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Choose Your Best Web Site Setup

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This year, for the first
time, the global Internet user population will top 1 billion people. In today’s
world, publishers who are smart about setting up their Web sites can reap
marketing and promotion rewards for themselves and their authors while saving
hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars.

 

The three most important criteria
for evaluating Web site effectiveness involve features, affordability, and ease
of use. It pays to consider each of them in connection with the four basic
types of Web site options.

 

Custom

 

In the early days of Web sites,
skilled webmasters ruled the online world. Even today, most sites are designed
and maintained by webmasters. Costs for designing a site are rarely less than
$2,000 and can run to $20,000 or more. If you decide to have your site
custom-designed, be sure to investigate each webmaster’s track record for
providing timely updates.

 

Static

 

A simple two- to five-page static
author Web site is a cheaper option. Typically, it features an author page, a
title page, and a contact information page. Static sites usually cost hundreds,
rather than thousands, of dollars but, as the name indicates, they aren’t
flexible enough to grow with an author’s career. Also, they don’t provide
functions such as email management, newsletter emailings, event calendars, and
online ordering. Beware of sites that are subdomains—e.g., <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>www.PODcompany/yourbooktitle.com
.
It is important to own your own domain name.

 

Homemade

 

With a Web-design program such as
Front Page ($199 from Microsoft) or Dreamweaver ($399 from Macromedia), it is
possible to create your own Web site. For some, the process is even fun.
Unfortunately, the functionality of sites created with such programs is often
minimal, and their look is often less than professional. Those who choose to
build their own sites can purchase domain names for roughly $9–$25 a year
and register with a hosting service for roughly $4–$30 a month. Other
than cost, a big advantage of homemade sites is the ability to edit content.

 

CMS-Based

 

In the last few years Content
Management System technology has made it possible to self-publish an effective
Web site. You hire a CMS Web site company to help set up your site’s design and
provide the control panel you will use to create and manage content. Some of
these systems operate as simply as a word processor. Costs range from $20 to
$50 per month for domain registration, hosting, and access to CMS technology,
depending on services. Some CMS companies also provide custom design.

 

To explore possibilities, search
“website design, cms” and ask each company that interests you about the
following features:

 

Page
count.
Will the site have enough
pages that you and your authors can share expertise, provide information, and
generate sales? Will it accommodate the FAQ sheet, the press kit, and free
downloads? And how easy is it to create these kinds of content?

 

Newsletters
and blogs.
Will the site’s
features include blogging software? Will you be able to send send regular email
messages to your lists? How will the lists be organized on the site?

 

Online
forms.
Will you be able to gather
emails and information from site visitors easily?

 

Online
store.
Is online ordering
available with the site? Monthly fees for online store transactions can range
from $25 to $100. For independent publishers, PayPal’s free setup with no
monthly fees and competitive per-purchase charges provides a cost-effective
solution.

 

Creating
and editing content.
Will you have
control over content? Are there limitations? Will the site support multiple
users, such as members of a book club?

 

Password
protection.
Can sections of the
site be password protected to allow restricted access to coursework, online
manuscript submissions, or other content that should not be available to
everybody?

 

Technical
support.
Is there a human being
you can call for help?

 

With careful research, you should
be able to create an effective Web site affordably.

 

Lars Clausen is an author
and the first person to unicycle through all 50 states. His self-published
book, One Wheel –
Many Spokes
, is a 2005 Benjamin Franklin Award finalist for Best
New Voice in nonfiction. He operates two Content Management System Web sites
for his books (www.onewheel.org, www.straightintogayamerica.com), and he helped
Cevado Technologies develop AmericanAuthor (www.AmericanAuthor.com), Web sites
specifically for authors.

 

 

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