Every IA (Indie Author) should have a website. Be it an inexpensive one you can get from Wix, Weebly or Site123. Or a costly, extravagant one with the frills and frolics of an interactive cyber playground of information about yourself. Like the one I’m creating from WordPress.com
Theoretically, these companies offer “free” websites. But to look professional by not having their domain attached to yours or their ads all over your site or limited amounts of features, functions and data storage, you’re going to have to upgrade from their free pages to a paid plan. Fortunately, some of these paid plans are extremely affordable.
When I look back at when I was 19 yrs old in 1982 and I started my first company and had to pay $250 a month for a business card size print ad in the local Yellow Pages directory verses being able to create an incredibly, colorful website filled with almost unlimited text, photos and videos that go out to the entire world, it softens the pain of paying that yearly fee to WordPress.com
Facebook pages, Instagram and literary social sites like Goodreads and Bookbub are excellent free alternatives to a personal website, and I encourage every IA to have one. But here’s the downfall of those particular platforms. You’re “dependent” or under the authority of another unseen social media master. Should you post something that doesn’t sit well with the overloads, or perhaps there’s a dramatic change in policy, all it takes is one click of an overload’s mouse and you’re closed. Bye. Bye. You no longer have access to your reader fan base.
However, your own personal website is independent of overlords. You are the Master of your own marketing fate and the captain of your literary soul. A website allows you to up the game in authenticating your authorship. You can tell all about yourself, so your readers get to know you better. Which is important because engagement with your readers sells books!!! And as oppose to the 300 to 700-word blurb you’re limited to on the back of your book or on book selling venues, a website gives you unlimited space to tell readers in complete detail what your book is about. Bottom line, a personal website is one-stop-shop for everything your potential reader and customer needs to know about both you and your book.
That’s the great news about having your own website! But here’s the bad news. As an IA, you’ve now just added another hat to hang on the wall of the skills, tasks and the knowledge that’s needed to become a successful writer. ARGH.
Unless you have the money to pay someone to create your site, you’ve now just added web designer to your IA resume. It goes right at the end of the long list of the other skills you’re currently developing which looks something like this: writer, editor, designer, graphic designer, researcher, book reviewer, IT manager, publisher, social media manager and marketing director. And should you decide to create a YouTube channel or podcast, the list grows exponentially. Welcome to the IA world!!!
Here’s a quick snapshot of my past weekend as a website developer.
I’m at the beginning stages of creating an email list. Which I believe is the number one way for an IA to market their book. It’s also the safest and most reliable. Remember, when you’re under the authority of another social media overlord like Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. You’re also susceptible to them shutting down your communication flow to your readers or potential readers. But with an email list, YOU possess those email addresses in your database. They’re in your computer. Your laptop. Your files. You can do whatever your little IA heart wants to do with that list as long as it’s ethical and legal.
To launch my first novel, “The Hoosier Girl”, I decided to have a “give-away” as a means of increasing my Reader Fan Club. I’m giving away a $300 Barnes and Noble gift card and an autographed copy of my book, “The Hoosier Girl” to the winner. All one has to to do is fill out the registration form that I created and complete the other requirements on my book’s homepage. (BTW if you’re reading this after March 20, 2021 the contest is over.)
I created the above form through a WordPress plug-in called www.getresponse.com A “plug in” is an additional component that you can add to your website that offers you and your readers more bells and whistles. Think of a plug-in as an option on a new car. You want electric windows, blue-tooth stereo and leather interior? No problem. You’re just going to have to pay extra. Plug-ins can allow your website to have things like, a calendar of events, manage payments for products you want to sell on your website and increase your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to get your website out to the world better.
While there are thousands of free plugins, the majority of them work on the “Hook and Hand Over Your Credit Card” program (as oppose to the bait and switch style). We’re all familiar with this ploy that goes something like this. I want to get you hooked on my plug-in that most probably will satisfy your basic needs. So you sign up. You start playing with the plug-in and suddenly, Oh, but look at these really beautiful bells and whistles you could also have with our plug-in. You want them? Great! Just upgrade to our next level by handing over your credit card information and you’ve got them.
Even WordPress works on this program. Sure, you can have a nice website on WordPress for $x dollars a month. However, if you want to use plug-ins on your site, you’re going to have upgrade to business subscription, which is more money. You then start to follow Alice down the financial rabbit hell hole that takes you to adding costs, upon costs, upon costs to your website.
For example, I’m currently on a free 30-day trial period of an email list management plugin called www.getresponse.com. But after 30 days, I’ll be paying $25 a month for them to act as my email gathering, form building and newsletter distribution center. That $25 is only good for up to 1,000 “contacts” on my list. When I go beyond the 1,000 contacts, the price increases.
For those who may be wondering if www.Getresponse.com is just another type of “overlord” who could cut off communication with my Reader Fan Club. The answer is yes, sort of. While they do host the data and they could close my account. I’m able to export my email list(s) at any time into my own computer. Where I can use them either from my own email program (Outlook) or get another email management company.
In addition to gathering emails from my $300 Barns and Noble give-away. I’ve also created a “Harry’s Reader’s Fan Club” form (above) and put it in the side bar so that it’s visible on every page. This form is for those who come to my website and like what they see/read and want to stay connected. As a member of my “Reader Fan Club”, I use this list to give special discounts on my products and tell them of new releases of books, blogs and posts in a weekly or monthly newsletter depending on how much time I have:)
Because I’m a web developing dork, as oppose to a geek who would know what to do, I literally spent 6 hours giving birth to these two simple forms. It took me about an hour to create them and another five hours of “chatting” with technical support at godaddy, Getresponse, WordPress and Microsoft to get them all to work together. Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye, 6 hours of my extremely valuable time was wasted playing website developer.
Do you know how many words I could have written for my blogs or my books in 6 hours? Or the emails/newsletters I could have created to send to those people on the list? It’s frustrating and sometimes even disheartening to travel down the path of an IA. But that’s the road I’m chosen to take for my first book. I don’t want to bow down to the big publisher overloards and let them take control of my literary baby. But by doing so, I’m working my ass off living The Writer’s Life. Investing lots of time and money fulfilling my IA obligations. Will it be worth it? I’ll let you know in a year.
Hell, in a year from now, I could be offered a nice chunk of change from a big publisher overlord who says, just give us the story and manuscript and we’ll wear all the other hats. I can spend my time doing what I enjoy and I’m most passionate about. Writing. Wordsmithing. Creating.
Will I accept that offer? I don’t know. I’m still baby in the book world. I guess it depends on the number of zeros on the check and if I’m not mentally and physically worn out while figuratively prostituting myself to gain a greater readership.
BTW. Here is a screen shot of my current two email lists and the total of contacts in each list as of this writing.
Eventually, I will migrate the two list together and voila! I will now have a Readers Fan Club of 85!! That’s pretty exciting to me considering the book doesn’t come out for another six weeks. SIX WEEKS! HOLY CRAP! I have to stop being blogger and put on my marketing manager’s hat and start working on getting more social media followers.
Thanks for reading!
If you’ve found any value by reading this blog, I’d like to ask you to simply please thank me by joining my Readers Fan Club:)
I promise you won’t get a bunch of spam and stupid emails. Just occasional messages that will hopefully tell you how to be more enlightened, entertained or educated as an Indie Author or reading enthusiast.