by Susan Sey
Remember that scene in The Jerk when Steve Martin finds his name in the phone book for the first time? He's overjoyed. That's him, right there in print. It's official! He's somebody! Yahoo!
I had a moment like that this morning.
You see, I've been working on it for ages but I finally launched my very first website. And now, when you type in http://www.susansey.com I turn up. Officially. That's my name, my face and my book cover right there!
Now before anybody asks, I didn't do it myself. I considered it, then realized how very attached I am to my sanity and made the excellent decision to outsource this job to professionals. I'm a big fan of all things locally grown, though, so I didn't go very far when seeking out talented people to put together something that would represent me and my writing in cyberspace.
First, I tapped my friend Noah from church. Like me, he stays home with his daughter (whom my daughters happen to adore.) Also like me, he's doing a little something with all that 'spare time' stay at homes have in such abundance. (Careful, that's a lot of sarcasm there.)
He doesn't write romance novels (though I've recommended it as loads of fun) but instead has chosen to build a little company called AugmentJ that designs and hosts websites. But he doesn't just design websites. No, either his child is better behaved than mine are or he's just smarter than I am because he's also developed his own Content Management System called Fruitful.
Now, like many of you, when I thought about building my own website, I toyed with the idea of doing something in Wordpress. I decided to go with Fruitful instead for a couple of reasons.
First, Fruitful allows me to get into the nuts and bolts of my webpages and update things whenever I feel like it. I don't have to wait for my web designer to do a monthly update for me, but (very big but here) I don't have to be a programmer to figure it all out, either.
I hear that Wordpress is user friendly after a fashion but after a bunch of comparison shopping, Fruitful won out. It struck me as far more intuitive, & that's important to me. I can't horse around figuring out a website because I'm a terribly slow writer. I need to devote all the time I can get to my WIP.
Second advantage of Fruitful? Noah taught me how to use it in person. I came to his house after school one day and our kids had a wild rumpus in his living room while he gave me the run down on updating my site. A software lesson AND entertainment for the kiddoes? I defy you to find a web guy who'll do that for you.
And whenever I have a question about why something works or doesn't work, I know I'm going to get an answer ASAP. Because if Noah doesn't get back to me, I'll see him at church on Sunday. On the other hand, if I fail to send him a check promptly, he'll see me on Sunday, too. It works both ways & I like it that way. I know exactly who I'm paying to do this for me--somebody just like me. A person with a passion for what he does, splitting the difference between pursuing that passion and being at home with the little ones.
It works for me, and I'm thrilled with the results.
The other awesome thing Noah did for me? Pointed me toward the designer who put together my banner, my colors, created my logo, etc. I sat down with this poor woman (the very talented Sarah Hellestrom Hoehn, also right here in Minneapolis) over coffee & said, "I'm rotten at colors, so I'm just going to tell you how I feel about my writing & what I want people to feel when they're reading my books. Can you translate that into color and design?"
She said she could, and she did. Did she ever. I was thrilled and amazed at what she was able to pull out of my unfocused and largely incoherent thoughts on my work. If you're looking for a designer, I'd recommend her without reservation. I'll be happy to share her info privately if anybody wants it.
But there are drawbacks. I'm Noah's first writer client, so we're learning together how Fruitful lends itself to a writer's unique needs. There are a few things that need tweaking. For example, I don't have the capacity to allow comments on my blog right now. That communication will be a one-way street for a while but I'm okay with that. Readers will hopefully want to interact with me at some point in the future, and when the time comes I'll work with Noah to develop something that'll fit the bill.
Until then, I'll make do with Fruitful's awesome ability to create gorgeous e-newsletters, run contests and collect user info in a little database that'll come in right handy when I decide to mail out postcards for my first book signing. :-)
Having a website designed was a big decision. Besides being the biggest writing related expense I've encountered aside from attending RWA's annual conference, a website is probably also the most important link between a new author and her potential audience. I really wanted to get it right, and have been so glad that keeping things close to home worked out.
How about you? Do you have a website? A DIY job, or outsourced? Any lessons learned you'd be willing to share?