Making a website
Let’s assume you haven’t got one. You have a few options at your disposal. You can make a free website using platforms like WordPress or Wix, you can buy a domain name and make it yourself if you’re a coding whiz, or you can pay someone to make it for you.
I don’t shit cash and my wallet tends to be empty in this Brexit Britain I find myself living in, so I went for the free option.
If you’re taking your first steps into the online world I highly recommend the free option. With the likes of WordPress, you can make a decent-looking website relatively quickly with few headaches. WordPress does all the coding for you. And with this kind of site, you can upgrade to a paid package where you get to ditch the ‘.wordpress.com’.
What to put on your website?
This is your piece of the web to showcase who you are and what you’re about. A modest ‘about me‘ page is always a good starting point. You can write this in the first or third person. I prefer the first person. I feel the third is quite distant. You want to make connections with your readers on a personal level. Say a bit about your favourite genres, writers, books, poems, anything! I read an article not long ago which recommended beginning your bit with a few more ‘interesting’ facts. By interesting I mean embarrassing. So for instance, my middle name is Edward, which means my name is also Dick Ed (Richard/Dick, Edward/Ed). A photo is a nice addition too. It allows readers to put a face to the name.
Once your about me page is done, you’re going to want to showcase a bit of your writing. If you’ve written any short stories or had any published, make a separate page for each one, publishing the full piece or sharing the link to read elsewhere. If you’ve published anything at all, always include it on your site. It’s your virtual showroom. Make it attractive to look at with images and a nice, readable font in an inoffensive colour.
One of the other important things to include is a ‘contact’ page. Always try and make yourself approachable to readers. Have your email address on there or just a contact form. No need for your home address or anything like that.
Invitations to connect
One of the most important things you’re going to want to include on your site is a function for readers to subscribe to your email list. You may have heard mention of building a list of email subscribers before. In short, you need one.
Somebody who signs up by email has voluntarily given up a piece of their personal information. They’re accepting an invitation to connect with you. When the time comes to sell your books, someone off your email list is more likely to buy a copy rather than a Twitter follower.
How do you get readers to subscribe? It’s a good question, one I struggled with until I did a bit of research. Besides producing helpful content, offering an incentive of some kind can encourage readers to subscribe. For instance, when you subscribe to my list you receive a flash fiction story, an eBook filled with creative writing tips and a list of book reviewers.
One thing you can experiment with is a pop-up form. I mentioned these a few weeks ago. I was dead against them, but I tried it and the results were remarkable.
How do you manage all of these email subscribers? At first, I did it manually with a spreadsheet, but it was an inefficient method. I had a go at MailChimp and now I’ll never look back. It’s free, you can easily manage a large list of subscribers, you can send automated emails, and make a popup.
As well as inviting people to connect by email, you can also include links to your social media platforms.
Being helpful: blogs
Earlier on I said you want to showcase your writing to the world. But what if you have none? A blog is an excellent way of changing that. Not only is it a fantastic way of reaching out to fellow readers and writers but it drives traffic to your site.
The purpose of a blog is to help others. Those who merely blog about themselves, particularly if they’re not that interesting, aren’t so enjoyable to read. Who cares at the end of the day? I’m so grateful to the people who share their knowledge on their blogs. I’ve learned so much. And now I follow them, read their every post, and buy their books.
When thinking of what type of content to write, think about what kinds of skills you have and experiences you’ve lived through. What have you learned that you can share with the rest of the world? Don’t worry if someone else has already done it. You can do it your own way.
Are you doing a creative writing course? Have you been to a workshop? Why not share your notes on what you’ve learned. Imagine reading that article without the benefit of knowing those things.
So be helpful. You have something to give to the world. We all do.
Promoting your website
Once you’ve published your first blog post or you’ve just finished polishing your shiny new website, you need to get promoting. People have written whole blogs on this point alone. Here are a few pointers:
- Read other people’s blogs and engage with them. The blogging community is incredibly supportive and co-operative. Bloggers love to read each other’s blogs. If you take the time to connect by reading posts and leaving a comment, it goes a long way. Chances are that person will go and read your blog, engage with it, maybe share it, getting your blog out to many more people.
- Guest blogging. Once you get your foot in the door on the blogging front and you’ve made a few friends, why not invite a few other bloggers to write a guest post. Likewise, you can ask other bloggers if they’re looking for guest writers. You’re collaborating to help each other out. Win, win.
- Join writing forums. In joining writing forums you can make connections with people who appreciate helpful content. Some have rules about self-promotion, which personal blogs fall under, so watch out for those.
- Use social media. Twitter and Facebook are the two platforms I use most. I have more joy with Facebook. There are loads of genre-specific writing groups on there filled with people who’ll appreciate your content. On Twitter, use hashtags like #amwriting #amwritingfantasy or #writingtips, to link your content to potential readers. Check out this very helpful article on marketing on Twitter.
Do all of these things and you’ll be in a much better position than before. Celebrate!
Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed the read, why not stay in touch by signing up to my mailing list? Subscribers receive a list of 50 fantasy book reviewers, as well as a copy of This Craft We Call Writing: Volume One, a collection of writing techniques, advice, and guides looking at, amongst others, world-building, writing fight scenes, characterisation, plotting, editing and prose.