As anyone who’s selling or marketing or trying to publicize anything knows, nowadays it’s mandatory to have a website. Without one it’s kind of like you either don’t exist or you’re not legitimate. So, seeing as I really do exist, I decided that I, too, needed a website. To my great fortune, I happen to be friends with an outstanding webmaster, Alla Gringaus, who was willing to climb on board the Elizabeth Shore website express and work with me to put it together. That was a year ago.
Now, I’ll say right up front that it certainly doesn’t normally take that long to slap up a site. People do it over a weekend. Maybe even in a single night. With my process it partially took so long because there were many months of breaks where nothing happened, mainly because I was so busy writing or editing my contemporary erotic romance Hot Bayou Nights, releasing later this year. But anyway, conception initiated right about this time last year and for the next 12 months gestation ensued. At least my ankles didn’t swell.
We started the process with a discussion about content. I studied other authors’ websites to see what they did. I attended an excellent presentation by Carina Press’s Executive Editor, Angela James, at the New Jersey RWA’s annual conference to learn do’s and don’t’s about what makes a great website and what traps to avoid. There are basic things to keep in mind, such as not having a serene looking site if you’re a romantic suspense author. Or avoiding auto-start music or videos (it turns visitors off).
In the conversations I had with my web designer, we wanted to have interesting things on the site to keep visitors engaged and coming back. I can’t dedicate a whole lotta website real estate to my books since there aren’t – yet! – many of them. But as far as book content, what I did decide I wanted to do was give visitors a sample of my writing by including excerpts of unpublished manuscripts that haven’t yet found a home. Reader feedback is priceless, so why not show people what I have and let them tell me what they think. It’s hard sometimes for us writers to distance ourselves from our work. It’s our baby, after all, and beware anyone who tells us our child is ugly. At least that’s how some writers may come across. But difficult as it sometimes is to hear, if I’ve got stuff that’s not responding with readers, I want to know. So excerpts from unpublished books are included.
Another huge topic of my website discussion focused on whether to include my picture. Readers like pictures, but in the erotic romance genre it can be a tricky thing, particularly if you have a day job, or maybe have family members or friends who disapprove of your chosen profession (if they even know about it). It’s best in some cases to keep these things separate. Ultimately I decided to include a photo. But what photo? Should I get new ones or use something I already have? Eventually we figured it out with the help of photographer friend Alessandro Bologna.
I spent two entire weekends at Alla’s home (bless her dear husband who put up with me eating his food and taking over his apartment) because there were seemingly thousands of decisions to be made. Color scheme, fonts, background, menu items, social media links, blog content, placement, and on and on and on and on. When I think back on this process my head spins at the amount of discussion we had in order to launch the site. At one point I thought we were finally ready to launch when Alla dropped the bomb that no, there’s still SEO work to be done. Argh!! When oh when will it end? It seemed sometimes like I was never going to get through everything.
Once we finally did launch there was one final kick in the shins due to a huge technical glitch (not at all Alla’s fault) that nearly destroyed everything we’d done. Thank goodness for her brilliance and dedication – she literally spent the entire weekend fixing the problem, getting about five hours of sleep from Friday night to Sunday. Bless you, my friend.
Thus ends the story of the birth of my website. I really would love to hear feedback, so please stop by when you have a chance and tell me what you think. Now (sigh) on to Pinterest.