I talk to a lot of authors who know they should have a website but aren’t enthusiastic about the idea. While some find the idea of designing and managing a website daunting, others would just rather spend their time working on their next book rather than a website.
I am a firm believer that managing your website shouldn’t be a full time job (unless you have something like Pottermore going on, in which case you hire people to run it for you), or even a part-time job. I do think it is a job, as in something you need to do regularly and consistently, but it can be a fun task that you look forward to. Here are some ways I make maintaining my author site fun.
Create a Realistic Plan
It’s easy for a website to turn into a hydra, heads leading off in all directions and somewhat hostile towards its owner. But this usually happens when you don’t have a clear plan for your website. You may grab at anything that sounds interesting and before you know it you are running multiple blogs, a podcast, weekly giveaways, a forum and more.
When you have a broad focus or too many supporting “gimmicks” on your site it can be stressful for you, confusing for your readers, and difficult to keep up with. If you choose one or two areas content areas you want to develop from the very beginning, it will be easier to focus on them.
Another part of a plan is a goal for your website. You should know why you are building it and who it is aiming to communicate with. The simple task of defining your audience can increase your motivation while making content and design decisions easier.
Keep It Simple
Your website does not have to be the next best thing. In fact, many respectable authors opt to have a “business card” website. This is an evergreen website that is only updated when a new book becomes available (or is coming soon). It has contact information and a short “About Me” section in addition to available books.
Don’t discount these simple websites if you’re the type of person who would rather focus on your writing. They are a valid online presence for authors and can keep you from resenting your site.
Make a Checklist
Once you have a plan for your appropriately complex website, you should make a maintenance checklist. I like to have a yearly outlook as well as a monthly and weekly checklist.
Yearly tasks include things like renewing my domain name and hosting. Of course, most domains and hosting offer auto-renewals so you might not have to think about these tasks.
Monthly tasks might be to add a new short story, aesthetic, or other extra for your writing.
Weekly tasks might include a blog post, a quick browse of the site to make sure everything is running smoothly, etc.
Give It Some Personality
If you love how your site looks and feels, then you will be more likely to enjoy spending time updating it. Don’t be afraid to customize and tweak your site until it is something that actually represents who you are and your writing career.
If you’re on WordPress, try out different themes, play with color combinations, learn a little bit of CSS and create a site that you love visiting as well as maintaining.
Learn What You’re Doing
It can be frustrating to try to maintain a website when you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Not only will you constantly have the fear that you might “break” something, but you will also have to poke around for the functions that you need each time you want to do something. This can waste your time and prevent you from doing more complex “fun” things on your site.
While you don’t have to become a web developer, it’s a good idea to read a few tutorials about creating and maintaining your site. This blog is a good starting point, and if you have questions about author sites feel free to send them in so I can cover them in future blog posts.