I knew I would have to have a website. As an author, I just need one. So I did what anyone else would have done, I Goo-, ahem, I used a search engine to learn how to do it.
There were a ton of things on websites, both in general and for author’s website design, but not so much concerning erotica authors, who face so many more challenges then I ever expected. So, I figured I would give a head’s up to anyone else in the position I had found myself in.
Step 1: The Domain Name. That was easy for me. Go to a domain registry or find a web design company who will do it for you. I went to a registry and got a good approximation of my name, www.lola-white.com
Then a monkey wrench was thrown. I registered for a public domain, and was contacted by the registry with an explanation that anyone who ran a search could find my phone number, my house address and personal email address. I wanted to be a private domain, instead.
As an erotica author, I can’t risk it. Who knows what crackpots might show up at my house? In this world, you never know who’s gonna be looking for you, for whatever reason, and I want to protect my family, just as everyone else wants to protect theirs.
So I needed a proxy company to be listed for me, but they have some restrictions on content, and if your content doesn’t mesh well with their code, they can cancel the contract and your info is back out there for the whole world to find. I emailed the company I chose and received permission to use their services.
Step 2: Find a Host. Oh, tricky, tricky. Read those Acceptable Use policies, people! Just ‘cause it’s the internet doesn’t mean there’re no rules and regulations. (I know, it surprised me, too.) If the host doesn’t like the content of your site, they can delete it whenever they want. You lose everything. (So always have a back-up of content.)
I found several companies right off the bat that don’t even allow curse words, so those went out the window. I was confused, so I decided to ask outright. One company simply said no, another said yes, but with restrictions and Arvixe just said yes. Actually, they said yes ten minutes after I emailed them my question, so I declared them the winner and bought their hosting services.
On the other hand, you could just use a web design company who also offers hosting, but I didn’t, personally, find that ideal. I wanted a company with a proven track record of not randomly going offline. I wanted my site to be always up and running. Arvixe had great reviews, and I can personally vouch for their customer support.
Step 3: Design/Development. This is the part that made my head bleed, after banging it into so many walls. I’m just starting out, right? So I don’t have a fortune to spend. I looked for prices, and that was a confusing tangle of crap. I saw things everywhere from $50 to $25,000. Hmm, I’m distrustful of a very low price and didn’t have a hope of the affording the high price. (If I could afford $25,000, I would put down a payment to own my own house, not a snazzy website. And, for $25,000, a website had better be able to wash my dishes for me, take the dog for her walk and scrub my toilets.)
So, I started weeding companies out. Thumbtack was helpful, and I got some rough quotes that put the price for what I wanted in the range of $800-$1,000. Okay, I will think of this as an investment, and suck it up. (I come from a long line of misers, and it’s hard for me to slap a whole bunch of cash down on the barrel head. It took me two years of hemming and hawing before I bought my tablet.)
But lots of people refused to work with me because they felt I was putting up a porn site. To me, there’s a huge difference, but I try hard not to trounce on other people’s opinions, no matter how wrong they are. But I did find several who were okay with it, including one man who is very conservative, but agreed there’s a whole world of difference between pictures and words. He was a really nice guy.
It’s lovely when the tide of opinion changes and people can broaden their worldviews.
But, I ended up going with another company. I asked for a simple (to me, which is different than to the designer) website of five pages, which I invite you to explore at your leisure provided you are over 18 years old- which, if you’re not, you shouldn’t be reading this. I also wanted to be able to expand, if necessary, in the future, to include a place to sell my books.
Then I found more trouble, of course. First, if you can get a custom site, great, but if you use templates, read the terms/license agreements/etc. Know what you’re getting. If the owner of the template doesn’t like what you’re doing with his legal property, they can take it back, and sue you in the process.
Same for stock photos. If you can get original designs, made just for you, that’s awesome. And expensive. If you use stock photos, again, read all that legal stuff. Never, never, use just any old image you find on the internet. You don’t want to get sued.
I chose WordPress for usability. It’s a CMS, Content Management System, that many people understand, and I wanted to focus on ease of use and content, in my website. I would rather have it plain, but easy to visit, than the opposite.
So, to make this long story shorter. I learned patience and the value of active communication with patient people. Most everyone was more than willing to answer all my questions, no matter how odd or stupid. My advice to you: don’t feel it’s necessary to have a website the day you purchase your domain. Take your time, do your research and, if you have any questions, feel free to email all and sundry and politely demands answers. Have a contract with the web design/development company and don’t pay their cost all up front, they should let you split it, at the very least.