Sunday, October 9, 2011

Guest Post COSCBWI Sept. Meeting: Creating Websites & Online Presence

Today I have my very first guest post for your enjoyment!  I was feeling under the weather and missed September's COSCBWI monthly meeting, so my good friend, Andrea Hall, wrote up her reflections on the presentation to share with you all!  Andrea is our local chapter's Critique Coordinator and a hard-working, aspiring author who writes some pretty sweet manuscripts. :)  Here are her thoughts on websites and online presence for unpublished authors:

There seems to be an ongoing debate right now regarding aspiring authors needing a website.  Some say that it’s necessary, even if you haven’t published a thing.  Others claim you should spend the time on your actual writing, and worry about the ‘online presence’ later.  I tend to agree with the latter, but find myself agonizing over starting a website anyway.

At the September COSCBWI meeting, Dr. Asma Mobin-Uddin weighed in on this very subject.  She is the author of the books My Name is Bilal, The Best Eid Ever, and A Party in Ramadan.  She struggles herself with the technology of building a website and actually hired someone else to create her's.  If you have the money to spend, she says it’s not a bad idea, but to make sure the person will be around to update as necessary.  Her best advice was to not be afraid of the process.  While it may seem scary now, it’ll be worth the agony and effort later.

The first step is to buy your domain name (i.e. your website address).  Several years ago, it was recommended that I buy mine.  I didn’t listen.  Now, I’m in a pickle as the web addresses I wanted to use are all taken.  I found this out by looking them all up at  It’s super simple.  You just type in what you want to use and it tells you whether or not it’s available.  Perhaps I should add something on the end, like andreahallauthor, andreahallbooks, etc., or I can take the route of the pseudonym.  I have a feeling if I pick a fake name, and down the road give an author signing, I would automatically use my birth name, though.  It makes for a tricky situation.

Assuming you have an easier time buying a domain name, the next step is to start designing your site.  There are several options that can help you do this, but before anything else happens, you should know what you want on your site.  How many pages should you have to begin?  Do you post your work in progress?  What should you have for contact information?

My advice: keep it simple.  Start out with a few core pages, such as an ‘About Me,’ ‘Contact Information,’ etc.  Check the websites of your favorite authors to see what features you like, as well as those you don’t.  Make your website representative of your personality, but don’t overdo it.  Remember your audience and keep it family-friendly.  Consider creating an email account that handles inquiries from your website only.  As for your current writing, if you post any, ensure that it is solid work.  You never know when agents or editors will come across it.

Also, be careful with any clip art or photos you post.  Most clip art is copyrighted and you don’t want a lawsuit for using it without permission.  The same is true with photos.  Make sure you have permission from the photographer, as well as anyone else that might appear in it.

Happy creating and I hope to visit your site soon!   -Andrea Hall

Big thanks to Andrea for her insights--and giving us all a lot to think about!  I want to add that you can use blogs to boost your online presence, too.  I also HIGHLY recommend following the advice to purchase your domain name NOW.  (I did and sleep much better at night knowing it's all mine.)  What do you think about aspiring authors and online presence?

You can learn more about Dr. Asma Mobin-Uddin at:

Note: The cover art for The Best Eid Ever is respectfully from Dr. Asma Mobin-Uddin's website.

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