No, really. If you have ten spare dollars, go and get your domain right now. Why? Well for one, the longer a site exists, the better it ranks. More importantly, it is the best platform you are going to ever have. If you pick a domain name associated with your name or your writing in some clear way, it is going to be easy to remember and thus simpler to get traffic flowing to it. My suggestion is your pen name, but if that is taken then something that associates to you will do. The writers who can get away with something less clearly associated with them are those who already have an established career.
The Price of Fame
Ten dollars buys the name. Another ten can protect it from spammers doing ‘whois’ searches. We are now up to twenty dollars a year. That is a really cheap investment so far. What next? Well, I can’t speak for every hosting service, but Freehostia offers a number of plans and for those of you on a budget, it is probably one of the best out there. On their Chocolate plan, the one that charges nothing, you get full support, lots of space and your choice of any number of programs. On the free account, there are of course limitations, but getting started it offers a seemingly boundless number of benefits.
So now you have a domain and you have a hosting service. Let’s next look at what to do with it all. Well the most obvious choice is a static website. These are great for information that never changes, though they also take the most effort to build. If you don’t know HTML well, you can always find or buy a template and work with that. Your second option is to do a blend of static and dynamic (my own choice) which allows for your never-changing information to have a nice look, but also creates dynamic content in the form of a blog. Lastly is using a blog as your website itself, creating static pages that stay on the top bar and dynamic below.
To accomplish this task, your most likely bet is to turn to WordPress. If you took my suggestion of Freehostia, one click is all it takes to install the blog, though configuring it will depend on how you plan to host. I can’t decide that for you, so you will have to do a little looking over the information and decide what you want to do. Regardless of how you decide, remember that the broad range of templates for your blog are going to be limited by your initial choice of layouts. One column, two or three. Trying to adjust your site later will be a bear if you don’t stick with whatever you first decided.
Lest this posting fall into a slew of technical writing about setting things up in a way that may not even apply to you, I will instead focus on why you want to have a blog post at all. As I mentioned before, it benefits your Google scores, but I honestly feel that chasing SEO can be a losing game. The algorithm changes every time people get a fix on how to game it and then everything you did to make your site show up is suddenly hurting it. More important, to me, is how it affects your writing.
If you are going to be working as a writer, you had better get used to meeting deadlines. Your personal muse may not be inclined to work under the pressure of time, but that excuse isn’t going to fly when you promised a novel and you are staring down a deadline. Getting used to pushing yourself and prodding your creative self to meet deadlines on your blog will help do the same on larger projects.
Practice makes perfect. It has been said by many authors that it takes writing several books before you create something sales-worthy. Editors are there to help make sure you don’t get anything out that isn’t up to par. Yes, they are banking on earning something in return, but even if you want to self-publish, throwing out something that isn’t very good is going to hurt your future sales. By writing regularly for the blog, you have a consistent outlet. Repeating frequently and flexing your writing skills are both going to do a lot to improve your writing. You will get better at the flow of your writing voice. You will slowly improve the self-editing you must do. It is that consistent use of your writing skill that is going to make it all the more effective.
Recognition is in part, a matter of repetition. If you see something over and over, it sticks in your memory. Write good content and people will come frequently to look. Later, when they find your other work, they will recognize the name and have an idea of what to expect. Your other works can drive traffic to your site and that site, if it is good enough to keep them returning, is going to be an outlet for them to find the other works you might be involved in.
So you can see why it is important to have a website and/or blog. There is more to website design, but I will save that for another article. For now, know that Facebook is not a substitute for having a solid page of your own. In fact, some writers avoid such outlets entirely due to some of the more ugly policies they have about ownership of content or other matters. I know one big name author who refuses to use Facebook thanks to their policies when a page gets hacked. Her page, of course, got hacked and thus led her to find out about those policies. Control your content and be personally responsible for what your readers see. Make something wonderful and use it to spread the best of your works.