Monday, 18 October 2010

Designing an Author Website: Website Basics

So, you have a blog and you're wondering why you also need a website.

The biggest difference between a blog and a website is that blogs are generally about current, up-to-date information. The most current of that information always comes up immediately when visitors log in.

Websites are generally more static, offering semi-permanent landing points for visitors who want to learn more about you and your work. Traditionally, the homepage is the only page that frequently changes. And for people like me who have a blog and a website, it's easy to use the blog as the homepage to the website, then use the website itself for the semi-static information. More about this later.

First off, here are the top ten reasons why you need a website —

1) Compartmentalization - By setting up dedicated areas for specific things, visitors to your site can click into that section and find everything they're looking for in that topic in the one place, such as all of your books or to learn more about you.
2) Easier Navigation - Compartmentalization allowed for easier navigation. All of your links are together in an easy to understand format.
3) Selling Point - It gives your readers a place to buy your books.
4) Promotions - Offers a primary place for visitors to find out more about your newest releases, enter your contests, and learn about special or short-term discounts that may be offered on your books.
5) Additional Web Presence - Anyone Googling your name on the internet will come up with results for all of your sites — blogs and websites.
6) Additional Marketing Tool - With more places to find you on the internet, the higher your search engine rankings. Also, it's one more place where readers can find you, as well as potential publishers and agents.
7) Information Sharing - A website offers you a place to share tools of the trade with your peers, such as links to areas of special research, cross-links with your peers, etc.
8) Full Customization - Even more so than blogs, websites are completely customizable and gives your creativity free reign. You can also add applications that post your Facebook and Twitter posts, lists your bookshelf at Goodreads and Shelfari, post your book videos, etc.
9) It's expected - When you discover a new-to-you author, what's the first thing you look for? Usually it's a website because that's where authors list all of their previously published works, promote the latest book, and give fans a sneak peak into their work in progress (WIP).
10) Because it's fun! - Let's face it. We're all about the fun!

While every website suits a different purpose for each person, as authors we need to remember that even though we enjoy the craft of writing, publishing and making a living at what we write is a business. And a web site is a selling tool.

I spent about 25 years in retail so the best analogy I can give you is this one: Our website is essentially our store. Like every retailer, we rely on customers (readers) to buy our products (our books) so we can stay in business (continue write).

There are two basic structures working together on a website — site structure and page structure. First I'll discuss site structure and the basic pages that make up that structure.

1) Home page - Imagine your homepage (the first page to come up when someone types in your URL*) is your storefront. What visitors should see is an attractively decorated window offering your latest products. The door into your store is the menu bar links. Those links include —

2) Bio page - Every author site should have an 'about me' or 'bio' page. It doesn't have to be long, but readers like to know more about the author they read or will potentially read. Readers like to connect with authors as well as characters in the books they read. Use this space to include some personal photos, including one of yourself if it's not already on your homepage or on your site header.

3) Books page - This link can say anything from just 'books' to 'my books,' 'backlist,' 'my backlist,' or anything else that's obvious this is where readers can find your books.

If you have a number of books published, use this first page like a table of contents, linking each book to individual pages that includes as much information as possible to entice readers — book image, publisher name, ISBN, release date, blurb, excerpt and reviews, including any awards those titles have received.

If you're a newly published author, one book is acceptable to list here. Be sure to include all those above details on this single page.

4) Contact page - This page is just as important as your homepage and your books page. Here, readers will have a way to contact you through a mail form or email address. You can also link to social networking sites you maintain online, such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.

5) Additional pages - Your site isn't tied down to just four pages, though these above are the main ones you should include. Others are generally considered fluff, but good fluff. These pages give readers another dimension to explore your personal and professional interests.

5a) Links page - Use this page to list links to your favorite sites online: authors, blogs, research sites, music sites, etc. Remember to contact the person who owns the site you'll link to and let them know. Ask them for a reciprocal link. Site-to-site links boost web search result ranks for you and the sites that link back to you. Use links for cross marketing where possible.

5b) Favorite quotes - I've added a page of my favorite quotes. I love great quotes from books, movies, song lyrics, speeches, etc. and share them with readers on my site.

5c) Personal photos - As I live in Ireland, readers enjoy seeing photos from around the country so I've added a photos page, too.

Then there's page structure: ie your layout or where things fit on your pages. I'm given to analogies so here's another one, as I describe the four basic areas of your pages.

Imagine your website is like a farm and items you'll need to start your farm include a gateway onto your farm, a place to live and a place to grow crops or raise livestock.

Keep in mind that websites are structurally 25/75-40/60%, which means 25-40% of the site can be dedicated to header and footer space, and 60-75% is for the body of the page.

Here are some basics —

1) URL - Uniform Resource Locator or domain address. Ideally, this should be your name and can be likened to that fancy sign over the entrance onto your farm. Kemberlee.com essentially says, "This is Kemberlee's ranch."
2) Header - As it suggests, this is the head or top of your website. Make it attractive and inviting. You can layer your name with a background image, or go simple and just use your name. If you're using a graphic relevant to your site, remember to watch the size of your name within this space. You don't want it so small it gets lost in the image design, or so large that it looks like a roadside billboard. And don't make it so complicated that visitors have a hard time trying to figure out what you write.

3) Menu Bar - Essentially, this is your farmhouse, each link being rooms within your house — your homepage, bio page, books page, links page, contact page, etc. The menu generally runs either horizontally just under the header on vertically designed sites or on the left of left justified sites, also called sidebars.

4) Body - This is the main part of your site and where you grow your crops or raise your livestock, ie promote your work. Sticking to 25/75-40/60%, the body of your site will have the majority share of real estate.
5) Footer - This is where your copyright and disclaimer goes.

OK, so you have the basic knowledge of both site and page structure. The next question is, "Where do I get the tools to design my website?"
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There are a number of programs out there to suit many budgets. Unfortunately, the best of them don't come cheap. But, they are a great investment for your long-term career. And if you look for older versions, you may find them at knock down prices, or even free as shareware.
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The tools I use to design my sites are Adobe Dreamweaver for page design and Corel PaintShop Photo Pro. Both of these programs offer free 30 day trials. After 30 days the program just stops working. But if you decide you like either program and want to buy it, you simply make your purchase through their sites and they send you an unlock code. The free trial versions are the FULL program so you see exactly what you're buying.
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Dreamweaver is a dual design program. If you know HTML, Dreamweaver offers an HTML view for hand-coding pages. If you don't know HTML, there's a WYSIWYG view — What You See Is What You Get. It works similarly to MSWord or other document programs, but automatically inserts the HTML coding your server needs to read the page.
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Dreamweaver CS5 is currently selling for $399usd. Upgrades from previous versions is $199usd.
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PaintShop Photo Pro (and similar programs such as PhotoShop) are programs that allow you to design graphics and manipulate photos —
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a) Graphics - These are computer-generated images. When using graphics on your website, be sure to save them in .gif format. If you save them as .jpg or .jpeg, they will pixelate slightly around your edges and make image appear soft.
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b) Photos - Photographs, pure and simple. When using photos on your website, be sure to save them in .jpg or .jpeg format.
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PaintShop Photo Pro currently sells for $99.99usd or $79.99 upgrade.
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Adobe PhotoShop currently sells for $699 or $199 upgrade. But if you're on a budget, try PhotoShop Elements 9 for $99.99, though it's currently on sale for $79.99.
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Note: These prices are accurate as of this posting. Please refer to the company websites for accurate pricing.

So, these are the basics for getting started designing your author website.

I should also note there are three elements to getting your website online. If you have any questions about these, please let me know. If I go into them here, this post will be twice as long! Those three elements are —

1) URL/Domain name - As I mentioned, you'll need a domain name so people can find you. Try to find a 'dot com' address (example: kemberlee.com). Have a few options available so if your first choice is already sold, you can choose another: kemberleeshortland.com, kemberlee-shortland.com, authorkemberleeshortland.com, author-kemberlee-shortland.com, etc.
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It's important to remember that you technically do not own your domain name. You're simply leasing it. You will have to pay an annual cost for your domain name. If you do not renew in a timely fashion (you will be sent notices) it's extremely likely that another company will snap it up instantly and use it themselves. Most often, I'm sorry to say, for pornographic purposes. So mark your calendar each year and watch for those notices from the domain name reseller!
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2) Your website - As we've discussed today.

3) Server space - This is the place where your website will live and where your domain name will direct visitors to see your site. Most domain resellers also offer server space, but you do not have to use their server space just because you're buying a domain name from them.

The best things you can do is do your research, ask your author friends questions, and feel free to let me know if you have any questions. I've been doing web design for close to fifteen years now.

Finally, here are some highly recommended tips for designing your site —

1) Make sure your site reflects what you write
2) Avoid white space: big sections of space with nothing in it. If you're stuck for words, insert a relevant image, but never leave it empty.
3) Choose complementary colors: avoid color clashes, neon colors, and anything that hurts your eyes.
4) Don't overdo the graphics. Your website is for selling books, not to display graphics. Use them sparingly to enhance. Most especially, animated graphics.
5) Internet browsers view websites differently, so when you're designing your site, look at it in a number of browsers. Internet Explorer will view a website differently than Firefox or Opera, and vice versa.
6) Most users out there today view websites on a 1024 x 768 screen resolution. Aim to design your site at least 1024 pixels wide. Length isn't an issue, as above, but width is.
7) Have a friend or family member, or several, look at your site. Like with your writing, a critique partner comes in handy for helping you make suggested changes to your site.
8) Don't be afraid to ask for help.
9) Don't feel like you have to design your website yourself. There are a number of great services out there. Really look at the sites you like and make notes about what attracts you to them; ask friends for referrals; don't be afraid to email website owners to see how did their website (though most often, their web designer has a link in the footer somewhere). And finally . . .
10) Have fun with it!!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

20 Reasons Why You Should Blog

Blogging is the 'in' thing at the moment. Everyone seems to be doing it. But why? What makes it so popular?

Before we can go into the reasons why one should blog, let's look at what a blog is.

The word blog is the combination of the words web and log. A web log is essentially an online diary.

The forerunner of the blog was the online journal or online diary. Claudio Pinhanez's "Open Diary" is thought to be the first web page in an online diary format. He published his diary at the MIT Media Lab at Cambridge, Massachusetts's website from 14 November 1994 to sometime in 1996. In 1994, "Carolyn's Diary" was published by Carolyn Burke. In subsequent years, several other online diaries were started, and by 1998, the word blog first appeared on the scene.

Since that time, the word blog has been entered into most English dictionaries and has also become part of our everyday language —

"Are you going to blog today?" or "Are you working on your blog today?" and "Yes, I'm blogging now" are excellent uses of the word blog as a noun and verb.

What's the fascination with reading someone else's online diary? Are we voyeurs wanting to look into other people's lives, hoping to catch some exciting gossip, or do we really care what someone had for dinner last night?

In July 1998, Simon Firth described in Salon magazine how many earlier online diarists were abandoning this form of communication. But he also followed on to say, "While many of the movement's pioneers may be tired and disillusioned, the genre shows plenty of signs of life — of blossoming, even, into something remarkable: a new literary form that allows writers to connect with readers in an excitingly new way."

So here we are in 2010, nearly 2011, and web diaries are all the rage. Firth was correct that this medium would blossom into something remarkable.

While there's a huge selection of blogs to chose from — everything from random posts (messages) that suit the author's whim, to educational information, to company news, to following a diarist journey through cancer therapy, political rants, and more — let's concentrate on why you, a writer, should maintain your own blog.

Here are the top 20 reasons why you should keep a blog —

1) Keeps you writing - Writing is writing. On days when you can't seem to find the inspiration to write fiction, or whatever your genre is, blogging keeps you writing. Your blog can be about anything — writer's challenges, staying in touch with family, sharing pictures and stories from a recent holiday, etc.

2) Improves your writing - The more you blog the more you're writing. Experts always say to keep writing. The more you write the more you'll improve your craft.

3) Self-expression - Funny as it sounds, blogs are as individual as the person who writes one. It shows your personality and talents. Doodling, photography, painting, sculpting, poetry, writing, etc., are all forms of artistic self-expression. Use your blog to share your creativity with others.

4) Reader comments - Readers of your blog can leave comments. This is a great way to connect with other writers or people with your interests. Their comments may also be constructive or informative and compliment what you've written. Or they can correct misinformation, which you need to handle responsibly (see #7 below).

5) Increases readership and fan base - Use your blog as a marketing tool. Promote your work, share awards, connect with people who share your interests, etc.

6) Guest blogging - This is a fun way to increase readership. You write an article to post on a friend's blog and they write one to post on yours. You'll also find that review blogs are used for guest blogging and author interviews. This is a great form of cross marketing.

7) Networking - This is another form of cross marketing. You can place a "follow" link on your page for readers. When you post on your blog, a notice or excerpt is automatically sent to your followers so they can go to your blog to read your whole post. If you use Facebook or Twitter, you can use the NetworkedBlogs application. This application automatically posts an excerpt and link to your full blog on your Facebook/Twitter pages as soon as the blog is published. Anyone following your blog through NetworkedBlogs will see that excerpt and link appear on their page as well.

8) Shared links - When your excerpt and link appear on your readers' Facebook and Twitter pages, they can use the "share" link to share with their friends. Your blog link will then appear on all of your friend's friend's pages. And if those friends like your blog, they can click the "follow" link on your blog, follow your blog through NetworkedBlogs, and share your excerpt with their friends. And if your friend's friend's friends like your blog . . . I think you get the picture.

Also, depending on how your blog is laid out, you can post hard links to other websites, such as blogs you read that might interest your readers, your regular author website, places where your reviews have been posted, etc.

9) RSS feeds - RSS stands of 'Real Simple Syndication.' This is another form of cross marketing where your readers will get a FULL copy of your blog in an email, rather than just an excerpt and link. People who read a lot of blogs prefer this method rather than logging into a dozen or more sites.

10) Archives - Each of your topics are archived for retrieval at a later time. New readers can go back to the day you started your blog and read everything you've written. Using "keywords" allows readers to search for specific subjects. You enter the keywords before publishing your piece, and with the aid of a "keyword gadget", all of your keywords will be shown on the side bar. One click on a single word, brings up every piece you've written with that keyword attached.

11) Agents and Publishers - Blogging shows potential agents and publishers you're actively writing and promoting your work. Agents and publishers often use the internet to research authors they may offer a contract. If they see you're actively promoting your work, they're more likely to consider you a serious writer and worth their time.

12) Raises your Google rankings - Speaking of internet searches, did you know Google owns one of the most popular blog sites? This is a two part service: Blogger is the main site where you'll sign up and manage your blog. Blogspot is part of the actual address of your personal blog. And because Google owns Blogger/Blogspot, they list Blogspot pages first on search engine results! Would you rather be somewhere in the middle of page three or at the top of page one on a Google search for your name? Note: for the sake of simplicity, I will call Blogger/Blogspot Blogger, as this is the company name. Blogspot is just the address where your blog is hosted.

13) Publisher requirements - Odd as it sounds, most traditional mass market publishers require their authors to maintain a web presence on as many sites as possible. Today those include Facebook, Twitter, My Space, author site, and blogs.

14) Versatility - You can design your blog to mirror your website. That means whatever look you give your website, you can make your blog look and act exactly the same. This gives your overall web presence continuity.

15) Make some money - Yep, you can make a little money with your blog. I'm sure you've seen small ads links on other sites. Those are managed through Google ads. Place relevant links on your blog, and you earn a little money through "click-throughs" . . . when someone clicks on the link. You don't want to have too many ad links on your blog or it will just look like an ad site, but a few well-placed links could earn you a few bucks.

The last five are probably the most important reasons why you should blog —

16) Privacy settings - If you write something unsuitable for the under-18 market, such as erotica, you can enable the privacy setting for your blog. While this is on the honor system, as with all privacy settings, a reader who visits your site must click on the link that says they're 18 and allowed by law to access the site.

17) Learning opportunity - Use the opportunity with every blog you write to learn something new. Even the experts must do a big of research before writing an article, and so will you. Just be sure if you're going to quote someone that you supply a link where that quote was obtained. You might even email that person or site to let them know you're referencing them. You could earn yourself another reader!

18) Teaching opportunity - By blogging on various subjects, you take the opportunity to teach others, as I'm doing here on the subject of blogging.

19) Establish yourself as an expert - Or at least establish yourself as being knowledgeable on the topic you're writing about. Sometimes it pays to be at least one chapter ahead in the book!

20) Credibility - If you know what you're talking about, give credible information, and you write well, you will establish yourself as a credible, reliable or believable source of information.

I lied. There are two more —

21) Because it's FREE - Yes, most blog services are free.

22) Because it's fun!! - 'Nuff said!

Are you excited to get started? Do you have an idea for an article or post? Or do you have a theme picked out?

Before you start, there are some things you need to know. Just because you publish something doesn't mean instant success.

Here are the top 10 reasons why blogs fail —

1) Inconsistent posting - If your method is to post once a month, week or day, you must keep to the schedule and be consistent. Posting every now and again when you feel like it serves no purpose. And don't apologize for not posting in a while if you miss your own deadlines or publishing dates. Just publish the post.

2) Incorrect or invalid content - You'll lose readers faster with incorrect or invalid information than with inconsistent content. What you're posting must be correct and legitimate. If you have online sources, link to them.

3) Uninteresting or unhelpful content - Content that doesn't interest anyone won't win you any readers. Be sure your pieces are interesting and well written. Don't ramble. You don't have to have a theme for your blog. You can post a mishmash of topics, as I do on my non-author blog, Heart Shaped Stones. But don't ramble on about a subject you either don't know anything about, haven't researched thoroughly, or just to hear yourself speak . . . so to speak.

4) No promotion - Even blogs need promotion. See my comments above about cross marketing.

5) Fear of competition - We all like to know what we write is great. But like fear of failure, sometimes we have a fear of success. That feeling can come over strongly when we find another blog with content similar to ours and it looks better or is better presented. That's no reason to stop blogging. Use it as a lesson or inspiration to improve on your own work. And remember, there's probably another blogger out there envious of your blog!

6) Lack of self-confidence - Every writer, at some point in their career, has said, "I can never do it" or "It'll never work" or even "I don't write well, so no one will want to read what I have to say." Horse pucky! When I took horseback riding lessons and fell off, I told my instructor, "I can't do it." She said, "There's no such thing as can't. What you're telling me is you won't." This was one of the greatest lessons in my life, so far. And I'm saying the same thing to you. Face your fear, and get in the saddle. If you fall off, get back on. Your fears will be put to rest the moment the first person comments on something you have to say. Guaranteed! Why? Because everyone loves validation.

7) Negative feedback - OK, so not everyone is going to post positive responses to your posts. Remember what your parents taught you — opinions are like noses; everyone has one. If someone posts a comment about your piece correcting a detail, go back and examine what you said and your source(s). The person posting may be right, or they may have it wrong themselves. It's possible they haven't done their research and think what they believe is true. Don't get into a sparring match with them. If they're correct, thank them kindly. If they're incorrect, site two or three credible sources where you got your information. Remember, blogging is an opportunity to learn as well as teach.

8) No personality - Your blog, like a website, must have a look that says something about you or what you write. While your articles might have loads of useful information, who wants to read a blog that's just white background with black text and nothing else? You might as well be sending out emails. Use your blog site's design functions to create a page with personality. And once you're savvy enough, you can also custom design your blog to be something totally unique through HTML coding — hyper text markup language — the programming used to design websites.

9) Lack of interest - This goes for both you and your readers. If you've become bored with blogging, or are bored with a topic, it will come through in your writing. You'll lose readers quickly if your pieces aren't fascinating enough to hold their interest.

10) Takes too much time away from regular paid writing - This could be a good thing. If your regular writing is earning you money and blogging is taking away from your money-earning writing career, there's nothing wrong with letting readers know you're going to be blogging less for a while. Some bloggers feel they have nothing new to say and decide to stop blogging. It's perfectly OK to stop blogging in these cases.

So, you're ready to take the plunge and start a blog of your own. The question is, which blog site will you use? There are a number of services on the internet —

Blogger - As above, at the moment, this is the most popular blog service. It's easy to use and versatile, and offers the most options for customization, moderation, dashboard controls, etc. In a moment, I'll walk you through setting up a Blogger account. You can also read more about Blogger's features online.

WordPress - This is the second most popular service for blogging. Like Blogger, you can customize your page and there are options on your control panel for set up and moderation.

LiveJournal - This service is fairly basic. Customization of your page is limited. Your content (text and images) is what makes the page interesting. Finding and using your user settings are difficult and challenging. Pre-formatted with lots of Google Ads, which you have little control over.

These three are the top blogs at the moment. Another option Blogger and WordPress offer is a downloadable version which is run from your own server and not their server. You load it to the same site where your regular website is and it runs from there. That way, when a visitor logs into your site and clicks your Blog link, they will stay on your site rather than navigate away onto the blog site. To keep people on your site, you can also set these sites to open in a blank or new browser window. I'll discuss this more in the future when I write about author websites.

Other sites that offer blogging —

Facebook - Facebook uses a program called Notes for blogging. Each post stays on your Facebook page and each of your friends will be sent a notice every time you post. What happens on Facebook, stays on Facebook. At the top of your profile page, you can set tabs for subjects you want to highlight. The default tabs are —

Wall - where you can micoblog (up to 240 characters) and share links, and where friends can post messages to you
Info - your personal information, where people learn more about you and your interests
Photos - self-explanatory, set up folders by subject
Notes - this is a notepad style editor for blog-style articles
Links - for linking to favorite sites

You can also add other tabs through the "+" symbol on the tab bar —

Music - for linking in with iLike where you can 'like' some of your favorite music and play it back later while you're working
Events - if you have an event you want to advertise, such as an autographing, post it here and a notice will appear on your friend's pages where they can RSVP
Videos - where you can post short videos
Blogs - as above, where you can link to your blog so that posts to your blog appear on yours and your friend's Facebook pages as excerpts with links
Additional tabs - If you're on sites like GoodReads, Relatives, and others, you can often link them by adding additional tabs

Twitter - This service is considered a micro-blog. Where standard blogging offers you almost unlimited text and photos, Twitter only allows you 140 characters worth of text. You can post links, but that's it. Linking to friends' accounts means you can see their posts and vice versa. You can also send private messages. But the purpose of micro-blogging is that it's quick and easy, much like phone texting. One of the perks of Twitter is that you can link to your Facebook page and each post on Twitter is automatically posted on your Facebook page. And as above, if you have your Facebook page linked with NetworkedBlogs, your blog posts will automatically post on Facebook and Twitter. Another perk is that if you're posting a URL . . . website address . . . Twitter will automatically shorten it for you through a services such as Bit.Ly.

Note: Currently, Blogger, Facebook and Twitter are like the Holy Trinity of social networking sites. And as a writer, you will find these are the ones your publisher and agent will want you to start off with as a means to market your work.

Formerly popular blogging sites include —

MySpace - This was once the leader of the pack for social networking, but Facebook has taken its place.

Bebo - Before MySpace, there was Bebo. Poor site management led to serious security issues for members who moved to MySpace.

TypePad - This is one of the rare blogs that requires a monthly payment. It offers nothing the free sites don't.

There are other blog sites out there, but Blogger, Facebook and Twitter are currently the most popular.

So, are you really ready to get started? Great! Let's create a Blogger account —

1) Log into Blogger - You will need to have already created an email account with this service, or sign in from your Gmail account.

2) Click on "Create A Blog"

3) Create a Google Account - Fill in the details on each line and click continue

4) Name Your Blog - Give your blog a name and check availability. If it's not available, chose something else, or see if your original name can be altered to suit availability. *Try to come up with an appropriate name or something catchy or memorable. Don't just choose one of the recommended names offered by the service, as they might not be appropriate. Click continue.

5) Design - Chose one of their templates to get you started. Remember, you can change it later, even customize your blog to look just like your website.

6) Your Blog Has Been Created!! - Congratulations.

Before you get started, log into your dashboard. This is the control panel for your blog. You'll see several options here. Let's go over them quickly. You'll see your name and Manage Blogs sections. Let's look under your name first —

View Profile - This is what visitors to your site will see when they click on the profile link on your blog page. Use the edit link on this page, or go back to your dashboard to edit your profile.

Edit Profile - This is the main section for editing your profile. Here you will have settings for privacy, identity, photograph, audio clips, general information, location, work and extended information such as your personal hobbies and interests, favorite books, music and movies, etc. At the very bottom, Blogger has some fun by asking you a random silly question.

Edit Photo - You can edit your photo in your profile edits. This link will take you there as well.

Edit Notifications - This link simply asks if you want Blogger to send you notices and updates from Blogger.

Under the Manage Blogs section you'll see your blog listed, or if you have more than one, they will all appear here*. You'll see three lines of information. Let's go over them —

First line - Icons for setting up text blogging and email blogging, and your blog title, and if you have any followers, it will tell you there as well.

Second line - How many posts you've published, when the last one was published and to view your blog. Click the view blog link and you will be taken directly to your live blog page. There's a small icon here with a box and arrow. Click the icon and your live blog page will open in another window. This is handy if you need to work on a post, save it, then look at it on the live side. You can do this by simply refreshing the page in the second window.

Third line** - Links here for new post, edit post, comments, settings, design, monetize and stats. These links pretty much do what it says on the tin.

New post - Is the link to create a new blog post.

Edit posts - Takes you to a window where you can click onto any of your previous posts and edit them. The most current post is always at the top.

Comments - Lets you see all of the comments made to your articles. If you have comments set to moderation, you can approve or delete them here.

Settings - Allow you to change your blog settings — title, description, privacy and global settings.

Design - Allows you to change your blog's look any time you wish.

Monetize - Allows you to insert Google Ads as a way to generate some money on your site. Keep in mind that click through rates are less than one-half of one percent, so there's not a lot of money to be made this way, and you don’t want to turn away traffic on your site by putting too many ads up.

Stats - Stats are your statistics. This link allows you to see your blog's traffic numbers. This link shows you which articles have been the most popular.

*If you set up new blogs, be sure to do so on the dashboard so they all appear together. If you set up new blogs under another email address or outside of your dashboard, they will appear as separate accounts and you will have to log in individually to access them.

** You'll notice when you log into any of these settings that a set of tabs open on the top of the page. These are duplicate links for the third line of the dashboard page. You'll find navigation on Blogger is very easy. And each option has line by line instructions about what the option means before you decide to change it.

Let's write a post. You can delete this later. Let's just practice.

From the dashboard, click New Post.

In the new window, you'll see a box where you can type in your message. You have two views, Edit HTML and Compose. If you are HTML savvy, you can hand code the blog post. If you prefer, click on Compose and you'll have a blank page similar to a Word document that allows you to type and drop photos, videos and other clips to the page by way of icon links on the top of the text box. You also have a Preview link where you can see what your blog will look like when it's published.

Let's start by inserting an image. Click the icon that looks like a photo. Another window will open where you can load a photo from your computer's hard drive, or insert a link from a website, such as a photo on your own website. To get that link, go to the page with the image, right click and under properties, you'll find the link URL. Highlight and copy that link and go into your Blogger photo page and paste it into the appropriate place. Choose positioning on the page and size of the image, and click Upload Image. When it's done, the image will appear in your text box on the New Post page.

Start typing.

You can add images as you go, but keep in mind that Blogger's photo editor automatically adds extra lines between paragraphs through the document. You can backspace or delete these lines when you're done. You may wish to add all of your photos first before you type your message, then drag and drop your images where you want them to go.

When you're happy with the way your post looks, don't forget to give it a title.

You can also set keywords. Keywords are words that link similar articles together. You can then chose to view articles with a common theme rather than have to wade through them all, or try to remember which article was about what. This is beneficial for your readers too. You can add a keyword option to your side bar.

Click Publish. On this next page you have the option to view your blog or edit it. Remember the box icon with the arrow will open your blog page in a separate browser window so use this link to see how your post looks. You can go back to edit your post on the original window, then just refresh your second browser window to check changes.

I have three pet peeves about blogger —

1) The text box to create a blog just isn't large enough. As you can see by the length of this post, more space would have been appreciated.
2) Neither the text box or the Preview page aren't representative of how the blog will really look once it's published.
3) When you add photos as you type, Blogger's photo editor automatically adds extra lines between your paragraphs so you have to go back and edit them out. And if you don't know a little about HTML coding, it's difficult to correct them in the HTML editor. But you will learn how to correct these things yourself as you gain blogging experience. And if you do have any HTML experience from designing your own website, then you can correct this. So my biggest pet peeves are really the first two.

So there you have it — Why you should blog, how to keep your blog from failing, the basics of creating your blog account and setting up your profile, and writing your first blog post. A job well done for the day!

There's so much more to learn and experience with blogging. Don't try to do it all in one day. The most important thing is to have fun!

Please let me know if you have any questions about blogging. I'm happy to help if I can. Until then, blog on!