by Jan Rider Newman
Do you need a website? If you have a print or e-book to tell the world about, yes, you do. Even if you're not yet in print but have a book you're trying to publish, a website is a good idea. It's a place to refer agents, editors, and other authors. Though a website may not get the book published, it will show an agent or editor that you're a professional who's aware of the need to draw online attention in this world of iPads, iPods, iPhones, iBooks, Kindles, Nooks, etc.
How does one even go about getting a website? You need two basic things: a domain name and a host. There are a variety of ways to get these, but I'll tell you the way I've done it. The domain is the address of your website, the URL. "Amazon.com" is a domain name. So is "bayouwritersgroup.com." What you see at the top of the page in any online address bar after the "http://www." is the domain name. It has to be unique. No one else can set herself up as "janridernewman.com" now that I've bought that name.
Yes, the domain name must be bought, for as little as one month or as many as thirty-six. The first step is to search for the availability of your chosen domain name (let's call it "whateveryoucallit.com" for now) at a site such as http://www.godaddy.com. On that website you can do a search for the name you want to use and make sure no one else has bought it. If it's available, you can purchase the name there using a credit or debit card or PayPal. Note: other places sell domain names, such as Domain.com. Do a web search for something like "places to buy domain names." Just make sure the seller is accredited by ICANN. For more information on this see this: http://www.mkatoh.net/where-to-buy-domain-names.
In addition to your domain name, you'll need a hosting plan. The host is the engine that builds and runs your domain, including storing and presenting all the files (information) and photographs you upload to the website. Many people choose WordPress. There are many others, like Joomla A simple Internet search, such as "web hosting" will pull up any number of companies whose websites will explain what they offer in the way of hosting. Check the hosting programs listed on the site where you buy your domain name.
After these necessary preliminary steps comes the meat of your website, actually setting it up. You've got your domain and your web host. There now exists a site you can go to called "http://www.whateveryoucalledit.com." Up to now everything's been pretty straightforward and objective. You've had to do some research and make some decisions about naming, pricing, etc. Once that part's settled, you run up against subtler, more complicated issues.
What do you want your website to look like? Remember—your website reflects you. Your website tells the world what you like, what you believe in or not, how professional you are—or are not. It may, if you choose, tell the world where you are and what you look like . . . Are you biting your lip yet? Yes, deciding what to put on your website and what to leave off is hard. It requires thought and discernment and wisdom. The first thing I'd recommend you do is relax. Take time to think about what you want and realize you're not saving or destroying the universe. You can fix mistakes even on your world wide web page.
Look at other writers' websites. See what you like and dislike about them. When you type in a website address, you're taken to a home page, which is the first thing you see, your first impression of the website as a whole. What impression do you get when you go to http://www.jamespatterson.com/ or http://bayouwritersgroup.com, or http://janridernewman.com?
Think about that, and we'll pick up this conversation down the road. For now, happy writing.