When writers ask me what the most important thing they should be doing to further their career—aside from write—it’s almost always start your own website. Even if you don’t consider yourself a tech person, services have advanced to the point where an average person can establish a site without knowing code, and without hiring professional help.
Should you start a site if you’re unpublished? I say yes, because you don’t want to tackle that learning curve at the moment you actually need the site. You’ll need and want the time to get comfortable with how you update the site and how it behaves—not to mention you’ll likely learn how to better structure and organize your site based on feedback. A website is never finished—it is a work in progress. Hopefully this is good news rather than bad. For more, read my earlier post, 3 Reasons to Have a Website If You’re Unpublished.
While there’s nothing wrong with hiring professional help to sort through the initial stages of establishing your website, make sure the result is something you can easily update yourself. This is why I recommend, without reservation, having a WordPress-based site. Even the most tech-averse person can usually handle updates on their own, as well as make basic modifications and upgrades. I also recommend WordPress because it’s open source, it’s frequently updated, and has a strong community of developers. (Side note: Many people ask me if Blogger is an OK substitute for WordPress. Blogger is not open source, it is blogging focused, and you never know what Google might do to it in the long run. It’s not a bad service, but it’s not as versatile and dynamic as WordPress.)
This is a long intro to a recommended resource list of my own posts, others’ posts, and general sites that can help you (1) establish your first website (2) maintain it successfully on your own.
Getting Started With WordPress
- WP Beginner has some of the best step-by-step instructions, as well as more advanced material for longtime WordPress users. Check out their guide here if you’re completely new to WordPress.
- HongKiat is a design & technology site that often posts about WordPress (e.g., best themes, common errors, best plug-ins, etc). Click here to view all their WordPress-related posts.
- SmashingHub is similar to HongKiat. Click here to view all their WordPress-related posts.
Online Courses and Tutorials
- How to Launch a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog in 20 Minutes or Less by Michael Hyatt, an invaluable 20-minute screencast
- Get Started Guide: Blogging for Writers — which links to 5 of my own brief screencasts for getting started with WordPress
- WordPress.tv (WordPress official site), free
- Lynda.com, per-month or per-year subscription required—but so worth it!
Beginner Books on WordPress
- WordPress for Dummies
- WordPress 24-Hour Trainer
- WordPress: The Missing Manual (releases in October 2012; as with most tech books, getting an edition that was just published is very desirable!)
My Past Posts on Websites
- Build a More Effective Author Website
- Why You Should Add E-mail Subscription Service to Your Blog
- The Big Mistake of Author Websites and Blogs
- WordPress Plug-Ins: The Bare Essentials
- To Learn About Your Readers, You Need a Site
What resources have you found invaluable in dealing with WordPress? Share in the comments.
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has nearly 25 years of experience in the media & publishing industry. 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 professor with The Great Courses (How to Publish Your Book), she is the author of The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), which received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as Digital Book World and Frankfurt Book Fair, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.