Creating an Author Website with Squarespace

Creating an Author Website with Squarespace

The most common piece of advice for an author trying to find a publisher is to create a website and start a blog. The idea is that you regularly post new, free content to build your audience, all of whom will undoubtedly be chomping at the bit to buy your book when it is published.

I have been creating websites since the GeoCities days (the late ’90s for those of you too young to know the reference) when you had to hand code your websites. With every new website I create, I am eager to try something new. I’ve used basic templates in which you use a text editor to modify the HTML/CSS/Javascript to tailor it to your own needs. I’ve used WordPress and Weebly. One has so many options when creating a website that I found the idea of creating a new author website to be daunting.

So I made excuses to myself for not creating a website. I don’t really need a website. I just need a publisher who sees the genius of my creation. I can’t blog, anyway, because I want to keep the ideas to myself until I publish the book. However, I kept hearing the same advice over and over: Create a website. Start a blog. Create a website. Start a blog. Create a website. Start a blog.

AAAAHHHHH! ALRIGHT ALREADY!

I thought to myself, Why am I making this so hard? The technology is far enough along that creating a website and blog should be easy. I looked up a couple of reviews of website builders. For me, the most important criteria were that the software has to be easy to use and provide enough help that I can quickly throw something together. Wix is by far the most popular in this category, but one review said SquareSpace is better for bloggers. Ok, I’m not going to overthink this. SquareSpace it is.

Friends, it took me two hours to create my website. That is insanely fast compared to days of yore. I paid for the basic plan. Since I’m just using it as a blog, I don’t need any of the upper tier features yet. For less than $200 for one year of website service, one gets the following features:

  • A domain of your choice
  • Design templates that are easy to customize
  • Simple access to stock photos
  • Automatic newsletter signup form
  • Automatic security certificate
  • Analytics information for you to take to an agent/publisher (how many visitors you have to your website)
  • Marketing tools (including how many newsletter subscribers you have and an email/newsletter builder)
  • SEO tools

SquareSpace’s website builder is intuitive, but below are a few tips to help where I stumbled.

Create a Favicon

The favicon is a small logo that represents your website and can be used in multiple places, such as in the browser tab, your browser history, or on a list of shortcuts:

A favicon on a browser tab.

The black square with AH in white letters is the favicon representing my website.

You can easily create a favicon using an online tool such as Favicon Generator.

To add your Favicon to your SquareSpace website, go to the Settings option in your website’s main menu, and then select Favicon.

Settings appears as the 2nd to last menu item in the website's main menu.The Favicon setting is the fourth setting down for the website settings.

Turn on Blog Comments

By default, blog posts are not created with a comments section. I like the idea of interacting with readers and have chosen to allow comments on my posts. If you also want to do this, you can turn on comments globally and then turn them off on specific posts.

Managing comments sitewide can be done through the website settings where you found the Favicon settings above, but instead of selecting Favicon, choose the Blog Preferences option.

The Blog Preferences menu item is the 9th item in the website settings menu.

In the Blog Preferences menu, select Comments Settings, then Enable Comments Globally. After this point, any new blog posts you create will include a Comments section.

The Comments setting in Blog Preferences. The "Enable Comments Globally" option in the Comments Setting.

Then to remove the comments section for an individual blog post, select the ellipsis after your blog post entry, and choose Settings. In the Options menu item, you can toggle the Comments to off.

Select the ellipsis after the blog title, then select Settings. In the Options menu item, you can toggle the Comments to off.

Adding a Tag Cloud

If you hover over the text of your blog post while you are in Edit mode, you will get a “+” button above and below each paragraph. At the end of your post, you can use this to add a Tag Cloud (near the bottom of the features available in the “Filters & Lists” section):

If you hover over the text of your blog post while you are in Edit mode, you will get a "+" button above and below each paragraph.

At the end of your post, you can use this to add a Tag Cloud (near the bottom of the features available in the "Filters & Lists" section).

To add the tags that will feature in the tag cloud, go back to the blog post settings (using the ellipsis after the blog title), and now select Options > Tags:

To add the tags that will feature in the tag cloud, go back to the blog post settings (using the ellipsis after the blog title), and now select Options > Tags.

After each tag, press Enter. If you have previously entered tags for other blog posts, the software will auto-suggest tags as soon as you start typing.

After each tag, press Enter. If you have previously entered tags for other blog posts, the software will auto-suggest tags as soon as you start typing.

 

If you, too, have been dragging your feet when it comes to creating your own website and blog, I encourage you to try out a website builder like Squarespace or Wix. I can’t guarantee I’ll have the answers, but feel free to get in touch with me if you have questions. Good luck!

Benefits of a Writers’ Group

Benefits of a Writers’ Group

What Are the Benefits of Joining a Writers’ Group?

I’m not much of a “joiner.” So why would I join not just one writers’ group, but three? Pens, people, and publication. One benefit of membership in a writing group like Pen & Keyboard Writers is the opportunity to write, contribute to, edit, and develop an anthology. Our 2023 anthology, Celebrating the Seasons, is also our first, but we had so much fun with the project that it definitely won’t be our last. The most important benefit, though, is the chance to work with some our fellow writers who complement our strength and weaknesses, and to learn from one another.

Pens

Writers write. Many of us have a ridiculous collection of pens, notebooks, blank books, blogs. We write. I told someone last week that I “think and talk through my fingers.” Communication of what’s in our imaginations into our readers’ imaginations is the goal; publication is icing on the cake. Publishing an anthology is one way to ice the cake.

Key to a successful anthology project is that the members work well together and roll up their shirtsleeves, setting egos aside, to do whatever is needed. Pen & Keyboard Writers worked effectively together as a team from deciding on a theme to editing, revising, and editing again.

We chose “seasons” as our theme. It was broad enough to encompass stories about climate, weather, seasonal change – but also seasons as a metaphor for the stages of life. Our group is based in Oklahoma; the group is an affiliate member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc (OWFI). As Oklahoma’s famous native son, Will Rogers, supposedly said, “If you don’t like our Oklahoma weather, just wait a couple of hours and we’ll have it changed. We’ve got every kind of weather there is.” Next, we began to write.

I contributed two poems: “Longing for Four” and “verbum sap sapienti est,” that serve as “bookends” to all the stories and poems in the book. Each poem deals with the transition of one season into the next, as well as the capricious human whims and changing moods reflected in Nature, itself.

People

Some groups are for novice writers and some are geared towards those with more experience. Others, like Pen & Keyboard Writers, have a healthy mix of writers who span decades of life experience and writing expertise. And we help each other because we want to, not because it’s an “assignment” to do so.

May be an image of 9 people

Publication

Early in the process of developing an anthology for publication, we traded our stories to ensure that each submission had at least two fresh pairs of eyes reviewing them and providing initial feedback from “scrap it and start over” to “almost perfect.” It’s essential to realize that every editor will have different corrections and suggestions, and it’s important to consider all of them objectively – not necessarily to incorporate every suggestion, but to consider the advice. Each edit represents a reader’s opinion, a writer’s edits, and feedback from a fellow group member who wants to see us succeed both individually and as a group. And we all want to be proud of the final product – our book.

Once each contributor made their initial revisions, I formatted the book and sent a first draft to the group for review. This time, everyone reviewed every page, providing not only edits to the stories and poems contained within the book, but also their opinions on the typeface and layout. There were several more rounds of edits, since with each pass, there’s a chance of introducing fresh errors or spotting little ones we’d previously missed – be that in typing or formatting of headers and footers, or pagination.

It’s critical that everyone set aside their egos and their inner crises of confidence. There is nothing but the work and our respect for, our trust in, each other. That means giving honest feedback to ensure that no one’s “slip” is showing. Honest feedback, and the ability to receive it, is vitally important prior to publication. After publication, it’s too late for changes – the book is in the hands of readers.

Perfection?

Few published books, including textbooks, are perfect. But that’s always the end goal, and I think we polished our anthology till it shines! We all hope readers will agree.

Flier – Feel Free to Share!

Flier – Benefits of Joining Pen and Keyboard Writers