These are series of notes I wrote for my writing buddy Jen (writer of fast and funny YA fiction – still unpublished, but it’s only a matter of time!). She wasn’t sure how to go about this social media malarkey, so I wrote her a set of ‘step by step’ notes, based on my own experience of getting and online presence. I’ve posted the notes here in case they’re of use to people.
Setting up a cheap and cheerful website
I didn’t know anything about setting up websites, so I did a lot of Googling and found out how to do it. I’ve listed what I’ve done here, so that you don’t need to waste as much time as I did.Before you start you need:
A list of possible titles for your website/blog. Have at least 3.
A photo for the header (I’ve used a section from one my book covers)
A picture for the background
A credit card
Some idea of what you want the text on the website to be.
You can set up a blog fairly easily, and for free, using WordPress or Blogger. You can then customise the way the blog looks so that it looks more like a web page. I looked at a few author sites and found I liked the look of the WordPress based ones better. (If you scroll to the bottom of the site, there’s usually a sentence saying ‘X theme by XX provider).
I’m no expert, but here’s what I did:
Go to wordpress. Click on ‘get a blog’.
Type in the name of your blog. If your chosen name is taken, try your backup ideas.
Sign into WordPress.
You can pay for the more expensive http://www.example.com URL, rather than the free http://www.example.wordpress.com one. The other option is to get the free version of the blog and map an existing domain name that you bought from somewhere like GoDaddy. – this means you need to map domains. It’s a whole bag of hassle and costs 12 dollars extra. But it means you’re not tied to WordPress.com. Techy explanation here: http://www.dearblogger.org/wordpresscom-domain-or-godaddy)
(I got my domain name from GoDaddy for the ridiculous reason that I dithered it about getting it from WordPress and then changed my mind.)
Pay for privacy – it means that people can’t put your URL into Whois and find your registration information.
Set the domain name to autorenew for 5 years, or set yourself some reminders to do it every year.(I’m a bit hazy on whether WordPress does this – GoDaddy which lets you autorenew). If you forget to pay the domain name fee, your registration will lapse and there’s a chance that a Cybersquatter type person will register the domain name for the next year – so that you have to pay them over the odds to get it back.
It takes a couple of minutes for WordPress to set up the blog.
BOOKMARK your blog in your favourites. Because you can!
That’s it. Now you have a blog. Hooray! Have some celebratory chocolate.
Now to make to look less bloggy and more like a webpage.
Go into the ‘Dashboard’.
On the left hand side you have a list of things. Go to ‘Appearance’ (near the bottom).
Pick a theme – 2011 is a good one. So is Pilcrow. Both are free. There are loads to choose from. I tried these ones because they looked simple to use and had could have Twitter and a Facebook ‘Like’ button integrated into them. You can change your theme easily later, if you want to.
Still in Appearance, go to ‘Header’
Follow the instructions to upload your own header image. WordPress will help you crop it to size. Choose your picture/photo as your header. Save. You now have a unique picture heading up you blog. Time for more chocolate.
Making a home page
Go to ‘Pages’ on the left hand menu.
Create a new page with some Welcome info on. Name the page ‘Welcome’ in the Title line. Upload. You should now have two pages on your blog – one with the starter text from WordPress. One with your new text.
Click Edit for the starter page from WordPress. Name it ‘Blog’ in the Title line.
Go to ‘Settings’ on the left hand menu:
Click on ‘Reading’.
The top line should say ‘Front page displays’ – select ‘static page’
On the drop down that says ‘Front Page’ – select ‘Welcome’
On the drop down that says ‘Post page’ – select ‘blog’
That should give you a rudimentary website – with a static Welcome page and a blog page that you can post new blog entries on to.
Whenever you want to edit your blog, just log into wordpress.com and go to ‘my blogs’, then ‘dashboard’.
If you try this, let me know how you get on. If I need to refine instructions, please tell me!
[Edit: The instructions here are for a blog on WordPress.com. This version gives you a blog that is held by WordPress itself and (in theory) WordPress can pull it down anytime. Also, you can’t use a lot of the plugins that third parties provide. On the other hand, you get all updates/ security etc automatically. Once you get going and have a huge number of pages and posts on your blog, it’s a good idea to back it up from time to time. Y’know. Just in case.
The other option is to get a wordpress.org blog. There are hundreds of blog posts on the difference between the two. (Just Google ‘WordPress com org’). I stuck with wordpress.com because the techy words scared me, but I am aware that I’ll have to pull my big girl pants on and look into it one day.]