How to make a free WordPress.com website

As an author, your web-site can be the center hub of your on-line platform. Everything else links back to it. It’s also the one place that you can clearly communicate your brand to the world.

Your website can have an image of your book cover, links to your book on Amazon, links to your social media accounts and the all important Blog.

Odds are that if you are a writer, you’ll want to write often and about many topics. A Blog is the perfect forum to share your writing with the world so people can get to know you and your writing.

The good news is that today’s websites are simple and functional. A simple free website with a home page, contact page and Blog are all that most writers need.

If you ever considered having your own website but wondered exactly how to make one, you are in luck. The video below is 26 minutes long and shows every step required to make a Free WordPress website. As always, if you would like help setting up your website so you can focus on the writing, we are here to help.

Chapter 5: Treating Your Book Like a Business

In Chapter 4 we reviewed some practical tips on both traditional and self-publishing. If you decide to take the self-publishing route, you’ll need to pay to have your book published. You can choose to pay in dollars, time or a combination of both. The goal is to sell enough copies of your book to recoup your costs. If the stars align, you may actually profit from publishing your book.

Are we running a business here?

Yes, it helps to think of publishing your book like running a business. Income – expenses = profit. It’s that simple.

Let’s start with income:

Income is generated by selling your books. Each sales channel will have a specific income. You may find that selling “author copies” of your book yields the most income per book sold. Selling on Amazon.com (in print and e-book format), and selling through an independent book store will also have a specific income per book sold. Has your self-publishing company provided the math on each sales channel?

Income per book is one thing, but number of books sold is another. Your task will be to estimate how many books you plan on selling through each sales channel, and then calculate you total income estimate.

For example:

Are you a speaker who does monthly talks with 50 new people in the room each time? Can you sell 10 books per talk? Do you own a yoga studio with 300 clients? Do you have 485 facebook friends that are interested in your book’s topic? Just sit down and think about how you plan on selling your book, and how many copies you estimate selling in the first year. If you sell 200 books at $4.00 profit per book, your net income will be $800.00.

Now for expenses:

It helps to look at income first, and that will tell you how much you can spend on publishing. If you only plan on making $800.00 net income, you might not want to spend $2,000.00 publishing your book.

Calculating total expenses is simply done by asking how much everything costs before you commit to anything. How much is editing? Do you need illustrations, a cover, formatting? Are you doing your own marketing? Many self-publishing companies show a nice detailed breakdown of what you get and how much it costs.

Profit anyone?

Knowing your “break even” point will help you decide what publishing company to use. If you never put yourself in a position where you need to sell 1,000 books just to break even, you might enjoy the experience a bit more. If your goal is to deliver a message to the world, you should find a way to do that while breaking even financially. Delivering your message and helping others might just be your form of profit.

Chapter 4: Exploring Your Publishing Options

If you have spent some time researching publishing options, you may already be at the information saturation point. Trying to sort through, understand and finally choose an option can feel like a monumental task. The good news is that once you get a feel for the lingo and the mechanics of the publishing process, it all starts to become perfectly clear.

Start by sorting the options into 2 piles (literally):

Spending hours researching, only to end up more confused can be avoided like this: Each time you find a publishing option, simply write it down and place it in one of two folders:

  • Folder A: Traditional Publishing
  • Folder B: Self-Publishing

In my opinion, all publishing options can be placed in one of these two categories. The way to decide which category is simple: Follow the money.

  • If the money flows from the Publisher to the Author, it’s Traditional Publishing.
  • If the money flows from the Author to the Publisher, It’s Self-Publishing.

So much has already been written about the pros and cons of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing that I won’t bother re-inventing the wheel. What I will do instead is give some practical tips on what to look for with each option:

Traditional Publishing:

A traditional publisher will pay you for the rights to publish and sell your book. A royalty advance is the Holy Grail. The traditional publishing route is open to every author, but it seems harder and harder for new authors to be picked up by the fewer traditional publishers that remain. If you want to give this option a try, I offer the following practical tips:

  1. Start searching for a traditional publisher well before your manuscript is finished.
  2. Read, understand and follow the submission guidelines for each publisher you consider. You may find that your finished manuscript is not the first thing they want to see. Correspond in the format they suggest to improve your odds. The submission guidelines should be on their website.
  3. The process will take a long time (6-12 months or longer), so start early.
  4. Set a cut-off date. If you have tried the traditional publishing route and are not picked up in a reasonable time, consider moving on to self-publishing.
  5. Submit to multiple publishers at the same time. This allows parallel wait times instead of a send-wait-send-wait scenario.
  6. Consider using a literary agent instead of dealing with publishers directly.
  7. If a traditional publisher asks for any money, they are not traditional publishers. Just move them to the self-publishing folder. This may happen simply because the lines between traditional and self-publishing are blurring. Traditional publishers are also opening “divisions” that offer self-publishing services.

Self-Publishing:

This is the most popular and realistic route for new authors. You will need to pay to have your book published. The cost will range from $0.00 and hundreds of hours of your time, all the way to $20,000 and very little of your time. Like many things in life, you can choose to pay in dollars or time.

Here is where the confusion will start to vanish and your publishing choice will slowly become clear. You simply need to compare the services provided (and the associated cost) to your specific needs. Each company will have their own slant on what they do and how much it costs.

  1. Self-publishing may be called many things. Look for phrases like: Subsidy publishing, partner publishing, royalty share publishing, print on demand publishing, author services, and several other phrases.
  2. Different companies offer a wide range of publishing services. Some will offer the services in the form of a package deal, and some will allow you to select the services you want. Ask about cost early in your evaluation process. Cost alone might be the one criterion that shortens your list. Also, when considering cost, it helps to think in terms of the break-even point. How many books will you need to sell to break even?
  3. Determine the cost and royalty structure. It is possible to find a self-publisher that will partner with you for the long haul. They may publish your book for a very low fee in exchange for a cut of future royalties. The opposite of this is a company that gets paid in full upfront and the author receives all future royalties. One thing to consider is how the publisher makes his money. Does he make it from the author up front, or does he make it from royalties down the road?
  4. Remember you will need services like: editing, proof reading, cover design, interior lay-out, formatting for print and various e-book versions, distribution, marketing materials, author copies of your own book, web presence and  a clearly defined contract that spells out the rights to publish and who owns what.
  5. You will see many strong opinions both for and against self-publishing. Just remember as you read them that your goals are different than the person who wrote the opinion. Always put the opinions through your filter so it has relevance to you.
  6. Several bestsellers in the past 10 years have been self-published. Also, many self-published books only sell 20 copies. The point is that no one can predict how many books you might sell.
  7. If you are considering purchasing marketing help from your self-publisher, ask specific questions about what you get for the fee. Ask for sales data from similar books before you spend money on marketing.
  8. What sales and distribution channels will be offered for your book? Some self-publishers hand over your book and you are responsible for distribution. Others handle distribution for you. Do you want your book across the Amazon network? How about Barnes and Noble? Do you want an e-book version? Some self-publishers also have on-line stores that sell your book.
  9. Find out how much it costs to buy copies of your own book. For a new author, the easiest way to get your book on a bookstore shelf is to work with an independent bookstore who will take your book on consignment. The book store will take a cut of the selling price, and you will get the balance. You need to buy copies of your own book (including tax and delivery) from your publisher at a price that lets this math work.
  10. Selling your book in major brick and mortar book stores is a touchy subject. Some self-publishers will make your book “available” to major chains. They may also have a “return” policy that goes hand in hand with that. This simply means that your book could go on the bookstore shelf and then be returned to you in 3 months if it doesn’t sell.
  11. Who sets the retail price of your book? Some self-publishers allow you to set the price and some don’t. The selling price will have an impact on sales. If you don’t have flexibility in your book’s selling price, you should know that upfront.
  12. A discussion on self-publishing would not be complete without mentioning DIY (do-it-yourself) self-publishing. This is the least expensive option (in dollars), but the most expensive option in time. If you are very comfortable with all things computer, DIY could be an option for you. It’s not extremely hard to do, but it is hard to do it well. Just remember that every hour spent learning all things DIY will be hours taken from your writing and platform building.

Some final thoughts:

Finding a publisher that suits your goals really comes down to spending the time to logically compare the services and costs of each company you consider. Take notes on each option you investigate and eventually a clear winner will emerge. That winner will be the one that meshes with your goals.

The most important point of all is that your book needs to get into the hands of readers. Publishing your first book will be a learning experience to say the least. Enjoy the ride as well as the destination.

Upcoming Chapters:

Chapter 5: Treating Your Book Like a Business.

Chapter 3: Building Your Author Platform in Person

Platform and Reach

Consider your platform to be the method (or methods) you will focus on to connect with people. Consider your reach to be the number of people you connect with through your platform. If your book is a technical “how-to” manual or a cook book, you may have a completely different platform approach than someone with a poetry book or a romance novel.

For example

If you are writing a cook book, your platform might include:

  • Become the teacher or guest instructor at the local cooking school.
  • Film a few YouTube videos of you making your recipes.
  • Hold a monthly sampling at the local gourmet food shop and serve samples of your signature recipe.
  • Select and visit a gourmet food store or local butcher each week and then do a review of the shop as a blog post.

Closing the loop

Here is where you put your new on-line platform tools to use. Let’s say you met 6 people as a guest instructor at a local cooking class. When you get home, try to connect with some of the people through one of your on-line tools. You might send a quick e-mail, a facebook friend request or follow them on twitter. Nothing fancy is required, just a simple note to say you wanted to make a connection. After all, you truly have something in common.

The snowball effect

Platform magic will start to happen soon after you start putting yourself out there. The connections you make will lead you to more connections with people you never would have met if you didn’t make the first connection. It’s like a reach snowball rolling down a hill.

Slow and steady

The key to expanding your reach is to start today and take a relaxed but steady approach. Help and support others first, build real connections with people, and before you know it you’ll have a blossoming healthy reach. When the time comes for you to announce your book’s release, you’ll have an easy way to communicate with the long list of people you’ve made real connections with.

Upcoming Chapters:

Chapter 4: Exploring Your Publishing Options.

Chapter 5: Treating Your Book Like a Business.

Chapter 2: Platform Building – Create Your Author Web-site.

As an author, your web-site can be the center hub of your on-line platform. Everything else links back to it. It’s also the one place that you can clearly communicate your brand to the world.

The most important part of your website will be the content. The content is the good stuff that will set you apart from everyone else. It’s what makes you the brand. If your content is unique, genuine and interesting to people, it will make you stand out. If people are engaged by what you have to say, they will buy your book.

The good news is that creating a web-site is easy and can be done for free. We’ll create one together by video tutorial in this Chapter.

Blog vs. web-site

The term blog and web-site are often used to mean the same thing. Technically a blog has content that’s updated regularly by creating a blog post. A web-site can be a series of static pages (the info is set once and stays the same), but it can also have a “blog” page in the menu. We’ll be creating an author web-site that has several static pages as well as a blog page.

WordPress or SquareSpace?

You can create your website on any platform you choose. The two I would recommend for your short list are WordPress and SquareSpace. I have built sites with both and they are both great. If cost is one of your deciding factors then a free WordPress.com site is just the thing for you. If you are OK paying $13 each month for your website then I would suggest a SquareSpace site. Generally speaking, the SquareSpace site will be a more modern looking site with an easier learning curve but at a cost ($13/month). The WordPress.com site will be a slightly less visually attractive site with a steeper learning curve but a great price (free).

For the sake of simplicity, the remainder of this post will make the assumption that WordPress is your choice.

WordPress yes, but which one?

One of the first things to understand is that WordPress has 2 versions. WordPress.com (commonly called the free version) and WordPress.org (commonly called the self-hosted version). We will be using WordPress.com (the free version). The main difference is that WordPress.com is just a nice simple scaled down, ready to use version of WordPress.org. WordPress.org requires you to have a self-hosting account, install the WordPress software, and maintain your site yourself. WordPress.com is already set up and maintained for you.

Share your blog posts with the world

Now it’s time to add some content and share it with the world. The content will be in the form of regular blog posts that allow you to connect with people and clearly communicate your brand to the world.Your blog post “link” can be shared on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. When someone “clicks a link” in a Facebook post or a Tweet, they will be taken directly to your website to read your full post. If your post is interesting and valuable to them, they will become fans, and hopefully sign-up to receive your new posts by e-mail. Anyone who makes that type of connection will now be part of your reach.

Reach your “first readers”

One of the goals of building your author platform has been to expand your reach. Everyone with-in your reach will be a potential “first reader”. “First reader” is a term used for the critical first layer of people that read your book. They will tell others to buy your book if your book is a great one.

Chapter 2 Video Tutorial: Create your Author Web-site.

Upcoming Chapters:

Chapter 3: Building Your Author Platform in Person.

Chapter 4: Exploring Your Publishing Options.

Chapter 5: Treating Your Book Like a Business.

Chapter 1: Build the Foundation of Your Author Platform

Your platform is what helps you reach your “first readers”. “First reader” is a term used for the critical first layer of people that read your book. They are most likely the people who are in the reach of your platform. They will tell others to buy your book if your book is a great one.

We’ll focus on the on-line side of your platform today. Now keep in mind that the off-line or in-person side of your platform is just as important, but we’ll examine that in future chapters.

The foundation of your platform should include some on-line presence.That can be in the form of a basic author website and some common social media tools. They all help in creating real connections with real people. These connections make it possible to reach your critical “first readers”.

Depending on your comfort level with technology and your own book sales goals, you may choose to use one or several tools in your on-line platform. A common mistake some authors make is to try to be everywhere all at once. My recommendation is to simply pick one on-line tool to start and give it some time. Once you see how your reach is expanded with the first tool, you will be able to make a better decision about what your second tool might be.

The key to success in any on-line tool is to commit to using it and being present with your followers. If you set up several tools and ignore them all you will not find success.

The important thing to know about building a platform is that it takes time, so the best time to start is today.

Upcoming Chapters:

Chapter 2: Creating Your Author Web Site.

Chapter 3: Building Your Author Platform in Person.

Chapter 4: Exploring Your Publishing Options.

Chapter 5: Treating Your Book Like a Business.