Welcome to the first day of the Basics of Author Online Presence Challenge. We’ll be covering everything an author needs to be visible – and memorable – online.
Today we will start with your online home: your author blog.
Why do you need a blog?
It is the one place online where you completely control what people see about you. And, for the most part, you are ensured that it wouldn’t just disappear into the void because the platform was shut down forever. (You can read my personal horror story here.)
Goals with blogging:
- Build a readership interested in your subject.
- Network with other writers.
- Establish the base for all social media marketing.
- Allow potential readers to sample your writing.
- Build anticipation for your book(s).
How to set up your author blog.
If you already have a blog: congratulations! See the checklist below to make sure you’ve optimised yours and then add your blog’s name and URL in the comments.
Before you launch your blog, do the following:
Choose a platform – check out this post for the lowdown on different blogging platforms and a couple of other cool stuff regarding blogging.
Once you’ve chosen where to blog, there are a few more things you have to do. (It takes about 30 minutes or so to get set up and you can use the weekend to tweak the theme and everything else.)
Decide on your blog’s title. It’s sensible and good for SEO (which we will cover later in the month) to have your name in your blog title and domain name (that’s the part of the URL with the site’s name). It’s also a good idea to have a catchy title: it makes it easier for people to remember it.
E.g. Ronel the Mythmaker. See what I did? I used “mythmaker” which means a person who creates myths (I write about the Fae) and I added my name. Voilà! You immediately know who the author is and what they write about.
And you need a tagline: it immediately tells visitors what your blog is about.
E.g. Life of a South African Writer. See? I write about my writing journey which, as a South African, is a lot different from someone who lives in a first world country (having no literary agents in my part of the world is just one example).
Done all that? Great! Now you can launch your blog.
Let’s run through the checklist of everything else that should appear on your author blog:
- About author page (people want to get to know you).
- Copyright notice (because it’s the internet – WordPress has one you can use).
- A page listing stories and articles you’ve written that appear outside your blog with links to them (you’re a writer, show people what you’ve done).
- A contact page (though I’ve added mine on my about author page and all my social media networks are in the sidebar, so this page can be skipped as long as people can find you).
- On the sidebar: follow button for your blog, your social media links, and anything else you’d like to share at a glance.
- Make sure your full author name and photo (will discuss this on day 2) is in the sidebar – people will remember you.
Remember to check in settings if your domain name is correct, especially after tweaking it a bit. You can play around with themes and colours and you can get a free image on Pixabay, Morguefile, Unsplash and several other places that you can use as your blog’s banner (we’ll discuss images on your blog later in the challenge).
Don’t freak out if your blog isn’t perfect after a few hours of work: mine took months before I was completely happy with it.
Write your first blog post.
I suggest you write a post introducing yourself, your interests (the things you’ll probably be blogging about) and what you hope to achieve through blogging.
Add categories (e.g. writing), tags (e.g. writing, writer’s life, writer’s journey, first blog post) and images (get a free one on Pixabay that is relevant to your post’s content).
And if you’re struggling to find things to blog about, check out “What Blogging Teaches About Writing” for inspiration.
Claim your domain.
Though I haven’t done this (yet), I know that it is an important step to take.
Why? Because it’s your name.
Your name is what people will search for on Google or whatever and you want your author blog to be in the first couple of results (we’ll talk about SEO – search engine optimisation – later in the challenge, though you should know right now that your URL weighs heavily in search algorithms).
You want to be found, right? It is the point of this challenge, after all.
So, how do you claim your domain?
You should know that there’s an annual fee involved in having your domain name and that you don’t want it to expire (so remember to renew it!).
I have no idea which ones are the best registration/hosting services, I can only list the big players:
And there are many others – if you use something different, feel free to share it in the comments.
Writer to Writers worked fine as a WordPress hosted blog but such blogs are way harder to rank well in search engine results. Thus, the need for a custom domain and a self-hosted site appeared. Having it gives authors more authority and it’s the first step in building a strong online portfolio. After a long period of comparing the prices, eHost won the race with its easy to master dashboard and great options included in ridiculously low prices.
Don’t feel bad if you cannot afford to claim your domain today – writers are notoriously broke. Feel free to check out the availability of your domain name (you never know if there are two authors out there named Ronel Janse van Vuuren) and go and compare prices (having an idea of what to budget for is always good).
As soon as you are able, claim your domain: it’s an investment in your writing career.
Disclaimer: some of the links above are affiliate links but before you worry, all of the listed hosting platforms have a proven track record of satisfying their customers.
Have you set up your blog? Have you written your first blog post? Awesome! Add your blog’s name and URL in the comments and tell us what you think of the challenge thus far. Any questions about setting up your blog?
Author: Ronel Janse van Vuuren
Ronel writes dark fantasy filled with mythology and folklore, some of which can be read on Wattpad and on her blog Ronel the Mythmaker. When not leading her Rottweiler pack or arguing with her characters, she’s writing award-winning fiction.