Help - setting up an author website

One novel published, one doing the round of agents and a bunch of short stories and podcasts. I need to pull everything together. Partly to showcase my stuff, provide a link for agents and so on, and partly to offer free stuff: short stories, podcast of my first novel - eventually, and so on.

But: no cash to spend on it. So, I have tried a WordPress Blog, but can’t control the content the way I want. WorPress CMS has been suggested, but confuses me because I don’t quite know how to begin. Convert blog to web page? No idea how. Install code on my computer and load onto a server? That will have to be simple, idiot proof.

Love some advice from any of you good people who have either done it themselves, or can recommend the best way to take this forward.




The Authors Guild offers a Website setup service through a third party that’s fairly reasonable, I believe. See Worth looking into (though I didn’t use it myself; I’ve got enough on my plate with mucking about with a Website, unfortunately).

I used to do Web design and coded things myself back in the days when you had to, but now I have no interest in doing that work, I just want a website to present my content. It sounds like that’s what you’re after, too.

I use RapidWeaver and love it. You don’t have to do any coding yourself, there’s no server-side installation or SQL management like there is with WordPress, and it’s easy to switch and customise themes (whereas with WordPress I fell into the nightmare pit of editing PHP code in order to make the site look like I wanted). A lot of RapidWeaver’s functionality comes from plug-ins, almost all of which cost more money, so it’s tricky to keep that under control once you start buying them, but the advantage is that they make it easy to set up things like an online shop, contact forms, etc. RapidWeaver’s built-in blog feature even allows you to add podcasts to your posts.

It’s not free ($79, I think), plus you’ll need to buy hosting (I use; their packages are reasonable, they’re Mac-friendly, and all the scripty stuff runs properly on their servers, which was always a problem with past web-hosts).

None of that’s free. Sorry. For free, WordPress or Blogger are probably your best options, but you’ll have to put up with ads and/or lack of customisation.

I hope that helps.

For an example of what can be done with Sandvox Pro, see
SandVox Pro is $59 if you qualify for educator license.
Very easy to learn; produces sophisticated results.

I recommend Plone ( which is a full-featured open source content management system. I use it myself on all of my sites. You can manage content in a flexible way and you get a lot of features out-of-the-box. If you something very special eg. a newsletter you can install it as an add-on. Plone is written in Python and built on top of Zope, which is a versatile and secure open source application server.

According to Plone had only 10 exploits in the last three years. For comparision: Joomla 265, Drupal 164 and Typo3 53.

So Plone gives you the peace of mind that your website is not easily hacked.

First thing, get yourself (if you haven’t already) a domain name. A dot com is cheap as chips and it’s yours, and you can point it at whatever you end up with (whether a free site or a hosted site). A tip for buying a domain; think about what you’d like before you start searching eg etc. If you find it’s available take it right away as there are script thingies that sniff people’s domain window shopping and buy the domains out from under you. A .com should, at the most, cost $10 per year. Also, don’t feel like you can only have one - if you’re in the UK for instance, get a etc etc. That way, if someone isn’t sure where you are, they’ll still find you (sorry, that sentence made sense in my head).

Next thing, before you choose a system, is to decide what you need on the site. Try not to get sucked into the vortex of what would be nice. Don’t get too bogged down in over analysis (one of my friends is now in his third year of getting things just the way he wants them - the site isn’t live yet). Having said that, if you want a certain feature for a specific task then add it to the list - you don’t want to reverse engineer your completed site.
Once you’ve got your requirements, you’ll have a better/clearer idea of what system will work for you.

If you’re not a technical person, I’d go with a CMS. My personal favourites are Joomla and Wordpress. Joomla is good for bigger sites with lots of pages/categories/sections. Wordpress is good for simpler sites (and, of course, blogging). A CMS lets you easily update & add content. Building a site by hand can be tedious in the extreme (just done one for the first time in ages - it was…frustrating). But whatever you choose, you have to keep it up to date (WP is easy to keep at the latest version. Certainly easier than Joomla out of the box).

You say that you’ve tried WP blog but you can’t get it the way you want. If you PM me, I may be able to help you with that. WP can really do some excellent things but it takes a bit of fiddling at the beginning but once it’s done, you’re set. I can give you a link to a couple of WP & Joomla sites I’ve set up so you can see what they can do.

Good luck!

Another trick for domain hunting is to switch suffixes if the “.com” you want isn’t available. “.net” has become unrestricted, meaning anyone can use it. “.org” is also unrestricted. If it is a personal site, you could choose “.name” Do note that if you choose one of the newer “.name” or “.info” type domains, you might run into problems with lazy web developers who never update their email checking code. Some only look for the original generics and restricted and just reject anything that doesn’t end in “.net” or “.org” or whatever.

Yes, I agree with AmberV. I’m not much of a fan of .name or .info domains but I like .net (I have several).

I love this stuff. Tragic? Yes, I am.

Jot makes an excellent point about putting a structure into your website from the beginning.

I had a client who needed a professional site for his training and teaching work, and another as a client contact site, and we linked the two with Wordpress on both.

He found Wordpress easy to navigate and add his own stuff. He’s putting articles and videos on it and needed to do that himself.

I told him I’d take his money doing it by hand, but he would thank me after the learning curve. And now he does :smiley: