Some Thoughts on Building an Author Website

Last week Sofia Samatar tweeted that authors should have good clean websites, and K. Tempest Bradford has been signal boosting and expanding on that idea.  I’ve had a website since 2007, but seeing all these tweets about the importance of a *good* website made me realize that I was long overdue for a website overhaul.

Before I started building my site, I looked at lots of examples.  A few author websites that I found particularly helpful in getting ideas for content and layout were Mary Robinette Kowal, Cat Rambo, and Ken Liu.  When I was looking at these sites, I thought about what information I found useful as a reader, and also about what kinds of content I have available to include on my site.

Most of the sites I looked at had a few basic categories of content:

  1.  About the Author.  Various pages included author bios, interviews, and press kits.  Authors who do more events often have a page listing upcoming appearances.
  2.  Fiction.  What does the author have out, and where can readers find it?  Lists of short fiction, novels, podcasts, translations, etc.  Something I saw on Ken Liu’s website that I really liked (and stole for my own site) was a list of his personal favorite stories, which gives the reader some ideas on where to start.
  3. Blog.  One of the many reasons I wanted to re-do my site was so that I could have a blog on my website, instead of a separate blogging platform elsewhere.
  4. Some personal non-writing thing.  Mary Robinette Kowal’s site has a page for puppetry.  Ken Liu’s site has a page for software.  For my site, I did a page on photography.
  5. Contact information.  Email, links to social media, etc.

(Looking at this list, I notice that there is a lot of overlap with K. Tempest Bradford’s 6 Elements of a Good Author Website.  Great minds think alike.)

Once I had a good idea of what content I wanted to include on my site, I was ready to pick a layout.  I decided to go with wordpress because (a) it can do all the things I need my website to do, (b) lots of people use it, (c) it’s affordable, and (d) it’s easy to learn.

(Side note for people with existing websites:  I didn’t want to take my old site down until after I built the new one, so I installed/built my wordpress site in a subdirectory (carolineyoachim.com/wordpress), and then moved it to my root directory (carolineyoachim.com) when it was finished.  There are settings in the wordpress dashboard that make this relatively straightforward, and I was able to find step-by-step instructions by searching on google.)

After I had wordpress installed, I picked a theme.  This was one of the most time consuming parts of the process because I’m picky and there are a ton of themes out there.  I installed several different themes, played with them, and then discarded them.  Part of the problem, for me, was that I couldn’t tell whether I liked a theme or not until after I had customized it in various ways–many themes let you change the colors, the header options, the layout, etc.

Next I started adding pages for the various categories of content I wanted to include. When the framework was there, I put in the content.  This mostly involved moving content over from my old website/blog, but I edited things that were outdated as I brought them over, and also added things that were missing (e.g., lists of podcasts and translations).

Last I put in widgets to let people search the site, see my latest blog posts, find me on Twitter, etc.

So that was my process for building a website!  The whole thing took me about three days to do, and I’m pretty happy with how it came out :)

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