Ever wondered the secret sauce to making your own personal website? That's what this post is all about: the way I made bridgetsmith.co work, and how I use it to achieve my vision. I think it's something we don't talk enough about - we see websites all the time every day, but when it comes time to start your own, it's overwhelming.
I remember when I decided to start a website, my plan was to build it in a weekend. I already knew which website builder I wanted to use (I use Weebly, if anyone was curious), so I figured I'd throw on a movie and knock it out in one fell swoop.
Plot twist: I was wrong.
I spent nearly the entire weekend making my website - and the following weekend. Then I realized that to maintain the website I had to start regularly updating my blog (as you can clearly see, reading this post). Everything felt like it was spiraling out of control. I was overwhelmed by the amount of work I had, and all of it was marketing work. It wasn't even the effort I was spending editing my book, designing the maps, or doing my real full-time job.
So I reset. I stopped pressuring myself to wait to "launch" my website before it was perfect. Instead, I put up all the pages I wanted (three about the book, a contact page, an about me page, a blog, a home page), put at least a little bit of information on each one, then discovered and embraced a magic phrase:
Check back soon for updates!
And just like that, the pressure melted away. I knew I still had to work on updating my website, but now I could chip away at it a little bit at a time until I had it where I wanted it. That gave me time to sit back and get strategic about why I was even making a website.
Discovering a Purpose
When I sat back and thought about it, the first thing that came into my mind was all the time I spent as a kid (and adult, let's be honest) looking on the websites of my favorite authors. I gravitated towards content that built on the worlds I had fallen in love with - I wanted to know what didn't make it into the book, and all the author's secrets, tips, and tricks.
That was my inspiration, and my purpose, for making this website. Instead of trying to solely sell books, I wanted instead to create a site where people who were as excited about the book as I was could go to learn more. I also wanted a space where aspiring authors could come to learn more about how to write a book, how to market themselves, and the business of being an author.
I don't think I'm fully there yet, but that's my goal. So, every post I make and update I share works towards that end-state. Whenever I'm not sure what to do next to update my website content, I come back to my inspiration, and use that to keep pushing forward.
Continuing the Story Beyond Summer Twilight
The parts of my website I am most proud of are all about my book. Specifically, I've spent a lot of time and love on the Character and World pages. My goal was to help expand what you can initially learn just from reading the book, to help immerse readers in the world both on and off the page.
Here, you can explore full-color maps of the different regions, and read my own overviews of what they are like. You can also see concept art which inspired the characters, and read character profiles I've written in the Dungeons & Dragons style, to help you really understand their motivations are.
I've also put a lot of time and energy into my blog, trying to decide what the best posts to make are. This brings me back to audience, and the importance of understanding who you are trying to reach. In this case, my goal is to reach both people who are interested in my book and my perspective (hello humans!), but also people who are interested in writing and publishing. I've loved writing for as long as I can remember, and I know I'm not the only one.
So, each week when I sit down to write, I try to mix it up while always keeping my audience in mind. I give life updates when something particularly big happens, and I try to genuinely share what I'm doing and remain authentic, even when it's difficult. I also sprinkle in writing advice and explainers, from tips and tricks I've picked up to information about the industry and how to manage the "business" of being an author. The latter in particular is something I'm really excited to dig into more, so you can learn alongside me.
My Biggest Tips and Tricks
To wrap up, I wanted to share some quick tips and tricks if you're looking to build your own personal website (whether as an author or for another reason!). The bottom line is that your website should have a clear purpose - to sell books, to build a community, to book clients....whatever. But make sure that purpose is crystal clear, and that every page on your site helps move you towards that goal.
Bridget is the author of Summer Twilight, available for purchase now!