There are many tools for authors making their online platform. Here is a list of my favorites.
Your own independent website without any restrictions:
Register your Domain (i.e. – yournamehere.com) and get hosting (i.e. – a place for your website to live):
GoDaddy (this is an affiliate link, I may get paid if you click and buy, so click and buy to show me some love!)
Strengths: GoDaddy is my go-to for domain registration and for their super simple, anyone can do it, way of offering their services that I recommend for anyone who just needs something fast and easy. Their support is the BEST. You may have to wait on hold for a little bit, but when you do get through they will always help. I have even asked them for help when something is a “WordPress Issue” not a GoDaddy issue, and they could easily have washed their hands of it and told me they don’t help with that–which many other hosts will do–but GoDaddy has never refused to help me and never extorted money from me, just to get my website functional again.
Weaknesses: Some of their packages don’t have everything included. Make sure to ask them very carefully what you are getting. For example, some packages only include one email, and if you need more you will have to pay a silly amount per email. But if you ask the right questions and tell them just what you need in a website, they do have packages that include any option (including multiple emails) for good prices. And they will also let you change packages at any time, even if you paid ahead for 3 years.
Host Gator (this is an affiliate link, I may get paid if you click and buy, so click and buy to show me some love!)
Strengths: This is the one I personally use for web hosting (since 2007), I trust them and highly recommend. They give great service and they have excellent hosting plans for some of the best rates around – I am especially fond of their unlimited deals which include unlimited websites and unlimited emails for no more money than some hosts ask for their single website/single emails packages–and a lot less money than some charge. Their cPanel is easy to use once you get the hang of it, and any time I have gotten stuck, their customer service has been quick, competent, and helped me unconditionally.
Weaknesses: There may be a bit of a learning curve when you are totally new to their cPanel. But their support people are very helpful so it doesn’t take long to learn if you ask for help.
Note: You need to purchase your registration and hosting services first, but once you have done that I can do any of the cPanel and dashboard stuff to get your website up and running. Also if you are stuck with a less than ideal host, both GoDaddy and Host Gator offer site moving services for free if you become a paying customer.
Build a website which is super easy to make and update:
WordPress – Not just for blogging! WordPress is by far the best and simplest way to make a webpage and manage the content of your webpage. Just install it on your host and login and you are ready to go. You can create a flexible and powerful webpage/blog combo. WordPress is a little complicated to the beginner, but if you make the effort to learn it just a little bit you will be very satisfied with what you can get out of it. Navigating WordPress is one of the things I teach. Anyone can learn it with practice and a Google search bar 😀 but if you just can’t get it, then give me a call.
Free website hosting, less complications, no fees, more restrictions, less options:
Blogger – I love all things Google (Blogger is a Google product) and if you are looking for a simple website tool that you do need to be super flexible, Blogger will suit your needs and bonus it integrates with Google really well. You can also export it to WordPress really easily if you ever decide you want to switch.
WordPress.com – Different from the self hosted option I mentioned above. Just go to WordPress.com and sign up. You get pretty much the same website as the self hosted kind, only your options are fewer (unless you pay) and there are rules and restrictions about what you can do with your website. One caveat: don’t pay WordPress for all those extras they try to sell you. You can get far cheaper domain and hosting services elsewhere and have far fewer restrictions.
There are countless other “free” site/blog hosting out there. (Weebly, Tumblr, etc.) Many of the other options look shiny on the surface, but if you change your mind later and want to switch to something else, you may have a difficult task. Also remember when you are promoting your website you should be promoting your website and not the other site. If you don’t completely own your website, you are working for them as well as yourself. Ask yourself, are they giving you something worthwhile in return for that?
- Google+ because it’s awesome. G+ is all about conversations, it is simple to use, it is the fastest growing social network of all time, and it is deeply integrated with Google–your most powerful ally on the Internet when it comes to discoverability.
- Twitter for traffic and making connections at events. Twitter is like a giant global instant messaging game of telephone, only the message doesn’t get garbled. One of the quickest ways to drive traffic to your website is a well crafted Tweet with top notch hashtags and a really catchy headline. Also the conversation really ramps up when you are at an event and that event has its own hashtag. You can make a lot of great connections that way.
- Facebook for presence (Facebook has become unwieldily since they went public and have started bumbling around with monetization, but it still claims the largest user base of all social media platforms. I recommend maintaining a basic presence there to avoid missed opportunities, but not to invest a lot of time and especially not money into it.)
Others to note:
Goodreads – If you are an author you should be on Goodreads.
YouTube (another fine Google product) – Do not mistake YouTube for just a place to upload videos. It is actually a powerful social media site. People can like things, make comments on things, follow your channel and more. Make sure your Google+, G-mail, and YouTube are all tied to the same Google account.
Wattpad is a social media specifically designed for readers and writers. And more users on Wattpad identify themselves as readers than writers. It involves giving away some of your writing for free. But it doesn’t have to be your books you have for sale. And even if you do give those away, it doesn’t mean you won’t have sales. Wattpad is about building an audience and getting discovered.
Pinterest? So I get a lot of questions about Pinterest. It is not a site to ignore. Pinterest is a place to post your pictures, especially if you are posting them from your website. Pinterest is a place to share pictures of others too (get the browser extension that lets you pin images from any website) and also link back to their website. Pinterest is also a place to have your pictures/blog posts posted by others without you even being involved. I recommend anyone marketing online to make an account, poke around, get a basic understanding of how it works, create a few boards, post a few pics. And make full use of your sharing options. You don’t have to be a power user, just be aware of how it is used.
Tumblr? A site much like Pinterest. Actually, if you really want to use it well you should treat it like Pinterest, only you should stick to just one niche Tumblr rather than making a whole bunch of Tumblrs like you do with Pinterest boards. If you are an author of horror, create a Tumblr where you share images and things that creep you out for example. You can cultivate a following there and that can translate into people buying your books.
Remember: Don’t spread yourself too thin by spending time on as many social media as possible. Make a profile on as many as possible, and fill it out completely with bio, picture and link back to your website, and at least maintain a presence on one of the majors. But then pick one that you can really get into. One that seems easy to use and fun. Use that social media to really form connections with a community. That is the best, time conserving, strategy I can offer.
Canva – Extremely easy to use website that allows you to create graphics for websites, social media and even bookcovers.
Bitly – Honestly, I don’t know why more authors don’t use link tracking. Every author I know wants to save time on their marketing so they can write more. Link tracking only requires a little planning and forethought, but the information you get tells you where you are wasting your time and where you can get more results for your time. You can track links to your website, to your blog, to your Book sale page on Kobo, any page–not just your own.
Hootsuite if you are really into using both Facebook and Twitter a lot and want to streamline the process. With Hootsuite you can set up automatic posts. If you have multiple accounts and pages you can see them in one place. It has a lot of potential for saving you some time.
Twitterfeed is a sort of bare bones service that will automatically post your new blog posts to Twitter and Facebook. I use it for Twitter only myself. It is one of the few of the currently available post automators which lets you set a few hash tags for Twitter posts. It is a little bit clunky, but once you get it running you never have to bother with it again.
Networked Blogs to automatically post your blog posts to Facebook and get a great little widget that let’s people visibly follow your blog. I use this one to post my blog to my FB pages. It makes a nice looking post. With Networked Blogs there is a nice photo, a little blurb of text and the title. I had problems with other similar services not having pictures, or the text, etc.