This is the second part of a four-part weekly series on how to set up your author platform from scratch. If you missed the first stage, then click here to read it, and head back to part two when you’ve finished.
So, congratulations! If you followed last week’s steps, you’ll have the infrastructure of your website in place, as well as a great domain name that every reader will remember. Your author platform is well and truly on its way to becoming a thriving hub of interaction. But what now?
Whether you went the wordpress.com or wordpress.org route, there are two more things you need to think about, preferably before you start posting.
– An eye-catching yet subtle layout
– Appropriate pages to direct your readers
I’m going to start by talking about the layout, as it’s the look of the website and author platform hub that ultimately makes every web user’s mind up for them. If you are using wordpress.com, head over to the ‘Appearance’ section, click on ‘Themes’, and see what takes your fancy.
My problem with wordpress.com? You can’t bring in a theme from elsewhere, or customize the preset themes too much.
This isn’t a major problem – there are some brilliant, subtle wordpress.com themes out there. The default ’20-’ themes are generally suitable for the purpose of writers, although a personal favourite of mine would have to be the ‘Blogum’ theme. See what works for you, anyway.
As a rule of thumb – make sure it’s clean, and not too overwhelming. I know it doesn’t sound very exciting, but simple, tidy minimalism makes for a better browsing experience than an eye-popping, colourful mess.
What about wordpress.org?
If you followed my footsteps and took the wordpress.org route whilst setting up your author platform, you’ll notice something of a lack of themes in the ‘Appearance’ tab. Don’t fret: wordpress.org allows you to bring in custom designed themes, and add them yourself.
The process is rather simple. You download a .zip file, upload it to WordPress via the ‘Themes’ tab, and activate it. Then, feel free to customise to your heart’s content. I tend to steer clear of too much customisation as I’m an amateur when it comes to that sort of thing, but there are plenty of great tutorials just a Google search away.
But where do I get my themes?
I’d highly recommend checking out the Studiopress website. It requires you to download something called the Genesis Framework, which does come at a cost, but it’s a wise long-term investment. Once you’ve purchased the Genesis Framework, you’ll be able to browse through all of Studiopress’ themes, and find one that suits. If you’re theme-crazy, you can buy them all. It’s your shout.
I’ll admit I purchased a couple of Studiopress themes before settling on Quattro, which I am a big fan of. I like the clean layout, mobile responsiveness, and just how damn fast it is, basically. Also, it’s one of the few Studiopress themes that not many users seem to have embraced just yet. So, hands off, and all that.
If you do purchase through Studiopress, you get full access to their walkthroughs and support forums, but if you’re really considering heading down the route of installing your own theme, this resources page will help greatly.
Also, big thanks to Yesenia Vargas for pointing me in the direction of Blogging with Amy. Some great technical tips on there if you’re struggling with the technical side of constructing an author platform.
Creating your pages
Okay, so you’ve chosen a layout. Already, your site and author platform is beginning to take shape. What next?
Well, you need to get adding some pages. Not too many, but just enough. Some people make the mistake of creating tonnes of pages. Really, you only need around five:
– A ‘Home’ page
– An ‘About Me’ page
– A ‘Books’ page (with or without subpages for your books)
– An ‘Appearances’ page
– A ‘Contact’ page
The page that people land on when they visit your website. I use this to show my blog, as I am a fan of dynamic and constantly updated content. If you’d rather have a separate page for your blog, then that’s fine too.
If you do go down that route, you need to make sure you do something that will grab the attention of your readers from the off. A ‘Hello, my name is…’ section is okay, but everyone who has a static home page seems to have one. Try to think outside the box, and see what you can come up with.
This is your opportunity to pitch yourself to your readers. Tell them who you are, where you are from, and why you are qualified to be running such a website. Tell them about your books, past projects, and future ambitions. Imagine you’re having a conversation with someone.
One of the biggest ‘About Me’ questions is first-person or third-person? Personally, I prefer using first-person for this section, but that’s just a personal preference. Of course, I use third-person when I’m describing myself in relation to my books, on Amazon and whatever, but I see the ‘About Me’ page as a chance for my readers to get to know me. It’s your call though. Both are fine.
This one goes without saying.
If you don’t have any books out/announced yet, either set up a page and simple write ‘Coming Soon’ on it, or just wait until you do have something to talk about.
If you do have some works out there (lucky you), then I’d use this page to list your releases with a short description and purchase links. If you want to, you can create separate pages for each book from within you ‘Books’ page. I like doing this as it helps when getting in the search engines and the like. It’s also a great chance to talk about your book in a little more detail.
By linking to your books, the reach of your author platform – or your ‘web’ as I like to call it – is already growing. More on that next week
This one is optional. If you are a fan of guest posts or find yourself mentioned on a website or two, it would be nice to be able to show off your activity around the web, right?
I call it a ‘Media’ page, but it’s yours to do whatever you want with. It’s a great way to link to other websites whilst gradually boosting your own rep, so if you have a few things to show off, go for it.
Last, but certainly not least, is the ‘Contact’ page.
People will want to get in touch with you. You might not realise that now, but they will. For them to do this, you’ll need a contact page.
You can go about this a few ways: firstly, you could simple provide an email address, but that leaves your vulnerable to spam. Secondly, you could set up a ‘Contact’ form. This plugin will help you do the latter, and leave you sleeping a little sounder than throwing your email address out there.
Okay, so – homework!
– Choose a suitable theme for your website, whether it be through wordpress.com or wordpress.org
– Create the relevant pages for your website
Easy enough, right? Next week, we’ll talk about spreading your author platform reach beyond the website, expanding to social media, and how to link all that stuff together in a nice, big web.
Are there any tips you’d like to share, or is there anything else you’d like to know? I’d like this series to be constantly evolving and am looking to add to it as necessary, so please drop a comment if there’s anything in phase two you’d like explaining!
Image of platform courtesy of Stocky via Flickr/Image of ‘Save as Webpage’ courtesy of patrick h. lauke via Flickr
Glad I could help, Ryan! I’m such a huge fan of her blog. My blog wouldn’t be where it is today if it wasn’t for her.
Thanks Yesenia. Great resource, and one which I’ll be visiting myself from now on. Where WordPress is concerned, there’s no limit to what we can learn!