A Site for Sore Eyes

Every indie author would love to make oodles of money. Put your books up on Amazon and wait for the dough to roll in! And wait, and wait, and wait…. Marketing is not something most authors are proficient in, and I’m no exception. But I know I need a nice-looking website. And since the income stream is not guaranteed, I’d rather not pay a lot of money to set it up.

So I typed “affordable author website” into my favorite search engine (which happens not to be google, but whatever). The first company I looked at offered to schedule a free consultation, and calling it that is really quite silly. Every company should give you information about their services without charging for the information. Less silly — the form that I’m expected to fill out in order to schedule the free consultation has required fields for my home address. I have to tell them where I live in order to schedule the consultation? Why? Any company that engages in predatory data mining gets crossed off my list immediately.

The second company I looked at seems to have only three WordPress templates to choose from. Other companies offer tons, so this is a little weird. Their pricing starts at $1,500, and every additional book you want to put on the site is going to set you back an extra $250. Nope, not gonna hire you guys.

The third one looks better. I’m going to email them and ask a few questions. I have some specific requirements. Later I might want to upload a PDF, a teaser containing the first couple of chapters of a new book. I need to be able to upload it and also link to the upload, and I don’t want to have to pay some technician $75 per hour to do it. Also, if I’m going to transfer my domain name to a new server, I need a few gigabytes of file space in a public folder called /music. This is a make-or-break requirement for me.

If you’re an indie author, the thing to be wary of is that there are lots and lots of people who would love to take your money. They’re monetizing your dreams of success. Whether you succeed or tank, they don’t care — you already paid them. Some of them make vague promises, confident that authors will nod like bobble-heads and not know what’s up with that. Some of them mean well, and some are just out to con you. It’s up to you to be vigilant. Ask lots of questions. Assume the worst.

I found a guy who offers to create your website (from a template) and then show you how to manage it. His price is $500. That sounds much better than the competition, which will rake you over the coals for as much as $2,500. But essentially he’s offering a one-hour Skype lesson for $500. That’s not really such a good deal, is it?

Somewhere along the line someone mentioned Divi, which I had tried out last year, just to see what they were up to. It’s a very slick, user-friendly design engine, and it’s $250. That’s more my style. I would need a web host company that was compatible with the Divi WordPress setup, and the online chat person at Divi recommended four hosts, including Dreamhost. So I had a look at Dreamhost. Their monthly fee for hosting is $8 (currently I pay $7) — and they apparently have a free template-based site design setup. Doubtless it’s not as slick as Divi, but do I need $250 worth of slick?

My next stop is to ask some questions of a Dreamhost person. Maybe I won’t have to take out a home loan after all.

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