My first year as a self-published author: Website #amwriting #website #problems #lessonslearned #authorwebsite

website download

This is the 3rd in a series of posts about my first year as an indie author publishing and marketing my books… I’ll be analysing different parts of the journey and will let you know the things that worked and the things that proved a waste of time.

This post is all about MY WEBSITE.

Aargh! This is one of the hard bits. I know that it’s vital for authors to have a good website. The list of ‘must haves’ probably goes something like:

  1. write good books (including using good editors, cover designers and developing a great blurb)
  2. have a decent author website!
  3. find and engage with readers (a mailing list is the most important way to do this, also judicious social media)
  4. distribute your books in the right stores, formats, etc…

Why is a website so important? I hear you ask… Essentially, it’s a one-stop-shop of information about you, the author, and your books. If people such as readers, publishers and reviewers want to find out about you, that is the place they will probably look. It groundtruths your work, and the best bit is, you can control everything that’s on it.

So how did I go developing my website in 2015? Not all that well…

On the plus side, I have moderate technical skills, so I was able to set up my own basic website in weebly while I looked around for the right designer and design to take my site to the next level. When I said on facebook and twitter that I was looking for a website designer, I got approached by a few people, but none of them showed me examples of author websites, so I wasn’t convinced.

Then I bought a website review from fiverr, and I was so impressed with the analysis and insight provided by the reviewer that I decided to ask them for a proposal to build my new website. I liked their proposal a lot, and so I commissioned them to build the website. All went well at first and there were lots of promises, but the website was never finished and delivered. I waited for months, and now they – Quanta Webdesign (don’t use them!) – have neither refunded my deposit nor finished the job. Needless to say I’m very disappointed – not only have I been scammed, but I’ve lost a lot of time. Six months! I will chase up the scam, but in the meantime, I still need a website.

Another problem I’ve encountered is with my domain name. I bought ‘emilyarden.com’ a few years ago from CrazyDomains, and I also paid for DNS forwarding, which means it is supposed to forward to my weebly site or wherever I tell it to go. (Emails to emily@emilyarden.com are supposed to forward too). Unfortunately this often hasn’t been working properly and it usually just goes to a dead page. When I have rung CrazyDomains to get them to help sort it out, they make it sound as though it is fine at their end and must be my problem. But I know it doesn’t work from lots of different computers. So that’s another battle I need to sort out.

What have I learnt in 2015?

  • Be careful with web designers. Don’t pay up front unless you are SURE they can be trusted.
  • Be careful where you get your domain from – some don’t work very well. Probably best to buy a domain from your website buider/host rather than a random provider.
  • Weebly is a good free site for a basic Webdesign, although some aspects of design are a little clunky.
  • Find websites you like and that work well, and use that to inform what you want.
  • My new website will have great information about my books, links and feeds to my social media, latest news and deals, photos of some of the locations for my stories, and ‘call to action’ buttons for buying my books and joining my mailing list. (I may even set up a shopping cart – not sure about that yet)
  • Having a blog linked in to a website looks good and keeps current info flowing through the site. I will explore setting up my new website in wordpress so it can link seamlessly to my blog.

What am I looking forward to in 2016

  • 2016 will be the year that Emily Arden’s great new website will be published! Stay tuned…

2015 – what worked, what didn’t? Part 1 -Writing #amwriting #review #writing

writingThis is the first of a series of posts where I look at how 2015 went – my first full year as a self-published author… I’ll be analysing different parts of the journey from publishing, social media, websites and marketing. I’ll let you know the things that worked and the things that proved a waste of time.

First cab off the rank – writing.

I love writing. It’s why I started out on the crazy ride to achieve my dream of becoming an author – one who people would love to read. And now I’m one year closer to achieving that dream…

ae4345827e249f70a292c25f77e04dd7

What’s worked well this year?

  • I finished and published ‘The Tangled Web’, a long novella – number 5 in the Deception Series.
  • I finished my first historical romance – ‘Isabel’s Choice’. It is now ready for publishing (I just need to sort out the marketing (especially my website) and get it converted to eBook format). It is ready for CreateSpace – cover and all.
  • My second historical ‘Sophie’s Promise’ has been edited and is with the beta-readers. I am very happy with this book – it is my personal favourite of all I’ve written so far. It is wonderful to have finished Sophie’s story at last (one of my favourite characters.
  • ‘The Secret Life of Eloise’ has been edited and is back with me for corrections (yep – that’s on my ‘to do’ list for the next few weeks). This was a fascinating book to work on as Eloise is so different from my usual heroines – a bit of an anti-heroine. It was wonderful to finish her story though – cathartic in a way. I am excited to have written something that is ‘out of the box’ and can’t wait to see the public reaction
  • I completed over 80% of my next contemporary romance ‘The Wedding Singer’. I am hoping to finish that story early in 2016!
  • I wrote down a few other ideas for books and have them stored neatly away awaiting their turn…

What didn’t work so well?

  • I had actually planned to finish AND publish at least 4 books in 2015, so the fact that I only published one of them was a disappointment. I try to console myself with the number of other things I achieved this year, and that at least I finished the writing…
  • A lot of my ‘writing time’ (such as some of the days I took off work to write) were overtaken by other distractions, such as marketing, social media, etc. This is always an issue when trying to cram a lot in…
  • I finished a book that I am not happy with – and neither are the betas. But I think I know what’s wrong with it now, and there is work that can be done…

What have I learnt?

  • Tricks for time management and avoiding distractions – such as turning off email and social media when writing.
  • The more you write (and listen to feedback), the better you get.* Many other writers talk about this and I must say I believe it is true. Certainly, that’s the feedback I’ve been getting from my readers so far – that every book is better than the last, characters become more nuanced, etc. Feedback has been vital for helping to develop my style and grow as a writer.
  • The more you read, the better you get. You can learn so much from the good (and even the bad) writers out there.
  • The more you think about a book (in all those spare moments between writing), the better the story is likely to be
  • When you have a good writing flow going, make the most of it. You may not have another for weeks! Nice as it would be to write consistently every day, for some of us (such as me) it is more realistic and effective to write in concentrated bursts when I’ve had a chance to become fully submerged in the story. I try to be disciplined about doing something related to my writing career every day, but not always creative work. Depends on where I’m at.

*Keep on writing One of the main messages I have really taken to heart is that we have to keep on writing. The more you write, the better you get. I’ve been reading lots of articles about the importance of getting on with the next book rather than obsessing about trying to ‘perfect’ the first, and that is so true. My experience over the past year has shown me that. 

That is not to say that my first books are not still good books. I am proud of the stories and the characters, but I can also see that if I was writing the same stories now, the writing style would be different. I feel my style has matured and gained depth. And that’s not a bad thing – it’s natural progression.

I’ve read some of the early books of some of my favourite authors, and some of them are not all that great. You can definitely see the seeds of what is to come, but also the room for improvement. I wonder if one day I might revise my early books and re-release them? I’m not sure. I’m more interested in working on new stories and new ideas at the moment. I guess, I’ll see what sort of feedback I get from my readers.

What will I be focusing on in 2016?

  • Becoming more focused when I write. Having more days where I make time and energy for writing and refuse to get sucked in by the enticement of social media.
  • Publishing my first three historical novels (including final tweaks and edits based on feedback).
  • Finishing at least two of the shorter historical novels that I started this year and will be intrigued to finish. One involves a spy and another a Princess, so I’ll be stepping into some new territory – can’t wait!
  • Finishing ‘The Wedding Singer’ and the controversial ‘Seduction in Stone’ (which has needed more rewrites than anything I’ve written, but is getting closer).
  • Writing at least one thing that I am not expecting and do not yet know anything about 🙂

What are your writing goals for 2016?

Don’t miss my next post on the good the bad and the ugly of 2015. The topic: Blogging!