A Writer’s Journey ~ Starting Somewhere P1

Melissa Wright and I were talking the other day about all the work that goes into setting up your website. As Indies, we usually do all the leg work, and that includes research, learning platforms, etc. For some of you more tech-savvy peeps, setting up your website is no problemo. Whether you’re a tech genius or average Jane, I hope you glean some helpful tidbits from my own experience. We learn best through trial & error, so if you are struggling to get your author platform up and running, you’re in great company 🙂

 

Quick Starting Word

Before we begin, I can’t stress how important it is you do your research and make some choices. Being an Indie author is all about the long haul. You may be one of the lucky ones and strike the market with the right story at the right time, or you may be like me and find a niche, but no overwhelming success. I’ve had a lot of hit or misses, mostly because I had to learn all of this from trial and error. I’m finally at a point where I have a full grasp of what I need to do to build my author platform as a business, now that I’ve come into my own writing-wise (lots of room for improvement still of course though). And the best thing you can do starting out is to pick like your top three or five authors who write your genre. It helps if they’re also people you admired already. For me, I took a good look at S.J. Maas and Susan Dennard who write epic fantasy and have different ways of reaching their readership. I emulate a lot of what I see on their sites, but make it my own. And I’ve followed other Indies like Melissa Wright and Kate Avery Ellison for advice and inspiration. The trick isn’t to copy after these authors, but take what they’ve done, see what you could use that fits your brand and make it your own. 🙂

Website Theme

First off, I started my website with a very basic wordpress free template. The great thing about wordpress is they offer you plenty of help and little how-to’s. When in doubt, you can always google questions on how to do the more complicated stuff. As time went on, I hired a good friend and graphic designer, Najla Qamber Designs, to create a theme for my “brand.” I had just discovered the whole branding thing and at the time was largely focused on marketing my fantasy elements. I still frequently use Najla’s designs on my sites depending on what book/series I’m releasing/promoting. Here are two examples of designs Naj has made for me in the past:

A.) Generic Fantasy Brand

  

B.) Wylder Tales (Gothic/Dark Fantasy) Brand

 

​The second is obviously based off my Wylder Tales cover art:

Exhibit A.)

Wylder-Tales-Series-compressor.png
Branding with your current series helps, but since I also write YA Sci-fi and Contemporary Romance, I’ve had to switch things up and get creative through the years.

It’s all about testing things out and finding the proper balance really. As you are starting out, and if you have the funds, I would recommend using someone like Naj or another designer you trust, to help you figure out your brand and look. As an author, you aren’t just selling your books but yourself. People will want to connect with you and you want to make your website a reflection of that.

However, you can easily use templates from do-it-yourself sites like Canva (my personal favorite) to generate your own graphics.

Exhibit B.)

New Scarred Beauty Teaser 1 (1).png

As I experimented with my website and tried to find the best fit for my brand, I utilized Canva more and more. You can make an account here: https://www.canva.com/

WordPress Theme:

I love wordpress because you can make it as professional or simple as you want/need it to be. I use the basic version, not business, and pay fees to keep my domain name with the [.com] thingy at the end. This helps you look more legit than just having a [.wordpress] or [.blogspot] address. Unless your aim is to make a blog solely.
I finally figured out after looking closer at the wordpress theme how-to’s, to create a home page, and a blog post page. If you go into customize your theme, you’ll find a tab that allows you to choose a home static page where you can keep sliders and info on latest releases, then the posts page which allows you to share more about new releases, book teasers, etc.
I’ve used the MH Magazine theme in the past. But I recently switched over to the Baskerville 2 theme. Not only is it free, it looks nice 😉
This new theme and the cleaner simpler look is something I switched over to because I wanted something that could fit both my contemporary romance and my fantasy themed work. And another reason I recently changed my logo.

Exhibit C.)

JennSIlverwoodLogoFinal-2017_Final.jpg

 

It can be difficult branding when you write across genres without using more than one pen name. It’s really smarter in a lot of ways (more on nom de plume‘s another day) but I’m too busy being a mom plus working a real job to manage multiple author platforms at this point in my life. 😉

Extras

We are image-driven creatures. Probably one reason the movie/television industry is going stronger than ever today. Nothing helps make your site stand out than youtube videos and/or GIFs.

Book Trailers:

When I decided to create my own book trailer, I looked to authors in my genre to try and learn from them. I discovered an Indie author’s gold mine via this fantastic how-to post from Kate Bloomfield, author of Frost Arch: Check it out here!
Now I couldn’t hire anyone or use any fancy software for my trailers. So I always use Animoto: https://animoto.com
You can subscribe for a trail version/free and then buy a monthly subscription to take out the watermark. You do have to pay to have access to better features. But if you’re on a budget like I am, you can easily take a template trailer/video and make it your own. Just buy background music, or use a free option from the Animoto website, then throw in your own graphics and teasers or video if you find it. That’s my cheaper version of Kate’s tutorial. But if you’re handy with adobe software, go for it!
You can see my book trailers at MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL

The Magical World of GIFs:

Book GIFs are a relatively new concept. The first I heard of them was through GIFF GRRL, who does fabulous work. I was lucky enough to be on the ground floor with Qamber Designs & Media as they opened their new GIF section of the bizz. Check out what they did for Craving Beauty:
cb-1f
If you’d like to learn more, you can visit their website HERE
 

What’s Next?

So you have a great website, now what? Hopefully, you already have a book written, edited and ready to be published. Otherwise, why bother? The best advice I can give you is to focus on writing the best book you can. Make connections with your fellow creatives, and don’t ever give up no matter what. You’ll fumble and make mistakes. But that’s part of the journey. 🙂 Ask questions if you need advice along the way. Here at We Write Fantasy, we are all about helping each other and our fellow Indies out. So drop us a line and let’s talk books!
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Before you go, see these helpful links/resources:

Jane Freidman (oh man, sign up for her newsletter. She sends out resource filled e-mails that have helped me so much)
 
Writing to Market & Launch to Market – Chris Fox (again, another author sharing what worked for them, but so many helpful resources and tips here)
 
BadRedhead Media Book Marketing Challenge – Rachel Thompson (really helpful even if you don’t do all her challenges, she’ll help you get your online platform in tip-top shape)
 
Successful Self-Publishing – by Joanna Penn

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