8 Steps for Getting Amazon to Send Customers an eBook Update Email

ereader screen with text

photo credit: Andrew Mason via photopin cc

If you’re like me, you occasionally revisit your kindle content. You probably find errors that need to be repaired or you want to add content to the eBook, such as preview chapters for a new book. While the process to for making changes to the content is pretty straightforward, getting Amazon to send out an update email is less straightforward.

Amazon offers some instructions for it, but they aren’t exactly clear as glass. To begin with, while the update to the content is more or less or less automatic (assuming no critical errors in the file), that’s all that happens. New customers get the updated version of the file, but anyone who bought it before the update is still wandering around with the old version.

To get Amazon to send out an update, you need to inform them that you’ve made the change. This isn’t straightforward either. Here’s the steps you’ll need to take to make this happen.

  1. Go the instruction page
  2. Scroll down to the bottom of that page where you’ll see a “Contact Us” button to the left.

It looks like this: Amazon Contact Button

  1. That will take you to a menu that looks like this:

Amazon contact menu

(Unfortunately, there is no update email option, so you have to gamble a bit here.)

  1. I recommend selecting the Publish Your Book option and selecting the Corrections tab. It should look something like this:

Corrections option

  1. Fill out the subject line with something along these lines: “Requesting Customer Update Email”
  2. Enter the details in the box below
  3. Be sure to include salient information, including the title or ASIN number and the major changes you made to the book
  4. Send

It’s important to note that this process is not a guarantee. Amazon determines whether or not the changes you made constitute a “major” or “minor” change. Major changes result in a customer update email. Minor changes do not.

Assuming Amazon does send out an email, it can serve as an excellent way to draw reader attention back to you and your work. You might even pick up some sales for your other work.

Why Facebook Pages and Ads Have Lost Relevance for Indie Authors

photo credit: Neil. Moralee via photopin cc

photo credit: Neil. Moralee via photopin cc

There was a golden time, not so very long ago, when Facebook pages actually mattered to indie authors. Your Facebook page was a critical component in your social media efforts and, for many authors, was central to your platform. Well, that has all changed. For a while, Facebook was hot on this “Promote” thing… and no one used it.

So, Facebook changed course and instituted a new name for the exact same thing. Now, instead of “Promote,” they call it “Boost.” Big shock, as with most rebranding efforts that don’t reflect a reworked product, people probably aren’t more interested in using “Boost” than they were interested in using “Promote.” Why? Well, if other authors are anything like me, they look at that “Boost” button and say, “Why do I need to pay Facebook to show my posts to people who may not be interested in my page?”

The answer, of course, is that Facebook is desperately trying to monetize itself and justify its IPO. All of that is fine. I get it. Facebook is a business and it wants to make money. Here’s the thing. Instead of finding a better way of making money, Facebook is now trying to force you to use “Boost” by preventing people who follow/like your pages from seeing your posts. So the question now becomes, “Why do I need to pay Facebook to show my posts to people who specifically, intentionally followed/liked my page for the purpose of seeing my posts?”

The answer, of course, is that you shouldn’t. But what about Facebook Ads, you ask? Well, I could keep going on about why Facebook pages aren’t relevant and talk about Facebook Ads, but I don’t need to do that. Instead, I’ll let Veritasium’s Darek Muller explain it to you…with graphs and metrics and awesome. Check out his videos below.

More Author Branding Tips – Leverage Shamelessness

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Image courtesy of stockimages/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While there are a number of technical, logistical and strategic things that go into developing an author brand, there are some fairly straightforward, though unpleasant, things that go into it as well. This week, we’ll cover a few of the more unpleasant ones.

Be Shameless

Yes, I know, most writers are introverts. I also know that pitching friends and family, people who are more or less obligated to feign interest, can be psychologically taxing. Pitching strangers on your work can be downright traumatic. In the end, though, as Machiavelli notes, fortune favors the bold.  In the long run, the worst thing you really face is the prospect that someone won’t be interested. Is that unpleasant? It sure is. Will it kill you? No, despite all that irrational screaming from your subconscious, it will not turn out to be fatal. Creating awareness is a critical step in building any brand and awareness building means you need to engage in some shameless self-promotion.

Places To Be Shameless

Talk to local bookstores and see if they’ll carry your book or, better yet, let you do a reading/signing AND carry your book. Talk to your local library about carrying your book and doing a reading or signing. Offer to give a talk to local writers groups about some element of writing and bring along a couple copies of your books. Is there a coffee shop near you that also sells books? Maybe they would be willing to host an event for you and let you leave a couple copies on the shelf. Got invited to a party? Go and steadfastly talk to everyone. When you get asked what you do, tell them you’re a novelist or an author. 9 times out of 10, they’ll ask about your book.

How To Be Shameless, but Not Obnoxious

When it comes to places like libraries, bookstores and other businesses, you should be straightforward about what you’re after from them. Like everyone else, the owner, manager or staff person who makes the decisions about those things has other duties and their time is valuable. Don’t waste it. If they’re unreceptive, thank them for their time and let it go. Trying to convince someone to let you hold an event or carry your books when don’t want to will be more trouble than it’s worth. When it comes to new people in social settings, wait for the conversation to turn toward work. Don’t worry, conversations with new people almost always turn to work. People spend so much of their lives doing their jobs that it becomes a go-to topic. It’s something they’re comfortable talking about and that they know a lot about. When it’s your turn, it’s a perfect segue to talk about your book. As a rule, it’s bad form and horribly off-putting to just walk up to someone and start pitching your book to them. It’s the interpersonal equivalent of a telemarketing call at dinnertime. Don’t do it.

3 Tips for Avoiding Formatting Hell

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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As the default word processor for most writers, Microsoft’s Word program does a lot. In point of fact, it does so much that most people only use a tiny little fraction of the available functionality. Ironically, the thing it doesn’t do, isn’t particularly good at, and often makes more difficult is preparing a manuscript for publication.

While signed authors can simply turn over a file or hard copy to their publisher, who no doubt employs someone whose sole job it is to take that formatting nightmare and turn it into something that can be printed, indie authors must do this work themselves. More often than not, it is only at the end of the process that these authors discover that all that fiddling they did with fonts, spacing, title adjustments and so forth has created a monster. So here are three tips to help you avoid formatting hell

  1. Forget that the TAB key exists – Years ago, when I was taking a touch typing class, I was actually trained to use the TAB key to create indents for paragraphs. This training has caused me more problems than I care to mention in the formatting process. TAB does awful stuff beneath the visible layer of the document and can cause utter havoc in a PDF conversion process. If you need an indent for sanity (I do), set a left indent in the page layout tab that automatically inserts one when you hit enter.
  2. Avoid the Styles option – Word allows you to do all kinds of neat things with Styles, like create fancy chapter headings. You will need to do this eventually for some publishing outlets, but you don’t want to be going through trying to manually change Style Options for 30 or 40 chapter headings. Trust me on this, I’ve done it.
  3. Create Master Files – It might seem obvious, but you should have a master file. In fact, you should have 2 master files. One master file should be a copy of your original completed manuscript (for later reference) and the other should be a final version with all edits and changes in it. Once you have these two files, you should never alter them. Copy and paste the entire text into a new file to do outlet specific formatting.

While there are lots of other things you can do to avoid formatting hell, these three should save you a lot of mental anguish in the long run.

Paid Book Marketing, Is It Worth It? (Link Roundup)

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Authors of all stripes confront an inevitable question at some point: Should I use paid book marketing? It’s a serious question with a lot of unclear answers. While I’ll leave it to the links below to let you explore the bigger, public conversation on this topic, I’ll offer a few thoughts.

Marketing is complicated and, most of the time, cookie cutter “systems” can’t deliver on their promises. By nature, systems function on churning out sameness and the best marketing leverages uniqueness. No marketer can ever guarantee a fixed number or percentage increase of sales. Any marketer that does make these kinds of guarantees is lying to himself or herself, lying to you, or filled with a dangerous kind of hubris. Never spend money on marketing that you can’t afford to lose, because most marketing takes time to show a return on investment (if it ever does show a return on investment.) With that said, on to the link roundup.

Should Indie Authors Pay for Book Reviews?

Book Marketing Services, Are They Worth It?

Book Marketing Using Paid Promotions: Targeted Email Lists

Paid Book Marketing: Should Authors Bother?

Book Marketing Methods That Don’t Work

Paid Book Promotion – Yes It’s Necessary, But Beware

Please leave a comment to share your thoughts on or experiences with paid book marketing.

Be More Productive with Your Writing

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the bigger challenges for writers is how to stay productive or be more productive with their writing. All writers face similar hurdles when it comes to staying productive. Friends and family expect you to spend time with them and, sometimes, fail to appreciate that writing is actually work. In the latter case, friends and family may treat your writing time, read work time, as open season for doing other things. Writers get tired, have off days, and sometimes just don’t feel the muse. This last, though not necessarily the most aggravating, tends to be the most terrifying prospect for writers. The absence of some kind of inspiration can quickly turn into writer’s block. Fortunately, most of the hurdles faced by writers can be met and overcome with simple strategies.

Set Boundaries

Much as work expands to fill the time, family and friend demands will expand to fill whatever time they think you have free. It’s not necessarily malicious on their part, but it is destructive for you productivity. If you write for a living, it’s up to you to make it absolutely clear to the people in your life that what you do is work, that it takes real concentration, and interruptions make it a hell of a lot harder. If you treat it like a job or a career, others will follow suit.

While I also understand inspiration can strike at any time, you’ll do yourself a big favor by blocking out some part of the day that is your “official” working hours. Stick with this as a policy. If people interrupted with non-emergency calls or texts during this time, tell them that you’re working and to call back at whatever time you’re done working. This, of course, does not apply to editors or clients. Those are people who should be calling during your work hours.

The flip side of this is that you actually need to work during those hours in order to be fair to the people in your life. Once your official work time is over, you need to be available to your family and friends. You must take the calls and the answer the texts. Once you establish the boundaries, people will respect them…after the griping that will accompany the first few weeks. The lack of non-relevant interruptions will go a long way to improving your productivity.

Check Your Fantasy at the Door

Writers, even experienced writers, sometimes fall into the trap of thinking they need to create ART every time they sit down to work. First of all, only about 1% of people in any field operate at that brilliant, genius level. Maybe you’re one of them, but probably not. The more likely scenario is that on any given day you produce good work and, unless you’re on a strict deadline, you can edit the bejeezus out of your writing before submitting it.

Andrea Phillips notes in her book, A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling, that when looking back on her writing work a year or so after the fact, she couldn’t tell when she was having good days or bad days. Your perception of the quality of your work hinges a lot on the frame of mind you’re in on any given day. The objective quality of your writing, on other hand, hinges almost entirely on the skill set you bring to the table. Even if you feel like you’ve written nothing but drivel, there is a good chance it’s close to or even at your usual level of quality. Don’t fall into the “it-must-be-and-feel-like-ART” trap.

Freeing yourself from the shackles of the hitting the impossibly high standard all the time can help you avoid the writer’s block trap and will probably help to improve the pace of your writing as well.

Check Your Personal To-Do List at the Door

Many writers work from home and this is both a pleasure and its own kind of trap. There will always be dishes than need to be done, groceries that need to be bought, and a thousand other tasks that do not get words down on the page. When you go into your office or the space you normally do work in, leave your family life to-do list at the door. Work time is writing time and you need to create a psychological wall between your writing time/space and your personal life.

If you need to, build two separate to-do lists. One stays in your work space and you only put work related tasks on it and the other is for your personal life. Don’t store them together. Keep the personal list in the kitchen or the living room or anywhere but where you write. Keep your writer’s to-do list in the work space or your laptop case or somewhere you aren’t going to interact with it the rest of the time.

Separating your to-do lists will go a long way to keeping you focused on the work because you know you have a list for personal life. It will be there, ready to remind you of all the things you need to do when the writing is done for the day. If having two physical lists is too problematic, I recommend a web-based application called Simpleology for work-oriented list building/productivity improvement. The application works in most web browsers and offers integration with things like Chrome and Google Calendar. The program also includes a comprehensive set of built in tutorials to show you how to use the application and how to get the most out of it. You can choose either a free or paid version, but the free version is highly functional and should suffice for the vast majority of users.

I’d love to hear about any productivity improving strategies that have worked you in the comments below.

Relationships versus Transactions

Image courtesy of Craftyjoe/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Craftyjoe/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post for another site where I set out some strategies for indie authors to improve their odds of securing reviews for their books. (You can read the post here.) One of suggestions I made was to develop relationships with reviewers. This suggestion was met with a comment that suggested authors should essentially buy space on review sites by providing books to give away, doing guest posts and so on. I should say that I am confident that this approach works, at least some of the time, but it sits wrong in my gut. I just wasn’t entirely sure why until I read Michael Port’s book, Book Yourself Solid.

While the book is aimed at service providers, Port’s entire strategy for getting booked solid is built on the foundation of developing relationships with potential clients, with other service providers, and even with your existing clients. He essentially argues that much of business relies too heavily on the idea of transactions, which are fundamentally one-time events. Relationships, on the other hand, are more likely to result in an ongoing exchange that both parties find valuable. Buying exposure on a book review site seems to me to focus too much on the transaction between reviewer and author, while dismissing the value of a relationship between reviewer and author.

I would be a little put off by someone who wanted me to write a guest post who hadn’t at least read one of my books or spent some time reading my blog first. To make a guest post a cost of entry to even consider reviewing your book strikes me as deeply counterintuitive. In the first place, if I’m effectively paying for exposure with giveaway copies or a guest post, then it only follows that the reviewer has a vested interest in giving me at least a middling, if not great, review, regardless of my skill as a writer. While this may serve me as an exposure seeker and, in the short term, the reviewer/blogger who gets a week off from content generation, it dilutes the credibility of the reviewer.

What if I wrote a bad book? What if I wrote a horrifyingly bad book? If the reviewer scores it well, people will be disappointed or angry or disgusted with the deception. If the reviewer gives it a legitimate review and says it’s awful, then I have no incentive to ever provide this person with a review copy or guest blog again. After all, why would I pay for bad exposure?

Then there are the logistical problems with the transactional model. Let’s say I submit my book to 50 reviewers and 25 accept, on the condition that I provide a guest post. Let’s say that I excel at writing quality blog posts and can write one in an hour. That still means I need to spend 25 hours writing guest posts. That may be a manageable number, but what if 50 or 100 or 150 reviewers accept on that same basis. I’ve basically gone from being a novelist to a full time guest blogger for the foreseeable future, without considering any other marketing actions at all.

The transactional approach is limited by basic time constraints and self-corrupting in its expectation setting. While it may serve a function in getting the marketing ball rolling, I don’t see how it can work as a sustained marketing effort for an indie author.

Guest Post from Author Brae Wyckoff – Are book giveaways effective for authors?

Image courtesy of Brae Wyckoff.

Image courtesy of Brae Wyckoff.

Yes and no. It really depends on how you target your reader base and through which social media platforms you do your giveaway.

Before I tackle the monster giveaway through Amazon’s KDP select program, let’s tackle a couple others.

  1. Personal giveaway program- This is where you set up contests and seek out people to read and review your book. This is greatly effective to start getting those much needed reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Reviews do matter suffice it to say. I typically take the top rating and the lowest rating and discard them before making a sound decision in buying a book. I have done several contests on facebook and through blogging for book giveaways. This generates a buzz as people like to win things…who doesn’t, right? You need to market yourself and in marketing you need to give some books away. Don’t just hand them out like candy to anyone but try to be effective in your planning. Giveaway contests are good to build an audience on FB and on your blog. It is also nice to give books away on other bloggers sites if they are close to your genre (Don’t give a book away on an erotica site when you have an epic fantasy novel…wrong kind of fantasy group to reach, if you know what I mean). Seek out genre specific readers and ask for them to review your book. Your book needs to get traction within that specific genre audience so be selective. Some will say yes and others will say no. I reached out to over a hundred bloggers, emailing them all to get a book review and about ten got back to me, so that is a 10% return.
  2. Goodreads is another great spot for a book giveaway. This is for paperback books only. You can target the USA or several other countries. Most of the time, the winner is a US resident but if you have an out of country winner then expect to pay more for shipping to them. (You can set up an Amazon account in that country and have your book delivered via Amazon instead to save a few dollars on shipping and you get money back for the sale. Just don’t state that you will be sending an autographed copy if you do this option). To be safe, target USA only or your specific country you reside in. Do a single book giveaway as I have not seen the benefit of doing multiple copies at once.  I have done 3 separate giveaways. My first go around was for 3 copies and I had it up for a month before the contest ended. This generated over a 1,000 people entering and placing my book on their to-read list. Not bad. My 2nd go around was for a single book for just five days. This generated over 1,200 entries and more people adding it to their to-read shelf. The 3rd time was also a single book for one week.  I had over 1,400 people enter to win and another thousand placing it on their shelf. I am approaching almost 2,000 people having my book on their shelf to read and in turn people are inevitably viewing my book. Once someone keeps seeing the same image over and over they will eventually check it out. This is a great way to get your book into the public. I am looking forward to having a million people viewing and buying my books. It can and will happen for you to but you have to put your time and effort into it.
  3. Okay, let’s talk about Amazon’s KDP Select program and the five free days that come with this. You must be exclusive with Amazon so you can’t have your book on any other platform. I have personally not seen the benefit of having the free day usage for books. Some have used it to achieve great things but very few, so it begs the question, “Is this really effective for authors?” Some say yes (few) while others will say no. I have been very watchful of other authors and my take is this. There are a lot of people out there that just want free books and won’t spend a dime. I call these people “ebook hoarders”. They collect and download free books but never really read any of them. It is almost like a security blanket, a strange collection if you will. They feel better knowing they got it on their computer or kindle. I have downloaded some free books myself but they just sit there. I made no dollar investment so the perceived value is, “well, I will get to it someday but it is not a priority because I didn’t spend any of my money on it.” I think it can be effective if you strategize and plan on a reason to have a free giveaway of your book or maybe having a sale, but not completely free. My 2nd book, The Dragon God, will be out later this year and it is wise to get my first book out there more so it will drive sales for the sequel. I will strategize with my Orb Street Team and my PR Manager (Aileen Aroma) to make it the best it can be.

With everything that I have said there is one major thing that you must have in place even before you do this and that is having a professional book from top to bottom. Professional cover and professional editing. Your book needs to stand toe to toe with the greats out there. Your book needs to shine and rise to the top of the millions of mediocre novels being shoved into our faces and downloaded onto our kindles. Invest in yourself and do it right. Oh, and make sure you get feedback about your story. You might think it is good but others opinions do matter. IT IS TIME to step up and be that bright star within the book world. People are waiting for the next big thing. Are you it? Are you all in? I am.

Bio: Brae Wyckoff was born and raised in San Diego, CA and is working toward a Psychology degree. He has been married to his beautiful wife, Jill, for 20 years, and they have three children; Tommy, Michelle, and Brittany. He has a beautiful grandson named Avery.

​Brae has been an avid gamer since 1985. His passion for mysterious realms and the supernatural inspired him to write The Orb of Truth, the first in a series of fantasy action adventures. Brae describes The Orb of Truth as a cross between the Lord of the Rings and the Wizard of OZ where you will be swept away into a magical land of Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings. Learn more at his website: http://www.braewyckoff.com/

 

Websites for Indie Authors – Where to Start, Part 4

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In this final installment of my mini-series on where to start in terms of indie author websites, it’s finally time to talk about just what should actually appear on the website. There is a touch of crossover with picking an approach to getting a website up. For example, if you go the DIY route or use WordPress, you don’t need to know everything that is going to appear on the site up-front. If you’re going to hire someone to build it for you, however, you need a pretty clear idea of everything that is going to go on the site in order to get all the work done.

Basic Elements

Author sites vary a lot in terms of complexity, but no author website can do without certain basic elements.

Home Page – The homepage on an author site presents certain problems for authors. Since your primary offering is books, rather than some kind of service, and you probably don’t sell your books directly, there’s a gap straight businesses normally fill with that kind of information. Nonetheless, you should still create a homepage. It can feature things as simple as an author picture and a blurb about your latest book, which is the approach used on Nora Roberts’ website, or it can be a cross-section stuff from several sections of the website, which is the approach used on Stephen King’s website. No approach is fundamentally better, but the Nora Roberts’ website model probably offers the least work-intensive approach for DIY types.

Author bio – If your readers are even sort of committed to your books, there is a distinct possibility they’re going to want to know a little more about you. Author bios provide you with a chance to do some branding, particularly if you write in a particular genre and intend to keep writing in that genre. If you write thrillers, it should probably say something about that in your bio. Is there something offbeat in your background, like spending a year working in a bakery in Paris? Information like that should definitely be in your bio because it gives you some character.

Books – There needs to be a section devoted specifically to your books or areas dedicated to specific series, if you write one or more series. Even if you’ve only written one book, you should still have a spot designated for books, because you’re probably going to write another one at some point. Each book entry should include links to where people can buy the book, especially mainstream outlets like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the iBookstore.

News – There are a lot of ways to handle/title this section, but you ought to have some space dedicated to providing author-centric information, such as links to interviews and press releases, upcoming projects, as well as information about where you might be doing book signings or other appearances. Put this under the mental category of “making it easy for fans.” The harder it is for people to find out about where you’re going to be and what you’re doing, the fewer people there are that will make the effort to show up or find out.

Contact Info – This one is sort of a quandary for indie authors, since they don’t have agents and publicists to handle media contact. The simplest approach is set up two kinds of contact info. One set of contact information is for fans, such as a dedicated email address like fanmail@amazingauthor.com, where readers can contact you. The other contact information should be clearly labeled as Media Contact Information, with an email such as media@amazingauthor.com. There should be an explicit notice stating that fan contact will not receive a response if sent to the media contact address/email.

Even if you do nothing else, these things must appear on your author website. Consider these the baseline for being taken seriously.

Best Practices

Of course, hitting the minimum is not the same thing as knocking it out of the park. There are some best practices in terms of what should be included on your author website.

Integrated Blog – Among a list of other very good ideas, Thomas Umstattd recommends the inclusion of an integrated blog on your website. If you’re using WordPress, this is taken care of for you since it’s a blogging platform. Author blogs are just an expected part of author self-marketing. Having the blog integrated as part of your website makes

it easier for readers and helps keep readers on the site, increasing the chances of them deciding to pick up another one of your books.

Social Media Links – As Caitlin Muir so succinctly puts it in this post: “If you aren’t on social media, you might as well be dead to the majority of the online world.” Your readers want to connect with you and you want to make it easy for them. Since the odds are good that you’ve set up author profiles on most of the major social media outlets, you should have “connect with me” icons that link to those profiles. The other side of this coin is making it easy for your readers to tell people they know about your site/blog posts/etc., which means you need social sharing buttons as well. Be sure to keep your social share buttons separated from your connect with me social buttons.

Images – You may be a writer, but not having images on your author website is a no-go. The internet is an inherently visual medium and you should take advantage of that fact. Put up pictures of yourself at events. Make sure you have cover images for your books up. Another fine suggestion from Thomas Umstattd, have a spot for fan art (if you get fan art). Posting fan art is a two-for-one for an author. One the one hand, it provides you with visual content that you didn’t have to commission or exert any extra effort for, and it helps to entrench your fan base.

There are lots of options for additional things you can have on your site, ranging from fan forums to selling signed copies, but I take the above as the most functional and necessary elements.

Websites for Indie Authors – Where to Start, Part 3

Once you’ve procured your domain name and gotten yourself hosting, you come to a major decision point. What’s the best way to go about putting up a website?

Hosting Service Website Builder

Admittedly, most hosting services provide a website builder, but these tend to have limited functionality and range. Their purpose typically isn’t to enable you to do anything fancy, but guide you through a series of steps that will leave you with a very basic, functional website. For some people, this is enough, but I don’t advocate for it.

If you want to try it out, I strongly recommend creating a subdomain called “test” or “practice” and building a site using the hosting services program there. This will give you a very clear sense of what the site builder can and cannot do and, if you don’t like it, you just delete the subdomain. If you use the hosting services program on your main domain, you have to go in and figure out what files you need to delete and which ones you need to save. Far easier, I say, to just have a subdomain you can get rid of entirely.

WordPress

A lot of people have taken to installing WordPress blogs on their domain in lieu of building an actual site. For simple efficiency and sanity, I strongly advocate this as the go-to choice for indie authors. First of all, the vast majority of hosting services have a one-click install option for WordPress. You install the software and you can start adding content immediately. The standard theme that comes with WordPress is a minimalist affair. I like it, but if the theme isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, there are countless free themes available through the WordPress site. You can also get free themes here, here and here, along with lots of other places.

If you still can’t find what you’re looking for in the free themes, you can also look into buying a “premium theme.” Premium themes tend to offer a wider variety of special features and functionalities and are readily available through countless online sources. Premium themes typically run in the $70-$100 range (circa April 2013), but pricing varies from provider to provider. If you’re inclined to go this route, you can start the search here, here and here.

The final option is to have someone make a custom theme to your specifications. You’ll probably need to hire a web designer to build a custom theme for you and pricing may be an hourly rate or a flat fee. If you go this route, I’d advise you to work with a designer who offers a flat fee option. As of April 2013, the base rate for custom Wordpess themes looks to run around $400 and go up from there, depending on the complexity of the project.

DIY

Then there is the do it yourself option. Way back in the day, this is the route I picked to creating the website for my series of novels. I used a WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) program called Kompozer. I cannot begin to tell you how many hours I poured into building that site and, when it was all said and done, I wound up with a basically functional site that I probably could have built using the hosting service website builder. Here’s a picture of the homepage for site I built.

(Click for better image.)

(Click for better image.)

The real lesson to take from this is that, unless you happen to be a website designer by day and writer by night, you probably have no business trying to build a website from scratch. It’s a wildly aggravating process and, every few years, advancements come along that make your website look amateurish and outdated.

If you’re still committed to building the site yourself and you don’t have a website design program installed on your computer, you’ll probably want to either sign up for something like Adobe’s Creative Cloud service for the Dreamweaver program or get comfortable with a browser-based HTLM5 editor like Aloha or Raptor.

Professional Web Designer

Your final option is to hire a web design professional to build you a site from scratch or to fix the mess of a website you tried to build for yourself. You may not think it’s worth it, but web designers exist for a reason. I’m getting my website (remember the picture above) redone by a pro right now. What you see above took me (too much time face consciously) to finish. This is what my brother came up with as a demo fix for that site in an hour or two, while sipping coffee and petting his cat.

 

(Click for better image.)

(Click for better image.)

It’s a completely different visual experience and that’s not even the finished version. If you’re not a web designer, don’t like the WordPress options, and the limitations of your hosting service’s website builder leave you cold, I’d recommend hiring someone to do the work for you. You’ll get a much more professional looking end-result and fewer migraines. Also, in case you’re wondering, yes, my brother is for hire.