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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

TO BLOG OR NOT TO BLOG: THAT IS THE QUESTION

  
By Elizabeth Knowles Palladino



As someone not yet published in book-length fiction, do I really need an online presence as an author?

A period of steely self-appraisal revealed that the portents seemed auspicious. I had a complete manuscript in fairly good shape, and a ten-year business plan in a steno notebook. Years ago I had sold in short non-fiction, and had a writing earnings record of forty-two dollars.

I would be submitting to agents and editors soon, and wanted them to be able to find me on the web. It seemed to me that a beautiful, individualized, business site would emphasize my professionalism and serve as a sales tool. I wanted to network with other authors, too.

Where to start, where to start? I googled any key words related to web design, and lurked in bookstores browsing the computer sections. I found some of the most useful information in a magazine. “Demystifying Author Web Sites” by Marie Force, in the July, 2009 issue of Romance Writers Report is a must-read for a web novice. It’s available online in the Member Resources section of the national RWA website. I’ve re-read that article several times; it is spot-on helpful.

In thinking about what I needed, I knew I wanted custom work from a top-flight web designer. I’ve seen nice templates, and I know blogs can be put together very economically, but I wanted a site that could not ever be mistaken for anyone else’s. I wanted to work with people who understood the book business, who could take my input and translate it into something remarkable, and who could grow and expand the blog as it developed into a published author’s website over the years.

I spent hours poring over dozens of author websites, taking notes and scribbling color schemes with felt-tip markers. I was looking mostly at visuals, but my first goal was to have a design that would capture people’s attention in a positive way. I wanted to write interesting pieces about the Early Medieval period, and include links that would lead readers to fascinating material I’ve found in my research. I also planned to post my writing career milestones—contests won, manuscripts requested, NaNoWriMos survived.

All roads seemed to lead to Waxcreative Design, a California company specializing in custom websites for writers, artists, and musicians. I simply fell in love with their work, and did not want any other design team. They are not cheap, but I did not want cheap—I wanted gorgeous, at a reasonable price—and I am thrilled with my Waxcreative Mini product. I think of it as a blog on amphetamines—not yet a true website, but it can easily be expanded to one when I sell.

The team at Wax was warm and professional from the start—knowledgeable when I was clueless, patient when I was naive, tech-savvy and always ready to teach and support me as I learned. The design process was a true collaboration, as they filtered and refined my ideas into a stunning masthead and pages that were all I had hoped for and more.

To blog or not to blog: The answer is yes!  I would be honored if you would stop by and take a look:  elizabethknowles.net/blog ♥



Elizabeth Knowles Palladino lives in Kingston, New York, and is the proud owner of a beautiful new blog.

11 comments:

  1. Your site looks fantastic. A lot of work and thought went into it. I will definitely go back and take a closer look when I have more time. Congratulations and I agree, that RWR article was great. I saved it for future reference.

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  2. I went through a similar process when searching for a web designer. No virgin to the internet and web design, I'd first designed my own site, then employed a designer who basically did what I'd done, but at least I didn't have to spend my writing time maintaining my site. I knew, however, that I needed to do what every wise business woman knows--invest in my career BEFORE it was the full career I envision. That's why I too went with WAX. They are hands-down the tops in the web-design business, especially for authors. Wax knows publishing, Wax knows the author, Wax listens to me. Thanks for touting Wax--worth the search.

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  3. Lovely site, Elizabeth, and I love how it's full of historical information, not just writing about writing! I think having a blog on your website is absolutely vital for drawing hits, particularly if you don't have a book out -- every time I publish a post I get a huge spike in traffic that goes on to click other pages as well.

    Congrats on a great site and good luck with your manuscript!

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  4. Congratulations on launching your new site, Elizabeth. I dallied for years with part-time programmers and another (cheaper) web design/hosting company where the service was sub par at best.

    And then I found Wax Creative. I've been their client for three years and counting and I can't imagine how I managed before. My site at HopeTarr.com is sleek, professional and user-friendly and that's only half of the equation. The company's response to my client requests, be it a regularly scheduled update or a last minute request, is stellar. And big bonus: the principals, Emily and Abi, really know the romance publishing industry. I feel like I receive PR services integrated with great web hosting and support. Wax is worth every penny.

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  5. You've found the best web team for sure, Elizabeth. I've been a Wax client for ten years and I love them. One of the reasons I first went to them was that Emily Cotler is a graphic designer, not just a web designer. Any boob can put together a website with simple graphics (I know, I've done it), but you need a real designer, with a good artist's eye, to make it unique and beautiful. Emily does that for all her clients. Another element that I looked for and continue to get is incredible technical expertise. These guys know everything about the web, and continue to learn. The third essential element for a good web team is marketing expertise. These guys have done a boatload of author sites, and know all the tricks to making an author site successful. They ask questions about image and messaging and target audiences that I think many designers don't even consider.

    Yes, they're expensive, but you get what you pay for. It's not just the look-and-feel and navigation of a website that's important -- altough it IS, of course -- but the technical and marketing power of the team behind it. Wax delivers on all this and more. Congrats for joining the Wax family of happy clients!

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  6. Oh gosh, Elizabeth (and Hope and Geri). I do love working with you! Thank you so much. (Yes, this is me, the Creative Director of Waxcreative)

    It's true we are not cheap. But that's because the staff is so highly trained. We are not housewives who taught ourselves code. We are classically trained designers (and an MFA in the mix, too!) And yes, Abi and I have been working in in this industry for a long time. We love it!

    Elizabeth, you had such a clear vision for what you wanted your site to feel like. I am just so happy that the finished product lives up to your dreams.

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  7. Speaking as a Wax client with a website on the other end of the spectrum (ie HUGE), I have to heap on my praise, too. They are always looking for ways to make my website better, more stylish, and more user-friendly. Case in point: we recently reorganized by bookshelf page to group the releases into series. It was a seemingly obvious change, but it wouldn't have occurred to me to change the status quo if they hadn't come to me with a list of ideas. I love that they do this periodically--go through the site and look for ways to make it even better.

    JQ (Wax client #1!)

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  8. Oh, and Candice, too! Our comments crossed. Wow. Such wonderful validation. Thanks all. It's been a pleasure and an honor to be part of your careers. I look forward to being your support team as you skyrocket even higher.

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  9. I can't keep up. It's an embarrassment of riches!

    Julia... Thanks. Yes, your bookshelf page is so much better now. Does that mean it was wrong before? No. It was right for when we built it. But your career grew and your site needed to breathe with your career.

    Sites need to do that: breathe. They must be scalable. It's one of the things that is great about Elizabeth's site. When she sells (and she will -- I have read that manuscript!) the masthead (visual) and the code each will largely transfer as we build her site out for what will be her new audience: readers!

    And would it surprise you to know I have more ideas for your site, Julia? And you, too, Hope + Geri + Candice + of course Elizabeth... No, I didn't think it would. :) I am ready when you are.

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  10. Thanks to everyone for reading my RWA-NYC blog today and for all the positive comments. Now I'm going to settle into my office and do what it's really all about--writewritewritewritewrite. Best to all, Elizabeth

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  11. Hey Elizabeth,
    Thanks so much for the kind words about my article in the RWR. I am SO glad to hear you found it helpful. :-) Best of luck with building your online presence.
    Best,
    Marie Force

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