Author of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, etc.

C.M. Mayo < For Writers < Resources < Digital Media < Getting Started with Blogs and Websites <

(for blogs, click here.)


My Experience

My Tips for You

This webpage, www.cmmayo.com, was started by my dad, Roger Mansell, in (wow) 1998. That makes it, like, Paleozoic. He taught me how to maintain it myself, which is surprisingly easy, and in recent years, my computer coach / IT go-to guy in Mexico City, Rubén Pacheco, taught me how to use a wider variety of fonts and Apple's Keynote program with screenshots to make fancier little images and so improve the design. (There's no doubt a more sophisticated way to go about this, but for now, this works for me.)

Edward Tufte, in his cram-packed one day workshop, Presenting Data and Information, provided tips on how to make the website easier to read and navigate and, if I do say so myself, I managed to do precisely that. It looks very different now than it did in 2009 or, say, 2004. I'm forever learning and fiddling with it. (And by the way, stay away from www.myfonts.com unless you want to spend hours surfing around in there.)

This webpage started out as a simple brochure-like webpage for my collection of stories, Sky Over El Nido, and then, amoeba-like, year by year, spread out with multiple subpages for my other books, other publications, interviews, events, writing workshops, and specialized subjects related to my books, such as Maximilian von Mexiko. In 2009 I added podcasts; in 2010, videos; in 2011, a newsletter archive and sign-up page. In 2012 I launched a page for my travel memoir-in-progress and a related podcast series, Marfa Mondays.

After managing this website myself for all these years, in September 2014 I hired the writers' guru
Jane Friedman for a two hour consultation about my website. Acting on her advice, which I thought superb, to help better orient my visitors, I improved my page headers, reduced the size of the main menu and added three pages, FOR READERS & EXPLORERS; FOR MEXICOPHILES; FOR CREATIVE WRITERS.

That said, this now giwiggynormungous website is made on my PC using Adobe PageMill, a program jaw-droppingly wonderful in 1998 but now antediluvian, and which I would not recommend to anyone getting started today. What do I recommend? Anything MAC. Jane Friedman urged me to switch to
Wordpress, an open-source software, and I shall, as soon as possible.

Since 2010 I use a MAC, with my old PC inside the MAC using a neato, if somewhat glitchy, software called VMWare Fusion.

Yes, it takes time to maintain a website, and there is a learning curve, but I relish the creative process and, as a writer, I consider it part of the body of my work.

First, establish your budget. If you don't want to or cannot spend any money right now, no worries, just do a blog. (Some would argue that you could just do Facebook. That wouldn't be me.) That said, a website is not necessarily going to cost you more than a few pairs of good shoes. OK, maybe Italian shoes. And in my view, if you want to communicate with your readers, or anyone else in the literary community, a website is a vital tool—so if you possibly can, make room for it in your budget.

Forget the PC, get a MAC. If you must keep your PC, put it inside your MAC using VMWare Fusion.

Make your website using Wordpress. I haven't done this myself (see left), but so many people I respect have urged me to use Wordpress that I plan to do precisely that, just as soon as I can fit the project into my schedule.
Update January 2019: This is still on ye olde "to do" list, but at year-end 2018 I did finally make the move to self-hosted Wordpress for my blog, www.madam-mayo.com Of course I could integrate the blog with a new website but I'm aiming for two sites with two different hosting services. Why? Resilience. That's another topic.

Don't pay someone else to make or maintain it for you. You're a writer, this is your major interface with your actual and potential readers. This isn't rocket science. That said:

Hire an IT person who will come to your house and/or communicate via Skype and logmein.com to help you, because for sure, you will need help. (Yelp is often a good source for this type of service; word of mouth is even better)
Update January 2019: Another good resource for WP expert freelancers is Upwork.

For registration of your domain name and hosting, I recommend Server101, which actually is in Australia, because I have been using them for all these many years quite happily and they seem to me quite reasonable. Full disclosure: if you mention that I recommended you, they'll give me a small discount. There are other hosting services, of course, but I wouldn't know what to tell you about them.
January 2019 Update: I also use www.bluehost.com.

Avoid using Adobe's flash in the design because it's too complicated and anyway it doesn't work on iPads.

Take Tufte's one day workshop if you possibly can.

Hire Jane Friedman for a consult and/or to help you get started with Wordpress. Highly recommended.

Make sure your webpage includes many links
(and especially to your book) and tags on each and every page; otherwise the search engines won't find you.

Let people know about your website!! This can turn into a full time job, should that be your path in life, but here are some super simple and free things you can do immediately:
1. Include your URL in your email signature;
2. If you can stand Twitter, link from your profile page there and, as the Twitter spirits move you, tweet links to your webpages;
3. Include your webage on your business card (I enthusiastically recommend www.moo.com);
4. Link to your website from your blog (see below); and
7. Offer your readers an emailed opt-in newsletter using a service such as mailchimp. (Want to see what one looks like? Learn about mine here.)
UPDATE: January 2019: Mailchimp utterly and totally is on my bad list. They sent my account to what their customer service chatbot calls "the purge cycle" for inactivity, understandably, but with no warning. I had not backed up my mailing list (yeah, that was daft), but this also meant that I had to change a good number of links from my blog and website which had gone to their sign up form, which was a drag. They invited me to open a new account; um, I don't think so. In sum, for now I just do a very once-in-a-ridiculously long while email to those who have asked to be on my mailing list. I also think we writers, in general, have been too enthusiastic about newletters. We're interesting, but not that interesting. Less is more.

Now I am sure you have more questions about websites. But like I said, I am not the oracle. I am learning, too. Mostly, I spend my time writing. When I learn more about websites, I will update this page and meanwhile I send you good wishes!