Updated August 2011
eed a brand new website, or a redesign of your existing one? xuni.com creates, designs, and maintains author websites for those authors just starting out to those with 20+ books. I specialize in creative, well-organized, uncluttered sites.
Want specific information on how the process works? This is where you find out. Want to find out about costs involved in having a website? How you decide what your website should look like? Why do authors need a website, anyway? What do I think about social networking? Do I do things like branding and search engine optimization?
This is where you should find all the answers! And if you don't happen to find what you're looking for, feel free to email me. In fact, feel free to email me anyway. I'm happy to give you custom answers to your questions. Please see notes on emailing me at the bottom of this page.
NEW! We now do eBook shopping carts!
Just a note before I start... I could write this as a general FAQ for anyone interested in building an author website. But you can find that information in quite a few places around the web. Instead, I've written this from my point of view here at xuni.com. I assume you're interested, since you're here. You have questions? Here are my answers...
What costs are involved in having a website?
A: There are four main costs associated with having a website: domain, hosting, site development and maintenance.
Domain: This is the "address" or "URL" of your site, such as xuni.com or in the case of many authors, yourname.com. You can buy it from many places around the web, such as GoDaddy.com or Register.com. I suggest that you register it (buy it) for at least two to five years, to make sure you don't lose it. This is a fee which is paid in advance, year by year. If yourname.com is taken, by the way, I usually suggest yournamebooks.com. And if you're thinking about using me and don't want to deal with registering it yourself? I'd be happy to register it for you at GoDaddy's cost of $13/year (without any additional fees).
Hosting: Your website needs to live somewhere, right? Well where you're hosted is where your site lives! You pay a monthly fee for a server to host you. I run my own server, for which I charge $15/month (very reasonable for a managed server, I promise). Because I've found that I just waste too much time trying to make things work properly on other servers, part of working with me means that you need to be hosted on my server.
Site development: You have a domain and you're ready to get started. Getting a website designed and built by me can range from about 2K to a lot higher, depending on the size and complexity of your site. I have done a few very large sites which according to a web development company I asked were worth a minimum of 15 to 20K. I charged about a third of that. There are of course some designers who would have charged even less than that. But there are more important issues than price. Find out more about this below.
Maintenance: Your site is complete and online. What further costs should you expect? That depends on whether you prefer a "static" site or one which changes regularly. Some authors have sites which only change when they have a new book out. Others have at least a home page which is updated regularly, which makes people come back to the site regularly to see what's new. Either way is fineit's up to you. Every website company does it differently, I'm sure, but after I've launched your site, I charge for edits on an hourly basis, in about ten minute increments. I bill quarterly. Since you'll be hosted with me as well, that means that your editing and hosting fees are charged together four times a year.
What should you look for in a web designer?
A: To me, the most important issues are: design style, finding someone who shares your vision, and good customer service.
Style... I specialize in designing sharp, well-organized, professional sites. If you want something really flashy and high-tech, I wouldn't be the right designer for you, as my style tends towards more straight-forward designs. If you want a quick cookie-cutter site, I wouldn't be the right designer for you, as I like to make the site fit the author. In fact, that's one of the best parts of my jobcreating websites which fit the author's style and writing personality.
Vision... There are quite a few good design firms out there who could build you a beautiful website. The difference in working with me is personal, one-on-one service. I work with you to create exactly what you want, and if you don't know what you want, I help you figure it out. Pleasing the client is my number one priority. That said, it is a balancing act between incorporating the clients' vision and my creative expertise. In order to do this right, I send out a very specific questionnaire to get the clients' input upfront ... and then I need to be let go to run with it.
Customer service... I'm online all the time and am at my computer most of the day and usually well into the night. I respond to email and/or calls within 24 hours, usually within just a few. Need something done in a huge hurry? I can almost always oblige you. What can I say? I love my job.
More detail on this below.
How do you decide what your site should look like?
A: Think about what books you've written and what kind of information you would want to share with people. Check out other author sites for ideas. And then email me! [Please see notes on emailing me at the bottom of this page.] xuni.com has done so many author sites that I'm full of ideas of what kind of information works well and how to organize it all. The most important question to ask yourself is: what kind of image do I want to project? Mysterious? Elegant? Fun? Your website should be a reflection of you and your writing. That's why some of the homemade sites are worse than having none at allthey make the author look like they're not serious about their work.
Why do you need a website anyway?
A: So people can find out more about you and your books in the hope that it makes them buy more. It's as simple as that! If you put your URL on your book jacket, some people will undoubtedly look up your site to see what else you've written. Or if people see your book in a bookstore, they may go home and look up your site just to find out about your books first. That's why it's so important to have your URL be your name if possible. These days, a website is like a business cardit's expected, and is often someone's first impression of you.
What is the process of building a site?
What if you think no one will come to your site?
A: First of all, a lot more people probably want to know about you than you think! If you've written a book and it's sold enough for you to still be a writer, there will definitely be people who want to know moreabout when your next book is coming out, what it's about, etc. Once your website is up and running and you've promoted it to a certain extent (through online promotion, your URL on your book jacket, in your signature line of emails, etc.), you'll be amazed at how many visitors you get. Most servers (including mine) have site statistics programs which tell you more than you could ever care to know about how many visitors you get, where on the web they come from, what pages they visit the most, etc.
|What are some of the most important things an author should think about when considering a website and choosing a designer?|
|What promotional/social networking venues (blogs, facebook, etc.) do I recommend to authors?|
What do I think about author branding?
A: It's important for you to build a clear perception of you and your writing, and one of the best ways to do that is obviously through your website identity. One of the first things I ask an author, before I start designing, is what do you want your site to FEEL like? How do you want potential readers to envision you and your books? It's so important! And once we get the website design down, then we can design other things to go along with that: blogs, dang cool Facebook Fan pages, logos, newsletters, business cards, bookmarks, rotating ads, ebook covers, & bookplatesall which match the author's site. It's exceptionally fun! Examples here and here (in the sidebar).
What about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
A: I do basic search engine optimization with every site I build. I also offer more specialized SEO for those clients who want it. While there are no "guarantees," I have definitely seen authors rise in the search engines after good SEO work.
|How much time needs to be devoted to website updates and newsletters to keep an author "out there?"|
Should even unpublished authors have a website?
A: While the majority of my work is with published authors, I do take on people who are either publishing their own work (as ebooks, for example), or are still looking to be published through traditional publishing. I'm pretty choosythe strength of the person's commitment to their craft is important to me, because I'm serious about my work and I like to work for people who have this same feeling about theirs. Whether you "should" have a site before you have a publishing contract is completely up to you. Some people feel it will show them to be serious so they may be more likely to get an agent and publishing contract. I would stand by the thought that how well you write is what gets you a contractbut that a website (a beautiful one that is!) certainly can't hurt. One thing I quite definitely suggest, however, is to buy yourname.com domain right away if it's available.