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Building My Own Website
By G. Kyle White
August, 2007, 07:58

Today's writer needs website presence and one way to get it is to build your own.
When Charles Dickens visited America in 1842, he read before audiences that averaged in the hundreds. For his time, that was the best platform for an author to meet his readers.
 
If Dickens were alive today, he would have a website. Public readings are passé; however, every author still needs to connect with his fan base. Some would believe that the book or short story or article should speak for itself, and while that is true, more than ever, writers are becoming visible celebrities.

That is why you need a website. Regardless of your feelings toward the Internet – greatest boom or bane in humankind’s history – it is a tool that every writer should use to reach an audience. As the world becomes more interconnected, the days of mysterious authors who shun the public spotlight are rapidly diminishing.
 
Now that we’ve established that all writers need a web presence, the next logical question is how to obtain one. If you have limited time, but unlimited dollars, you can hire a webmaster to do the work. The prices quoted to me ranged from $500 to $1500 for a five-page website. Being too frugal, I decided to funnel my creativity into building the site myself.
 
I first approached a member of my critique group who had a webpage. She loaned me The Non-Designers Web Book by Robin Williams and John Tollett. I highly recommend this work, or one similar to it, to help you understand the basics of webpage design.
 
With some fundamental knowledge, I then visited the sites of several of my favourite authors. I also used the pages of professional organizations (such as the Romance Writers of America, the Western Writers of America, the Horror Writers Association) hoping for a list of their current membership. Such lists often included links to the writers’ websites. I found this to be most useful.
 
With a fistful of notes and ideas, I next decided to learn how to actually build a website. Call me web-design ignorant, but it was not an easy process.
 
I began with MySpace.Com. It seemed like a logical place to start since several authors use it. After some time, however, I decided the site wasn’t for me. Several friends admonished me that the site met my frugality requirement, but I felt its offerings did not match my targeted vision. Still, I encourage you to make your own decision.
 
Again using the Internet, I searched for web-hosting companies. A mind-boggling array of choices appeared on the screen, creating more confusion. I took the free demonstrations on several sites. In fact, that became a rule: No free demo, not interested. It helped to weed out the competition.
 
To help me narrow the choices even farther, I created a check-off list of pros and cons. As already mentioned, I operate on a budget, so excessive cost quickly eliminated a candidate. I compared the array of pre-built templates against the variety of fonts and colours offered. I also noted if the provider had a toll-free customer service number. In the long run, a site might cost more, but getting help when I really needed it counted for a lot.
 
I narrowed the list to my top three: GoDaddy.Com, Homestead.Com, and Yahoo.Com. None really lead the pack, so I selected GoDaddy.Com mostly based on cost (this is not an ad for them, I still had problems).

I discovered that you have to buy two services. First, you have to purchase the domain name. (I recommend you snap up your preferred name today. They are going fast.) Second, you pay to host the site. Altogether, both services cost me $165 for three years.
 
My difficulties arose when I went to build the site. The promotional material said I could have my website up tonight. If their definition of tonight is after-you- reason-through-this-difficult, not-user-friendly, why-do-you-feel-you-need-instructions-software, then I guess that's possible. I admit I am no techie, but I do have a knack for easily understanding new computer programs. This one baffled me, but I finally – after a lot of cussing and screaming and pleading and begging – worked my way through it.

Sadly, I was able to only use about a quarter of the ideas that I had gleaned from other sites. Still, I’m glad I visited those authors' websites. Without them, I truly think I would have been more lost.

Today, I am about 76% pleased with my site; however, I feel that I earned the right to publish it on the net, and appreciate each visitor I receive. Who knows maybe one day GKYLEWHITE.COM will be as famous as STEPHENKING.COM or NORAROBERTS.COM. When we have nothing else, all writers must live on hope (and have a website).

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G. Kyle White is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. His work has appeared in regional and national publications. He can be reached at www.gkylewhite.com or gkylewhite@yahoo.com.


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