Now more than ever, people are becoming their own boss. Maybe not entirely, but people having a side hustle is a phenomenon that is becoming more popular each day.
Most of us are tired of our full-time jobs and would like to quit someday. But we can't do that until we have our own business set up.
For us writers, the process takes a bit longer than for other entrepreneurs, because our income depends on people buying our books. And writing a book is no joke.
It takes time and effort, tears and heartache!
But if you've read my post on why writers need a website or blog (if you haven't yet, check it out), you now understand that even if you're not yet published, your site needs to be out there and promoted, so when your book comes out, you're not a total stranger to the world. Readers will have probably heard or read your name somewhere, in some article or short story you posted online. And if your site has readers, chances are they will be the first ones to buy your book and even promoted for you with reviews, by word of mouth, and sharing on social media.
But how to get started?
Here's everything you need to get started on your successful author blog.
1. Pick a name
The first thing to consider is whether you want to be known by your real name, or whether you prefer using a pen name.
When I decided to start writing a novel, I knew that my real name is not memorable.
So I decided to get creative and come up with a pen name. Although Barnes is my real surname, Elira is a combination of my middle name and first name... have fun guessing!
Maybe you want to use a pen name because you don't want people you know to be aware that you are the author of a certain book - this is quite popular amongst authors of erotica. Or you simply want to have a nice and creative name that fits your personality or the genre you write in.
Also, this is your chance to change your name if you simply don't like your real one!
So here are a few things to consider if you decide to use a pen name:
Make it easy to remember
Make sure it is easy to pronounce
It doesn't have to be long, keep it simple
If your name is too long and complicated for a reader to remember, consider using initials - J.K. Rowling and J.F. Penn are good examples of this.
2. Get a domain
Although you could get a free domain for your site, a purchased domain will ensure you don't look like a beginner.
Consider this: "berry.wixsite.com" or "berry.wordpress.com" sound far less professional than "berry.com". Do you agree?
I'm not saying you must buy a domain name - on the contrary: you might prefer using a free domain name when you are just getting started on your site, to test things first, especially if you are on a budget.
If you see that you are gaining readers and followers, then you can switch to a purchased domain.
3. Get a custom e-mail address
Just as important as your domain name is your e-mail address. With a custom e-mail address you will appear as a professional in your field.
Including your domain name in your e-mail address makes it easier for your reader to remember it and contact you.
Using our above example of berry.com, your custom e-mail could be something like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or, you can even use multiple e-mail addresses for your business; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
This obviously depends on how big your blog becomes, and you would most likely need assistance handling multiple e-mails.
4. Choose a hosting company or self-host
My hosting company is Wix.com. Other popular companies are Wordpress and Squarespace. You can do your own research and see which one suits you best. (This article was super helpful to make me decide which web host company was best for me.)
I chose Wix because it is simple and easy to use, as it uses a drag-and-drop system that is very user-friendly. Plus, the premium plan that I chose includes a free domain name for a year and a custom e-mail address.
You can choose to self-host instead. You will need some web development and coding experience. When you self-host, you build your website with a software of your choosing, then hire a hosting company to store it for you. Many blogs are self-hosted with Wordpress.
But I am a writer, with no web development experience whatsoever, so going for a hosting company was the most obvious choice for me.
5. Picking a theme
I believe your website's theme should reflect your personality.
Are you a cheerful and positive person? You might want to use bold colours and transfer your positive energy to your readers via your site.
Choosing and customising a theme is probably the most exciting part of this whole process of starting a blog - I spent months (!) experimenting with mine until I was completely satisfied.
That being said, don't waste your time on themes, like I did. Looking back, I wish I had spent more time planning content rather than the design of my site.
6. Add pages
You have a theme for your site. It's now time to add pages.
You will need
A homepage: the first page your reader will stumble upon, so make it count! You could add a photo of yourself, and if you've published a book or more, these should definitely appear on this main page.
An "about" page: this is where you get to tell your visitors a bit more about yourself, and why you do what you do. It's also a chance to let the reader connect with you as a person, not just a writer.
A blog page (optional): this is quite useful if you are not yet published and want to update your readers on the process, or publish short pieces so your visitors can start appreciating your writing. If you have some experience in writing, why not give tips and tricks on writing? The indie author community is growing everyday - some of your readers may be aspiring authors in search of advice, and you can provide that!
A contact page: this is probably the easiest to set up. Include a contact form along with your contact info, and don't forget to add your social media accounts!
We'll look at what you should add on each one of these pages in later posts.
7. Start an e-mail list
An e-mail list is the best way to boost your website traffic and engage with your readers directly. Whether it is sent weekly, monthly, or quarterly, you don't have to worry about being too spammy because the reader signed up for this, which means there is a genuine interest on their part. They want updates on what you're getting up to.
The best way to convince your visitors to sign up for your newsletter is by offering them something valuable in return. Everyone loves freebies!
You could offer them a free copy of your e-book, or the first few chapters of your upcoming novel, or an insight on your writing process.
As an incentive, I offer "The Write Novel Workbook" to my subscribers, a FREE guide on how to plan a novel when you have no idea where to start.
8. Add social links
Make sure you add links to your social media so your readers can connect with you over there. Your social links should appear on every page of your site so the reader doesn't have to struggle to find them; you can add them to your header and footer, and also on the right or left-hand side of the page for quick access.
Social media is a good way for your reader to get to know you better; what you do apart from writing and blogging.
It is also a great way for you to connect with other writers and/or bloggers and support each other.
9. Sign up for Google Analytics
With Google Analytics you can keep track of your website's activity; this includes how many views your site gets per day, week, and month; demographics (countries your viewers are from); the hours of the day when your site gets viewers (so you can schedule your content accordingly) ; the age group and gender of your visitors; and so much more.
There you have it! Everything you need to get started on your author blog like a pro!
Is there anything I left out? Let me know in the comments below!
And don't forget to share this post if you found it helpful.
Join The Write Space Forum to start your own conversation if you need any sort of advice or have your own suggestions.
You can also join my Facebook group, The Write Community, and ask over there.