Tag Archives: Blogging

How to Start a Blog: A Step-by-Step Guide for Writers

So you want to start a blog?

If you’re a writer, it makes perfect sense: You can use a blog to serve as your author platform, market your book or find new freelance writing clients.

But where do you begin? Though you’ve got the writing part down, the rest of the process can be overwhelming. Hosting, themes and all that other techy stuff can stand in your way for years.

Well, today is the day that ends. We’re here to help you navigate every step of starting a blog, from choosing your domain name to publishing your first post.

Here’s how to start a blog as a writer:

1. Pick a domain name

First things first: Where are people going to find you online? As a writer, you are your brand, so we recommend using some variation of your name. To check availability, simply visit Bluehost and click on “new domain.”

Or, search this handy domain-name checker!

https://www.bluehost.com/web-hosting/domaincheckapi/?affiliate=thewritelife/startablogURLbox

If none of the obvious options are available, try tacking a “writer” onto the end of your name, as in susanshainwriter.com. You could also use a “.net” or “.biz” domain, but keep in mind that most people automatically type in “.com” before thinking of other endings.

You can, of course, opt for a creative blog name, but remember that your interests and target audience may change as the years go by. When I started blogging in 2012, I focused solely on adventure travel and named my blog Travel Junkette. Since then, I’ve expanded my niche and recently switched to susanshain.com — because my name won’t change, no matter what I’m blogging about. I wish I’d started out using my name as the domain, and would advise you not to make the same mistake I did.

Once you’ve settled on your domain (or domains, if you’re like a lot of us writerpreneurs!), don’t wait to buy it. Even if you’re not ready to start a blog right now, you don’t want to risk losing the domain you want.

Before you actually click “purchase,” though, you might want to read the next step; we’re going to tell you how to get your domain name for free.

2. Purchase a hosting package

Now that you’ve picked out your domain name, it’s time to choose a web host. Your hosting company does all the technical magic to make sure your site actually appears when people type your newly anointed domain name into their browser. In other words, it’s pretty important.

We use MediaTemple to host this blog, but it’s typically better for blogs with lots of traffic, so you probably don’t need that if you’re just starting out. For a new blog, try Bluehost. It’s used by top bloggers around the world and is known for its customer service and reliability. Bluehost’s basic hosting plan costs $3.95 per month — and as a bonus, the company throws in your domain name for free when you sign up.

Be sure to put your purchase (and all the purchases listed in this post) on a business credit card and keep those receipts; they are investments in your business and are therefore tax deductible.

3. Install WordPress

We’re almost through with the techy stuff, we promise! You have several different choices for blogging platforms, but we like WordPress best. Not only is it totally free, but it’s easy to learn, offers a wide variety of themes, and has an online community and lots of plugins that make blogging accessible to everybody.

You can read comprehensive instructions for installing WordPress on your new blog here. Once you’ve completed that, you can officially log into your blog and start making it look pretty.

Still too techy for you? Try WordPress.com (as opposed to WordPress.org). It’s a cinch to set up, but won’t allow you as much control over your site’s design and functionality. If you choose to go this route, you can skip steps one and two of this post. Simply visit WordPress.com and click on “Create website.” Though the free default inserts wordpress.com into your domain (susanshain.wordpress.com), you can pay to use your own domain (susanshain.com).

4. Put up an “under construction” sign

While working on your blog’s appearance, you might want to put up an “under construction” or “coming soon” sign to greet visitors. You don’t want any potential clients or readers to Google your name and find a half-finished site. (And you may think you’re going to finish setting up your blog tomorrow — but we all know how badly writers procrastinate when there are no looming deadlines!)

To set up a little sign that says “under construction,” just download this plugin. You could even include a link to your Twitter or Facebook page so visitors have an alternate way of getting in touch with you. When you’re ready to share your blog with the world, simply deactivate and delete this plugin.

5. Choose a theme

Now we’re getting to the fun stuff! Your theme determines what your blog looks like, and you’ve got a lot of options to choose from. Yes, there’s a wide range of free themes, but if you’re serious about blogging, the customization and support offered by paid themes can’t be beat.

Here at The Write Life, we use Genesis, which is one of the most popular premium themes available. Another popular and flexible theme is Thesis. For my personal site, I use Elegant Themes, which has a wide selection of beautiful themes at a reasonable price. All of these themes come with unlimited support — essential when you’re starting a blog.

6. Create a header

If you truly want your blog to look professional, it’s worth getting a custom header. You can ask your favorite graphic designer or create something yourself with Canva.

My favorite option? Order one on Fiverr. I’ve had great luck getting headers and other graphics designed in this online marketplace, where thousands of people offer their services for $5 per gig.

7. Write your pages

Though you’re starting a blog and not a static website, you’ll still want a few pages that don’t change. (“Pages” are different from “posts,” which are the daily/weekly/monthly entries you publish on your blog.)

Here are some pages you may want to create:

About

The about page is frequently touted as one of the most-viewed pages on blogs, so don’t overlook it. Include a photo and brief bio, and explain why you’re blogging and why the reader should care. What makes you an expert? How can you help them?

Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through — blogging is a personal affair!

Contact

You want your readers to be able to get in touch with you, right? Then you’ll need a contact page.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; just tell your readers how best to reach you. Avoid putting your full email address on here, as spambots could get ahold of it. To work around that, you can use a plugin, which we’ll link to below, or simply write something like “yourname AT yoursite DOT com.”

Portfolio

It’s your blog, so flaunt what you’ve got! Show your prospective clients and readers that you deserve their time and attention with examples of your past and present work. You can see examples of great writer portfolios here; personally, I love Sara Frandina’s.

Resources

Do you have a list of favorite writing tools? Or maybe books that have inspired you? Readers love resources pages, and for bloggers, they can also be a way to earn income from affiliate sales. Check out The Write Life’s resources page for inspiration.

Start here

You probably won’t need this at first, but a “start here” page is smart once you have a decent amount of content. It’s a great opportunity to express your mission and highlight your best work, so your readers can see the value of your blog without wading through months or years worth of posts.

Joanna Penn does a good job with hers, encouraging readers to download her ebook and then choose a topic that interests them.

Work with me

If you’re using your new blog to sell your writing services, this page is crucial. Be clear about how you can help people and how they can get in touch with you. You could even list packages of different services, like Sarah Von Bargen does on her site.

Once you’ve set up all your pages, make sure they’re easily accessible from the home page. If they’re not showing up, you may have to adjust your menus.

8. Install plugins

Plugins are great for everybody, but they’re especially useful for those of us who are less comfortable with the technical side of things but who’ve managed to set up a self-hosted blog. Think of them as apps for your blog; they’re free tools you can install to do a variety of things.

Though having lots of plugins can undermine the functionality and security of your blog, there are several we recommend everyone look into:

Better Click-to-Tweet: Encourage readers to share your content by including a click-to-tweet box within your posts; this plugin makes it easy.

Contact Form 7: If you want to avoid putting your email address on your contact page, use this contact form plugin, which is frequently updated and receives good reviews.

QuickieBar: Want to get readers to sign up for your free newsletter? Or want to announce the release of your latest book? This plugin allows you to create a banner for the top of your blog.

Mashshare: These “Mashable-style” share buttons are like the ones you see here on The Write Life. Another popular option is Digg Digg. It doesn’t matter which plugin you choose; it’s just essential you make social sharing easy for your readers.

WP Google Analytics: This plugin tracks the visitors to your site so you can see what people are interested in and how they’re finding you.

WP Super Cache: Another plugin that’s not sexy, but is important. Caching allows your blog to load faster — pleasing both your readers and Google.

Yoast SEO: This all-in-one SEO plugin helps you optimize your posts so you can get organic traffic from search engines.

9. Install widgets

If your blog has a sidebar, you might want to spruce it up with a few widgets, which are small boxes with different functions.

Here are some ideas:

About box

You’ve probably seen this on a lot of blogs; it’s a box in the upper right hand corner welcoming you to the site. Check out Jessica Lawlor’s blog for a simple — yet excellent — example.

Social media icons

Make it easy for your readers to follow you on social media by including links to your profiles in the sidebar. Here’s a basic tutorial for adding custom social media icons.

Popular posts

Once you’ve been blogging for a while, you might want to highlight your most popular posts in the sidebar, which you can do with a basic text widget. We do this here on The Write Life so you can find our most popular content quickly and easily.

10. Purchase backup software

Don’t overlook this important step just because you don’t have content yet! It’s better to install this software early than to start blogging and not remember until it’s too late.

Free options exist, but I’ve never had good luck with them — and for something as important as my entire blog, I don’t mind paying a little extra. (It’s a business write-off, remember?!) Popular backup options include VaultPress, BackupBuddy and blogVault.

11. Start your email list

I know, I know — you haven’t even started blogging and I already want you to build an email list. Trust me; you’ll be so glad you did.

Alexis Grant, founder of The Write Life, agrees with me. “If I could go back and do one thing differently for my business, it would be starting a newsletter earlier,” she writes. “My email list is THAT important for my business, bringing traffic to my website, buys of my products and opportunities I never could’ve expected.”

Even if you don’t have anything to send, just start collecting email addresses. The best way to entice people to sign up is by offering a free ebook or resource. For great examples, check out The Write Life’s How to Land Your First Paying Client or Grant’s social media strategy checklist.

Our favorite email newsletter platform is Mailchimp. It’s intuitive, fun and free for up to 2,000 subscribers. There are lots of other tools you could choose, though; here are a few more options for building your email list.

Once you’ve created your list, entice your readers to subscribe by adding a subscription box to your sidebar, and maybe even installing a plugin like PopupAlly.

12. Write!

If you really want to start a blog, you’re going to need to… start blogging.

We recommend creating an editorial calendar — even if it’s just you blogging. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it can even be scribbled out in a notebook.

What’s important is that you plan your posts in advance, so you can keep track of your ideas and stick to a schedule. It’s also a chance to assess and tweak your content strategy. What do you want to write about? How will you draw the readers in?

Don’t forget you’re writing for the web, so your style should be different than if you were writing for print. Keep your tone conversational, use “you” phrases to speak to the reader and break up text with bullet points and sub-headers. Keep SEO in mind, but don’t make it the focus of your writing.

13. Promote, promote, promote

You’re almost there! Now that you’ve started writing, it’s time to get readers. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but for many writers, this is one of the most surprisingly time-consuming aspects of blogging. Though it’d be nice if we could just write (that’s what we love to do, right?), it’s nicer to have people actually reading your work.

One of the best ways to attract new readers is guest blogging on more popular blogs. To help you out, here are seven writing blogs that want your guest posts, plus seven more. (And don’t forget about guest posting for TWL!)

It’s also essential to interact with other bloggers. Share their content with your community, comment on their posts and support them when and where you can. Hopefully, they’ll return the favor!

Social media is another great way to get more traffic to your new blog. In addition to sharing your posts and networking with fellow bloggers, make sure you’re constantly trying to grow your author following on social media.

14. Get help if you need it

If you feel stuck at any point, don’t be afraid to invest in a course or ebook, like these ones:

Sometimes a little outside help is all the boost you need.

Other than that, creating a successful writing blog is about hard work and consistency. Keep posting helpful and engaging content, optimizing it for SEO and sharing it with your networks — and you’ll soon see your new blog start to blossom.

Congratulations, you’ve now officially started a blog as a writer. Guess it’s time to get writing!

Do you want to start a blog? What stood in your way until now?

By Susan Shain
Source: thewritelife.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Building an Author Website: The First Step to Publishing

If you’re like most writers I know, you probably dream of getting published. But as I’ve worked with writers for the last six years, I’ve found that most are woefully unprepared for what publishing actually takes, and this means that either they never figure out what it takes to get published or when they finally DO get published, they find themselves disappointed with the process and with how many books they sell.

How do you prepare for getting published though? There are several steps, but the first step is building an author website. In this article, I’m going to share a step-by-step guide to building a simple author website yourself that will support all of your publishing efforts.

building

Why Building a Website is the First Step You Should Take BEFORE You Get Published

As book sales move more and more online, a website where you can develop a relationship with your readers is essential. It doesn’t matter if your book is being published by a big traditional publisher or if you’re self-publishing. You need a website.

Why is having an author website so important? Why not just focus on free and easy platforms like Facebook and Twitter for your book marketing efforts?

  • Social media doesn’t sell books, but an email list does. You might think email is an old school way to sell books and that it can’t possibly work, but the numbers say something very different. In fact, 66 percent of people say they have made a purchase because of an email they received compared to only 20 percent of people who have purchased something from a Facebook post and six percent from Twitter. I’ve been watching this trend for years, and every statistic I’ve ever read has shown me that email is far and above the best way to get your audience to buy your book.
  • The best place to build your email list is on a website.
  • How then do you build your email list? Through your website. In fact, a simple, single-page website with an email opt-in form is enough to completely change your publishing success.
  • You OWN your website. You don’t own your social media following. Facebook does. Twitter does. Instagram does. And they can change the rules any time they want, like when Facebook changed their algorithm to only show a fraction of people’s posts. Or when Instagram did the same.

“But I’m Not Tech Savvy”: Why Anyone Can Build an Author Website

If the idea of building a website is intimidating to you, though, it shouldn’t be. I’ve built over a dozen websites and helped other writers set up a few dozen more, many in just a few hours, and even though I’m pretty savvy, it doesn’t mean you have to be to setup a simple author website.

Anyone can set up a simple author website in just a few hours if you know the right steps and don’t get overwhelmed by all the options out there.

At the same time, when I built my first website, it took me weekbecause I was doing it on my own, with no one to guide me through the process. My hope is that this guide will make the process simple enough that anyone can build a website.

10 Steps to Building an Author Website

If you read this article from start to finish and follow each step, you will have a great author website.

1. Choose Your Platform

You have many options when it comes to building a simple author website, but there are only three that I recommend.

Self-Hosted WordPress. My personal favorite is a self-hosted WordPress website (which is very different from a free WordPress.com website). I’ve been building websites on WordPress for almost ten years, and it combines ease, flexibility, and full control over your site.

You have to pay to host your website if you choose this option. That costs about $50 a year through Bluehost, which is the hosting company I recommend (you can click here to setup your WordPress website through Bluehost). Note that this includes a domain name, normally $12 a year. This is the least expensive, highest value option available.

WordPress has a number of free themes that allow you to quickly change the entire look and feel of your site. You can also purchase a paid theme (we use Divi at thewritepractice.com, and it’s amazing). Choose Self-Hosted WordPress (via Bluehost).

(HINT: I usually go with the Basic plan, paid yearly, with no add-ons. Bluehost and any other hosting service you choose will likely pitch you several add-on services for an extra cost. Personally, I always say no to all of them.)

Squarespace. If you’re not going to get a self-hosted WordPress, then Squarespace is a great second option. They have beautiful design and make it incredibly easy to set up and get started. Squarespace costs $12 a month to get started, about three times more than a self-hosted WordPress website, but they include a lot of features under that price. Choose Squarespace.

WordPress.com (free). Not to be confused with a self-hosted WordPress website (e.g. WordPress.org), WordPress.com is like the free, “light” version of a self-hosted WordPress website. If you want to get started quickly and for free, this can be a good option. I would still recommend Squarespace over WordPress.com—and a self-hosted WordPress website over both—but this can be a way to ease yourself into building an author website. Plus, it’s fairly easy to export and transfer to a self-hosted WordPress website when you’re ready to up your game. Choose WordPress.com.

Which Website Platforms to Avoid:

  • Weebly. I’ve see a few good author websites built on Weebly, but most look clunky.
  • Wix. Every author website I’ve seen built on Wix looks like it’s from 2005. Plus, their branding will be on every page. You should be advertising your writing, not your website platform.
  • GoDaddy Site Builder (or any host’s native site builder). Hosting companies are good at hosting, not creating software for building websites.

2. Register Your Domain Name

A domain name is the URL where your website lives, e.g. joebunting.com. When people type it into their browser, they will arrive at your website. All three of the platforms I recommended above allow you to register a domain name through them, but you can also register through a third party like Google Domains or Name.com (although I do recommend registering through the platform you choose above).

Your domain name is one of the first branding decisions you make as you build your website. The challenge is that as the Internet expands, more and more domains are registered and the best ones become scarce. How do you find one that’s both available and right for you? Here are a few important tips:

  • Look around before registering. Your first choice for a domain may already be taken, so it’s important to search before getting to far into the website building process. You can use Google’s Domain Search tool to quickly look through different domain options (HINT: Once you find your perfect domain, don’t register it on this tool. Instead, register it through the platform you chose above. You can always transfer domain names, but it’s an extra step that can be a little complicated.)
  • Use your first and last name (e.g. johngrisham.com). If it’s available, that is. If you write under a pen name, then your pen name would be the domain name, and if your name is difficult to spell, then you might consider writing under a pen name. If your name is not available, you can use a .me, .us, or .net domain, but I wouldn’t use .org unless you write religious or service books. I would not use a middle initial in your domain name. You can also append a word to the end of your name, like joebuntingwriter.com or buntingbooks.com. Not as good as your author name, but it can still work.
  • Don’t use your book title as your (main) domain name. Because what will you do when you write another book. It’s fine to have a simple landing page or a basic website for each book you write (like this one), but not for your main author website.
  • Don’t include dashes in the domain. Adding a dash in between your first and last name is an easy way to get your name if it’s already taken, but it makes it a little harder for people to find you. Plus, in my opinion, it doesn’t look very good.

Other Domain Search Tools:

This handy tool:

https://www.bluehost.com/web-hosting/domaincheckapi/?affiliate=joebunting

3. Find a Few Author Websites to Model Yours On

Before you get deep into the design process, find a few author websites you like to model yours on. Here are a few author websites I recommend checking out:

As you look at their sites, take notice of the main elements of each site. Here are some of the most important elements:

  • Header. The image, logo, or name at the very top of the site. Don’t be overwhelmed if you have no idea how to make images look as awesome as the sites above. These authors all have design teams, but you can easily make simple but awesome looking images with a free tool like Canva.
  • Featured Banner. Often authors will have an image with their latest book featured as the first thing you see when you visit their site.
  • Email/Newsletter Sign Up Form. This is the most important section of the site, since your email list is the main way you develop a relationship with your readers. Building your email list is the number one best marketing step you can take for your writing. I really like Brad Thor’s site especially because his newsletter sign up form is above the fold.
  • Menu. This is where you’ll get an idea of the main pages. You’ll almost always find an About page, a Blog, a Books page, and a Contact page.
  • Endorsements and Reviews. Do they have any featured endorsements from well-known authors or reviews?
  • Social media channels. Do they link to any of their social media profiles? Which channels do they feature, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest?

4. Install WordPress

From here I’m going to assume you’re setting up your website with Bluehost on WordPress

After setting up your new Bluehost account and registering your domain (see steps 1 and 2 above), it’s time to install WordPress on your domain.

1. If you haven’t done so already, after you sign up for Bluehost, you will be able to register your domain (see steps 1). If you missed this step, you can also register afterward from the Bluehost dashboard so don’t worry.

Author Website Bluehost Install

2. On the Bluehost dashboard, click install WordPress.

Bluehost WordPress Install

What’s really happening here: When you sign up for hosting, you’re basically renting a computer, just a computer that’s set up to broadcast to the internet. Your domain is kind of a like a folder on that computer, and when you install WordPress, you’re basically installing an application on that folder.

3. Click continue WordPress installation.

4. On the next page, select the domain you registered earlier in the dropdown. Leave the directory form blank.

Building an Author Website: WordPress Installation

5. Enter your login credentials. Next you’ll be asked to create login credentials (username and password) for your new website. These are really important to keep in a safe place, but you’ll also get an email with them.

6. It will install for a few minutes. After it finishes, visit your new domain’s wordpress admin screen, e.g. yourdomainhere.com/wp-admin. Make sure to bookmark this page for the future.

That’s it! You did it! You now have a new website! Congratulations!

5. Familiarize Yourself With WordPress

WordPress is fairly easy to use once you find your way around, but it can sometimes be intimidating to new users. Here are a few things to take note of:

Dashboard

This is your home base, where you can see your website’s back end at a glance and access all your settings and pages.

Admin Header Bar

At the top of your screen is an admin bar with a few helpful buttons.

  • + New. Creates a new post or page.
  • Edit. If you’re on a post or page you want to edit, you can click the edit button here to make changes.
  • Home / Dashboard button. If you’re on the dashboard, you can click this to get to your website’s home screen. If you’re on your website, then you can click this to go to your dashboard.

Dashboard Menu

This is the main way to create pages and access all the settings on your site.

  • Posts & Pages. Posts are for your blog and usually include comments. Pages are for site-wide pages, like your About page, Books page, or Contact page.
  • Appearance. There are several menu items under this that control the appearance of your site:

Theme. Change your theme here. We’ll talk about themes in a moment.
Customize. Depending on your theme, you can preview some appearance customizations here.
Menus. The menu on the front of your site is created and controlled here.
Widgets. These are things that appear in your sidebar, like an email sign up form or an image of your book cover and link to your book’s Amazon/Barnes and Noble page.

  • Plugins. One of the things that makes WordPress so great is the huge community of developers building free and paid plugins to extend your site’s functionality. I’ll mention which plugins I recommend in a moment, but this is where you will install, activate, and configure them.
  • Settings. There are a few settings you should configure at the start.

General. This is where you can change your site name and tagline, choose your time zone, and set your email address. You can leave these as the default, but I would change your time zone.
Writing. This affects how the page and post editor looks. You don’t need to change anything here.
Reading. This affects your homepage and how many posts display on your blog. We’ll come back to this screen in a moment to set your homepage, but you don’t have to do anything now.
Permalinks. This affects the URL structure, and I would highly recommend changing it to “Post Name” setting.

Plugins I Recommend Installing

There are a few plugins that are essential, in my opinion.

  1. Jetpack. Gives you great features like visitor stats, hacker protection, and spellcheck.
  2. Akismet. Blocks spam comments. Connect with your WordPress.com account and choose the free plan.
  3. Sumo. Allows you to easy add sharing to your posts and pages, that thing that floats on the side of your post with sharing icons. Also gives you powerful email subscription tools. It’s free, but you have to create an account with Sumo after you install.
  4. Contact Form 7. Create a contact form here and then copy and paste the shortcode that it gives you onto a new page that you create and title Contact.

Advanced

  1. SEO by Yoast. Analyzes your pages and teaches you how to write so that Google can better find your website. Very cool!
  2. Google Analytics by Yoast. Google Analytics is the best free tool for tracking your website users. First create a free account here, then connect to your website with this plugin.

6. Choose Your Theme

Themes drastically affect the way your site looks, so finding the right one for you is important. However, there are so many great free and paid themes it can be overwhelming. Here are a few I recommend.

Free Themes for Author Websites

PageLine. This free theme gives you a huge amount of control over every element of your website, and the best part is that you don’t need to know any code to use it. You can download it here or install it from your Appearance > Themes page.

Recommended Themes for Author Websites

You get what you pay for, people always say, and while that’s somewhat true for blogs, I think you can go a very long way with a free theme. Personally, I used PageLines for this very website for years. BUT there are a few things free themes aren’t the best at. They tend to be slower to load, for example, and not as feature rich as some paid themes. Plus, the two themes below are really cool.

Divi. If you prefer a “What You See Is What You Get” editor for your website, Divi is amazing. It allows you to edit font sizes, colors, spacing, and more all from the user-facing side of your site. After using many different themes for years, this is the theme we settled on for The Write Practice. You can get Divi here.

Tribe. A premium theme built by author Jeff Goins, this theme gives you what you need to build an author website and nothing else. Perfect if you want something simple but functional. You can get Tribe here.

Custom Themes. Alternatively, you can hire a web designer to build you a custom theme. This is a great option if you don’t have an eye for design and/or don’t have the time to do it. Designers cost anywhere between a few hundred bucks to $1,000 for an experienced designer to $3,000+ for a high-end designer.

7. Create Your Header

Headers can be a simple logo, like ours on The Write Practice. Or an image of the author’s name like Elizabeth Gilbert’s site. Or a full width image like Gillian Flynn’s site.

Building an Author Website: Elizabeth Gilbert's Header

Building an Author Website: Gillian Flynn's Header

You can hire a designer for this, but it’s easier to create these on your own with Canva than you’d think. Here’s how:

  1. Before you can start, you need to find out the dimensions your header needs. This is determined by your theme, so check your theme’s settings. For reference, Elizabeth Gilbert’s header is 308 px wide by 29 px tall (px stands for pixels, which is the most common unit of measurement for websites).
  2. Go to Canva.com, create a free account or log in with your Facebook account, and then select “Use custom dimensions” (see screenshot). Building an Author Website: Creating a Header on Canva
  3. Enter your dimensions (e.g. 308 by 40, since Canva doesn’t allow dimensions smaller than 40).
  4. Create your logo! I recommend keeping it simple for now with just your name on a white background.
    Building an Author Website: Creating a Header with Canva 2
  5. Last, download your image (preferably as a PNG file) and then upload it into your theme!

8. Add Your Core Pages

After you install your theme, don’t obsess over the design right now. It takes a long time to get a website looking the way you want it to, but for now just focus on getting the broad elements setup. Your number one goal, remember, is to build your email list, so getting the simplest website possible to start collecting email addresses is ideal.

Home Page. Your website will default to displaying a blog, but for your author website, I recommend creating a custom home page. Take a look at Step 2 for the elements you’ll want to include here: for example, a featured book image (which you can create with Canva), email list sign up form (which we’ll talk about next), endorsements/testimonials, and link to your blog. A good model for this to start is Jeff Goins’s home page, because it’s fairly simple, text based, and doesn’t require a lot of image design work.

About Page. One of your most visited pages, this is where you’ll share a short bio. As you write your About page, remember that new readers don’t care about you; they care about themselves and the books they like to read. Don’t write out your full life story. Share only the information your reader will be interested in to discover whether or not your writing will be a good fit for them.

I like Brad Thor’s About Page as a good model for this, especially his strong brand tagline: “Brad has been called ‘the master of thrillers,’ and ‘America’s favorite author.’ His bestselling novels have been published in over 30 countries.”

Books Page. Simple a page with images of all your books and links to where readers can buy them. TIP: Embed Kindle instant book previews so readers can start reading your book right from your website. Here’s how.

Contact Page. Give readers the ability to contact you by creating a page with a contact form. Start by installing the plugin Contact Form 7 if you haven’t already. A “Contact” menu item will appear on your dashboard menu. Create a new contact form or use/edit the default one that’s pre-installed. Copy and paste the shortcode into a new page that you title Contact.

Editing the Menu

Depending on your theme, the menu on your site may automatically add each page you create. Either way, it’s a good idea to create a custom menu so you can have more control over what the menu includes. Here’s how:

  1. On the dashboard, go to Appearance > Menu.
  2. Click the button to create a new menu.
  3. Add the pages or custom links you want (e.g. Home, About, Books, Contact).
  4. Click the box to choose where the menu will appear, usually primary menu or secondary menu.
  5. Save it and then go to your homepage to make sure it looks like you want it to.

9. Set Up Your Email List

Your email list is one of the main reasons you’re doing all of this, and your newsletter signup form could be considered the most important element on your website.

First, you have to choose an email newsletter provider. Here I usually recommend Mailchimp, because it’s free for your first 2,000 subscribers. Mailchimp is a great company, and a very friendly service. That being said, personally I find it to be a little clunky and hard to use. We use Convertkit, and while I highly recommend them for authors, it’s a paid service and it can be pretty expensive. Your email list is a good place to invest, though. This should be one of your first upgrades.

Assuming you’re using Mailchimp, you can learn how to create your first email list and sign up form here.

10. Celebrate!

You did it! You created your author website! And if you followed these instructions, it should have only taken you a few hours of work.

Next, you can learn how to write the perfect blog post or simply rest in the glow of your accomplishments!

Do you have an author website? Share a link in the comments so we can see what you’ve created! 

Have a question or did you get stuck? Before you leave a comment, try Googling it or asking your hosting company for help. If you’ve already done that, feel free to leave a comment!

By Joe Bunting
Source: thewritepractice.com

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Tone in Writing: The Uplifting Tone Your Writing Needs to Reach Your Readers

 

Do you write a blog? Mentor other writers? Parent a tiny version of yourself?

Then you’re a coach!

While you may not work in a classroom or on the field, odds are you practice some form of teaching and coaching that impacts the lives of others. You might even be doing that right here at The Write Practice—if you’re in a writing group giving feedback and sharing your critique with other writers, you’re a writing coach.

And since you’re a writer, you might blog about it, consider blogging about it, or write books and other content designed to help people.

Being a know-it-all, I’ve always assumed I was a good teacher and coach. I’ve often taken that attitude into blog posts and book chapters, and then wondered why I received negative comments and feedback.

I’m learning a tough lesson about successful teaching and coaching: Tone is everything.

Because if we coach with the wrong tone in writing, we might not be coaching at all, but driving our readers away!

Don’t Be Mean, David!

Last year, I wrote a book for my subscribers called The 10 Reasons Quit Your Book.

The idea behind the book was to hit writers where it hurts: the lack of response to their work.

As a writer and teacher of creative writing for over ten years now, I have a pretty good idea why some stories work and other stories do not. I’m not perfect by any stretch, but I’ve failed enough times (and seen others fail) to know what makes a reader think, “Meh.”

I shared 10 Reasons Readers Quit Your Book with a fellow writer and judge of last year’s Winter Writing Contest. She enjoyed it and found its teaching useful, but shared a critique that really struck me.

“Your tone,” she wrote, “is rather negative, and this might deter readers.”

In other words, my tone in writing was mean.

And it would almost certainly turn readers off to my message, and to me.

Tone in Writing: The Coach’s Dilemma

I’ve found this to be a challenge with all kinds of “coaching.” How do we identify failure in our readers while encouraging their success?

It’s a tough balance. Most of our readers are probably failing at something that we are not (we may be struggling, but not nearly as much as our readers are).

But your success is the reason you’re writing the coaching post!

  • You’ve lost weight, but your reader is still struggling with diet/exercise.
  • You’ve made a million dollars, but your reader is still living check-to-check.
  • You’ve mastered story structure, but your reader doesn’t know why structure is so important.

See how this gap between master and student can lead to an alienating tone?

This is especially hard because online coaching isn’t relational. We often don’t know our readers personally. Instead, they’re often busy browsers with five minutes to absorb our words of wisdom. If every one of those words isn’t carefully designed to empower them on to victory, we will almost certainly alienate them, probably through a “negative” tone.

So how do we adopt a tone in writing that won’t alienate our readers? What tangible step can we take to achieve this?

The answer — and how simple it is — will amaze you.

3 Steps to Employ the Power of “You”

The secret to mastering a “welcoming” and “positive” tone is in our careful use of pronouns.

In education, teachers use “gradual release” to help students master a new subject. In short, it works like this:

  • I do (model)
  • We do (guided practice)
  • You do (independent practice)

In our coaching, we need to use the same structure, but with a few twists.

1. Start with first-person singular

First, always begin your coaching with first-person examples, using “I,” “me,” and “my.”

This is especially true when giving non-examples, or examples of failure.

One thing I did right with 10 Reasons was begin with an example of my own glaring failure. Then, throughout the book, I referred back to it as a reminder that I am far from perfect and have failed at the concepts before.

This is a great way to build trust with your reader before launching into the concept you wish to coach.

2. Teach the concept in first-person plural

Then, teach the content or concept using the first-person plural: “we” and “us.”

Put yourself alongside the student. Be with them and let them see themselves as on the winning team while learning.

There is a huge difference between a learner who is “below” and a learner who is “with.”

When a student is allowed to see the teacher fail, recover, and pass on this hard-earned knowledge, it makes a world of difference. That is why it’s wise to lead from a humble position, seasoning our role as Coach with the reality of our Humanity.

Then, and only then, can you deploy the trickiest of pronouns: “You.”

3. Use “you” positively

Be positive and patient with “you”

“You” is a powerful word. Unlike “we,” which subtly brings the reader into our midst, “you” keeps the reader separate and alone. It is the most dangerous pronoun, and we are wise to treat it with great care.

Unfortunately for me in 10 Reasons, I wasn’t so careful.

“Non-examples” are often fun stories to tell. They are examples of failure — easy to laugh at, difficult to empathize with. And in 10 Reasons, I often used the pronoun “you” in those non-examples!

In even the most vanilla of moments, associating “you” — who is our precious reader — with anything negative can have a powerful and discouraging impact.

And my tone in writing came off as negative, as a result. While my fellow judge pressed on through the book, I can’t count on a stranger to do the same.

So in my revision of 10 Reasons, I’m choosing to wait until the time is right before unleashing this tricky pronoun.

At the end of each chapter, I reveal the “Story Secret” that leads to success.

Only here, once the bad examples and negativity have passed, do I use “you.”

Your readers want to get better. They want to win. 

And they’ve come to you not just for content, but hope. Give it to them by casting them as the hero once you’ve finished the harsher points of teaching.

Trust me: This works! I’m about three chapters into my rewrite of 10 Reasons, and I’m noticing incredible differences in the overall flow and feel of the book.

Wait until the end, and wait until “you” can be positive.

We have to be patient with “you,” and only use it once the time is right. Otherwise its coaching power will turn negative and scare our valuable readers away.

Don’t Be Cynical

One final thought on tone must be mentioned, and it has to do with negative humor.

When giving non-examples, it’s often fun to use clever imagery and go for the laugh. Yet in coaching, readers aren’t reading our work for the humor (unless you’re Jon Acuff); they’re reading because they’re hurt, they’re failing, they’re struggling, they’re vulnerable — they’re any number of things that make them a little uneasy.

Put simply, they’re fragile.

So take a lighter approach to humor, especially when incorporating humor into non-examples; we might end up making fun of our readers’ failures without knowing it!

I’m also guilty of writing with a “tough love” tone, using bold words and blunt syntax, thinking of myself as a hard-talking football coach.

Yet most of my readers (creative writers) don’t want a football coach — they want a monk with publishing credentials!

Therefore, despite our zeal for great storytelling, we need to lead our readers with the gentle hand of a mentor, not the sour yell of a frustrated coach

.

What Do “You” Think?

So as this post on coaching comes to a close, let me ask you: What do you think? Are pronouns, especially “you,” really so powerful?

You may have already noticed, but I largely refrained from using the word “you” until now.

Up until this point, I’ve extensively given personal examples of failure and recovery. I’ve also delivered my core principles — primarily about pronouns and tone words — in the first-person plural.

“We” are mastering this together. This will help “us” reach “our” readers better.

Probably the most important thing a coach can realize is that learning never stops. I will always be a learner. The moment I finish writing this post, I will go back to my role as a learner, reading other great posts at The Write Practice.

It’s also wise to remember that our readers can offer us more than we think. I’ve often found something in the comments of my posts that challenges what I’ve written, or asks a question and exposes a flaw in the way I taught a concept. This is a good thing, a beautiful thing, for a coach to receive.

Humility is perhaps the powerful quality of a great coach, whether they’re a writing coach or a coach of any other kind. A great coach realizes that it is through failure that he or she learns, and humbly passes that on to his/her community. Great coaches are great teammates and learners, and don’t consider their wisdom something to be lorded over others.

So what do you think? Do you want to be a great coach and impact many lives around you?

I know I do. And I’m confident you do, too.

Have you ever had a coach, or coached someone in something you’re good at? How did they or you adopt a helpful tone? Let us know in the comments.

By David Safford

Source: thewritepractice.com

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Why (and How) to Launch Your Author Blog Before Your Book

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Some excellent advice and howtoitness over at All Indie Writer by Jennifer Mattern.

Maybe you’re writing your first book. Perhaps it’s off with your editor. In either case, you still have a ways to go before your book is in the hands of readers. That means it’s much too early to worry about setting up an author blog, right?

Wrong.

You don’t need to wait until your book launch to set up an author blog. In fact, you shouldn’t wait this long if you want your blog to help you boost book sales at launch time.

Author Blog vs Author Website

Worried about launching a blog because you aren’t ready to launch your ideal author website?

Don’t be.

Sure. Your author website will have more than a blog. You’ll want everything from your author bio to book sales pages. But there’s no reason you can’t give that website a jump start by focusing on your author blog.

Read the rest at All Indie Writer

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What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Blog About

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Publisher – Aggregator – Master Distributor

 

Self-publishing experts agree blogging is a great way to connect with your readers as well as keeping the writing gears well oiled. Here are some great ideas for blogging and writing from a terrific blogging website:

 

If you’re reading this, it means you blog.

5 proven strategies for defeating writer's block for bloggers

Obviously.

You’re a blogger. You’re a content marketer considering blogging as part of your marketing strategy. You’re a fiction writer considering blogging as a good way to communicate with readers or promote your book.

Whoever you are, if you create online content you constantly need ideas and plans to answer these eternal questions:

What to blog?

What content to share with readers?

What to write?

It’s a big problem for many bloggers, especially those believing the more often they write and publish, the better. As a result, they experience writer’s block, they procrastinate or sacrifice quality for quantity, and they eventually become sick and tired of blogging.

Sounds familiar?

If so, don’t panic!

This article will reveal all secrets of coming out with great ideas for your blog, and it will tell you what to do when you are stuck and don’t know what to write.

Let’s get started…

 

 

Get started blogging about your book(s) and read the rest at Be a Better Blogger

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30 Inspiring Blog Post Ideas For Writers

From Amanda Patterson over at  Writers Write 

Do you have blogger’s block?

Even creative people get stuck when they’re trying to come up with ideas for a blog post. I thought I would put together a list of possible topics to inspire you. These are based on some of our blog posts at Writers Write and others I’ve enjoyed reading on the Internet.
Whether you blog daily, three times a week, or once a week, I hope that one of these are just what you need to break your blogger’s block.

 

 

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The Why and How of Developing a Blog Strategy

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Another great post over at BadRedHeadMedia!

Blog

In my continuing series where I answer questions asked by YOU (in this case, this question comes from writer Camela Cami Thompson), staff writer Naomi Blackburn takes on ‘What is a blog strategy and is it important for authors to have one?’ Thanks Camela for a fab question! Here you go….

 

I am always shocked when authors ask me if they have to blog. My resounding YES always leads to, “But I don’t know what to write about!”

Why Blog?

Blogs are wonderful because they give authors an opportunity to take an active role in marketing their works to their readers while also providing a way to network with other authors. Let’s face it. Before an author has name recognition by the public, a chunk of the effort is focused on relationship building with a readership base. What better way than a blog to help to facilitate this?

Develop a Blog Strategy and Calendar

As with everything in the business world, the key to success is always in the planning. Developing a blog calendar and strategy allows for seamless posts and provides alternatives to marketing and social media opportunities besides shouting “BUY MY BOOK!”

First, decide what you want to blog about. Ask yourself:

  • Is it close to the subject matter of my works?
  • What do I want my “brand” to be?
  • Who do I want my target audience to be?

Maybe you want to be recognized as a dynamic professional, such as Molly Greene, who is an author of romantic mystery fiction, but writes a blog specifically focused on blogging for authors. Or do you want to focus on your readers and write on topics close to the genre of your books? For example, maybe you write romantic fiction and want to use your blogs to discuss suggestions for romantic interludes with that special someone.

The next step in your blogging strategy is to plan out a list of topics on a calendar. For example, I have a desktop calendar that has my topics listed for the next three months. Having a calendar with mapped out blog post topics allows me to write ahead. My calendar is based on the topics for my forthcoming book, The Author CEO: The Book. Preplanning also allows for emergency posts and/or guest posts, as needed. Have a new book in the works? Having a blog calendar allows for scheduling pre-release blog posts announcing the new release.

(On this note, I am of the opinion that everyone must have a professional blog, no matter who the target audience is. Since your blog is essentially your corporate image, I always recommend hiring a professional to develop the site that hosts the blog.)

Still Not Sure What to Write About?

One of my favorite posts by Molly Greene that I frequently recommend to clients is 101 Blog Topic Ideas. The post is divided into several categories and Molly, in her own pithy way, addresses numerous topics—from supporting other authors to showcasing one’s own work.

Networking with authors is critical in blogging. It can get very difficult to come up with fresh ideas. Always having that “spot on” blog post can become stressful. Furthermore, the lack of networking and only writing for your own blog can lead to isolation, which not only costs you in terms of visibility, but also in potential lost opportunities for cross-promotional blog posts. So, come up with ways to have guests on your blog, and offer posts to others who may also be looking for fresh or new content.

I know that I am not an “expert” in everything. Being able to host subject matter experts—such as an author attorney writing on Copyright, Fair Use, and Book Reviewers—on my blog allowed me to present my readers with information I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to provide them.

Editing Matters

Regardless of what topics you choose, I can’t stress enough the importance of using an editor or, at the very least, having someone else review your posts. It drives me crazy when I see mistakes in author’s blog posts. This is your business. This is your craft.

Think about your favorite company. What would you think if you were looking at their marketing material and it was laden with mistakes? Would you think less of them? I recently had the chance to review an author’s blog. She had done a wonderful job of coming up with topics. One of the headings was a recipe section that contained some fantastic-looking recipes. As I went through them, I saw that they were loaded with typos, and some even had a couple of ingredients missing from the directions area. What was I to think?

In The End

So, what are you waiting for? Blogging is a must-do marketing opportunity for authors, and is also another outlet for creativity, interaction, and fun. Because I consider blogging to be such an important aspect of every author’s business development plan, I think it is worthwhile to bring in a blogging coach to learn the ins and outs of successful blogging. After all, it’s your business at stake, why not invest in it?

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