Tiff Stockton Miller

Amber Miller is an author and freelance web site designer who lives with her husband and fellow author in beautiful Colorado Springs. They are expecting their first child in March and have a vivacious puppy named Roxie, who is half Border Collie and half Flat-Haired Retriever. She has sold six books to the Heartsong Presents line of Barbour Publishing. Other writing credits include several writing articles for various publications, five short stories with Romancing the Christian Heart, and nine contributions to the book, 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage. A born-again Christian since the age of seven, her faith in Christ has often sustained her through difficult experiences. She seeks to share that with others through her writing. Read more about her at her web sites: www.ambermiller.com and www.eagle-designs.com.

Web Sites, Writing and the World Wide Web...Oh My!

In this world of the Information Superhighway, Internet, World Wide Web, and interconnected technical communities, a ticket on the electronic train is more than worth its weight in gold.

My name is Tiffany Stockton and I co-own Eagle Designs with my husband. We provide affordable and professional Web sites to our clients, the majority of whom are writers, speakers, or writing industry professionals.

A Web site is a must for anyone in the writing industry, no matter where you work. And if you’re already published, you need to make sure your site is functioning at the optimum level. When you are sure this is where God called you to be, make plans to start your Web site. Here are five reasons to help you see why this is critical:

1. Your site puts you in touch with readers.

Even before your first book is published, you can establish a connection with site visitors and readers by sharing personal stories, tidbits/samples of your writing, photos, links, posting to a blog or journal, etc. Readers can be rather fickle. Sometimes, your writing won’t be the only thing that keeps them coming back. If you provide them with a personal connection to you, chances are you’ll have a reader for life.

2. A Web site can mean the difference between a contract and a rejection.

If an editor, agent or publisher is considering you and another author for similar projects, he/she might browse the Internet to see if you are “online.” If you don’t have a Web site and the other person does, you might receive the rejection while the other author receives the contract.

3. Publishers want authors who are actively involved.

Today, publishers want authors who can market themselves successfully and work with their marketing team rather than with those who sit back, waiting for someone else to do the work for them. Even if your site is only one page, it’s still a site. And it gives you an edge over those who don’t have one.

4. Almost all of your readers are online.

When readers want to learn more about you or find other books written by you, they will search the Internet. If you don’t have a Web site, you could potentially lose sales on your other books or even lose a reader after the one book is finished. Yes, some will remain loyal and return to the bookstore, anxious to get your latest release. But if they have no form of advance notice, they might grow tired of waiting and move on to another author.

5. You can market yourself and secure new readers or opportunities.

Sometimes, readers will find your site through a referral on another site, links discovered through browsing the Internet, or even word-of-mouth. Your site can also provide other industry professionals a source for your areas of expertise. As a result, you might be offered a new writing project, a speaking engagement, or any number of prospects.

But first, you have to answer one question:

Should I build my site myself, or should I hire someone to do it for me?

Some key things to consider are your time, your ability to learn HTML (HyperText Markup Language), whom you hire, how much content you have, your budget, and so one.

If you decide to hire someone, always request referrals. Ask questions about timeliness, professionalism, approachability, cost and what’s included in that cost, satisfaction, and if they’d hire that person again.

If you decide to go it on your own, look for WYSIWYG programs, or pick up a book to help you. I recommend HTML for Dummies or the Idiot’s Guide to HTML. They are virtual gold mines of knowledge and tips.

Most authors don’t question if the cost of printing bookmarks or business cards is worthwhile, but many wonder if a Web site is. In today’s market, it’s essential. And if you think you’re going to break the bank with this investment, let me reassure you. The majority of my clients have gotten started for under $300.

Whatever you decide, make certain you feel good about it. Don’t invest in a professional if you don’t feel comfortable with the expense. And don’t try to do it yourself if you feel the end result might reflect badly upon the image you want to convey, or if it might cause you more headache than help.

Once you have that decision made, do your research. Talk to others. Visit other sites. Make a plan for your site. And here are some starter steps for getting your feet wet:

1. Purchase a domain name (yourname.com, .net, .org, etc.) so people can find you.

2. Find a host, or a place to store your files online.

3. Determine how many you will have and decide on an overall scope. If you don’t have a plan, your site will reflect that.

4. Decide on a color scheme and graphics. Go with something that reflects your writing style and personality. Make it a place readers want to visit, and one you’re honored to call your own.

5. Determine what will go on which page.

Remember, you have only a few seconds to make a good impression and grab your visitors’ attention. It’s a competitive world out there, and you want to be on the leading edge.

If you build it; they will come . . . but they won’t stay . . . unless you give them a reason to return. That is where marketing comes into play. But if you have done a good job with the set-up or partnered with a reliable designer, your site will do a good bit of marketing for you.

For a list of resources and guides and other tips to help you on your Web design journey, consult the links page on our Web site (http://www.eagle-designs.com). And feel free to contact us if you’d like to learn more. We’re here to help.

Deleware Dawning Series