The 5 Most Common Author Website Mistakes

Thomas Umstattd Jr.Guest Blogger: Thomas Umstattd, Jr., CEO Author Media

Here are five things NOT to do with your author website.

This is a must-read if you don’t yet have a website because these tips will save you a lot of heartache in the future. If you already have a website, read with caution.

Website Mistake #1 – Focusing on Design Over Content

If you want someone to visit your website, it must be the most interesting thing on the Internet – for that person at that time.

Your website design is like the frame around a picture. Many authors spend more time on the frame than they do on the picture. The design makes little difference in how successful your site is.  (Many of your posts will be read in a reader or in email anyway.) Although you may be emotionally tied to the “look” of your site, it doesn’t matter all that much to your reader. Incidentally, most blog gurus on the web agree with this.

Website Mistake #2 – Focusing on the Author over the Reader

It doesn’t matter if you’re virtually unknown or a mega famous author. People still don’t care about you — they care about themselves. If you offer something of value, your readers will want to come back. Photos of your kids every once in awhile won’t send your readers screaming, but won’t do anything to bring them back either. If the goal of your website is to stroke your own ego (or simply sell your books), it will never succeed. If you focus on your readers, they’ll love you.

Website Mistake #3 – Hiring Your Brother-in-Law

Many authors get a friend or relative to build their website. In all of the consultations I have done at writers conferences, I have yet to meet an author who is happy with this arrangement. The exception to this rule is when the web guy is also the spouse. I have seen that work.

The story is usually the same: Your brother-in-law has some fancy website software and promises to keep it up to date. The problem is, your brother in law has no idea how often you want to update the website. Since it’s a free project, it becomes a low priority and the author spends years frustrated about her “free” website. If you’re not handling your website yourself and you’re not paying someone to handle it, there’s little chance of it getting done right.

Website Mistake #4 – Knowing Nothing About Websites but Building it Yourself Anyway

Some authors spend hundreds of dollars to buy Frontpage or Dreamweaver and build their website themselves. The problem is most authors have no idea about how to build a website. They don’t know about search engine optimization or how to integrate a blog.

The result? They have a Blogspot blog and an unattractive site.

Website Mistake #5 – It’s Always Out of Date

If you can’t edit your website it will always be out of date – unless you have a budget to hire someone to update it for you. But is it really worth $60 to make a minor update? Begging your brother in law to update your site for free is an exercise in frustration. If you pay someone to build you a site, make sure you get a site you can easily update yourself.

My Recommendation

Hire a company to build you a WordPress website. A template-driven WordPress site usually costs less than $1000 and will look professional and be easy for you to update. WordPress is also easy to search-engine optimize and can look very sharp. You can also get WordPress custom-designed for as low as $1500.. You can get bids from hundreds of WordPress developers on elance.com. My company, Author Media, also builds WordPress websites for authors.

If you’re on a tight budget, I recommend AuthorWebsites.com. The set-up fee is $250, and there is a range of hosting packages ranging from $10 to $70 per month. It comes with templates built specifically for authors.

What do you think? Do you agree?
Are you happy with your website? Why or why not?
What do you look for in an author website?

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  • http://www.writerspenn.blogspot.com Ruth Douthitt

    Thanks for the tips! I only have a blog about writing, my faith, and my book projects right now.

    I hope to have an author web site soon. I have an art web site and use Homestead.com. I have used Homestead for 12 yrs now. They are great and their templates are easy to use. I only pay $99 per year.

    http://www.artbyruth.com

  • http://cherylbarker.blogspot.com/ Cheryl Barker

    Thanks so much for the valuable tips. Will definitely be saving this post for reference when I’m ready to upgrade from my blogger site.

  • http://www.daleharcombe.com Dale Harcombe

    Interesting info and food for thought as I’m getting ready to update my website.

  • http://openwriterclosetnerd.blogspot.com Joseph Ramirez

    I look for two things.

    1. Personality
    2. Great Content

    I’ll take personality (warmth, genuineness, interestingness) over great content, but I really like it when an author’s site has both.

    If the design isn’t distracting, then I don’t really care what it looks like. What I most want is to see the author as a real person, and to learn from them.

    • http://www.sallyodgers.com Sally Odgers

      What Joseph R said. I don’t know him, but evidently we think alike.

  • http://adamheine.com Adam Heine

    I’d agree with these points (I’ve actually been the brother-in-law/friend from Mistake #3). But I also think Blogger blogs aren’t so bad with a little customization.

    It’s basically a cost-benefit thing. You can get a good unique site, or you can save $1,000 by sacrificing about 50% of your uniqueness. It depends what you want to get out of it.

    But ultimately you’re right: content is king.

    • Rachelle Gardner

      Adam, the reason all web gurus are against Blogger is because it’s terrible for SEO. It’s almost impossible to develop a really spectacular following with a Blogspot blog. I know this from experience and upgraded to WordPress a year ago.

      • http://pjcasselman.blogspot.com/ P. J. Casselman

        Rachelle, this is one of the reasons why I prefer your site to other agents’ pages. It’s the added information that gives me those “aha” moments. I never realized the SEO problems with Blogspot. Also, I only saw Pinterest as another social media and simply sighed when I saw it. Your input on these changed my mind. Thank you!

      • http://adamheine.com Adam Heine

        I’d never heard that about Blogger SEO, Rachelle. Thanks for the tip.

      • http://www.katemeadows.wordpress.com Kate Meadows

        This might explain why I have lots of followers on my WordPress site but next to none on my blogger site. I never knew the difference w/ SEO was so drastic. Thank you!

      • http://paynopostage.com Michael Joshua

        I’ve moved a dozen author’s blogs from blogger to wordpress on a top level domain. It is by-far my favorite content management platform out there. Now I’ve moved on to building mobile sites too. You can’t go wrong moving to the wordpress platform on your own domain.

        Rachelle, I don’t get to post often anymore, I’m just swamped now that I am full-time freelancing – but you bring the best info to your readers and we appreciate it!!

    • http://www.sally-apokedak.com/index.htm sally apokedak

      Nice blog, Adam. I’ve subscribed. WordPress is king, though.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth (@MaryDeMuth)

      When I moved from blogger to wordpress, my site traffic improved 10,000 %. I’m truly not kidding.

      • http://www.katemeadows.wordpress.com Kate Meadows

        I was just commenting to Rachelle that I have quickly established followers on WordPress, and have next to no followers on my Blogspot blog. So interesting – I am really learning here! Thanks.

      • http://sophia-martin.blogspot.com/ Sophia Martin

        Which WordPress are you folks talking about? I use Blogspot for three blogs (one for writing, one for recipes, and a personal one) but I have felt like getting traffic through there is an uphill battle, so I’m very intrigued. I can’t afford even $250 though. And I use the recipe one as an Amazon associate, meaning if a reader follows links to Amazon from that blog and spends money there I earn 4 cents on the dollar. Not that that’s actually happened yet, but it’s still new. I read that wordpress doesn’t allow affiliates…? Is that the same thing? I could really use some clarification. I’ve read numerous articles but I don’t feel like I understand this stuff very well.

  • http://www.insomniastrikes.blogspot.com PurpleMist

    I agree with everything you said!
    I have come across way too many author websites with problems such as the ones you mentioned.

    The ‘hiring your brother in law’ bit reminded me of how I heard that Stephenie Meyer’s website is controlled by her brother. Not sure if that’s true.

    Just want to let you know that I love your website. You have some amazing tips for authors who want to get published, which is a step I’m hoping to take one day. So thanks!

  • http://www.VanessaKEccles.blogspot.com Vanessa K. Eccles

    Very helpful post. Thanks.

  • http://pjcasselman.blogspot.com/ P. J. Casselman

    These were good points for a published author. I only have a blog, but I will keep these in mind for when I go pro. Perhaps blogging is a good way to develop content in the meanwhile?

    • http://einefeistyberg.wordpress.com Cherry Odelberg

      I second that thought.

      • http://hmallon-ftheeiwasateenagequaker.blogspot.com/ Helen W. Mallon

        Yepper doo.

  • http://writing.cwbuecheler.com Christopher Buecheler

    When you say “focus on your readers” and “offer something of value” … what sort of things do you recommend?

    • Rachelle Gardner

      The field is wide open… the possibilities are endless. Basically, it means write something people will want to read rather than just writing what you want to write.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth (@MaryDeMuth)

      One thing that will help you with that is to fill in the blank: I help readers of my blog ________________________.

    • http://www.authormedia.com Thomas Umstattd Jr.

      The key is to offer value related to your book and topic. So here are two questions to help you:

      Who are my readers?
      How can I thrill them?

  • http://lauraplusthevoices.blogspot.com Laura W.

    :( I have a Blogger site which I’m very happy with. Of course, I’m no one famous, but I still think it looks like a good mix of professional and fun.

    One thing I HATE about author blogs/sites: light print on a bright background (like pale blue writing on white), or tiny print in any capacity. I do not want to have to squint to read your posts.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth (@MaryDeMuth)

      I used to love Blogger too until I switched to WordPress and saw my traffic go through the roof (in comparison). It’s hard to let go of what is comfortable, but if you can afford it, I’d look into wordpress.

      • Allan

        You say that your traffic has increased since switching from Blogger to WordPress.
        Can you explain the reasons for this?

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003406010418 Denise

          hi smitty, i only call you that beusace that’s what my uncle ray noble calls you i remember when life goes on was so popular and uncle ray told us he knew you, my nephew, very young at the time didn’t believe him so uncle ray got him an autographed picture for him from you! we just talked about you on thanksgiving, i was telling uncle ray how phenomenal the event is, i told him that you play the vp and he kind of chuckled. well, being able to contact you is awesome and it would be so cool if you responded, take care!

  • http://lauralibricz.blogspot.com Laura Libricz

    I also have a Blogger site, I’m happy with it and I’m not famous. I feel it’s important to post regularly and to make my posts interesting bits of information, not just rants or updates on my dog, cat or kids.
    That’s what I look for in a good website: real reports, regularity and not too much shine-a person’s genuine personality gets lost behind that. And please, no advertising.

  • http://www.lilcornerofjoy.blogspot.com Sigal Tzoore

    Thanks for all the tips! I’ve been thinking about building a website for quite a while. I’m really not tech savvy, so I was looking st other options, and a friend recommended squarespace. I’m wondering if you have any experience with it? I thought with something like that I’d be able to update/build/keep up the site myself. Thanks!

    • http://www.authormedia.com Thomas Umstattd Jr.

      Square Space has some nice features and is easy to use. The biggest challenge with Square Space is because it is so easy you are tempted to design the site yourself which is a mistake. The reason most Square Space sites are ugly is not because the software is bad but because it is so easy to change the templates, that people do.

      Also be warned that Square Space has limited features. What it does, it does well but you can’t add functionality the way you can with WordPress. WordPress is open source which means you have full control and own the code.

      Also, SquareSpace can be difficult to move away from.

      • http://www.popeighties.com Jenna C

        I used to have my blog on Squarespace then had a redesign done and the designers moved it over to WordPress. It took me a while to get used to it, but it definitely is the superior platform. I think the designers had a hell of a time transferring all the content over, too. May as well just go with WordPress from the beginning, which is what I do now when I start a new one!

  • http://www.martzbookz.blogspot.com Martha Ramirez

    Good to see you here, Thomas! Good tips as always.

  • http://therantingbeast.com/ Stephen

    Great tips here thank you. I built my own site (sites) using wordpress and hostgator, buying my own domain and it costs just $90 a year and what ever time I put in to it. These days it’s not that hard to do because of the simplicity of wordpress. Keep it simple with constant content and eventually you should attract readers. Google loves fresh content and normally rewards fresh unique content, that should be the main focus of your site.

  • http://www.written-not-with-ink.blogspot.com Barb Riley

    Sheesh, what’s wrong with a blogspot blog?

    One thing I’ve noticed lately is the lack of personality on lots of blog layouts. It seems lots of people are letting go of any kind of color background and everything is all white on wordpress, and laid out like a magazine. That might be considered professional, but to me it feels like one big corporate personality. Content is surely king, but I still think there is room for individual tastes in layout, etc., as long as it works.

    • Rachelle Gardner

      Barb, as I responded to Adam above, most users don’t realize that Blogspot is NOT optimized for SEO and it’s extremely difficult to drive search-engine traffic to a Blogspot blog. It’s this kind of behind the scenes knowledge that makes hiring a web expert extremely valuable. Most people find their efforts at building blog traffic pay off exponentially once they switch from Blogger to WordPress.

      • http://www.written-not-with-ink.blogspot.com Barb Riley

        Ah, thanks for the additional info Rachelle. I can’t believe a major blog host (? don’t know the technical term) would be *that* subpar when it comes to SEO. Live & learn, I guess. :)

        • http://www.emmacunningham.ca Emma Cunningham

          WordPress has some fabulous plug-ins for SEO. If you make the switch, try using Scribe for a few months and see how you do.

      • http://www.ceceliadowdy.blogspot.com Cecelia Dowdy

        Is it hard to switch? I want to get the most traffic possible to my blog – I have about five blog posts that get traffic reguarly and they’re very old posts. Do I simply copy and paste them into Word Press and start over? Do I take all of my old blog posts (which would be alot since I’ve been blogging for about six years) and move them to Word Press? I’m assuming all of your blog followers will follow to WordPress! So much stuff!!

        • http://www.emmacunningham.ca Emma Cunningham

          WordPress has lots of import options. I relocated my blog from Tumblr without any difficulty. What DOESN’T get moved over are comments, stats, etc.

    • http://www.authormedia.com Thomas Umstattd Jr.

      15% of all websites run on WordPress.

      So likely you been to hundreds of WordPress websites and not even known it. While the default theme may feel bland, WordPress is 100% customizable which means you can make it look however you want to make it look.

  • http://claudenougat.blogspot.com Claude Nougat

    Thanks for the tips, Thomas, very useful! I’ve been agonizing for a whole year: should I have a website, yes or no? I’ve got a blog and it’s doing very well – I guess I give people value and they like to come and visit, that makes me very happy! But the book promotion side? Not easy to do with a blog, it’s not really designed for that…

    So, your post is encouraging me to finally take the jump and create a website – but then it has to contain my blog. That’s essential or the website would be dead.

    But there’s a hitch! Some time back,I discovered that a WordPress website cannot host a blog from Blogger (which mine is). That’s a question I still haven’t resolved and if anyone knows how to solve that, please let me know…

    • Rachelle Gardner

      Yes, the answer is to have a WordPress blog and ditch Blogger altogether. See my comments to Adam and Barb, above.

    • http://www.authormedia.com Thomas Umstattd Jr.

      You can import your posts and comments from Blogger into WordPress. You can even setup redirects so when someone visits your blogger blog they are directed to your new site.

      This is what we did for Rachelle and her traffic is up after the transition.

  • http://www.findtimefortea.com Kimberly

    Thanks for the great information. I’m curious what your thoughts are on advertising? Distracting? Helpful? A major faux pas?

    • Josh C.

      I’m not on the same level as Rachelle, so take my two cents with a grain of salt, but from what I’ve read, advertising should be at a minimum. The idea is to give readers something they want to read, not to push a product on them. One example I know of would be Dave Cullen’s Columbine website. Of course, this was done to get the word out on his book, but rather than banners screaming “Buy My Book!” he developed a very nice website about the tragic event itself with background information on the shooters and the victims, his research materials, things like that. His reason for writing the book was to inform the public, and the same goes for the website. There is even a video “trailer” of the book where he makes the statement “this will help you decide if this is the book for you,” or something along those lines. So, in my opinion, from my limited experience and knowledge, advertising is okay, but don’t over-do it. Let the substance be the “pitch” so to speak.

    • http://www.authormedia.com Thomas Umstattd Jr.

      Kimberly,

      You want to create content so helpful that people long to buy your book when it comes out. If you are doing a good job providing value to your readers you won’t need to be very pushy about your book

  • http://www.sueharrison.com Sue Harrison

    I really enjoyed this post and would love more information on search engine optimization.

  • http://www.cgblake.wordpress.com CG Blake

    Thomas, thanks for these great tips. Focusing your content on your audience’s needs is a big take-away. I also try to appeal to readers and not solely to writers. I post book reviews and author profiles on a regular basis. I love my WordPresss blog. Rachelle is right about that in her comments. Thanks again.

  • http://www.sally-apokedak.com/index.htm sally apokedak

    One benefit for writers in building their own sites is that it’s a different kind of creativity that is required. Working with lines of code and moving elements around on a page feeds a need I have to do detailed, mindless stuff, over and over. I think it must do for me what knitting or quilting does for others. Sometimes I’ll spend an entire weekend doing nothing but learning how to tweak a new plug-in. I suppose pinterest could do the same thing for a person.

    What I find hardest is to offer something to my reader. My readers now are mostly writers. And I’m offering things to them. I’d like to offer things to readers who don’t write, but I don’t know how. Readers of YA fiction, don’t visit nonfiction blogs, I don’t think. Or maybe they would if I vlogged about beauty and boyfriends. I can’t bring myself to go there, yet. I think I’ll do a poll of the girls and young women at church and ask them where they hang out on the web.

    What I look for in an author site is content first (and that means content that is useful delivered in a voice I enjoy), then aesthetics.

    • http://www.authormedia.com Thomas Umstattd Jr.

      Sally,

      Think of your website and blog as the special features section of a DVD. What sorts of special features do you like? Put that sort of thing on your website and the YA will come.

      Another quick tip. Young Adults LOVE images of your characters/story. Encourage them to draw your characters and then post that character art to your blog.

      If your book is popular those images may already exist on laptops around the country.

  • http://heathersunseri.com/blog Heather Sunseri

    The best thing I ever did for myself was ditch Blogger and build my own wordpress site. I spent less than $100, and through a little trial and error, I created something that I can update myself. And there is a huge amount of room for growth as my career grows and changes.

    I know many writers feel technically challenged, but I seriously had no prior knowledge of wordpress or website building before I began reading and deciding what I wanted in a site.

    • http://inadvertentyogini.blogspot.com/ Sara

      That’s really good to hear, Heather! Thanks for posting that. I personally wrestled WordPress for about a week and then, feeling technically-challenged defeated, gave up entirely.
      Even my friend who “speaks” CSS said that WordPress is tough–he compared it to using an Uzi to kill an ant or something :)
      Maybe I’ll try it again though!

  • http://babblefromtheburbs.blogspot.com/ Kathryn Elliott

    FYI – Check out classes at local libraries. Twice a year our library has some wonderful, free programs on website design. I attended specifically to gage the difficulty in flipping from Blogger to WordPress. Confession – I’m hiring someone. I know my limits, but the class was a great starting point.

  • http://www.nicoleamsler.com/ Nicole

    As an owner of a company who customized WP sites for artists (writers, photographers, painters, etc), I can vouch for the importance of WordPress.

    Web spiders are hungry and they like a particular brand of spider kibble. They also like to be fed regularly. By using WordPress and regularly updating, the spiders visit your site more often and like your kibble better. Therefore, you move up in the rankings.

    Hosted WordPress sites (not the free dot com ones) shouldn’t cost more than a $1,000 for a fully customized site, which can include everything from shopping carts to social media feeds. It gets built once, hosted yearly and can be updated as often as you’d like.

    If you can use MS Word, you can use the back end of WP. There is no need to have a web designer add anything further to your site once it is built, other than the occasional refresh. You should be able to do it all yourself.

    A few notes:
    -Buy your own domain name and have it hosted through a reputable company. (I can make suggestions–and I have a really big warning for one of the top hosting sites.)

    -Use WP.org sites, not the WP hosted free sites at WP.com.

    -Make sure YOU own your domain name and hosting. Never allow your web designer to own those items. I have seen too many horror stories.

    -Make an editorial calendar for regular updating. And learn how to schedule and draft in WP.

    -Be careful of free WordPress themes, if you are building it yourself. They are usually chocked full of garbage that can hurt your site.

    -Learn a little bit about SEO from someone reputable but don’t feel you need to implement it all at once. Content is king. SEO can be added a bit at a time. Aim to learn one new tip a week.

    -Shop around for your WP expert. I offer no-obligation quotes and so should other companies. Ask to see sites they’ve designed. Call for references. But don’t think the most expensive company is the best. Our sites average around $750 and we are often fixing $10,000 sites that are a tangled mess.

    I’d be happy to answer any questions. I’m not angling for new business but I am often dismayed at the scams that are available out there. And the miscommunication.

    Thanks for an important conversation.

  • http://www.bkjackson.blogspot.com BK Jackson

    I would like to know in quite practical terms, what does it mean to have a website that focuses on the reader, not the writer?

    I ask b/c I don’t currently have a website. But I’ve spent a lot of time looking at various author websites. And they are almost all the same. They have:

    1) Home page w/a brief blurb about the writer and what they write
    2) A page w/a list of their books
    3) A page with some writing tips/favorite books on writing
    4) Maybe a page with some favorite links
    5) A contact page.

    But the ‘typical’ author website described above doesn’t seem like it fits the ‘focused on the reader’ idea. So what IS?

    Many thanks.

    • Rachelle Gardner

      We’re talking about a blog that is frequently updated with new articles/posts that are something your reader would *want* to read.

    • http://inadvertentyogini.blogspot.com/ Sara

      I lol’d because you totally nailed it. I’ve been researching author sites for the past few weeks and that is EXACTLY what they all offer.

      BUT that is also exactly what I’m looking for (as a reader and a writer). So I’m curious what you’re looking for in terms of more than that? Or were you just making sure you weren’t missing something crucial?

      • http://www.bkjackson.blogspot.com BK Jackson

        I’m still as confused about what constitutes “content aimed at readers” as I was before I read this blog post and replies.

        The whole issue is confusing because:

        1. The majority of people I ask don’t visit author websites. So that means either a) they don’t know about the author’s site or b) they don’t have any reason to visit an author’s site.
        2. If most author websites consist of ‘about the author’ and ways to find their books, then you don’t need an author website because chances are you can find the info you need on Amazon or some other large entity.

        Which brings me back to the unanswered question–what do readers want in author website content?

        Looking at numerous websites, the authors do provide information for WRITERS. But what about readers who don’t write? What are they looking for and what is an example that an author provides? Maybe if someone can give me a genre specific answer that would help ne clarify the value in my mind.

        Maybe I’m overthinking this whole deal but based on the “typical” website, I really don’t see what would pull a web browsing patron from Amazon or some other site to an author’s individual website.

        Maybe I simply have different shopping patterns and expectations and THAT’s the problem.

      • BK Jackson

        Okay since one of my points of confusion has been the value of having an author website in terms of what content it offers that distinguishes it from say, Amazon, B&N info on an author, this deserves a quick note of follow up.

        I have posed the “do you visit author websites” question to problem 20 people in recent weeks, and none of them identified themselves as having visited an author website.

        Today I asked three more people, and 2 of 3 said they WOULD visit an author website. They further said the reason they would is to read the author bio.

        So since these are absolutely the first “yea” votes I’ve received for author websites, it’s the first feedback I’ve had in what a reader is looking for. And I’m surprised that a bio is the answer. I mean, it may not be as in depth, but you can usually learn at least some author info at the point of sale.

        I was expecting a more detailed answer–say the reader reads historicals, visits the author’s website. I would’ve thought they’d be expecting more info on the period/region in question, just as one example.

        • http://www.written-not-with-ink.blogspot.com Barb Riley

          Hi BK Jackson. I, too, have found—after conducting an ongoing informal poll with the *non-writing* readers I know—that pretty much no one seeks out an author’s website. Yet, every writer-reader I know *does* visit them. It seems like two different groups. Obviously most writers are readers, so they are a separate type of “fan” or audience. But it was strange to uncover this “statistic” (in quotes since my poll was informal), b/c I’ve been immersed in the whole blogging world for a while now, and under the (false?) assumption that author websites were pulling in the readers. Perhaps just not in my circle…

          Rachelle, if you’re still reading the comments, I wonder if you could discuss this more, or someday day write a post about it. I’ve seen some excellent author blogs where they provide content appropriate to their readers (historical info, etc.), but really, I wonder what percentage of their visits are from readers.

          This post & subsequent comments have been thought-provoking. Thanks. :)

  • Jeanne T

    Thomas, I appreciate you sharing your wisdom about building an author website. I don’t have one yet, so this will be helpful when I build one. Definitely doing WordPress.

    My husband and I make a practice of not using family to help with business dealings, as we’ve been burned by going that route, and it puts a strain on relationships.

    When I visit author websites, I enjoy seeing information about them, as well as blogs, and good links to other things I might be interested in reading.

    Thanks so much for your post today!

  • http://www.chattykelly.com Kelly Combs

    I literally laughed out loud at #3, because my brother-in-law does, in fact, host and design my website. (www.kellycombs.com) But I am happy with it. I do, however, hate the hassle of having to get him to make small changes because I don’t know how.

    My blog is separate from my website, and it is on blogger, and I handle that myself.

    Great post and tips.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth (@MaryDeMuth)

      I would seriously consider hosting your blog on your website. It will increase your traffic.

  • http://www.paulatoddking.com Paula Todd King

    Thanks for the information.

    I agree, but I do think readers have a little interest in the author. I think it’s always good to have a section with your biography so IF they want to learn more about you they can. I know I always want to know about the authors I read.

  • http://www.josephjpote.com Joe Pote

    Interesting!

    I’ve been blogging for a little over six months now, and have managed somehow to steer clear of most of the items on your mistake list…with the exception of #4.

    I knew nothing about websites, but built it myself, anyway.

    The cool part, though, is that approach forced me to learn a little about website software and maintenance. I was fortunate enough to follow someone else’s tip by using WordPress, which has proven to be a huge time saver.

    I’m still tweaking the design and layout. There are lots of little things I hope to add and improve on. However, I fit the design in where I can, and focus mostly on content.

    Overall, I’m very happy with the approach I’ve taken, as it has been a great learning experience, and kept me from falling into some of the other traps you listed (brother-in-law design, no maintenance plan, high cost, too much focus on design and not enough on content, etc.).

    Dollars invested to date – about $200. Time invested to date – countless hours.
    Value of educational experience – PRICELESS! ;-)

    Thanks much for the info!

  • Diana

    I’m sorry. I’m not buying that a knowledgeable webprogrammer can’t edit the HTML code of a blog on blogger to optimize the SEO. I could do it and I am not a web guru.

    It may be easier on wordpress because of the templates, but that doesn’t make it impossible on blogger or any of the other blogging services like livejournal.

    If I paid someone $1000 to $1500 to set up a website for me, I would expect them to be knowledgeable enough to edit the HTML code on blogger for SEO.

    • http://www.authormedia.com Thomas Umstattd Jr.

      Diana

      SEO is about so much more than the code of your website.

      Domain Authority, Inbound Links, Sitemaps are just a small slice of what it takes to optimize your site. Do you know a single SEO expert who recommends Blogger/Blogspot?

    • Rachelle Gardner

      Diana, I’ve talked to several web experts and I consistently read the blogs of numerous web & blogging experts. It is much more complicated than you’re imagining, and not a single web expert recommends Blogger. Sorry. (I know your pain… I was on Blogger for 5 years and loved it. But I finally learned that if I wanted to grow my blog, I needed to switch. Now I’m SO happy I did.)

      • http://inadvertentyogini.blogspot.com/ Sara

        Rachelle – may I ask why you wanted to grow your blog? Since you were happy on Blogger–as am I…–did you just want to reach more readers/future clients/writers?

        • http://inadvertentyogini.blogspot.com/ Sara

          Note to self: carrot marks don’t come through. That was meant to read, “Since you were happy on Blogger–as am I (sob)–did you just want to reach more readers/future clients/writers?”

        • Rachelle Gardner

          Basically, if I was going to continue the hard work of posting blogs five days a week, I wanted it to pay off. I wanted it to grow rather than stay static. I wanted to be able to reach and help as many writers as possible, since that’s why I was blogging in the first place!

          • http://inadvertentyogini.blogspot.com/ Sara

            That makes perfect sense. And(from other comments) it sounds like the increase in traffic was significant and therefore worthwhile. May I ask what kind of increase you saw? If you’d prefer not to reveal hard numbers, perhaps a ballpark percentage?

            If not, no worries :)

            And thank you again for this post and for all your hard work on the blog.

  • http://livingthebodyofchrist.blogspot.com/ Connie Almony

    Great tips! I’m in the defining and refining content process at present with my individual blog. No need to attract readers to come with beautiful design until the content is worth sticking around for. The design is pretty common and I hope to jazz it up again soon, but that will come after I’m comfortable that my message is more unified.

    I do plan to put some serious money behind it too, but that may have to wait for the book contract, so I can justify the expense to the hubby :o).

    What do I look for in a blog? Take-away value!!! Do I come away more informed, energized, encouraged or empowered to take on the challenges of the day? If I do, I will come back!

  • http://tcavey.blogspot.com/ TC Avey

    Thanks for the tips. I hope one day to have an author blog! For now, I blog on a free blogspot site about religion, politics, current events and book reviews. I know it’s not the most professional, but it is helping me hone in on my writing and building relationships along the way!

  • http://hmallon-ftheeiwasateenagequaker.blogspot.com/ Helen W. Mallon

    THANK YOU!!!!!! I just moved from Blogger to Word Press & don’t have a clue. My blog now looks like something the cat dragged home. I even paid for some upgrades and don’t even know what they are. But GREAT content!! And more comments…I’m famous. I now want to merge my author web site and my blog. I am married to the geeky guy who can do everything, but…he’s so busy, and I’m not a paying customer. Ya know? I think it’s worth it to shell out the $$. (And did I ever expect to make money from writing? Nah….)

  • http://kristinweber.blogspot.com Kristin

    “They have a Blogspot blog and an unattractive site.”

    Ouch–I have both.

    =)

  • Josh C.

    I’m still working on the substance part of it. When I actually have some, I’ll be looking to set up a website. Thanks for the tips and the links! Great info!

  • http://www.booksonthenightstand.com Ann Kingman

    I’d like to add two more:

    #6: Not linking to *every* retailer that carries (or could carry) your book. As far as independent bookstores go, if you have a particular store with which you have a relationship, list them separately. All other independent bookstores can be taken care of with a link to Indiebound.org

    #7: Not linking to stores or venues where you are doing events. Listing the name, address, etc. of the bookstore or whatever are great, but you’ll see better attendance if you link directly to the store’s event page or somewhere that can provide more information in just one click.

  • http://www.sarahanneloudinthomas.wordpress.com Sarah Thomas

    YES–hire someone who knows what they’re doing. At work we had a perfectly adequate site updated by a volunteer. A lovely, sweet volunteer who also had a job and a life. Now we have a professionally designed website that I can update ANY TIME I WANT. It’s heavenly.

  • http://Rcgale.com Ross Gale

    Mistake #6: Being born Seymour Butts. Good luck getting that domain name.

  • http://www.margawriterville.com Bill Cokas

    It was a long process, but I did build my own (I’m in advertising and marketing, so I’m not completely unqualified). I’ve been reading posts like this for many months, so hopefully I haven’t committed any of the Big Five. Thanks for the insight!

  • http://www.leahpetersen.com Leah Petersen

    Honestly, if you’re comfortable with Blogger and know how to google for how-tos, in my experience, you can set up a WordPress blog for no more than the cost of the domain name ($20 a year, usually.) If you’re only using it as a blog, it doesn’t have to be any more complicated than your blogger one, and you can make it better as you get more comfortable.

    Just stick to the basics until you know what you’re doing.

    And WordPress is WAAAAYYYYY better than blogger, even if you don’t care about SEO yet (or know what it is.) ;)

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  • http://writingforthegloryofgod.wordpress.com Melinda Viergever Inman

    Thank you! You always have content that is exactly what I need at just the right time. I’m currently doing research on all of this, preparing to launch a WordPress site that will allow me to host my blog, market my Bible study material, and promote my fiction and inspirational writing. I’m learning that a large amount of work goes on behind the scenes before anything is ready to be made public. Great timing, once again! I will not be “hiring” a family member to do the work for free.

  • http://www.cynrogalski.com Cyn Rogalski

    GREAT tips! I have a WP.org blog and I’m having trouble with little things, like my social media buttons don’t always work correctly (wrong post is displayed) or doesn’t post at all, even though the dashboard says it is. I have a friend (yes, I saw #3) updating it for me; while that’s not optimal, it is easier than messing up the thing myself and being TOTALLY lost as to what to do next. (been there)

    • http://www.authormedia.com Thomas Umstattd Jr.

      We can help fix the social media integration etc. if you would like some profesional help.

  • http://iamhrsinclair.com Southpaw

    I agree! I do think at some point you need to build or have built an attractive site that reflects your writing. But content is still key.
    Because…
    “People still don’t care about you”

  • http://kristinlaughtin.blogspot.com Kristin Laughtin

    I haven’t built an author website yet (because I have nothing to offer yet, so sorry, just a Blogspot blog), but I agree with all of these principles for the most part. (I’d argue that design does matter a bit for #1, because you don’t want to build an ugly site that’s difficult to navigate. At the same time, lots of fancy decorations shouldn’t be your priority.) I’d also highly recommend that, if possible, authors should take a basic HTML/CSS class. I had to do one last semester for my MLIS, and it has been tremendously helpful in teaching me how websites work, how to optimize them, and so on. I’m not sure I would build one from scratch, as my skills are still pretty low, but I might be able to handle minor maintenance myself. It’d also be useful in working with WordPress, as I also learned in that class. Overall, I can’t recommend basic familiarity with website mechanics enough, even if you get someone else to handle most of it.

  • http://www.rebastanley.com Reba

    Thanks Thomas, this was very helpful, however I do have a question.
    #2 states “If the goal of your website is to stoke your own ego (or simply sell you books), it will never succeed. If your focus on your readers, they’ll love you.”
    Here’s the question.
    How do you focus on the reader?
    My goal on my web has been to show the viewer/reader what books I have available,let them see the book and read a little about it, and for them and know how and where to purchase. It also gives them access to my fb.
    What should I do to improve this and focus on the reader?

    • Rachelle Gardner

      Write articles (blog posts) that they enjoy reading and make them want to come back for more!

  • http://www.authormedia.com Thomas Umstattd Jr.

    Give away something on your website so valuable that your readers would be willing to pay for it, and are pleasantly surprised to find that it is free.

    Talk to your readers. What do they want from your website?

    If you need specific help we have coaching to help you put together a marketing plan that focuses on your readers.

    http://www.AuthorMedia.com

  • http://4ambassadorsofchrist.blogspot.com/ Jarm Del Boccio

    I agree, Thomas, that we should focus on the readers, and their needs. Right now, I have a blogger account, at at this point, while I am unpublished, I will keep it and learn from it…thanks so much for your helpful insights!

  • http://lisakwinkler.com Lisa Winkler

    Agree, agree. I waffled for weeks about whether I should create a website or just stick with my personal wp blog. I think I got a bit carried away with the website idea but was convinced by other writers and website designers that this would provide a “one stop” shopping – tell all there is to know about my past and present work, and what I could do in the future. Still, I think it’s a bit too much focused “about me.” What are readers looking for in an authors’ website?

    • http://www.authormedia.com Thomas Umstattd Jr.

      Here is your answer 6 Things Readers Want from Your Author Website http://www.authormedia.com/2009/06/18/what-readers-want-from-your-author-website/

      • http://www.bkjackson.blogspot.com BK Jackson

        Thanks. I didn’t see this reply till this evening. That helps. In my travels of perusing author websites, I would say exclusive content is what is usually missing.

        And that helps answer one of the puzzle pieces in my mind, because I was thinking “Sheesh. All a reader wants is your bio and list of books and a few links? You’d hardly have to update your site, so what’s all the fuss about?” 8-)

  • http://neuroticworkaholic.blogspot.com Neurotic Workaholic

    These are all great tips, especially about the part about updating the website. Often I’ll visit an author’s website but he or she hasn’t updated it in weeks or even months.
    I just use Blogger because it’s free; I wouldn’t mind having a fancier blog or website, but even $250 is a lot of money for me.

  • http://www.CrazyAboutChurch.com Charles Specht

    Great information. I just started offering my design services to churches. There’s a great need out there for quality themes.

  • http://www.pamelalord.com Pam Lord

    I’ve used WordPress from the beginning and love it. It’s easy to update even though I have little programming knowledge. Check it out at wwww.pamelalord.com

  • Patti Mallett

    Wow! This was so helpful. It’s truly a crash course (giving us what we want so we keep coming back!)

    Thanks Rachelle and Thomas!

  • http://jensmauthor.blogspot.com Jen S. M.

    I’m almost persuaded to join the WP band wagon, but like a few others have already stated; I don’t have much content yet. My blogspot is still in the fledgling stage, but I’m happy so far. Ignorant people are like that. (smiles)

  • http://woodchuckpublishers.com Victoria Brown

    FYI, website in development. Some good points, but I don’t fully agree with your first point. I wanted a professional looking website and felt the design was important. I wanted it to look as if I were serious about what I was writing about. I did use WordPress, and modified the template.

    Appreciated the post as I am only just starting my blog and have spent many months thinking about what would be interesting and informative to people.

    Good point: It’s not about ME!

    Thanks

  • http://www.donasdays.blogspot.com Donna Martin

    I am unpublished…as of today…lol…and have a Blogger blog and a Facebook page.

    While I understand the experts point toward WordPress, I have two concerns. I am on a fixed income with very little “wiggle room” to be able to pay someone $1000 to create a website even when I acknowledge the sense in doing so. And while I haven’t been blogging for long (began Dec 6, 2011), I blog daily and have over 100 posts that I do not want to lose in any transition from Blogger to WordPress.

    So what does someone in my position do? Any advice that could apply to my particular situation would be greatly appreciated!

    Donna

    • http://www.popeighties.com Jenna C

      You don’t need to pay someone to get a WordPress site – you can do it yourself using their available (free) templates. It’s only if you want your own custom design that it will cost you. I have a few blogs, my main one is self hosted with a custom design but the others are all free WordPress blogs using free templates and I just pay for the domain name to get rid of the .wordpress part of the address. Total cost: about $15 and a few hours playing with the design.

      • http://bethfred.com Beth

        I used wordpress last year and had my own site with multiple pages. I got spammed hard and heavy and GFC is no longer supported for wordpress, so I switched back to prevent losing my followers. (Google disabled my GFC anyhow, but that’s another story). Anyhow, I did not see a great advantage to wordpress. The interface was easy to use but I missed some features of blogger, and the spam was horrible and I added a filter! And had my engineer of a husband do things to prevent the spamming. The bots found ways around it.

  • http://inadvertentyogini.blogspot.com/ Sara

    What a great post! Thank you both so much.

    I’m afraid that I’m another guilty Blogger user and fan. To be fair, when it was time to build a website (which I linked to my blog), I tried using Wix, Weebly, Website Tonight, and WordPress and finally went with Wix because it was logical and easy to use and I liked their templates.

    I struggled to use WordPress for about a week and then talked to a friend who “speaks” CSS and even he found WordPress difficult. He went into the code and said there was much more code/info/options than anyone could reasonably ever need. He compared it to being a fully loaded, really fancy race car when all I really want/need is a bicycle.

    Even things like adjusting the white space between the header and the page titles was difficult/impossible.
    Maybe I just need to keep plugging away at it or hire a pro. :)

  • Nancy Petralia

    I’m about to take the plunge and start a website. I want to include one, and perhaps two bloggers on it, offer some book products, ebooks of my own and others, and maybe some targeted ads for related content/products in addition to my personal content.

    I heard something about WebPress not allowing ads. Is that true? I really like the flexibility of all of the WebPress templates as well as customization, I just want to make sure I can get all the functionality I want. I’m thinking of hosting it on a different hosting company which offers all kinds of applications.

    Many thanks for this great post, Rachelle.

  • http://www.buynowwebsites.co.uk/ Mandy

    The first pleasant thing about flash-based website is its interactivity as it makes pages look vivid and live. There is a possibility of using animated menus, headers and even adding flash games to the source. The visitors will be glad to browse such nice dynamic pages and certainly will be impressed by the presentation of such website i like it.thanks for sharing

  • E

    Is TypePad a bad idea?

  • Ashley Prince

    Thanks for the tips! I will be sure to have this bookmarked to come back to when I set up an author site.

  • Anon

    My tips, which have proven successful with more than one best selling book:

    1. If you’re just starting out, don’t spent a dime and don’t listen to people who tell you that you should. Utilize what is free on the Internet…like google blogger. I disagree that it’s not possible to build a large following with GB. I have an average of 100,000 hits a month. Word Press sucks with people who use AOL and certain programs. And they stay away from it because it takes to long to load. I rarely go to word press unless I’m forced.

    2. Keep the content simple so people don’t have to spend too much time figuring out who you are and what you do.

    3. Don’t listen to people who tell you that you have to spend a small fortune on a web site. Times are hard. We all have mortagages. And bad advice runs rampant on the Internet. Stay away from anyone who says they know it all. There’s usually a price to pay.

    4. Keep blog posts short and sweet. No one reads long posts. They skim, they don’t really care, and most are too polite to day this aloud.

    5. Don’t be afriad to tackle controversial topics you believe in. No one cares about your Aunt Nancy’s homemade apple pie unless you’re Paula Deen.

    6. Keep it real. Readers appreciate authenticity, and they can smell a fake a mile away.

    I could list twenty more. But no one asked me to guest blog :)

  • http://www.withoutrain.com/ Ryan Chin

    Nice post. Thankfully, I did not make any of the mistakes you describe. I was a little afraid to click on this post. I’ve been very happy with WordPress. My general writing blog, fishing and surfing blog, and my book’s website are all done in WordPress. It takes a little time to get used to but most of their themes are clean and very user friendly.

    I had a pro help me out because I knew the end product would be better. Having a person to call when you start updating and screwing stuff up is nice too! There are so many web designers out there that need work and many need to build websites for their portfolios. Hire local and meet someone in the community. :)

    I started off looking at author/book sites and making a list of ones I liked and disliked.

    One thing to think about is a mobile/tablet version of your site. WordPress will cascade the info in an abbreviated version for mobile devices. There’s a good chance that your book will be discovered on a mobile device so making it easy for possible fans to read your works is important.

    Cheers,

    Ryan

  • http://bethfred.com Beth

    I think it depends on how much time and effort the author has to put into it. Most of us didn’t know how to blog when we started. We wrote some really bad (in my case painful)posts and had the most basic template. We blogged. We learned. In the process of that I learned some basic html, nothing fancy. But I feel confident building my own website. If it sucks, or I don’t get the response I’m looking for, I’ll change it. You can’t do anything if you don’t try.

  • http://www.susanlower.com Susan Lower

    I have to admit, I’m totally guilty, and have failed almost all 5 things. I use wordpress and designed my own blog, and yes my kids are plastered in at least one post a week.

    I think we all struggle at time searching for the defination of “great content”. It’s only great to the reader who it interest most.

  • http://jeanhuets.com Jean Huets

    I used WordPress in setting up my website. Mostly DIY but I have a background in graphic design and some html wrangling experience, and a software designer husband who helps out when I get stuck. I’m happy with WP and strongly recommend it. I’d also suggest integrating your blog and website. Somewhere (wish I could remember where) I read that your goal should be to drive ALL traffic to your own website, from FB, twitter, pinterest, whatever. Makes sense to me, if for no other reason than it simplifies things.

    I consider my site just barely an author’s site. It’s mostly about 19th century America, especially Civil War era. That’s what I’m writing about, what I’m interested in, and so my future readers will connect with it. I try to distinguish it from the zillions of other CW era blogs by focusing on off-battlefield tidbits. (One of the most popular posts was on 19th century men’s underwear!) At ay rate, my books aren’t about battles and generals, so overall my blog isn’t, though they do manage to creep in. I post at least 3x a week.

    I don’t have as much traffic as I’d like, though, and my relative ignorance re SEO is the next thing I need to fix.

    Great tips and comments, and thanks to all of you. If anyone hops over to my site from here, please feel free to offer suggestions, advice, etc. You can put them with any post, since WP notifies me of comments, so I’ll find them.

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  • http://jlcannon.net Joan L. Cannon

    I did make a website just so there’d be one. I update it maybe twice a year. I depend on my blog for what promotion I can do.
    The price of a professionally designed website is way beyond the budget in this house, I’m sorry to say. Nevertheless, the suggestions make eminent sense. Just too rich for my blood.

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  • Niktar Hossain

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  • http://JackLaBloom@blogspot.com Jack LaBloom

    It all sounds good to me, but I can’t afford the $1000 it apparently takes to do it right on a WordPress site. This is great information for those who can afford to make the move. Thanks, Rachelle. This kind of information is why I read your posts.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003406011621 Andrew

      Sounds like you’re doing a great job! I have moved to the world of work at home mom after being a SAHM for many, many years. I love it, but it is tough to juggle!

  • http://www.youwhoineverknew.wordpress.com Kassie Ritman

    Hi, as a relatively new blogger, I bumped into this post while trying to find out how to drop”.wordpress” from my url…without losing my followers. I chose wordpress because it was so much easier to navigate. What I have noticed about blogspot pages is the lack of a “like” button. Sometimes, its a hassle just trying to follow a writer’s future posts on blogger. Also, I think seeing “likes” on my posts lets me feel like Im not writing my own stuff in a vaccuum. That could get a bit lonely and discouraging. Just a thought / oppinion. I will hit follow on this blog because Im interested in seeing more (and I dont have to jump thru time consuming hoops to do it). Glad I found it :)
    Kassie aka “Mom”

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  • Mr. Positive

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