Tuesday, July 31, 2018

An Absolute Necessity

By R.J. Harlick

Tell us about your website…how does it work for you as a business tool? How did you decide upon its content, design and tone?

I think an author website is likely THE most important tool an author can use to tell readers about their books and about themselves as writers. As a reader, I often go to an author’s site when I’m deciding on whether I want to read one of their books and will become quite annoyed when I don’t find one. 

Once my first book, Death’s Golden Whisper, was well on the road to publication, I set out to implement the rjharlick.ca website. 

My first decision was to come up with a domain name. One or two of my fellow authors used their series name for the website, but I found that too confusing, because invariably I couldn’t remember the name of their series. But I could always remember their author name. So I decided that ‘rjharlick’ it would be. I also had a choice of registering it as ‘.com ‘or ‘.ca’. Since I am Canadian and my series is set in Canada, I decided to use ‘.ca’, though most of my fellow authors went with ‘.com’. 

Next was registering the domain name with the appropriate authority, which was easy. The only difficult part is to remember to renew the name when it expires. I always go for the 3 years, but one year did forget and found myself unable to access the site and more importantly use my email, which uses the domain name.  It caused many frantic moments, while I figured out what the problem was and how to fix it. Fortunately, it was only a matter of days, so the service provider hadn’t yet removed the site, only limited access. Otherwise I would have found myself having to rebuild it from scratch.

I debated designing and building the website myself with the tools that were available from my web provider, but decided I didn’t want to find myself spending all my time on my website at the expense of writing my books. So I went with a web designer who had developed very good websites for some of my friends.  He did a masterful job. 

Though I had the website redone several years ago to keep it fresh, I have stayed with the original design with the links to the left of the page rather than below the banner. I don’t think one way is better than the other. It was just a personal choice. 

I decided to go with a ‘welcome’ page to make my website more personal and to give my readers a sense of the reasoning behind my Meg Harris series.  I also felt it was very important to have a separate page for my books and for my short stories, and of course a separate bio page, which has proven invaluable to event organizers. They often use it in their promotional material.  I mustn’t forget the contact link, which is basically an email link. This has also proven to be crucial. Readers and event organizers can easily contact me without having to go through my publisher.

Initially I included an events page, but found it cumbersome to have to rely on my web guy to make the updates, which could be frequent. I then transferred my event information to my blog, but when I joined Facebook I realized it was a much better vehicle for keeping my readers informed of my events.  I changed the events page to a list of my many appearances to give prospective organizers an idea of the events I have done. 

I added ‘rj on the go’ to provide photos of me at various events. 

Since the wilderness setting is so much a part of the Meg Harris series, I also have a page called ‘meg’s world’, which includes photos from my research trips.  I want my readers to view first hand, the northern paradise where Meg lives and the many fabulous wildernesses she visits.

Though I still have a link to my blog, I hate to admit that it has been several years since I have updated it. I found it no longer of any value and haven’t gotten around to having my web guy remove the link.

I forgot to mention that I also have a window to my facebook page on my welcome page, which serves to lead readers to the R.J. Harlick Meg Harris Mysteries page.

That is pretty well it for my website. I’d love to hear from you, as a reader the types of information you want to learn about on an author’s website, or as an author, the aspects of your website you find your readers can’t live without.


Terry said...

This is a great, detailed map for anyone contemplating doing a website.

Lyda McPherson said...

Good Morning. I just jumped over to your website to better understand how it was done(I'm a visual learner). I love it. I agree with you regarding your addition of personal details eg bio and pics. Terry made the point yesterday that she very much likes the fact that she can make changes to her website without having to involve the webdesigner. Do you find that using the services of a web designer limits your flexibility?

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Robin (RJ) - really insightful piece...I have to admit I'm glad I have moved to a system I can update all on my own, rather than the old site which meant I had to get my web guy to upload new books etc. The DIY aspect of my new site is most helpful, for me :-)

RJ Harlick said...

Yes, I wish I could update it myself, because it really is a pain. I find myself saving up updates so I get my money's worth from my web guy. If you went into the books page you will likely have noticed that I haven't updated it, yet, even though my latest book has been out for a good 6 months.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Great tips, Robin.