Setting Up a Multi-Author Website (the Pros and Cons)
Starting a Website
Setting up your very own niche website is exciting, and even better if a number of like-minded peers agree to join you in the endeavour. However, I must warn you that whenever a group of people is involved in creating and running any project, personality clashes, and disagreements on ideas are inevitable. Be prepared!
When starting out, especially if you are not technically minded and Internet savvy yourself, it will be very tempting to accept any “free” help you can get. If, after hearing your idea, an acquaintance offers to save you money by hosting your website on their server, volunteers to set the site up, and install themes and plug-ins, you will probably jump at the offer and accept it gratefully.
This was the case in my situation and, in my personal opinion, was a good choice apart from the decision not to pay for separate hosting (and then have to transfer it later). Our volunteer administrator/technician did a great job setting up and managing the site, and I will be forever grateful. Disagreements, however, arose within the site’s management team when it was time to transfer to an alternate host, and how the transfer was to be conducted. This resulted in some unwelcome animosity and ill-will.
Free or Not for Free
In view of the above, always be aware that there could be a catch, or ramifications down the line if others don’t agree with how the site is being maintained, or if there is a falling out. This is when the “value” of the volunteer offer to “do it for free” will be brought up and you will be informed of the “hundreds of dollars” worth of that person’s time, effort, and expertise you received for no payment.
So, my suggestion in hindsight here is: If you can afford to pay a website designer, host etc, do it! If not, then by all means accept any “free” volunteer offers you can get, but go in eyes wide open and be prepared for a few obstacles down the line.
The Website Manager
The Website Manager, whether it is you or someone you appointed, needs to have good people skills, be an excellent mediator, and problem solver. Believe me, they will need it! On my particular website I have had a number of situations to deal with (some even before the site was set up). These have included: personality clashes, name calling and disrespect for other members, threats to resign, actual resignations, users being banned, and disagreements on technical issues. I am proud that, as the Website Manager, I was able to stay focussed in these situations and in most cases offer a level-headed solution, or at least calm the waters.
You also need to set, and maintain site rules as best you can. However, you need to avoid tunnel-vision, and remain flexible to change if it is in the best interests of your website and its members. For example, if something is obviously not working or the majority of members don’t like it … take a vote… and change it! This is bound to happen in any new endeavour. You need to deal with these teething problems early and learn from them.
Be willing to listen to ideas and suggestions put forward by your members. Show you are interested, and give them feedback (be it positive or negative). They will be discouraged if they presume their ideas are not taken seriously, or even considered.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
To be successful on the Internet it is essential that you make your website Google and SEO friendly, and believe me, that isn’t easy, especially with a niche ‘poetry and creative writing’ site like the one I refer to, "The Creative Exiles."
We do utilize the YOAST SEO plug-in that is a feature of Word Press created sites, even though it wasn’t designed with creative writing in mind. That being said, I do think it is valuable for all writers to become familiar with it, and how SEO works in general.
No one can see we didn’t try everything we could to get our site noticed by the Google gods. Our mentors do a great job that all our authors’ posts at least meet YOAST’s recommended minimum SEO standards.
10 Tips for Setting-up a Multi-Author Website
- Come up with the idea for your website. To be successful it needs to be an original idea that you predict will prove popular or a new take on a popular existing topic/niche.
- Research to gauge demand for your niche search keywords, conduct surveys, ask your peers and friends their opinion.
- Gather the names of other people, authors, writers interested in joining and contributing.
- Think of a catchy but search engine friendly name for your website.
- Set-up a Facebook page or group to gather members and discuss ideas.
- Select a management team (manager, technician, selection committee, treasurer etc.)
- Purchase the domain/site name, and select and pay for web hosting.
- Choose a website creator/design platform such as Word Press, Weebly, GoDaddy, or Wix.
- Write up a list of basic rules for your website as well as a “Terms of Service” document (this should be done professionally to meet legal requirements).
- Choose a “theme” or website design template. There are hundreds to choose from, some free, some quite expensive.
Which website creator/design platform have you used or would recommend?
- Forums: I think it is a good idea to incorporate a forum feature on your multi-author website so members can express their opinions, interact, and get feedback. This also helps to add a sense of community to the site (something a personal blog lacks).
- Newsletters: Recently, at The Creative Exiles we have begun issuing a weekly newsletter in an attempt to promote the site and attract new members. So far after just two issues we have gained eight new subscribers. This should continue to increase with further editions of the TCE Gazette (subscribe here)
Our First Book of Poetry
The Creative Exiles
I am tremendously proud of the website and believe it offers a real alternative for poets and short fiction writers to highlight their work and get feedback from their peers. We have assembled some of the best creative writers from throughout the Internet, and welcome applications from other interested writers.
Come read and see what it is like when poets and fiction writers are set free to be all they can be.
Special Thanks and Acknowledgements
I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to the following people, without whom The Creative Exiles would never have gotten off the ground and become a reality:
- Phyllis Doyle
- Ralph Swartz
- Chris Mills
- Jackie Lynnley
- Marisa Wright
- All the authors and contributors without whose work we wouldn’t have a website
When all is said and done your main focus should be to make your website the best it can be, and to offer its particular information, product, or topic better than any other.
We have just published our first anthology of poetry from the site. Everyone has worked so hard to make this a reality. The book is available on Amazon and eBook on Kindle.
© 2016 John Hansen