Friday, 20 July 2012

Writing a novel? No Website? No ICT Skills? No Worries!

When I first started writing my trilogy four years ago, I thought the biggest challenge was actually conquering that 60,000 word limit of the first book and creating a cohesive and well polished story. I’ve since learnt that is the easy part (I use the word ‘easy’ within a scale of relativity of course). The next thing I discovered was just how hard it was to edit and revise (boy did that come as a shock)

After these step learning curves I came to understand that the hardest part of the novel process is actually finding a readership.

There are many things I wish I’d known three years ago that I know now. But then again, the indie writing movement was still quite new to everybody, and Twitter, Facebook and Blogging were all relatively new and niche – things that only really technically savvy people did. And don’t even think about the scary alien idea of creating a personal website – surely you had to have a degree in ICT to do such a technical thing.

What a difference a couple of years make:

THE SINGLE BIGGEST THING I WISH I HAD KNOWN before I published my first book / submitted my manuscript to agents WAS THE IMPORTANCE OF WEB PRESENCE. Regardless of whether you are going to go the Traditional route or Indie route you need to invest the time you are drafting your manuscript also building your web presence.

The two easiest ways to do this are a BLOG and a WEBSITE. (I’ll save blog discussion for another day because I’m still not convinced that I do the blog thing that well.)

Three years ago I had very few ICT skills and the thought of creating a website to support my books was well out of my league. Then I discovered WEEBLY. Weebly is a system that allows you to create a FREE Website through a template and click & drag system. Within one afternoon I managed to set up a basic website. I’m not saying that Weebly is the only or the best (many people swear by Wordpress – but I find that very technical and complicated for a novice) but it did the job I needed it to and it’s REALLY, REALLY EASY to update, add and play with. CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT MY WEBSITE


LAYOUT AND STYLE:  Choose a layout from the templates – there are lots of to choose from. Ignore the images, you’ll be getting rid of them and replacing them with your own. I went for a simple black one with a top banner because I knew this would be easier to customise with my own colour choices and images.

COLOUR: Think carefully about your genre – go and nose around other writers’ websites in your genre and look at what colours work and which ones don’t. Try and select a colour scheme that supports your genre.

TYPE / FONT: Don’t go crazy – I know it’s tempting to try out all the lovely curly, whirly script because it looks so pretty, but it just makes it irritating for your readers to read. Keep it simple, tasteful and linked to genre.

PAGES: To start with you need a WELCOME PAGE (sometimes called HOME page). This is your attention grabber. Lots of people don’t ever go past your front page so make sure that it is as exciting as possible. Get straight to the point with an introduction of your work and an exciting supporting image. Include a blurb (you can always change it later) and a chance to read the opening chapter. When you have actually finished your book you will update it to include Amazon widgets and other toggles taking readers straight to sites that sell your books.

USE IMAGERY to support. You don’t need to have created your book cover just yet (you might only have written three chapters) but select an image that you think conveys the theme / genre or concept of the story you are writing. You must be very careful about copyright. One of the best things you can do is sign up to a stock image site where you can buy the right to use images (and there are loads of freebies too) on your website, bookcover and promo material. I use Dreamstime stock images but there are others. You can use your images straight or if you are more ambitious you can use programs like photoshop to alter and play.

PICASSA is a brilliant basic image program which will allow you to crop, edit, effect and add text to images very easily. AGAIN NOVICE FRIENDLY.

INSERT A LINK TO YOUR TWITTER PROFILE and FACEBOOK PAGE. You can just download a button by going to google images and then inserting a hyperlink – Weebly takes you through this step by step.

CREATE AN AUTHOR PAGE: Don’t clutter your first page with details about yourself. Save that for your author page. Include a photo of yourself and a short introduction. Keep it both personal but at the same time professional. You may also want to add a link to your blog on this page. THINK YOURSELF AN AUTHOR and DO NOT put yourself down. You are not aspiring – you are doing!

STOP. At this stage early stage this is all you really need. You will build onto your site as you carry on writing. The closer you get to completing your book, the more you will want to add. It’s quite a nice idea to have a TEASER PAGE in which you post your opening chapters to entice readers into your world before you’ve published.

MAKE SURE YOU POST A LINK TO YOUR WEBPAGE IN YOUR TWITTER PROFILE. It allows new followers to find out more about you and where you are coming from.

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