The Big Mistake of Author Websites and Blogs

Wordpress    Blogger

One of the easiest ways for an author to get a site up and running is to use Blogger or WordPress. As convenient as this is, and as wonderful as I find WordPress, this can lead to a critical error.

Authors end up using a blog as their website, but aren’t interested in blogging.

So their site looks like a neglected, un-updated blog or a lackluster website.

Don’t get me wrong: Both Blogger & WordPress can be used as effective site-building tools. But most new writers don’t go the extra step of structuring their “blog” as a website. Let me explain.

  1. Having a blog means you’ve got yourself a website. (Blog = site.) Blogging is simply a functionality or a way of presenting information or content on a website. A website may or may not feature a blog.
  2. Blogger and WordPress systems focus on blogging functionality. They put the blog front and center, and assume that you are interested in blogging. If you are interested in having a site only, then you have to take steps to change the presentation.

You do not have to blog, and if you don’t have much interest in the form, then please don’t pursue it. As with any form of writing, it takes a considerable investment of energy and time to do it right and get something from it. (See my 101 crash course here.)

But I do recommend every writer have a website, and using WordPress or Blogger is a good way to do that for free and still conquer the learning curve. (See my post here.)

So, how shall we transform your blog-focused site into something more appropriate? We want to make the landing page static. The landing page is what first appears when people visit your site.

While technically such a thing is possible in Blogger, it is not straightforward. (If you want, search Google to view available tutorials.)

For that reason (and others!), I always recommend authors use WordPress when starting their first site. In WordPress, go into your Admin, and click on Settings > Reading.

Wordpress Static Front Page

You want to tell WordPress that the front page (the landing page) should display something OTHER than blog posts. To show you an example, visit janefriedman.wordpress.com. Here’s what I did:

  1. I created a page that I called Welcome. As you can see below, I’ve designated that as the front page of my site. The content you see on this page is what I typed right into the page content field. (Click here for a screenshot.)
  2. I created another page called News & Events, but I left the content field blank. Because I’ve designated this as my “posts page” (see below), the content here is populated by anything I add to “Posts” in WordPress. (Click here for a screenshot.)
  3. You could also designate NO page for posts (leave the option blank rather than selecting a page), and your site will not feature any blog posts, only static pages.

Wordpress close-up static

What I’ve done is basically create a website where blog posts exist, but they are not the focal point of the site. This is probably a desirable situation for many authors, yet they make the mistake of putting their blog at the center of things when it doesn’t deserve that attention.

Take it from me: There’s no need to blog to have a website. But please do set up your site properly to avoid the appearance that you do blog, but very badly!

 


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Posted in Digital Media, Writing Advice.
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

Jane currently teaches writing and publishing at the University of Virginia and is a columnist for Publishers Weekly. The Great Courses just released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (2017).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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107 Comments on "The Big Mistake of Author Websites and Blogs"

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Michael Hyatt
4 years 4 months ago

Jane, the link to  janefriedman.wordpress.com goes to a page marked private. Thought you’d want to know.

Piotr Kowalczyk
4 years 4 months ago

I’m using this pattern for my ebook discovery site http://ebookfriendly.com and wonder if that affects SEO in any way

Anittah Patrick
4 years 4 months ago
No, it does not affect SEO. What will probably affect SEO for your site the most is the fact that your top tabs do not align necessarily with the top search terms related to ebooks. I would recommend conducting some basic keyword research using the Adwords keyword tool (if you do not run any paid search campaigns, you can use the external tool, which is still helpful as you get 100 results vs. 800) to see what people are actually searching in the US / the world related to ebooks. This may help you think about the way you want… Read more »
Piotr Kowalczyk
4 years 4 months ago

Thanks so much for the advice, Anittah. The whole idea of a site which is distraction-free is giving me a lot of work. I’ll follow your advice and adjust keywords for navi buttons.
Seen you site, very nicely designed:-)

Will Entrekin
4 years 4 months ago
Terrific post, Jane. I only recently discovered the functionality. Now that I’ve started posting more, posts seem more recent and consistent, but I’ve definitely had the problem of inconsistency in the past. I think it’s something writers have to explore, too, in terms of to what degree one can maintain constant engagement without becoming exhausted. I’ve been using my posts page as my landing page, but part of the reason for that is the ability to integrate widgets (so I can put the Twitter timeline and a link to The Prodigal Hour there on the front). I haven’t figured out… Read more »
Dawn Groves
4 years 4 months ago

Hi Jane, great article and the comments below it are also very good. I’ll tweet it. 
dawn
http://www.yourproductivitysucks.com

Daisy Among Roses
4 years 4 months ago

Thank you for your invaluable advice as I begin my writer blog.

Joanne Macgregor
4 years 4 months ago

If I blogged, I wouldn’t have time to write, so I have gone the website route. I’m a technological Luddite, but I still managed to build it in an evening on SquareSpace.com. I’ve found their service easy to use and they give exceptional help and person-to-person support.

Janice Gable Bashman
4 years 4 months ago

My author website landing page goes directly to my blog but that works for me since each week a different guest author blogs about the writing process. If that were not the case, however, I would want a static landing page as you suggest. I find WordPress to be great for my author website. Thanks for the great tips and have fun with the online class. It sounds like a fantastic tool for writers needing to build websites.

Jill Kemerer
4 years 4 months ago

This is exactly what my girlfriend has been researching this week–talk about a timely post! I’m e-mailing her your info. Thanks so much!

Sgweidener
Sgweidener
4 years 4 months ago

I love my blog/website – the Women’s Writing Circle – on Blogger. I can place my book cover front and center with reader reviews and links on how to order, provide links to my writing, workshops and editing services and feature popular posts as a colorful sidebar.  And I love how easy it is to download my own photos . . .all for $10 a year and my own domain name to boot.

Anjali
Anjali
4 years 4 months ago

Very useful, this. I fumbled my way through this on my own a couple of years ago on WordPress, wanting to set up a site that started out as static but eventually turned into a blog. Thanks for taking it upon yourself to summarize and educate!

Anne R. Allen
4 years 4 months ago

Thanks so much for the clarifications and detailed how-to. I keep telling my readers a blog is a website and can function very nicely as a hub for the pre-pubbed author. But they have to actually blog. Now I see they can use a blog as an author site even if they don’t want to blog regularly. This will make a lot of aspiring authors very happy. Bookmarking this. 

Also, thanks to Joanne M. for the info on SquareSpace!

Tam Linsey
4 years 4 months ago

I  don’t care much for websites that have a page that says “welcome” and requires me to click on it to move on. I want to get to a page with tabs right off the bat. But I do see the logic behind NOT landing on a blog entry if it is not kept current.
I blog, but only a few times a month. I’ll restructure the site so my landing page is static, but I need to write something interesting and timeless to put there. I guess I need to come up with an author’s statement 🙂

Deborah TaylorFrench
4 years 4 months ago

Thanks. I am actually having fun blogging three times a week. I jumped in with WordPress.com, not wanting to learn code.

Now I want to create a Web site to link to my blog so I can sell writing and other related author products. Copyblogger suggested buying the Prose theme and getting help building a custom and easy to maintain Web site.

What’s your suggestion for adding a Web site to my WordPress blog?

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R.J. Keller
R.J. Keller
4 years 4 months ago

Thanks for the info, Jane! Especially the screen shots. 

Nathan Carriker
Nathan Carriker
4 years 4 months ago

Guilty as charged.  I simply don’t have the time, energy, and drive to compose new material on a schedule of any kind. I write what occurs to and moves me when it does, so I guess I better make this change. Thanks for making the point and the references for how to do it.

Tami Richards
4 years 4 months ago

Great information, Jane. Thank you very much. Now I have a project – I never really did want to blog, but that’s how my wordpress is set up. Thanks to you I can repair the damage.

Charise
Charise
4 years 4 months ago

Great post! I am using my site as all in one blog and site. I do have the the landing page as my blog, but only post weekly. It says that in the tag line (a weekly cocktail of grace, humor and life). Because it is only weekly, would you recommend I change the landing page? It is unreasonable to think I would blog more frequently at this point.

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Welcome « Welcome
4 years 4 months ago

[…] some fine advice from Jane Friedman, I found that I do not have to maintain an actual blog in order to “put my face out […]

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[…] The Big Mistake of Author Websites and Blogs (Class alert: I SO wish I could do this!) […]

Angela Orlowski-Peart
4 years 4 months ago

A very helpful post, Jane. I have my blog on Blogger but I’m getting ready to switch to WordPress, hopefully in a near future. Thank you for sharing these tips.

Anonymous
Anonymous
4 years 4 months ago

Jane, thanks so much for this post and the clear instructions. This seems so obvious once you point it out, but I’d made the mistake.

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[…] explained how dummies like me should use the internet to help them find congenial readers. Here Jane explains the biggest mistakes authors make on their websites. I make them […]

Mistygatlin
4 years 4 months ago

I followed this and wasn’t pleased with how it turned out on my particular page.  now, I can’t get it to go back.  Even though I changed my settings back to where the first page is my latest post, it’s going to my “about me” page.  How do I get it back to its original state?

Mistygatlin
Mistygatlin
4 years 4 months ago

Now I feel silly because it’s working.  I guess it took a while to go back.  Thanks for this tutorial!

PW Creighton
PW Creighton
4 years 4 months ago

Solid advice, it really depends on what you want to accomplish. There are benefits to having a dynamic landing page especially for SEO efforts just as there are for creating static pages like a site.

Suzanne Hill
4 years 4 months ago

I’m working on my website now and blogging about twice a week.  I’ve been writing for a while and have placed part of what I’ve written on Scribd.  Twittering and Google 1+………….Have I forgotten anything that I need to do in order to state that I’m truly serious?

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Neil Fein
4 years 4 months ago

Great advice. I did this with my editing website when I realized that I had no need of the blog stuff. Then I upgraded to a custom domain name. If I ever move to self-hosted WordPress, I’ll get rid of the WP menu bar as well. 

Kenra Daniels
4 years 4 months ago

Thanks, Jane! You’ve given me the push I needed to go ahead and implement my plans to expand my WordPress. I have several pages outlined, including a static landing page, but haven’t taken the time to actually create the pages and publish them. So, thanks for the push!

Patrick Samphire
Patrick Samphire
4 years 4 months ago

A bit late to this entry, but…

Excellent advice, Jane. I’ve long argued that a blog should *not* be the homepage of an author’s website. Even if a large part of your self-promotion is your blog, it’s not the right way to introduce yourself to a new visitor. That first impression, that first fraction of a second in which a visitor makes a judgement of your site, is too valuable to dedicate to a random journal entry.

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Steve Bichard
4 years 3 months ago

I as so glad that I found this post Jane.
I have a few blogs on Blogger, but always admired the style or wordpress. I was worried that my new site stevebichard.com to go with the launch of my new book would look just like yet another blog, so I went for wordpress and took your great advice. I had been not sleeping and got up at 6 am to google and found this post.

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RaShundria Muldrow
RaShundria Muldrow
3 years 3 months ago

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3 years 2 months ago
John A
John A
3 years 2 months ago

Makes sense to me. Simple to understand.

SeliC (http://selic.co/)
SeliC (http://selic.co/)
3 years 2 months ago

Nice advice.

Tips on Blogging
Tips on Blogging
3 years 2 months ago

hello.this is great and awesome article.thank you so much for sharing some info.

Tips on Blogging

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[…] The Big Mistake of Author Websites and Blogs | Jane Friedman https://janefriedman.com/2011/12/09/big-mistake-author-blog/ Dec 9, 2011 … Authors end up using a blog as their website, but aren't interested in …. each week a different guest author blogs about the writing process. […]

Survival Jones
Survival Jones
2 years 9 months ago

This is fantastic advice! I did not understand why it has to be a static landing page, but I get it now. Many thanks Jane! I’ll try it out for http://www.absyedauthor.blogspot.com … but it is on blogger, so it might take me a while 🙂

Teena Lyons
2 years 5 months ago

This is great advice, before I used my developers I struggled to make myself a website. Even as a writer I struggled to keep on top if it.
I am very proud of my website now, http://www.professionalghost.org and although I have a blog on it, it is not the focal point of my site.

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Shenoa
Shenoa
2 years 1 month ago

This article was perfect for me! I was frustrated with my wordpress site for exactly the reason listed above. I really wanted an author website, not a sadly disused blog. After reading your article, I completely revamped my page, and now I love it! Thank you

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