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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Website Answers for Authors


Venturing into the world of websites can be a daunting task for any debut author, but especially for one a little slow to warm to new technology. Three years ago, I was still running on the treadmill with a portable CD player in my hand, not even in a holder. If it weren’t for my husband, who knows how long it would have taken me to transition to an iPod. In fact, he’s always been the one to introduce me to new gadgets, so when it came time to revamp my website, I couldn’t adequately answer his question, “Why do you need a new site?” Because my agent said so didn’t cut it.

I had to do some serious thinking about how to proceed. Should I spend the money for a web designer and purchase a domain? Would it really be an investment in my future, or would it be a financial loss I wouldn’t recover? I still don’t know the answer to the last question, but ultimately I decided if I didn’t believe in my value as a professional, no one else would. There is credibility in investing something into your career. It says, "I’m in this for the long haul."

So how in the world did I find a designer? I’m fortunate to be represented by The Knight Agency, and Jia Gayles was a fantastic resource, providing me with information on several web designers. If you don’t have these resources available, I would suggest finding author websites you like and checking the designer. This should be listed somewhere on the site. Then you should be able to go to the designer's site and view their portfolio.

There are many great designers out there, but I fell in love with the sites designed by Rae Monet, Inc. Because each site is a work of art, I feared it would cost a fortune. I’m happy to say the entire process cost half of what I thought it would. Not only is Rae Monet a wonderful designer, she made everything easy for this tech-challenged author. And she was kind enough to answer a few questions for Lady Scribes today.

Why should an author have a website?

Rae: A website is an excellent way to market yourself and your books. Ultimately, I expect your goal as an author is to sell your books or yourself. A website is a good way to do that. There's also an expectation from many publishers that a website shows you're serious about your writing career.

What do you recommend for unpublished writers who don't have any money to hire someone to do their website yet? Is there a free hosting site you would recommend?

Rae: I don't recommend the free hosting sites because they usually require you to advertise for them on the site. That can look more unprofessional than just having a blog at http://www.blogspot.com/ until you can save for a proper site.

What kind of content should an unpublished writer have on her site?

Rae: We recommend 6 main navigation buttons to populate for an author's website. Home, About, Books, News, Extras, Contact.

What are some benefits to hiring a professional rather than doing it yourself?

Rae: Well, you get it done right the first time. You can invest a lot of money and time "learning" to do your website yourself and have a very unprofessional look as a product. In the long run, you can spend more money than if you hire a professional.

How much does an average website cost?

Rae: You have to take into account a website has many elements: your domain, hosting, and the site build fee. It can range from $500 to $1500. (My site was at the lower end.)

Here is how the process worked: We had a telephone interview to discuss any visions I had for the site. I told Rae I was open to her ideas because graphic design is not my thing. We talked about my genre, images that came to my mind in association with the regency era, and some of the settings of my books. Rae’s creative energy took over. We had a big reveal over the telephone. I was nervous I would hate it and be one of those annoying, hard to please clients. Rae feared the same. We were both wrong. It was love at first sight!

Rae Monet, Inc. did an amazing job on my website, but don’t take my word for it. Go see for yourself! www.samanthagraceauthor.com.

If I can answer any questions about my experience, I'd be happy to share what I've learned. Just ask away and I'll do my best to answer.

***Stop by http://www.raemonetinc.com/ to view their amazing portfolio.

21 comments:

  1. Hi Samantha, Your website looks lovely. Money well spent. I'm one of those unfortunates that created my site on my own. Taught myself HTML code from free websites and uploaded them from Notepad. Took me two and a half years to finally design something that I might keep for a while. But I could've spent ALL of that time writing stories instead.

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  2. Samantha,
    You're sight looks amazing! I was pleased to read the cost was not near as bad as I thought it would be. I definitely need to do this!

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  3. Samantha ~ Love the website. Rae did a great job.

    I'm wondering...Once you have a website up and running, how much time should you put into managing it. Does content need to change on a weekly basis? Monthly? Is there anything Rae recommends authors have on their websites that will attract readers?

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  4. Oh Samatha you already how green with envy I am of your site, it's simply breathtaking.

    My only other question is who maintains your site, you or Rae? And if Rae does, is it extra money everytime she performs maintenance or is that included in the initial price?

    Great post, really enjoyed it and now I am saving my money for Rae, I really, really want her to do my site for me. lol.

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  5. Linda,

    I easily saw that I could spend way too much time and money on creating my own site. It worried me with deadlines approaching. I think your website has a great feel. I had to stop over and have a look. I'm nothing if not curious. :)

    Julie,
    Thanks! I love it!

    Lydia,
    You don't want your website to look like it has been abandoned, so you want to keep it updated with new things going on - appearances, reviews, new releases. You want to make sure your readers know you are present. With Rae, I have 2 hours of maintenance a month. That can be a rough guide. I think it's up to the writer maintaining their own site to determine how that time will be spent. If 15-30 minutes a week keeps you looking current, then that may be the way to to. Or once a month might work if you know all of your appearances ahead of time. I hope that helps. :)

    Melissa,
    Rae will maintain my site for me. I pay $10 a month for this service, but she has a special package where I get this free for 6 months. To me, it's worth it to have her doing maintenance. What takes me hours will take her minutes. Considering in my other job I make more than $5 an hour, this seems like a great deal.

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  6. Samantha, I love your website. It's beautiful. Thanks for sharing all the how-to's. It's on my to do list, but I keep putting it off because I have no idea what I'm doing. :)

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  7. Rae: How great to see you here. Rae designed our Mysteries and Margaritas website and the banner that we have had printed on totes and cards. Rae, you were absolutely great to work with. And, I confess, I was totally impressed with your pricing. Thanks so much for your great work.

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  8. Clarissa,
    Like you, I had no idea what I was doing, which is the main reason I hired a designer. You might even start off just talking with one to see what they have to say about building a site now. Another advantage to Rae is she's also an author, so she understands a lot about the business.

    Cassy,
    Rae is great, isn't she. I've seen your Mysteries and Margaritas website in the past. I'm going to have her make some business cards for me too. Thanks for stopping by today. :)

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  9. Samantha, your site looks gorgeous! Rae has done a fantastic job with it. And this is all great information to know, for an up-and-comer.

    I'm curious, for those of us who don't yet have contracts for our books, should we include a section for works in progress?

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  10. Thanks, Catherine.

    I think of a website for a yet-to-be-published author as a way to showcase your career arc. Often you'll hear a publisher ask about your career arc. Where are you going? Are you a one-hit wonder, or do you have other ideas you're developing? Do you know your identity as a writer, meaning do you write in a certain genre or do you have your fingers in many different pots?

    I can't speak for publishers, but my impression is they want to know how to market you. This can be more difficult if you're not even sure where you land in the world of romance subgenres.

    All of us hope an agent or editor will check out our website at some point, and if that happenes, you'll want to make the most of that time. Make it easy to navigate, easy to read and sell your ideas. If you have an idea for a trilogy, why not have your pitch on your website?

    BTW, this is all my opinion gleaned from some of my experience and excellent advice from other authors. I'd be interested in hearing other thoughts on this topic.

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  11. Love the website, Samantha. It's stunning!! Rae is so amazing. She did my website and she nailed the elements I wanted right off the bat. I adore her.

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  12. Anita,

    Thank you! Your website is fantastic too. It was one of the ones that stood out to me in Rae's portfolio. I hear she did your cover for your book also.

    So glad you stopped by!

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  13. Just thought I'd chime in here ... I also design websites for authors: www.SmartAuthorSites.com. I think much of what you say here is on the mark, and an author website really is a necessity nowadays. If there's anything I can do to help any author who hasn't developed their own site yet -- including a free consultation -- just give me a holler.

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  14. Karin,

    Thanks so much for stopping by and letting writers know of another great option. I believe in going with the experts on something like this. I hope some of our readers will take you up on the free consultation.

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  15. Great info! I love seeing what other authors have for websites, and Samantha, yours is delightful. :)

    I notice from the stats on my site that when somebody new comes along, they check out the sections on my books, as well as the WIPs. I guess it helps give visitors a feel for what types of things I write, so I'm glad I have blurbs of each book as well as a couple small excerpts available.

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  16. Donna,

    Thanks for adding to the discussion about including wips on the author page. I think it's a good idea, but since I'm not an expert, it helps to get other viewpoints.

    And thanks for the compliment on my website. I'm thrilled with it!

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  17. This is tremendously useful information -- I'm wrestling with this decision right now, so the timing is perfect! Thank you for all the insight.

    Samantha, your site is beautiful!

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  18. Erica,

    Thanks so much for stopping by today. I'm glad this was helpful for you. I was in your shoes a few weeks ago, and boy, did I wrestle. Now I can say I'm very happy with my decision. :)

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  19. Your website is perfect for you my dear. Great design, Rae

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  20. Fantastic site Samantha. Congrats on being smart and going with a pro!

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