Well okay, for the nitpickers out there let’s say: almost for free and almost no skills.
If you know how to compose text in a Word document and attach a photo to your email, then believe me—you’ve got all the skills you need to make yourself a sharp-looking and (nearly) free website.
I just tried this myself for my current book project REFUGIUM: Wi-Fi Exiles and the Coming Electroplague. You can see the results here and judge for yourself: http://electroplague.com.
I was so impressed with the result (and that I somehow accomplished this technical feat all by myself!) that I had to blog about it.
My cost for my new Refugium website: $48/year.
In a nutshell
The method I used to achieve this result is amazingly simple:
1. I started with a free WordPress.com blog. (The URL I registered for free was http://electroplague.wordpress.com/, but you’ll notice that isn’t what shows when I’m done.)
2. I then set it up as a website instead of a blog by designating a static front page as my homepage (i.e., what the site opens up to when the link is clicked).
WordPress theme Twenty Twelve (free), which is what I used for this experiment, was designed for this purpose: http://theme.wordpress.com/themes/twentytwelve/.
But you can achieve something similar with most of the free WP themes. Full instructions are here: http://en.support.wordpress.com/pages/front-page/ .
(By comparison, the site you are reading this article on—Pig Squash Press—is a WordPress.com blog that HASN’T been altered to look like a website.)
3. At that point, the blog portion of the site with all of my postings (which is the default homepage on any WordPress.com site) simply becomes one of several menu items on my menu bar at top. I chose to name that menu tab “Blog” because people know what that is. But you could call it “News” or “Posts” or “BS Spew” or whatever you want.
You can also ditch the sidebar of bloggy-looking widgets for your new static homepage (as I did in the first illustration in this article) by selecting “Front Page Template” in Twenty Twelve or “single column” in other themes for that particular page.
Et voila! A website is born… and all for the grand price of a WordPress blog, which is free, although I chose to pay $30/year to keep ads off the site.
And to completely cement the site’s identity as a website instead of a blog, I paid for the $18/year domain-name upgrade so the link that you see and share is “electroplague.com” and not the underlying “electroplague.wordpress.com”.
So all told, I’m paying $48/year for my Refugium website, which I can easily add to, update, and expand whenever I want and with no special technical skills required.
And by going with WordPress.com (in other words, WordPress.com is hosting my site), I have access to seemingly unlimited free tech support when I do have questions.
Author, Get Thy Website in Order!
If you are an author, then you have been told umpteen times by everyone from your publisher and agent to your next door neighbour that you absolutely MUST have an author website to promote yourself and your books.
Of course, plenty of other folks need or want websites too. But authors today are strafed from all quarters (and with a fury approaching apocalyptic proportions) with edicts to get their ‘brand’ on the cybermap with a sharp-looking website.
The problem, of course, is that most writers (myself included) don’t know how to build a website. Nor do we particularly want to learn. We would rather spend our time, well, you know—writing!
The Money Pit
You must pay a web designer to create your site, and a webmaster to maintain it and add new content announcing your activities, and straighten out inevitable problems, incompatibilities, virus attacks, etc.
And then there are the annual fees to the server that hosts your site for you. And even after all that, unless you know how to update your website yourself, you are unable to add or change your own content. You are essentially at the mercy of the specialists you are paying.
I have author colleagues who have spent many thousands of dollars trying to get a functional, professional looking website that operates as intended and isn’t riddled with virus. I have author colleagues who have been locked out of their own websites by unscrupulous webmasters who hold them hostage until they pay outrageous bills to fix glitches that the webmaster created in the first place.
All of these problems disappear with a free WordPress.com blog that you set up to look like a website. Blogs (including blogs that look like websites) are extremely simple. Anyone can set up and maintain a blog without hired help.
No, I don’t work for WordPress. But I gotta say, I’m impressed. 😉