Friday, July 31, 2009


A question for all the writers: Do you have a website?

A question for all the writers who have a website: How long has it been since you updated it?

Call me goofy (actually, call me Helen or Hel), but I think all writers need their own website. How are your readers going to find you if you don’t have your domain name website up on the Internet? They google your name and, voila, your website pops up. But if you don’t have a website, then maybe your blog shows up. A blog is good for daily postings and up to the minute updates on your life and writing and whatever your niche is. But it’s not the place readers can turn to in order to find out all about you and your books. That’s why you need a website.

I began building mine long before I was published. I do occasional updates. That’s one of the things that made me think of this post - I’m in the midst of a major update. I’m totally changing the look of my site, adding pages and new information, new pictures and more.

Even I was tired of looking at my site. The new one will have all the information from the old pages, plus a page for my books. And I know some of you will cheer at this: I’m getting rid of the white lettering on a black background. I’ve spent weeks surfing sites and figuring out what I liked and what colors appealed to me.

Right now, my old one is still up. I’m hoping to have the new one up by Monday. (So, come back next week to take a look at it and tell me if you like it more than the old one and what I need to do to it, in your opinion.)

Now, here are some questions for you to consider and possibly answer in the Comments section:
Do you have your own website?
Does it need to be updated?
What information do you present on your site?
Did you do the site yourself or have someone else do it?
How much research did you put into designing your site?
What is the primary purpose of your site?
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  1. It must be website update week! I've been working on updating mine, as well. It is still a work in progress but I think it's less cluttered. I'm adding more pages and plan to add photos. Actually my husband is the one doing most of the work while I just give him my input. The main reason I have a site is for people to find out more about me and my book (hopefully soon to be books) in one place. I also want to make it easy for people to contact me as I love hearing from readers!

    I'll be sure to check out your changes next week.

  2. Hi Helen,
    Good post, but for one moment there I thought it wasn't relevant to me. Because I've only been published in book form in non-fiction as a contribution to an autobiographical anthology, I've taken the view that that doesn't really provide interest for a website. I was very interested to read, therefore, that you had taken a far more proactive approach to yours before you were published. I do have a website but all it's doing is sitting there directing people to my blog at the moment. Having read your excellent advice I think there's a lot more I could do to make it more attractive. Thank you.

    To be frank, I'm not very keen on the white lettering on black on your old blog and when I looked at it before I needed to get past my personal resistance to that colour combination to read the content, which is excellent. I look forwards to seeing the new site and will give some serious consideration about doing something with mine.

    Sorry, I've gone a bit!

  3. I bought a domain name, but haven't constructed a site yet. I've been studying lots of websites.
    I haven't decided what format to use - build your own, use a template or use something like Wordpress. It seems like lots of writers use WordPress. Some of my favorite sites are WordPress based, but I know nothing about it and currently use Blogger when I blog.
    I'll be checking out the sites posted.

  4. Let us know when you get your update done, Jane, so we can visit.

    Chris, this is not the first update I've done on my site. I also do the site for Legends In Our Own Minds(R) and they specifically wanted black with white lettering. I thought that looked quite dramatic, so I changed my site to that. Now, I hear people complaining that it is difficult to read - plus, I'm rather tired of it - so I'm updating again. And I'm sure it won't be my last time either.

    Hi Stacy. I know nothing about WordPress except that a lot of people use it. I use Dreamweaver to create my site.

  5. I have a needs to be updated! I do it myself.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  6. White lettering on black background is harsh - try a light gray on black instead. Good contrast, not as hard on the eyes.

  7. I own but I haven't done anything with it yet. I feel like I need to focus on getting published first but I'd really like to have a professional design it. I know that's not necessary -- and the funny thing is, I used to design websites. Back in the old days when all you had to know was HTML. But I want a fully interactive site with all the fancy gadgets and, working with top-notch web designers, I know what a website can do when done right. So I'm holding out for that first advance.

  8. Yes, authors definitely need websites. Mine is done, and I like it, but I need to work on the background. But I need some graphic design help first. :) Maybe I'll learn some of it this summer on my own. We'll see.

  9. Hi Helen,
    Just popped back to say I hope my comment about the old website didn't sound too critical, I meant to be helpful but I think I might have come across as a little shrill. Pass me the spade and I'll dig myself a hole!

  10. I'm glad to see that others work on their own sites, as well. But I do agree, Sonja and Stephanie, I'd like to have a professional do mine. Problem is, I update mine every week with new contests and events for writers, so I'd want to be able to tinker with it. There's so much I don't know how to do though when it comes to the whizbang stuff!

  11. Chris, you were right-on and I agree with you. I'm glad people have mentioned the harshness of white on black. And I hope you and others will tell me what you like (and don't like) about the site once I've done the update.

  12. I have two websites and they are updated at least once a week! You can find my books, links, bio, press kit info, upcoming & past appearances, articles, reviews, seminars offered, and photos. And I do it all myself so I can update when needed.

    L. Diane Wolfe

  13. I spend most of my time on my blog, but I do have two websites where I've posted the first two or three chapters of my books for people to read. My blogspot blog actually came later, when I got tired of fighting the blog-unfriendly portion of my web provider.

    The colors of your blog here are easy on the eyes. An all black website is hard to look at!

  14. Diane - that's a great list of material on your websites. Super!

    Laura, I'm actually going to more of a soft blue on the new version of my site.

  15. I was wondering about this the other day, do I start a site before finishing my novel... Do I need a sep. one from my Wordpress blog since Wordpress allows for pages (tabs at the top) to display different content. - What do you think?

    Helen - you can get a professional to do you site, and let them know you'll want to update sections. They should be able to set up templates with editable regions for you.

  16. This is good topic, Helen. Not to sound snotty, but many writers need to upgrade their websites. I mean…well, enough said.

    Do you have your own website?—
    You bet.

    Does it need to be updated?—
    No, it’s pretty new, and nothing earth shaking has happened since I put it up. I should finish one of the pages, however.

    What information do you present on your site?—
    Bio, book synopses, book chapters, publisher info, purchase info, press kit, reviews, reader comments contests, contact info, etc.

    Did you do the site yourself or have someone else do it?—
    Both, I bought a readymade template, then significantly modified it to fit my needs.

    How much research did you put into designing your site?—
    Not much. It’s my second book website. Most of my know how was in place from the research I did for my first book website. Kinda like building your second home, you know the mistakes you made first time.

    What is the primary purpose of your site?—
    A place for readers to go to learn about me and my work. AND, a place to buy my book. I’m gonna seriously try to sell my books rather than giving Amazon the money. I blogged about this earlier.

    What I’d like to do is figure how to get my blog, integrated into my website as a webpage. I have a link for it now, but, that’s just a link. That is, if you go to my web, clikc on BLOG, you go to my blog. What I’d like is for it to stay right there on my site and open a new page with embedded blog. I AM gonna figure out how that’s done. Part of the trouble has simply been time.

    Best Regards, Galen
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  17. Carolyn, Wordpress might be a one-stop shop. It is nice to have a host that makes it easy to do updates and changes. And I know a lot of bloggers like Wordpress. Can you tell if you're getting traffic to the site part? Is your name listed in the URL?

  18. When you figure out the migrating your blog to your site part, let me know Galen! Otherwise, it sounds like you have it covered. You might want to think about having something on your site that will encourage possible readers to keep coming back - other than info on yourself and your books. For example, I have pages I update every week - one list contests for writers and one lists events. I also have several pages of Resources for writers and two pages of recipes (from my Bunko group, which has nothing to do with writing, but which have become quite popular).

  19. You can choose your URL name when you sign up, which is different from your sign-in username. So mine is,

    Not sure what you mean about traffic to the site part. They do have built in stats, that let you know which posts and pages are viewed and where people come from. You can also add in another stats counter if you like.

    I read the Wordpress for Dummies book, there is a lot of good tips in there. I also found out you can migrate your blogger blog over to Wordpress.

  20. Yikes, bad grammar - there ARE a lot of good tips in the book.

    I need another coffee!

  21. I do have a Web site that my nephew and his friend designed. Cost me $400. Its a pretty cool site, but it took forever for them to update my blogs and other important information.

    Then I found I quickly created an even better Web site, for free, and use it as my main conduit for dispensing blogs, book signings and events and such to the world.

    So my first Web site,, sits dormant collecting dust while I focus on my blog site every day.

    Stephen Tremp

  22. Thanks for the feedback, Helen. I've got a Javascript type menu system, so, I can add lots of pages, why not some of those you suggested. Oh, for those who have sites and blogs, do make sure you've linked both ways. Sometimes I can't get from one to the other....frustrating.

    Best Regards, Galen
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  23. I'm in the middle of updating my website, too. All the info is now current, and I have a new photo on my bio page. But the look is going to change a little. Or a lot. Graphic-wise, we know where we're going, but we're still up in the air about color. Now it's like yours with a black background and white text. I like the look, but I want something different. Not sure where we'll end up. I'll look at yours next week.

  24. Carol, I thought your "old" site looked pretty good.

    Galen, I agree about the links. My website is based on a template which has all my internal links. So they show up on every page. For everyone - when you're linking within your site to a place outside of your site, try to have the link open in a new page so visitors are not taken away from your site.

    Carolyn, that's what I was talking about when I mentioned stats. I was basically wondering if having a site on your blog would work or if people would visit the blog and not realize there was more to it.

  25. My daughter has done my Web site for several years now. Started as class projects as she studied to be certified as a Web designer. The latest one she did last year and it has a much more professional look that the first class project. :-)

    What I really like is that I can go in and tinker with it and add content. I don't have to rely on her. Problem is, I don't go update it as often as I should. My bad....

  26. You have a nice website, Helen. Mine certainly needs updating although it's already a marathon read:

  27. I had a website but stopped it. None of my books can be bought online, so I really didn't see the point. I could only change it minmally by myself and the website guy only changed it when the annual subscription was coming around. For now I feel like my blog is good enough. Much easier to change. The website I had to use Front Page which was a headache.

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  29. Maryann, perhaps your daughter could use your site as a showpiece to open a business doing websites for writers!

    I know what you mean, Jean. I'm worried that my home page may have too much info on it.

    Lauri, I couldn't get the hang of FrontPage either. But I'm glad I found something I could feel comfortable (sort of) using so I can do updates and changes whenever I want.

  30. I have a website for my day job--personal trainer and exercise instructor. I have trouble updating that one on a regular basis!

    I will have a website for my writing SOON. Until then, I'm practicing what might work for content on my blog, because I believe people will visit if they get something for nothing.

    How about short stories on websites, a taste of the author's writing? Has anybody done this?

  31. Do you have your own website? YES
    Does it need to be updated? I UPDATE AT THE BEGINNING OF EACH YEAR
    What information do you present on your site? ABOUT ME, MY BOOKS, A MONTHLY CONTEST, MY SCHEDULE/NEWS
    What is the primary purpose of your site? SO READERS CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT ME AND MY BOOKS

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  34. Thank you Paty for sharing info about your site and for leaving the link.

    Conda, I see quite a few authors who put pieces of their work on the website to give readers a "taste" of their writing.

  35. Eek!
    A great reminder that I MUST create a website. I have one for my editing/copywriting but it is boring, static and barely up to date.
    I find it hard to take the time to do a website, but there's now easy to use site creation software that's either free or reasonable. So I'll check out your new one and get inspired to work on mine.

  36. Kathy, I spent a lot of time looking at other sites. Now, I've been working on the revision for about two days. It'll take me the full weekend to finish it - and that's being optimistic, I think.

  37. I have had a Web site for a long time. The Way Back Machine shows my site from early 2001, but I think I had the site a couple of years before that.

    I started out using Publisher, then moved to FrontPage, then to Dreamweaver.

    About a year ago, I move to WordPress on my own domain name, and I love it. It is so easy to update the site, and having the blog incorporated into the site makes it easy for visitors to read the blog and click over to pages about my books and other topics.

    Also, the search engines love Web sites that are updated regularly so having the blog with the site is great for SEO. It's good for branding to have the blog and Web site look the same.

    All in all, I would highly recommend using WordPress on your own domain for a Web site.

    Lillie Ammann
    A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye

  38. so much happens online I think it's crazy not to have your own site. I often see books reviewed and head straight to the authors website. If they don't have a website I tend to forget the name and the review and without it bookmarked or on my googlereader it may never come to mind again.

  39. I don't, but I've been thinking about it. Who did you register your domain name with? Who hosts your website?

    Lynnette Labelle

  40. Lynnette, My name is reserved with Names4Ever and my site is hosted on Dreamhost.

  41. Helen, I have two main ones:, which was originally set up by my publisher. It includes a feed to my blogspot blog, which now responds to (I snatched up that domain when it FINALLY became free again.). I update the blog often. It's a combo of book, my film writing and personal stuff--photos of my son mainly. I find that mix actually attracts a good mix of visitors.

    Just now I've decided to update the site more frequently. I noticed doing so made it go up in the ranking on Google.

    And then there's my teaching site, which includes feeds to the blog!

  42. Hi Joe. I went over to your site. I like it. (Love the picture on your author page.) I linked over to your blog, but couldn't leave a comment. I tried, but got a notice saying comments were closed.

  43. Helen, the site has been under attack with those spam comments, so I had to shut them off. I had more than 2,000 of them!

  44. Good gracious, Joe! I'm hoping mine don't get any worse. If they do, I'll put the squiggly lines/letter captcha thingamabob and try that to stop it. So far, I'm getting 3 or 4 a day now. Two thousand is just ridiculous. There ought to be a way to stop them period.


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