Chatting About Author Websites on the #IndieAuthorChat

On Tuesday I was honoured to be the guest on the Alliance of Independent Authors’ Indie Author Chat, which is a weekly twitter chat for authors.

Our topic was – you guessed it – author websites. Along the way we managed to get diverted by the playlist I put together and the fact that a few of the people taking part seemed to have been joined by a motley crew of animals – including chickens.

Here are some of the highlights of the chat: the questions, the playlist and the tweets.

I put together a writing-themed playlist for the chat, which lasted an hour. It went down well!

I kicked things off by introducing my companion for the evening, Dizzy.

It seems I tapped into a tradition for the chat, and it wasn’t long before people were sharing photos of cats.

But on a more serious note, there were questions about author websites.

Here’s my answer to that question:

A1: It’s tempting to use social media instead of an author website, but your website is your own turf and you have control over it. It should be the hub of your author platform #IndieAuthorChat

I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

Next up, a question on WordPress.com and WordPress.org:

And my answers:

A3 part 1: WordPress.com is easier to set up but much less flexible – and it doesn’t fully belong to you. WordPress.org (or self-hosted) means you have to buy hosting but then you can install whatever theme & plugin you want. #IndieAuthorChat

A3 Part 2: I recommend WordPress.org because of the flexibility, the fact that it belongs to you, and because over time it will probably work out cheaper… #IndieAuthorChat

A3 Part 3: And installing WordPress isn’t as hard as some people will tell you! You don’t need to spend money and you don’t need a developer to have a self-hosted WordPress site #IndieAuthorChat

Before we got to any more questions, we had an unexpected guest.

Which opened up a whole can of chicken-related worms!

The next question on author websites (we were here to discuss that, I had to keep reminding myself while having fun discussing the playlist and the chickens):

And my answer:

WordPress is the world’s biggest website platform. That means there’s loads of advice and support for users. It’s also much cheaper and more flexible than a website builder & more professional than a blogging platform #IndieAuthorChat

We then got into a bit of a debate about the merits of WordPress: something that always comes up when I get into a discussion on author websites. WordPress is very polarising!

I’ve long since given up trying to convince anyone to change their website provider if they’re happy with what they’ve got: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

And I did get into an interesting chat with Justin about backups, later on.

Then we got onto talking about plugins.

I recommend my favourite plugins for author websites here on this site, so you can head on over there if you want to read more about them, but here’s the brief answer:

A5 Part 1: Plugins add extra functionality to your site, for things like social media feeds, SEO and security. The ones I recommend are all free… #IndieAuthorChat (1/6)

A5 Part 2: A mailing list plugin – all the mailing list providers have a free one for WordPress.org #IndieAuthorChat (2/6)

A5 Part 3: A backup plugin. This way, if your site goes down or is hacked, you can restore it. I use UpdraftPlus. #IndieAuthorChat (3/6)

A4 Part 4: An SEO plugin, which will help people find your site. I use All In One SEO #IndieAuthorChat (4/6)

A4 Part 5: A security plugin, to keep your site safe. I use WordFence. #IndieAuthorChat (5/6)

A4 Part 6: And finally, Jetpack, which gives you all the features of WordPress.com (like stats and auto-posting to social media) with the benefits of WordPress.org #IndieAuthorChat (6/6)

Next question: the importance of backups. If you’ve read WordPress for Writers, you’ll know how important I think backups are.

I could wax lyrical about this all day, but here’s the potted version:

If your site goes down or is hacked, you need to be able to restore it quickly. I use a backup plugin (UpdraftPlus). A good hosting provider will back up your site, but you cannot rely on them! #indieAuthorChat

And I shared a horror story too.

And then things went crazy.

Kate Bush! Everyone stopped chatting about author websites and book marketing, and waved their arms in the air.

The playlist then moved on, sadly, and we went back to talking about backups.

And then, newsletter signups.

My responses:

A6: Your newsletter is the best way to stay in direct contact with your readers and build a relationship with them. And unlike social media, you have control of it. #indieAuthorChat (1/3)

A6 part 2: You should always include a link to the newsletter signup page on your website in the back matter of your books. You can also run ads for signups and use your website. #indieAuthorChat (2/3)

A6 part 3: I use a widget in the sidebar of my site to encourage people to sign up, with a reader magnet which is a guide to author websites. You can find it on my website at https://rachelmcwrites.com #indieAuthorChat

And then we were nearly finished. But not without me being a little bit self-indulgent and adding my favourite song of all time to the playlist.

And then it was time to sign off.

All in all, it was lots of fun. I know we enjoyed ourselves, and I think a few people found it useful too.

Thanks to everyone who took part, and to Tim for hosting. I had a blast and made some new twitter friends.

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