Sunday, December 30, 2007

NickiGreenwood.com Is Up And Running!

My website, NickiGreenwood.com, is up and running! I have a kink to work out; the main page is not displaying correctly, although I have sanity checked everything. It seems to be losing my font and color settings. I have an email in to the support staff at my webhost, as I suspect the problem originates with their server. We shall see what happens. Back to Web Design in future entries!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I Have An Agent!

I'm pausing the website discussion today to announce that I have an agent! I have decided to work with Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency. I met with Christine at the New Jersey Romance Writers' Conference in October, and she is as wonderful in person as I had heard from fellow writers. Christine loves her clients, and I can tell she's the sort who will really get behind her authors' work. We discussed my books, and she has already formed ideas about what houses will be a good fit for my writing. I'm looking forward to working with her.

That said, I suppose I now have to get my website up and running. I have already prepared a website, with the intention to publish it once I got an agent, so it looks like the time has arrived. Look for my website soon, and have a very Happy Holiday!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Websites and Writing: Basic Web Design

Most writers know they should be spending their free time writing, rather than fooling around on the Internet. But the knowledge of basic web design will come in handy, if you've decided to start a website. You'll need to know at least enough to update your website with the latest information. Here, I hope to get you started designing that spiffy website.

Learn The Language(s)

I recommend you begin by learning HTML (Hypertext Markup Language, to you) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). HTML is the foundation of most web design - a language that helps you craft the ideal webpage, and display it the way you want (as opposed to using a template designed by someone else, which isn't as flexible). Like any other language, HTML takes time to learn, but not as much as you'd think. I used a book whose current edition is called "Teach Yourself HTML and CSS in 24 Hours" by Sams Publishing. Boiled down, CSS is a dialect of HTML - a more specific and cleaner version of HTML that allows your pages to load faster, but you'll need to learn HTML first to understand it. Most web browsers will eventually use CSS more frequently than the older, messier HTML, so get the jump by learning it now, and code your pages so that they're compatible with future standards.

This isn't the forum for teaching you to use HTML and CSS - that's what the book is for - so I won't waste time on that. You can make your pages as simple or as technical as you'd like. I know learning a language, let alone two, takes time away from writing your books, but it's time well spent if you want more control over the appearance and layout of your website than someone else's template can provide. And it's cheaper and potentially faster than paying someone else to manage your website, since you control the complexity and the speed of updates. So, the minute you know your new book is coming out, you can pop that info right up on your website!

No Time? Try This!

Assuming you know the basics of HTML and CSS, you can save yourself some time by customizing a template, or taking a look at the source code of someone else's page (but don't copy without asking - it's just good manners) and then customizing that. My favorite template source is http://www.freecsstemplates.org - there are pages and pages to choose from, and customizing them is easy with a little knowledge of the languages.

You can view source code of others' pages by clicking on View > Source at the top of most browsers. It'll open a text editor like Notepad, which displays the code used to make that page. Again, ask before copying another person's layout, unless you're copying a free or open-source layout. If you're unsure whether the layout is free or open-source, ask the website owner. We'll get further into open-source material later on.

HTML and CSS Spoken Here

Now that you have read up on the languages needed to make your website, you are ready to build it. But what do you say? That's next time's topic. We'll get into what you should put on your website, as an author. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Websites and Writing: Unpubbed and Owning a Website

In my previous post, I touched on the reasons I think an unpublished author would benefit from having a website. You should, at the least, have a completed manuscript before you bother obtaining webspace. You can't sell what you don't have, and agents and editors won't look at incomplete manuscripts. (They like to know you're capable of finishing a book first.)

Got Money? No?

There are free options out there, if you take the time to look. If you're unpublished, but serious about your writing career, you might consider starting a blog, at the very least, to generate some interest. Blogger and MySpace are two options, and they're free. Blogs don't have ads (currently) unless you want them to, and if you choose to add them, they are marketed to the sort of blog you write. (I don't recommend plastering your blog with ads, though.) Don't bother with a big host that offers free webspace, such as Geocities or Angelfire. The ads they tack onto your site are unprofessional, and often annoying to visitors. At the very least, if you do intend to have a web presence someday, you should reserve your domain name (AuthorName.com), making certain first that the pen name you choose (or your own name) isn't closely related to another author's, or a person with whom you don't want to be confused. (Try not to choose a name that's also been taken by the star of some X-rated film, for instance!) Google it if you're not sure.

Is This Your Parking Space?

Which brings me to my next point. Reserve your domain name now, before someone else snaps up SusieQWriter.com, and you are left with finding some other way to help web surfers get to you. Most of us, when we're looking for a writer, just type in AuthorName.com to get to his or her site. Failing that, we'll Google you, but isn't it easier to tell people when they ask, "Sure, I have a website - it's SusieQWriter.com!" Much better than trying to write down a lengthy, convoluted web address for them when they ask. (And the very fact that your web address is your author name is one more way to make sure you are remembered.) Parking a domain name does cost money, but it's not that expensive. Well worth the money spent, especially if, down the line (God, you hope so), you become the next J.K. Rowling.

You can always "point" your Author Name web address to that other, convoluted address, too, which helps if you find a free (and ad-free) server to host your website, but they only offer that convoluted address. This allows anyone who wants to find you to type in SusieQWriter.com, and that takes you to the website with the long address. It's cheaper, too.

Some Web Hosts

If you do decide to host with a site such as Geocities.com, spend a little extra and get the ad-free site, for reasons mentioned above. If you're a member of a writing organization, you can get free webspace from DuelingModems.com, however, they are currently moving to a new server, and their signup process is currently unavailable. Looks like they have some kinks to work out. I do know a published writer who is happy with that host. They offer a convoluted address, so I recommend pointing your personalized domain name to that site. Other domain hosts include DomainDirect.com, GoDaddy.com, NetworkSolutions.com, and OurInternet.us, to name a few.

An Important Caution About Domains

DO THIS! When reserving a domain name, MAKE SURE YOU ENABLE THE PRIVACY SETTING! Anyone who uses the Net and is halfway savvy is capable of doing a "WHOIS" lookup to see who has registered the domain, which includes the Registrant, Administrative Contact, and Billing Contact name and address. That means they could conceivably wind up with your real name and address, if that's what you entered as a Registrant. Since you don't want people showing up at your house, be sure to enable your host's privacy settings. This creates a "WHOIS" that shows the contact information for the domain host, and not your own information. Check out my "WHOIS" for an example of how to enter the data to protect yourself. The only info you see is that of my host, Domain Direct. That's because I entered the Registrant information care of my domain host, and not my actual info.

Someday, I'll Be Famous!

If you get really, really popular someday, you might want to park all the possible permutations of your author name and web address (.com, .net, .info, .cc, and so forth) so that someone else can't make a website and pretend they're you. JK Rowling has reserved all known domain name extensions for her name, smart lady. And if you did a "WHOIS" on her, you'd only see the contact information for her agent. So she has her artistic integrity, AND her privacy, both protected.

Get On The Net

So, that's a basic rundown of the Who and How of getting a web presence. Next time I will address the basics of learning to make a website. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Headers

Me being such a tree hugger and all, I have created seasonal headers for the blog. What do you think?