Category Archives: Author Platform Resources

Is A “Free” Website REALLY Free? 10 Things Writers Need To Know | Web Design Relief

You know all the reasons you need an author website—to act as your online information source for readers, editors, and agents; to provide a hub for your author platform, etc. But like most folks, you don’t want to spend all of your hard-earned cash building a website. Budget-conscious writers might therefore jump at the chance to use a platform that says you can create a “free” website.

But you know the old adage: There’s no such thing as a free lunch! The experts at Web Design Relief know that many of these supposedly “free” websites actually have hidden costs, limited options, and even unexpected dangers. Here’s what you need to know before you sign up for a “free” website.

10 Things Writers Need To Know About “Free” Author Website Builders

  1. Free websites usually can’t be customized. As a writer, you have a unique personality and a unique style of writing. So you’ll want to customize your website based on what you write—a picture book author, for example, would certainly have a different author website aesthetic than someone who writes horror novels. Having an author website that reflects you and your writing helps you attract the right audience. Free websites, however, offer only a few basic, cookie-cutter templates that are rarely customizable, or might only offer a few color and template options. And forget having multiple pages—these companies may not even let you choose fonts or color schemes that match your book’s genre!
  1. Free websites may not let you sell your products. Free website companies don’t always give you options for selling your books and other products (tote bags, bookmarks, etc.). They also may not allow for a contact page—making it difficult for visitors to reach you to set up speaking engagements, book signing events, etc. And many prohibit you from running your own targeted ads.
  1. A free website might stick you with an unfavorable URL. Picking your author website’s domain name is an important decision, and it should be one you—and only you—are in control of! You’ll want your domain name to be something easy for your readers to remember, one that is all letters if possible. Example: YourNameAuthor.com. But many no-fee websites won’t give you that option, or only let you choose part of your URL, or make it mandatory to include their business name in your domain name.
  1. Your free website may not function very well. Once you get past the design challenges, you’ll find that many free websites are hosted on unstable servers that are vulnerable to viruses, or servers that are shared by thousands of websites. As a result, your website may load very slowly, or not at all. When your site finally does load, it may be subject to devastating crashes—and many free website hosts don’t create backups of your site—so in one crash you could lose everything.
  1. Free websites are often riddled with ads. Free websites have to make their money somehow—so if they’re not charging users like you, they often turn to advertisements to turn a profit from their sites. These ads could be placed anywhere on your website, and there could be so many of them that they distract from your content. You also won’t get to choose the ads, so chances are they won’t have anything to do with you or your writing, and may even tout products that don’t align with your values, giving the wrong impression to visitors.
  1. Free websites often don’t support mobile browsers. These days, your fans are as likely to search for your author website from their phone or tablet as they are from their desktop computer. Smart website design includes optimization for mobile platforms, but free websites rarely offer this option. The result? Your website may not load properly on fans’ mobile devices—or may not load at all. So visitors will bounce off your website and head to someone else’s.
  1. You may actually end up paying—a lot. If they aren’t loaded with tons of annoying ads, so-called free websites must find other ways to make money. You may notice charges for “annual fees” or “security fees.” Another tactic: Services that are normally included in a professional website design (custom email addresses, hosting images, etc.) may be “extra charges” on a free site. There may also be charges for services you’ve never heard of, like “website transfer” or “FTP access.”

And keep an eye out for the supposedly free website that’s really just a “trial offer”—once the trial expires, you’ll have to pay an arm and a leg to keep your website live.

  1. Free websites usually don’t offer any help or support. If something goes wrong with your free author website, it’s very unlikely you’ll get any help from the company to fix the issue. Most “no-fee” websites don’t even provide a phone number or general email for questions, let alone offer IT support. And let’s face it: Like most writers, you’re probably considering using a website service because you aren’t a tech expert or IT troubleshooter. So why choose a free website with no support or help desk?
  1. Free website companies can vanish overnight—along with your website. These companies’ terms-of-use agreements are often ironclad: Infinite protections for them—and none for you or your author website. Not only can most free websites choose to drop your website at any time, the company itself can disappear at any time. Most don’t even have to inform their users before they shut down their servers—you could simply wake up one morning to discover your website is gone, and the company won’t be held accountable.
  1. A free website may give the wrong impression. A poorly designed, low-quality author website can be just as detrimental as not having one at all. If literary agents or journal editors visiting your author website are bombarded by irrelevant ads or find navigating the site difficult, they may decide to simply bounce off—since it will seem you haven’t truly prioritized your writing career. And with hackers constantly finding new ways to break into less secure websites, your readers who visit may be less willing to trust an off-brand website, making it less likely they’ll sign up for your mailing list or visit your site again.

 

How To Get The Best Author Website On A Budget

Rather than take your chances with a free website, trust reputable companies like WordPress to create and customize a website on a budget. If you already have an author website and are looking for low-cost ways to keep it useful and current, check out this list.

And if you’d like to put the entire website-building project into the hands of experts who understand the unique needs of writers, the techies at Web Design Relief can create an affordable site for you. Even our most budget-friendly options will still make a big impact on your writing career—check out our Professional Package or our Create-Your-Own Package.

 

QUESTION: Have you ever used a free website service? Why or why not?

May 2019 Links Roundup | Web Design Relief

Welcome to our May Links Roundup! This month, we’re bringing you tips on fighting blogger’s burnout; the light and dark side of tidying up; how to use social media to build an engaged community; and more! Whether you create your own author website or we create one for you, Web Design Relief wants to give you the best possible tools to build an effective online author platform and get your writing out there for the world to read.

Nine Ways to Stay Inspired and Avoid Blogger Burnout – via ProBlogger – Darren Rowse discusses blogger burnout and why it happens to even the best of bloggers. Featuring nine ways to stay fresh and inspired when blogging!

Changes to Amazon Advertising: What Authors Need to Know – via Jane Friedman – Dave Chesson reviews the recent changes to Amazon advertising and how they impact writers, both positively and negatively. If you have a book self-published through Amazon.com, this article is a must-read!

The Light and Dark of “Tidying Up” for Writers – via Copyblogger – Stefanie Flaxman reveals the good points and the not-so-good points about “tidying up”—especially how it pertains to writers. For more tips on how a writer can stay organized, check out our article about how you can “Marie Kondo” your writing life.

How to Write Fresh Blog Content After Years on the Job – via Blog Herald – Sometimes, it can be difficult to write fresh content if you’ve been blogging for a long time. By following these tips, bloggers suffering from writer’s block will be able to create new, engaging content for their readers.

5 Ways To Build An Engaged Community On Social Media – via BloggingWizard – Social media is more than updating your followers about your writing. It’s also about building a community. Kas Szatylowicz gives writers five tips for building an engaged community on social media.

 

How To Create A “Book Me” Page On Your Author Website To Get More Speaking Gigs| Web Design Relief

Networking, shaking hands, and meeting new people is a great way to drum up interest in the speaking or book signing events you can offer as an author. But your author website can be equally effective at nabbing you some new invitations to speak—if you’re using it right. Imagine: You could be lounging around in sweatpants, binge-watching Netflix, while your author website is hard at work scoring new book promo invitations and more speaking gigs on your behalf.

The marketing experts at Web Design Relief know that when you create an effective “book me” page on your author website, it will help you…

  • Get more invitations to speak at (or call in to) book clubs
  • Get more nibbles to give readings at libraries and local coffee shops
  • Get more invites from teachers who might want you to speak in classrooms
  • Get more requests from writing groups for seminars and lectures
  • Get more invitations to book fairs and festivals, book signings, and other events
  • Get more inquiries about teaching online classes or participating in author forums

By expanding your reach through author speaking gigs and appearances, you grow your audience and potentially sell more books. An exciting, effective “book me” page on your author website can help make that happen!

9 Tips For Getting More Speaking Gigs Using Your Author Website

Pinpoint your target audience. Are you hoping to score more invitations from book groups made up of casual readers? Or are publishing pros your target market (like booksellers, writing groups, librarians, etc.)? If your answer was something like “uh, both?” then you might want to consider creating two separate web pages: one customized for each audience. Or consider dividing your “book me” page into different sections. Why? Writing group organizers and librarians may be looking for different takeaway value from your speaking gigs than casual book readers.

Define your call to action. What action step do you want website visitors to take when they stop by to consider booking a speaking gig or call-in with you? Do you want them to reach out to you directly using your contact form? Or would you rather add them to your author mailing list (and then reach out to your subscribers regularly to let them know about new offerings)? Once you know exactly the step you want your visitor to take, be sure to make it easy for them to take that step.

Make the most of your headshot. People who are interested in meeting you might be more inclined to reach out if your author headshot (photo) shows a friendly, approachable face—you know, the face of a person who is going to be interesting, clever, and thoughtful. If your writing style is more serious or eerie and sinister, feel free to turn down the wattage on your grin for a look that’s more mysterious and intriguing. Whatever the mood of your author brand, use your author headshot to boost your personal interest factor. Learn more: Your Author Headshot: How To Create A Flattering (And Affordable!) Portrait For Print And Online.

List your offerings. Create an easy-to-skim list of seminars, lectures, classes, readings, call-ins, and other presentations that you can present to audiences. Bonus points if you’re mixing up both digital and real-time offers like FaceTime book club appearances for faraway readers as well as readings for local library crowds. Some tips:

  • Come up with catchy titles for your talks
  • Keep descriptions short and punchy
  • Put a new spin on perennial favorite topics whenever possible
  • Give audiences what they want (offer a big takeaway value)
  • Let people who want more details about your presentations know that additional info is available upon request

Sweeten the pot. Many writers try to tempt audiences to book a seminar/reading with them by offering extra enticements to participants. Here are some examples:

  • Offer a gift basket with book-related items and goodies for book club groups.
  • Host a fabulous prize giveaway that attendees can opt to enter (plus, you can collect email addresses for your subscriber list).
  • Give a free critique to one lucky listener/attendee (great for writers groups).
  • Volunteer to donate a portion of any proceeds to a related charity (aka cause marketing for authors).

Promise promo. Sometimes, overworked organizers aren’t able to drum up a lot of pre-event promo—but they LOVE the idea that you might enthusiastically drive new visitors through their doors. You might want to note on your author website that all of your events come with a free prewritten press release, flyers, social media promotion, etc.

Brag by number. If you’ve hosted events with huge numbers of attendees or you have a healthy social media following in your region, organizers would be interested in your fledgling fame and promotional reach. They may be more inclined to host your event if they sense you already have a strong following.

Let’s go to the video. Posting a small snippet of a presentation you’ve given—or even a video of yourself inviting others to reach out to you—can go a long way toward demonstrating your likeability factor. But don’t stress about it! Your video doesn’t have to be fancy to be effective. In fact, some companies have deliberately dropped high-production, slick videos in favor of clips that have a homemade, authentic vibe. But if video makes you look nervous and uptight (because, hey, we can’t all be nightly news anchors), then just skip it and embrace a medium that works for you.

Picture this. You know what they say: A picture is worth a thousand words. A photo or two of you at your events either with fans, standing in front of a crowd, signing books, etc., could hint at the promise that a great time will be had by all.

Be Smart, Be Safe, But Be Easy To Contact

Make it easy for event organizers to contact you—the more hoops people have to jump through in order to connect with you directly, the more likely they’ll say “forget it” before they manage to knock on your door.

That said, we do not recommend publishing your personal email address on your author website. First of all, you’ll want to protect your privacy. But secondly, spammers will be flooding your published email address, and you won’t be able to tell which emails are from humans and which are from spambots. So you might miss out on an important contact.

Instead of broadcasting your personal email address, invite visitors to fill out a contact form, preferably with a CAPTCHA-type security measure in place to vanquish web-trolling robots. Then, be sure to take careful precautions when moving forward with any author speaking gig: Only agree to visit reputable, safe organizations or restrict in-person lectures to public places.

Once your book promotion event is booked, brush up on your book signing etiquette, pack your books and your enthusiasm, and go have some fun!

 

Question: What strategy do you find is most effective for nabbing author speaking gigs?


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