The Big Mistake of Author Websites and Blogs

Wordpress    Blogger

One of the easiest ways for an author to get a site up and running is to use Blogger or WordPress. As convenient as this is, and as wonderful as I find WordPress, this can lead to a critical error.

Authors end up using a blog as their website, but aren’t interested in blogging.

So their site looks like a neglected, un-updated blog or a lackluster website.

Don’t get me wrong: Both Blogger & WordPress can be used as effective site-building tools. But most new writers don’t go the extra step of structuring their “blog” as a website. Let me explain.

  1. Having a blog means you’ve got yourself a website. (Blog = site.) Blogging is simply a functionality or a way of presenting information or content on a website. A website may or may not feature a blog.
  2. Blogger and WordPress systems focus on blogging functionality. They put the blog front and center, and assume that you are interested in blogging. If you are interested in having a site only, then you have to take steps to change the presentation.

You do not have to blog, and if you don’t have much interest in the form, then please don’t pursue it. As with any form of writing, it takes a considerable investment of energy and time to do it right and get something from it. (See my 101 crash course here.)

But I do recommend every writer have a website, and using WordPress or Blogger is a good way to do that for free and still conquer the learning curve. (See my post here.)

So, how shall we transform your blog-focused site into something more appropriate? We want to make the landing page static. The landing page is what first appears when people visit your site.

While technically such a thing is possible in Blogger, it is not straightforward. (If you want, search Google to view available tutorials.)

For that reason (and others!), I always recommend authors use WordPress when starting their first site. In WordPress, go into your Admin, and click on Settings > Reading.

Wordpress Static Front Page

You want to tell WordPress that the front page (the landing page) should display something OTHER than blog posts. To show you an example, visit janefriedman.wordpress.com. Here’s what I did:

  1. I created a page that I called Welcome. As you can see below, I’ve designated that as the front page of my site. The content you see on this page is what I typed right into the page content field. (Click here for a screenshot.)
  2. I created another page called News & Events, but I left the content field blank. Because I’ve designated this as my “posts page” (see below), the content here is populated by anything I add to “Posts” in WordPress. (Click here for a screenshot.)
  3. You could also designate NO page for posts (leave the option blank rather than selecting a page), and your site will not feature any blog posts, only static pages.

Wordpress close-up static

What I’ve done is basically create a website where blog posts exist, but they are not the focal point of the site. This is probably a desirable situation for many authors, yet they make the mistake of putting their blog at the center of things when it doesn’t deserve that attention.

Take it from me: There’s no need to blog to have a website. But please do set up your site properly to avoid the appearance that you do blog, but very badly!

 

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Posted in Digital Media, Writing Advice.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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