving you a glimpse at how to create graphics for the web. In addition to this, I'll be talking about various tools/outlets for marketing yourself and your books (banner ads, print ads, cover ads, blogs, more about websites, name branding, bookmarks, brochures, press kits, book videos, and just about anything else I can think of to toss at you) in future Marketing with Mandy posts.
I also plan on having guest bloggers on to talk about various aspects of marketing in the world of writing. Look for posts in the coming weeks from Jaci Burton, Michelle Pillow and Shannon Stacey just to name a few. I'll also be linking to blogs and sites discussing valuable marketing information for authors. Feedback is welcome and encouraged. In the meantime if you have any marketing questions specific to writing (or not) please ask away. If I can't answer it, I'll do my best to find someone who can.