Want to have your own author website? Here’s expert Pat Haggerty to tell us how in four easy lessons.
Creating a WordPress Author Site in Four Easy Lessons
Lesson 1: Understanding what that even means
You pickup just about any, “For Authors” periodical these days and you can’t turn more than a handful of pages without tripping over an article extolling the wonders, the sheer necessity of a web presence. There’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and on and on, and they each have their purpose, but authors need a place on the web to call home; they need a site with an address that can go on business cards and in blogs they write for other sites. A place where readers, publishers, and editors alike can find definitive information on release dates, author bios, and yes, find fun or purely entertaining things too.
“That sounds perfect, where do I sign up?”
Isn’t that the interesting question.
Least you need to know: You need to have a web site so people can find information about you.
A Propeller Head Moment
I’ve got one of those little hats with the propeller on top that I use as a prop sometimes when I teach. I’m wearing it now. My 21yr old daughter is horrified that someone she knows might see me through my living room window or something, my 10yr old son thinks it’s the funniest thing since one of my greyhounds passed gas an hour ago (it was impressive), and my wife is giving everyone in the room, “The look.”
Domain name: The technical name for the URL that people type into the browser address bar when they want to get to a particular site. The master list of domain names is maintained by an organization named InterNIC and the names are sold by resellers called Domain Name Registrars. The official list of registrars may be found here (but don’t waste your time searching, more info to follow):
Hosting Company: A hosting company is an organization that makes money by keeping the master copy of all the pages, text, pictures, pdf files, etc. from a given site, and they give any browser a copy of said information whenever a user types the correct domain name into their browser.
You type http://www.penderys.com into your browser and it takes you to the hosting company my parents pay to keep their spice company website. The site isn’t impressive, but you get the idea. The spices are good though. =)
Content Management System (CMS): CMS is software that the hosting company runs to make it easier on web site owners to create and manage their sites. For the purposes of this blog series we will be focusing on WordPress for our CMS.
Least you need to know: If you want to set up a website then you need a domain name and a hosting company, preferably one running an easy to use CMS like WordPress.
I don’t really want to do a whole branding discussion. We’d end up talking about it all night and honestly, I’m not 100% sure I’d be the right person to listen to anyway. I’m a geek who gets his wife to approve outfits before wearing them out in public. I’m not 100% sure what mauve is and I’m much happier talking about hosting services and domain names than image and color choices, but I would be remiss to not at least give Branding a mention.
I just looked branding up over in the OED and the definition was: “The action of marking with a hot iron, as a surgical operation; or of burning a mark upon a criminal, or an article for sale.”
Seriously though, that’s where the modern meaning comes from. My grandfather had a cattle ranch when I was growing up and his brand was a lazy, “OR.” Anyone in that part of Texas that found a cow wearing that brand either just knew, or could easily look up, where that cow had come from.
And funny enough, that’s exactly what we want too. The “draft” addition to the definition over at the OED is: “Marketing. The application of a trade mark or brand to a product; the promotion of consumer awareness of a particular brand of goods or services.” You catch that last part? “The promotion of consumer (reader) awareness.” You want a site that says, “Me” from the address the visitor types to the pictures and font on the page. I’m going to leave the pictures and font for now and talk address.
The address to a web site is more correctly termed the, “Domain Name.” I don’t even want to tell you what Wikipedia gives as the definition, suffice it to say that the domain name is the URL that people type into their browser address bar when they want to visit a specific site on the web. Domain names are controlled by a master authority that rents them out to whomever wants to pay for them.
How does this domain name thing fit into your branding plan? It’s simple. Your domain name should somehow be easily identifiable as you. Additionally, a good domain name should be easy to remember, easy to type, easy to spell, and it can’t already to belong to someone else.
Good name choices would be: Your name, pseudonym, nickname, etc.. Be wary of series names because they don’t really represent you and you might want to write something else some day. If you can come up with something cute or sexy, that’s great if you somehow make that something part of your branding / marketing strategy. If your name is in use then that right there might mean you should consider a pseudonym. Yes, you could use MyNameAuthor.com but always remember that people will go to MyName first before they figure the Author bit out, capisce?
PatrickHaggerty.com belongs to my cousin. His part of the family also invented the Lavalamp while trying to come up with a hard boiled egg timer and still owns the trademark, but I digress. PatHaggerty.com belongs to my Dad but he doesn’t use it for anything so I might talk him out of it one day. I’m not published but I’ve already registered some possible names just in case, including RomanceWritingMan.com which I thought I could turn into a brand some day and WritingHagg.com because Hagg has always been my nickname. Are they any good? Well, if I ever get something published I’ll let you know.
Least you need to know: Your URL / Domain Name is important and should be easily linked to you. Oh, and it can’t already belong to someone else.
Registering a Domain Name
Before you register a domain name, come up with a list of choices and be ready to buy your name now if it is in fact available. Though its existence is hotly debated, there is a lot of colloquial evidence that says there are unscrupulous name registrars out there that do what’s known as, “Domain name front running.” Essentially, they watch for people to search for a name and if they think the name looks interesting, and if you don’t go ahead and buy it, then they will purchase it themselves in the hope that you will pay a premium surcharge when you come back for the name a week later.
Another thing that you should do before you buy your name is decide if you are going to set up hosting now of not. Most hosting companies include a domain name in the price of their plans. Yes, it’s perfectly legal to buy a name and not buy hosting yet (that’s what I’ve done at this point with my RomanceWritingMan domain), but if the name is part of the hosting plan, included in the price, then you may as well not waste the money on the name separately.
If you want to buy the name now and worry about hosting later, then head over to Name Cheap. I’ve been very pleased with their service and if you register a .com address you’ll pay a base of about $11 a year.
Least you need to know: You have to get a domain name. If you’re setting up your site now you can probably get it with your hosting plan. If you want to buy a name now and get hosting later, visit Name Cheap.
There are a myriad of hosting companies and we could talk about pros and cons until the cows come home, but let’s cut to the chase: Hosting companies are in the business of putting sites on the web. If you never lose site of the fact that they are businesses, then you’ll go a long way towards understanding why hosting companies act the way they do. To put it another way, if you believe you can host your site for free, then I have some lovely swamp, er… near beach property in Mississippi that I would be happy to sell you.
What should you look for in hosting?
Well, if you want the cheapest option then go with WordPress.com. They will let you pay by putting advertisements on your site. They will also only allow domain names in the form xxx.wordpress.com, but their service is good quality and you can get up a site in no time. I don’t use them though when I want to pay for a site of my own, with my own domain name. I don’t like some of their pay features and they don’t give you the level of control a lot of other orgs will give you.
I’d go look for a hosting company that:
- Understands WordPress
- Includes a Domain Name in their price (ALWAYS! Check the fine print to ensure that the owner of the name is you and not them. Wouldn’t want to leave and find out that they owned your name, would you.)
- Doesn’t cost an arm and a leg
- Has good reviews online (Google: WordPress Hosting reviews 2014)
What’s the easiest way to meet all the above criteria? Go with one of the options on the WordPress.org site:
“Wait, is there a WordPress.com and a WordPress.org site?”
Yes. WordPress.org is the company that owns and maintains WordPress. WordPress.com is a hosting company for WordPress.
If you decide to go with one of the other myriad of hosting companies out there, then make sure to do some Google time before you sign up.
For this blog series I’m going to host at BlueHost and I’m going to use a play domain I set up: http://www.writinghagg.com
My favorite WordPress hosting companies are as follows. Each has a starter plan in the $4 a month range if you sign up for three years (didn’t notice that yet, did you) and loads of built in options:
All of them make it easy to get an account, pick a new domain name, and get WordPress going in no time. The steps essentially go like this:
1) Create a new account with the hosting company
2) Go to your account management page (usually called the control panel)
3) Find the easy / one click install section
4) Pick WordPress from their list of options (Usually listed in the Blogging section) and install it on the domain name you chose when you created your account
If you’d like to see an example from Bluehost, they have a nice post on setting up a WordPress site here:
And some nice videos on doing the same, including this one (it’s part of a nice, free video series):
Least you need to know: Setting up hosting is easy if you go with a known WordPress hosting provider like the three I have listed above.
That’s about all I have for you in this first lesson. Yes, I know the lesson is long on theory and short on step by steps, but that’s the nature of the beast. Each hosting company has a slightly different way to enable WordPress on a new site. Check the support section over at your provider of choice and they will all have a step-by-step guide of some sort, especially the big name providers like I’ve listed above.
Let me know if you have any questions and tune in next week for Lesson 2 where I’m going to talk about WordPress Themes and the look of your site.
Also, please check out my WordPress class that I have coming up later in the year:
See you next week.
Do you have any questions for Pat? Ask now!
Join us tomorrow for Handsome Hansel.
Bio: After four years in the USMC, Patrick Haggerty studied Actuarial Science and Computers at Georgia State University. He has spent the past 15+ years developing and delivering technical training courses for Learning Tree International. On the side he has a successful consulting practice doing web application development for clients ranging from the United State Marines to Delta Airlines.
Seven years ago, stuck reading a mediocre book in yet another hotel, Patrick decided to try his hand at fiction. He may not be published, but these days you are much more likely to find him spending his evenings writing romance, than code. Patrick is an active member of RWA, RWAustralia, RW New Zealand, and is VP of Membership for Gulf Coast Romance Writers of America, and VP of OIRWA.
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