There was a bit of confusion on my first post. I’d like to say, this series of posts is aimed at writers who wish to be Authors and make an income of some kind or another. As an Author, you run a business. In business, NOTHING is FREE, most certainly not your TIME.
You’ve made your choice. You’ve written a few short stories and sent it out to friends and maybe family. The replies you get back are positive. ‘We Want More’ (Yes I know this doesn’t happen to all of us). Strangely enough, this is what happened to me, however, I also had a lot to learn about writing in the English of today. There are many changes since I was at school. A lot of stuff I didn’t understand, though with examples (like Cathy who write Word Wars) a lot was instantly understandable.
“You should write a book.” and this is when you start your research. Most writers don’t have a clue where to look, how to research, who to trust. However, it had improved in recent year with Facebook Groups, with saying this, there are still plenty of Scammers and Spammers in those groups. Many get removed and blocked when they are found. The first question I asked myself was “how do I connect to agents and publishers?’ I had no clue and I’d never heard of Independent Publishing back in 2012. It was a bit of a nightmare. Once I found an Agent, I found out they didn’t understand my genre. I still laugh about it. As for publishers…or editors, well they wanted things set out in a certain way or your email would go straight into a bin never to be seen by anyone.
What’s this got to do with Websites and Social Media you ask. Well as you learn how technology works, your start to realise there is more to writing a book than you thought. I’d never heard of AUTHOR BRAND back then, it wasn’t something I was even aware of. SALES and MARKETING can be done via your WEBSITE and SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS, though you need to have the knowledge to do this. You need to learn or find a tutor. A traditional publisher won’t touch you if you can’t format a document how they wish you to. They also prefer you .to have a following which helps to add up to SALES.
Where and how do I find or make a website?
A great question. We started our first one way back in about 2012/13 and it was a complete disaster. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing, though we were pretty good with technology, even with continual frustration. Where was our first website? WORDPRESS.
In 2014, we tried WIX, it was easier to use with a few learning curves to find out how to design and use templates. It was enjoyable to use. In fact, we still have an Author Website there, which needs updating. The thing with WIX we didn’t like was not been able to download our website content to take elsewhere if we found a better deal. By this stage we had a few author friends on Facebook and they suggested trying WORDPRESS again. One friend, Markie, helped us through the process until we knew what we was doing. It was great. WORDPRESS had lots of tutorial if you needed them. These days we’re happy helping others with WORDPRESS, however this year they’ve updated and though the basics are the same, the editing isn’t. It’s still annoying and post take a lot longer to produce.
Your Website on WORDPRESS
Due to knowing how to use WordPress better than any other I’m going to show you the ropes. Some simple steps. I’ve included images for those who have a hard time with technology. I know we all learn differently. The will also be a description for those with sight impairments or who are blind.
Below is a view of the page which opens up to create the first step of your website.
The first thing you need to do for you WEBSITE is pick a name for your Business or Author website. In the image below it will show you what is available. My advice…is to start with the FREE WEBSITE as indicated by the tabs circled in the image. You can always buy later if and when you can afford.
This next image looks a bit scary, though it really isn’t. It shows the pricing for the different types of websites you can have. However, right above those panels it says ‘Start with a FREE Site’ You need to click on this. I have drawn a circle around it so you can find it.
Now it’s time to build your website. You have a name and if you look at the image below…
As you can see it is straight forward. There is a bright pink tab saying GET STARTED in the middle of the page and on the RIGHT there is a list of things you need to do. As each one is done, they will get a GREEN TICK.
Also note you can go back and change your website at any stage if you find you don’t like something. It’s a good learning curve to be able to do this because you get to find your way around.
You’ve hit the GET STARTED tab and it takes you to a page to NAME YOUR SITE! Something you seriously need to think about. Remember this is part of your marketing and AUTHOR BRAND.
Is this site for a BOOK SERIES or for you as a writer? Is it for an anthology of multi-authors? The ideas for your website are endless though it is worth playing with different names until you find what is right for you, be it your actual name, pen name or book series name. Remember once you know what you’re doing you don’t have to stop at one website, however you do need to publish posts to each one at least once a week.
This image shows you where you fill in the blanks…Again…with your business name. As you can see on this sample, I am building a website for Jenny Raven Gifts, who has recently started an online business with recycled items and upcycled then into new items. Under her business name it asks for a TAGLINE. (something under discussion still for Jenny). This is another important part of your marketing. My own TAGLINE is – Building Books One Step at a Time. This shows that the Author Services we offer will help our client turn their manuscript into an professional book file for online distribution websites or local printers to where the client lives.
You have your website name and tagline, so what’s next? Continue to follow the list until you are ready to launch your website to the world. Play around and learn how it works. There is still plenty of work to do. MENUS, CUSTOMIZING, WEBSITE TEMPLATES…
The list includes, Updating your HOME PAGE, CONFIRM YOUR EMAIL FOR THE SITE AND CREATING A MENU (this is where your pages show and in what order). After you are happy with your website set up you can LAUNCH your website. This is great, you’ve done it. One last thing to remember BEFORE SHARING YOUR LINK…ASK A FEW TRUSTED FRIENDS TO HELP YOU PROOFREAD THE CONTENTS AND MAKE SURE ALL THE PAGES WORK.
The last few images are to help guide you around your website to make changes. You need to know about WP ADMIN. This takes you do a new page where all the things you need are listed in a black panel down the left-hand side of the website. Have a look through the list to see what you can do. The following two images are to help you customize and choose a theme. Once you open customize as shown on the image to the right of your screen, you will be able to change COLOURS, FONTS, BACKGROUNDS. You can add WIDGETS, SOCIAL MEDIA, PAGES and sort out your MENU and what order you’d like your PAGES in.
First you need to look for APPEARANCE, which opens a new list and you then click on CUSTOMIZE. The best way to learn is through PLAY, just don’t play for to long or you’ll get totally frustrated and none of us want that. If you still need ASSISTANCE, then ASK!!!
We know we haven’t shown you the CUSTOMIZE PAGE, we thought it would be fun for any of you making a website to have a look around on your own. LEARN BY PLAYING.
This image shows you how to find THEMES. It will take you to a page of TEMPLATES you can use for your website. There are a lot to try out. You can choose to PREVIEW them before you pick the one you wish to use. Take your time and find something that suits you, your genre and or book series.
Below is a screen shot of the TEMPLATES. You can do a SEARCH for what you want. PLEASE BE AWARE THAT NOT ALL THE TEMPLATES ARE FREE. MAKE SURE TO CLICK ON THE FREE TAB ON THE TOP RIGHT SIDE OF THE IMAGE.
Once again, choose wisely. We have updated my websites a few times of the years and we always use a template which shows WIDGETS down the right hand side of the screen. We also prefer the smaller Header Photos. This is of course a preference for YOU TO THINK ABOUT.
HOPING THIS HELPS YOU WITH YOUR WEBSITE AND BUILDING YOUR AUTHOR BRAND. PLEASE SHARE WITH THOSE WHO NEED A HAND WITH RESEARCH. THERE IS SO MUCH MIS-INFORMATION OUT THERE ALONG WITH SCAMMERS AND SO MANY STILL GET CAUGHT OUT.
PLEASE DO YOUR RESEARCH IF YOU WISH TO BE AN AUTHOR, AFTER ALL YOU CAN’T BE A CERTIFIED PLUMBER WITHOUT THE CORRECT TRAINING!!
Our next post will be about SOCIAL MEDIA SITES and how they work
Who likes Nike, Adidas? Who’s your favourite Movie Star, Poet, Author? The first two are BRANDS which people love. The Second are people who can be turned into BRANDS and generally are. So, how do they do this? What does it mean to have a BRAND?
If you get a big enough BRAND you can sponsor others, the same way Nike and Adidas do. They are MARKETING MACHINES, but how did they do it? How did they get so big and noticeable? It’s a bit of give and take. The big businesses sponsor the big names in sports and movies. If a movie star loves the shoes, clothes, drink…whatever the business sell, then the public will buy and support the person being sponsored which in itself supports the MARKETING MACHINE. It continually circles around, making money.
As authors and publishers we need to do something similar. The trouble is getting your foot in the door. How is this achieved. Well it’s time to ask some of the Independent Authors who’ve made a success of their books. There is one lady I know you’d all love to chat with. Sadly she is busy heading for a deadline right now though Jami Albright has given me permission to share how she went about her first book launch, which also shows how she used her BRAND to her advantage.
Find Jami’s Podcast HERE. Other details are below. This Podcast is mainly about a Book Launch, though it shows the process she went through to get SALES and REVIEWS, both an important part of how we use our AUTHOR BRAND.
This article was written by Jami Albright in 2017. Jami has since released another three books in her series.
The minute you decide to sell your book it stops being your baby and becomes a product. A product that needs to be launched into the world. Which, frankly, is a dubious task when you consider that there are millions of books on Amazon alone, not to mention the other platforms such as, Kobo, Apple iBooks, Google Play, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook.
Did you hear me, people? Millions!
So how do you launch your book so it will sell, but also stay sticky in the Amazon rankings and therefore, continue to sell? We have to have a plan. A launch plan.
On April 11, 2017, I released the first book in my Brides on the Run series into the top 3000 in the Amazon paid store and had 50 reviews within the first three days. Eleven weeks later (as of this writing) my book is still ranked in the top 5000 and has over 200 reviews. It’s sold 1100 copies, and has 700K pages read in Kindle Select/Kindle Unlimited.
My little book has made over $5000, y’all! (I’m a Texan. We’re excitable.)
When I was asked to write this article about my book launch, my first thought was, Surely, there’s someone more qualified than me to talk about this subject? Because, while I’ve done well, other indie authors are knocking it out of the park with their numbers. But like most of you, I’m a part-time writer with family responsibilities, and a day job, who’s doing everything I can to figure out this indie publishing thing. What I’m trying to say: If I can do it, you can do it.
My launch plan began months before I put my book on Amazon. I started by understanding my genre and making sure my book met the expectations and conventions of that category. How did I do that? I read books like the ones I wanted to write. I familiarized myself with the tried and true tropes that readers want, and then worked very hard to make sure I delivered on those expectations. You can choose to write outside of the parameters of a genre, but know that you are going out on a limb to do it. And you might find yourself alone on that limb with your determination to be unique and no audience. Readers come to a genre knowing what they want. If you disappoint them because you decide to break convention, they will not be happy. They’ll then share their displeasure by leaving a nasty review.
The same is true of covers. When choosing a cover for your book, check out the top one-hundred best sellers in your genre. Are there themes, colors, and fonts that are used to signal that the book is a YA fantasy or a cozy mystery? I’m not telling you to copy those covers, but you should use them as guidelines for your own design.
I write romantic comedy. In the rom-com sub-genre there are three camps as far as covers go. One camp is full of sexy, shirtless guys. The second is illustrated covers with quirky characters, and third features women in flirty skirts, that only show their legs. My book didn’t fall neatly into any of those styles. It’s kind of a combination of all of them. It took several iterations, but I came up with a compromise that I think works. It’s flirty, quirky and sexy, just like my book.
A reader should be able to look at your cover and tell immediately what kind of book it is. If your cover and your content don’t match, then you’ve confused the reader. And a confused reader is one that moves on to the next book by another author.
In addition to a great cover, you also want a blurb or book description that hooks the reader. If you don’t know how to write good copy, learn, or pay someone to do that task for you. Bryan Cohen’s How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis is an excellent resource on the subject. If done well your cover and blurb can sell your book for you.
Before we move on, one more quick word about covers. Put down the mouse and step away from Photoshop. Now! You should not be making your own covers unless you have an extensive background in graphic design.There, I said it. Someone had to.
Hire a professional cover artist. A good cover can cost as little as $25 for a pre-made all the way up to $3000 for an artist commissioned cover. Mine cost me $200, it would’ve been less, but much to my designer’s annoyance, I kept changing my mind. The two most important things you will spend money on are the cover and editing. You should have someone other than your mother or your high school English teacher edit your books. You need a professional editor. Period.
I know these things cost a lot of money, and if you’re like me, that money isn’t in your budget. But it’s important, so important that I worked odd jobs to make extra cash and, ultimately, sold plasma to pay for it all. Was it hard to travel thirty minutes to an unfamiliar part of town, sit for hours in a small room filled with people I didn’t know, and get stuck with a needle twice a week? Yes. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. I have a book I’m proud of. A book that looks professional on the inside and out. A book I paid for with actual blood, sweat, and tears. Damn right, I’d do it again.
Now that I’m off my do whatever you have to do soapbox, I should say that you can sometimes barter with an editor to get the services you need. Or find a graphic design student that has experience and wants to build their portfolio.Or just wait and save up until you have the money.
I know you want your book out yesterday, but we’re playing the long game. Smart, professional authors don’t rush something to market that isn’t ready because it will hurt them in the long run.
To re-cap, we need to know our genre expectations, have a fantastic cover that we don’t make ourselves, a well-written blurb that hooks readers, and professional editing and formatting.
Finally, I can’t encourage you enough to get involved with the indie community. Once I realized that indie publishing was the route I wanted to take, I immersed myself in learning everything I could about the business of self-publishing. I listened to podcasts, I got involved with Facebook groups geared toward publishing and marketing, I went to the Smarter Artists Summit, and I tried my best to be a good community member and make meaningful connections with other indie authors. Little did I know how those connections would be a driving forces behind my successful launch.
In the beginning, I had very little to offer other writers other than encouragement. I could share posts, give moral support and be a friend. So can you. It requires a little effort, imagination, and courage, all things you have because you’re a writer.
How do you feel? Do you think you’re ready to release your baby… um… product into the world?
Please continue to read our blogs for the processes about Author Brand and Book Launches, and please remember the first step to building your book is RESEARCH
Our next article will cover Social Media and Website Building. What to expect, what you need to do and learn. Much of this also depends on your budget. Can you afford it or are you willing to LEARN what’s needed to get your BRAND working for YOU.
Until now, I had never used a website builder before…
Having developed websites for a while, I’d rather dive straight into coding HTML, CSS and PHP. And avoid those drag-and-drop functions that website builders have.
I was pretty sceptical.
However, I was positively surprised by the ease-of-use and customization options that some of these website builders have.
Especially for the cost. Unfortunately, I also ended up trying website builders that were just outdated or used sketchy billing strategies (hint: #10).
Website builders vs. hiring a web developer?
A good custom website could easily cost $2000 (on the low end). Making changes could still require a freelance designer and developer to help you continually update your site (additional $$$).
Yet, for only a few dollars each month, some of these website builders below could give you almost everything you’d ever want at less than 1% of the cost.
Not to mention, you can easily login yourself and change copy, upload images, or add new pages within seconds (all without calling for tech support).
Website builders for Who?
Website builders are the perfect solution for individuals or small businesses with low budgets. Just to name few of them:
small business owners
and so on…
Here’s What I Did To Uncover Website Builders:
Unlike many other blogs you might read on this same topic, I really spent some money and signed up with each one – so you’ll be able to see the “test sites” I made.
My goal is to provide a review, by actually going through each product in detail, to help you make the best decision.
Here’s the process I took:
1. I signed up with the top 10 website builders (I paid for them).
I searched on Google until I had a list of 10 most popular website builders on the market.
2. Setup a simple ‘5-minute’ test website.
After signing up with them, I decided to make a quick ‘5-minute’ website on my own domain name, like websitesetup-wix.com and websitesetup-yola.com etc.
3. Monitored each site’s uptime and page load times (1-12 months, ongoing).
Over a period of 1 to 12 months (still ongoing), I monitored my websites uptime and page load times via Pingdom.com. Some of my sites had more than 24 hours of downtime…(!)
4. Uncovered the TRUE cost of each website builder.
Many of these website builders trick you with their low introductory prices, like letting you set up a website for free. But once you want to launch it, you’ll need to pay. That’s why it’s VERY important to check the pricing before you set up a website with them.
This last point is especially important because most website builders will claim to be ‘free’ even though you’re gonna be forced to take out that credit card at some point.
So before we dive into the detailed review of the top ten website builders, here are the gory pricing details. Read why…
Best Website Builders 2019 (Review)
Keep in mind that the usability is the most important factor of a website builder. Second is uptime, third is speed, and the least important factor (for me) is the price.
Full disclosure: I earn a commission if you end up purchasing a SiteBuilder, Site123 or Wix through my referral links in this review. This is how I keep WebsiteSetup.org up and running and there are no extra costs to you at all. Regardless, I only recommend website builders that I’ve personally used and found reliable and simple.
Without further ado, let’s dive into a detailed review of each website builder. Starting with the best, narrowing it down until we reach the ones to avoid.
1. SiteBuilder (www.SiteBuilder.com)
Best “All Around” Website Builder
CONS of SiteBuilder Website Builder
#1. Emails cost extra at $5/monthly through Google’s GSuite. (You’ll notice that this is a pretty common tactic across nearly every website builder on this list.)
#2. E-commerce plans are only available on the most expensive plan. HOWEVER, that plan is currently only priced at $9.22/month. It’s promotional for the first year (about 50% what it usually is), but it’s easily the cheapest e-commerce option available here.
PROS of SiteBuilder Website Builder
#1.SiteBuilder is a very reputable option with over 200,000 users.
#2. With over 1,200 template options, I honestly don’t think you’ll find more design options to pick from.
#3. As mentioned, they boast an awesome (and affordable) e-commerce product to build a fully-functioning online store. Each template is extremely easy to customize as well. Just point, click and adjust.
#4. SiteBuilder gives its users a free domain name for the first year, and not forcing any ads on your site under any plan, either.
#5. My test site saw excellent uptime over the last six months, only going down for about two minutes across two outages. That’s almost as good as it gets over 99.99%.
#6. SiteBuilder’s friendly support rep hopped on our live chat session within seconds. They were helpful throughout, answering my (many) questions with personal detail. They didn’t just link out to a bunch of support docs and force me to manually comb through, looking for a needle in a haystack. Very positive experience!
They are also currently running a massive 50% discount. So if you purchase a 12 or 24-month plan, you’ll not only get a free domain but lock-in a lot of savings, too.
For example, I paid $143.76 for two full years. The $16 domain was free as well.
Just keep in mind that renewal prices will adjust back to the normal rate. That means you’ll often lose the initial discount.
You’ll notice below that pretty much all website builders do this. So try to lock in a longer term, if possible to save the most.
Do I recommend it? YES.
SiteBuilder is at the top of my list.
There are tons and tons and tons of theme options that can be easily modified by dragging and dropping sections.
The current promotions they’re running right now are awesome, too. You get a free domain name for the entire first year. And, the e-commerce plan is significantly less than any other website builder on this list.
All of those reasons, plus near-flawless uptime, make it an excellent place to start.
Very easy to use, professional and reliable website builder (out of 10 I’ve used).
#1. I found customer service to be a little lacking.
For example, I tried asking about how many users they have, how many template options, etc. Yet, they wouldn’t be transparent and answer anything, instead of responding with, “In our webtool support department we do not have access to information concerning how many clients we have.”
Seems more like they just didn’t feel like finding the answer for me.
And when I asked a few other standard questions, they would just give me a link to the answer.
#2. Standard pricing is pretty good, but the bigger plans get really expensive quickly.
For example, the Gold and Professional plans range from $22.80 – 28.80 per month paid annually.
PROS of Site123 Website Builder
#1. Emails are thrown in on three out of four plans. Hooray!
#1. Wix partners with Google’s GSuite to offer email accounts for $5 each. Notice a trend, here?
#2. E-commerce and online stores are only available on more expensive plans, starting at $20/month.
PROS of Wix Website Builder
#1. Wix is legit, hosting more than 100 million users worldwide. There’s a reason so many people use it.
#2. Wix is also an excellent option for e-commerce stores. This includes everything from simple products to even bookings and registration for events.
#3. Wix has one of the biggest libraries of site templates, boasting over 500 “designer-made” options. They’re also good for any level, whether you’re a beginner or pro.
This site builder might just be my favourite. The customization options are almost endless. And you can tweak your site in a matter of seconds.
#4. You can build just about any site imaginable with Wix. That includes typical e-commerce features to handle online payments, but it also includes a customizable music player, video uploads to the media gallery, events with invitations and bookings, even online ordering for restaurants!
#5. I submitted a support ticket with a few questions for their customer service department and received this thorough reply about 12 hours later. Pretty good overall!
#6. Our Wix test site has seen decent uptime over the last nine months at 99.93% (and solid speed at ~600ms).
#7. Wix also offers long-term discounts. The longer you prepay, the less per month it comes out.
I opted for the annual plan and got a free domain in the process, paying just $132.00 for both.
You can also purchase two or even three years plans to save as much as $216!
Do I recommend it? YES.
Yes, I do.
Wix was one of the easiest site builders I used.
There are so many themes to choose from. They’re all well designed, too. The extra features that Wix sites include mean you can basically use it for any purpose, from a simple blog to an advanced restaurant site or e-commerce store.
Plus, the budget-friendly pricing is perfect for even your personal or hobby site. Highly recommended.
#1. Jimdo comes with ONLY 17 themes. Yup, you need to pay $90/year to get access to ONLY 17 themes!
#2. You can easily change the colour and add text or images. Anything more sophisticated than that is difficult. Otherwise, the templates themselves are fairly rigid, making it difficult to make large-scale changes.
#3. If you’d like unlimited eCommerce product options, be prepared to pay $20/month (or $240/year).
PROS of Jimdo Website Builder:
#1. Pricing was advertised as $7.50/month and I paid exactly $90 for one year.
#2. Up-and-running in 30 minutes. Not bad!
#3. Best speed performance. Just take a look at the graph below (fast & stable loading times with over 99.96% uptime)
Do I recommend it?
Yes and no…
The initial design is very clean and neat, making it appear more contemporary than some of the ones we’ve already reviewed here.
I’m even OK with one email account and 15 eCommerce product limitation in the short-term. But it worries me that they only have 17 templates and your customization options are limited to only relatively basic changes.
Great for a one-page-website. Need something bigger? You’d be better off with SiteBuilder.