Posted in Business Side of Writing, Promotion, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Websites Shouldn’t Be Static

If you created your author or illustrator website, and have done nothing to it since, you may have a number of problems.

GENERAL MAINTENANCE

  • Outdated software, plugins, and widgets. Some of these make your site insecure. Others are tools that make features on your site work. If these updates aren’t done at all, your site may be working incorrectly, broken, or at risk.
  • Broken links. If you post any links to other sites, publishers, etc., do they still work? Not only are broken links annoying to visitors to your site, but they also negatively impact your website’s ranking with major search engines, such as Google.
  • Unapproved comments. If you have blog posts set for people to comment, they often need approval. And it’s nice to reply to comments if you don’t have too many.
  • No recent backups. Is your site being backed up regularly? If not, you could lose what you have.

CONTENT UPDATES

  • Stale content. No changes to your content means there’s nothing to keep visitors coming back. A dated website isn’t as appealing to new visitors. In addition, new and updated content helps search engines find your site.

WHAT TO DO

Updating plugins, etc.

  • Major software updates are probably done by your host, but some need approval. Your website dashboard probably alerts you of updates needed. But if you aren’t visiting the behind-the-scenes portions on your website, how will they get done?
  • Add a plugin for automatic updating of plugins. This will manage a lot of updates for you. This is especially important for security updates. But it won’t catch all updates needed.
  • Visit your dashboard at least once a month and check for updates.

Fixing broken links

  • I use a broken link checker plugin, but it doesn’t catch them all. When checking I find some aren’t actually broken and I make the system recheck. Others may go to websites no longer in existence or pages that have moved. I do the research to see which it is. Sometimes I have to remove a dead link as the site or article no longer exists.
  • I also use a free online checker: https://www.brokenlinkcheck.com/. I have so many years of blog posts, I don’t try to fix all of the broken links at once when I use it. I decide on a number to fix, fix those, and come back another time.
  • Note: when creating links on your site or in a blog posts, they should always be set to “open in new page.” This means your website will still be open for your visitor to return to.

Approving comments – ignore if you have no blog posts or don’t accept comments

  • If a visitor has not commented before, you’ll usually need to approve them. I have my widget set to email me when I get a new comment. Someone who gets a lot of comments on each post would probably turn this option off.

Backing up your site

  • I strongly recommend an automatic backup system. But if you make a lot of changes to your website, it’s good to do an immediate backup as well.

Updating content

  • Keep your content fresh by update existing pages, and adding new blog posts,  articles, or links. For example, I have some resources on my page and recently found several articles and a word count survey to add. Not only did I add them, but I realized the appearance of the page would look better with some separators. Doing that made me aware that some listings under certain headings were alphabetized, while others were not. I reordered so they would be consistent.
  • Consider adding a new page. Have you always wanted a page about what you’re reading or favorite websites? Now might be the time to add it.
  • Think about your Books or Published Works page. Is your most recent work listed? Do you have any new awards or reviews you could add as quotes?
  • If you have an Author Visit or School Visit page, is it up to date? Are rates current? If you have info from past visits, do you have images or quotes you can share? Do you have new topics you would like to talk about?
  • What about your About You page? Is it current? Have you added a new hobby? Looking at mine I found I needed to update my social media information. When rereading, I also realized I hadn’t mention even the state where I live. I decided to add that and a picture of the view from our house.
  • If you have a lot of blog posts, consider a page with a topical or alphabetical list. This would be separate from your blogs internal categories or posts by month. I also decided to do a “flashback to the archives” collection post on a specific topic. When I shared it on social media, I got some “thank you”s from others.
  • Rereading old content in general can prompt ideas for change. Remember, you don’t have to revamp the entire website at once. Change one page now. Next month schedule yourself to look at another page for revisions.
Posted in Business Side of Writing, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, Writing Life

Preparing to Build a Brand-New Author or Illustrator Website

Whether you are hiring a website built or are doing-it-yourself, do your prep work first.

Preparing to Setup Your Site

I’ve recently setup a website for a friend, and I asked her questions such as:

  • What pages do you want to include on your site and what do you want them called? Authors often have a number of the following: About Me, Books, Events, School Visits, Blog, Just for Kids, FAQs, Contacts. Or perhaps you want a page called Appearances with Events and School Visits as subpages. Press Kit could be an option on School Visits or Appearances or be on its own page. Illustrators in addition to the above might have a Portfolio and a Sketch page. Some people have a one-page website. Others have pages such as Writer’s Help or Favorite Links. Decide what works for you.
  • What are your favorite colors? Especially ones that work well together. Choose at least one dark and one light.
  • What backgrounds on websites appeal to you? Black, dark, white, tan, or some other color? Or do you like a colored border with a contrast color for the text? Or do you like a texture or image background? (Can be a border with a complementary color.) Do you like white text or black text? (If using a very dark background, white text is usually easiest to read. Black works well on light colors and white.)
  • What are some websites that appeal to you visually? Choose 4 or 5 and think about what you specifically like on each. Make notes.
  • Do you like simple, whimsical, serious, modern, retro, silly, or ? Here’s a great article analyzing 33 author websites.

Think about Content and Images.

  • Your Home page. What do you want to say? And where do you want to say it? Your Home page is your welcome mat—your invitation into your office. Text might include: a brief introduction or bio, why you write for children, a tag line, how to pronounce your name, and an image of you or book cover(s) or both. Other options include: a video, your recent blog posts a subscribe form or button, social media links, Twitter or Instagram or Goodreads feed, awards, etc. Often these are in a sidebar. If you can dream of it, it can probably be done.
  • Book page. Do you want all books on one page or do you want a main page with the covers and brief descriptions and subpages? What will you include: publisher, year published, awards, excerpts, reviews, buy link(s), background info, other photos or images (place, people, etc.), activities, etc.
  • About page. If you want lots of info here, I suggest you have a short bio first with more info following. Plan for at least one headshot of you. You may also want some photos of you as a child.

If you need ideas for your other pages, look at other websites for inspiration.

This is a lot of prework, but thinking about it first will help you as you go through the next steps.

Look for a new post on Prepping Your Website Content next week.