I don’t claim to be a website professional. In fact, my profession lies in my knack for conducting criminal investigations and writing about them in my true crime books. However, I’ve learned some things in the past few years that I’d like to share with my fellow writers that will help them steer around the common pitfalls and enable them to start practicing good social media habits—something I’ve learned the hard way.
There are slews of website hosts and entities out there that can consume little or much or your time. For me, there were several factors in deciding to choose the website service I did. Given that I am still working full time, my time is extremely valuable, so I searched for an easy web service that had a small learning curve but versatility in the features I wanted for my readers. For these simple reasons I chose www.Weebly.com as my provider.
Primarily, their basic service (which is what I use) is free. Yes, I said “free.” Also, the Weebly Editor that enables you to design your site, is simple and straight forward; you simply pick a design and ‘drag and drop’ the features down into the page you’re designing. And so you ask, “What website features do I need as an author?”
One of the main things you need to remember is that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Neither will your website. Understanding this premise is important in developing a professional looking website. With Weebly, I created three basic pages to start the website: home, author, and contact. I elected to put a welcome message on my home page as I had not really established myself as an author. Under the author page I wrote a simple bio and included a headshot picture. The contact page merely displayed my email, facebook, and twitter names with links that would allow the user to begin following me.
As you can see these features make for a meager website. But one of the strong points about Weebly was the “hide page” feature they have under the “manage page” section where you design your page. This allowed me to test the waters with certain features and see how they worked BEFORE publishing them live on my website. Through this feature, I was able to add features to my website and when they were finished and ready to publish I removed the “hide page” and reveal the latest addition to the website.
As your grow this child, there are some important aspects that I’ve learned and implemented into my web design. First, you must (and I emphasis ‘must’) have a blog on your website. AND, that blog must be active. A stagnant blog is certain death. And as a former homicide detective, I can assure you that the mortality rate is still a strong 100%. Second, on your home page, you’ll want an element that will allow the user to sign up for your email listing. I currently use “Find out when Ken’s next book is being released” and provide a place for them to give me a first name, last name, and email address. The information comes to me in the administrative area and I simply copy and past the new user into my email. Third, if you’re selling books, like I do, you’ll want something similar to the Amazon widget that I have on each and every page of your website. This puts the reader literally one click away from buying one of your books. Furthermore, if someone stumbles on your blog and likes your writing, they may be inclined to buy one of your books. Finally, you’ll want a media page, pressroom, or both. Because I self-produce my own book trailers and other media files, I decided to separate the two. My media area carries my YouTube files while the pressroom lists dates and quick news blurbs about events happening with my writing.
Your website is key to your mission as a writer. It needs to become the central hub to which everything else points. Your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media outlets all need to point back to your website so that traffic is funneled to a place where the user may become more inclined to buy one of your products.
I plan to write more about this topic, along with many other topics, as it pertains to marketing yourself as a writer in cyberspace. In the meantime, go ahead and check out my website—after all, you’re already here!
Ken Lang is a former homicide detective and an award-winning author of several true crime books, including Walking Among the Dead: True Stories from a Homicide Detective. In 2011 he was named on of “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading” by The Author’s Show. He resides in North East, Maryland with his wife and three children. To learn more about his true crime books and upcoming crime novels visit his website at www.kenlangstudios.com.