How and why I made my website

What I learned about building a platform

Katie Odom

6/19/20236 min read

person using MacBook Pro
person using MacBook Pro

"How many of you have a website, raise your hands," said Stephanie Feger to the room. A few raised their hands, out of a hall of what felt like about 50 or so people. This was in Frankfort, Kentucky at the Bluegrass Writers Coalition conference. Stephanie Feger gave the keynote speech, "Make Your Author emPact."

"Everyone should be raising their hands right now," she said. "If you're an author, if you want to be an author, you need to have a website as part of your platform." The reason, she said, was that you need a virtual space that you control, not Meta or Elon Musk, where you can connect with your audience and direct people to your work.

I was resistant to the idea at first. I'm not an author, I just write sometimes, I thought. But I aspired to be an author. I didn't feel like I had an audience; it felt like I wrote for myself. My friend from Women Who Write, Alisa Childress, and I write at Panera. We both dream of being published authors, and we share a fantasy where one day we'll hang out like this all the time, working on manuscripts for our respective book deals. We might even do some slow traveling together around the world when we're not doing book tours, so that we can focus on writing sprints while sight-seeing and gathering inspiration for our books in our down time.

I'm not sure what exactly was said. I think I was telling Alisa about my pie-in-the-sky goal to someday earn more than my current salary from writing. She agreed that would be great and wanted to achieve that, too, but was skeptical we'd get there. I understand where she's coming from: many people write books or have a book idea, and they don't sell their book to a publisher or self-publish it. If they do, they might not make enough money to support themselves from writing alone. But hearing it out loud, my heart rebelled at the thought that our dream would inevitably be unrealized. It may be unlikely - but not impossible - that we could become authors who make our living from selling books.

It was then that I started hatching a scheme. I would start building my platform now, and I already had some ideas about how to spread the word. I went home and made a five week project plan and presented it to Alisa the next time I saw her. Some of my ideas required a lot of work, and I didn't want to do it alone. I chose five weeks because in five weeks we were both going to Imaginarium 2023. It's a gathering of creative minds in Louisville and one of the best-value writing educations you'll find. We learned a tremendous amount from the workshops, panels, and talks we attended in 2022, and it's a great networking opportunity.

I was becoming more convinced that we needed to build and engage with our audience if we were going to find success as authors. I attended a conversation between Andy Weir and John Scalzi at the Louisville Free Public Library. Andy Weir had talked about how before he got a book deal, he spent ten years working on his writing blog where he serialized his book The Martian. He gathered a following of a few thousand followers over that time (not that impressive, he reminded us when we oohed, considering it took him ten years) before he broke into traditional publishing. Janet L. Boyd, another friend of mine from Women Who Write, had a column in LEO (Louisville Eccentric Observer) that became her book Don't Get Me Started. She also had a readership before she published.

It wasn't just those two cases that convinced me. Practically every book and speaker on publishing your first book emphasized identifying your audience, writing to them, and reaching out to them online. So, Alisa and I would find our people, the audience we would serve and engage with, I decided. That would make our dream a little more possible. If you're interested in the week-by-week schedule I made for us, I'd be happy to share a copy. Please sign up for my newsletter with the form at the end of this article to receive it direct to your email now.

The first thing we did was talk about who our audience was. Alisa wrote creative non-fiction from her life that focused on mental health, family, and grief. We agreed her audience is the mental health and caregiver community, although so many can relate to the family struggles with illness, loss, and resilience that she writes about. As for me? I'm a writer, science fiction and fantasy lover, but I don't exclusively write speculative fiction. "Nerdy girls?" Alisa suggested as my audience. I liked the idea of writing to book nerds, especially women and girls. But I'm still figuring things out about how I write, and I want to share that journey to help other writers or engage with readers curious about writing. So, my audience is the writing and book lover community.

Next was researching author webpages. We studied the pages of big name authors and the authors we met from conventions and writing groups, together looking up a dozen or so pages. Authors put their books, services, and bio front and center on the home page, and many had blogs, podcasts, and newsletters they offered too. I would recommend looking up your favorite authors or any authors you know and studying their pages for inspiration.

We didn't have any services we could come up with besides blogging and communing with our audiences, but there are a lot of creative ways to connect with your audience. Alisa's niece, Jessica S. Taylor, build an audience on Book Tok by photographing authors' books and offering packages to artistically present others' books on her channel. John DeDakis offers services as a writing coach, manuscript editor, and guest speaker. Maybe as we gain more experience, we'll find new services and ways to connect with our audience.

Then, we had to make our websites. That means 1.) purchasing a domain name (mine is, 2.) subscribing to a web hosting service (we both used Hostinger), and 3.) building the website with a builder like WordPress. It took a lot of shopping to settle on Hostinger, which offered a 2 year hosting package that included purchasing the domain name for no additional cost. Next year we'll have to pay for the domain name ourselves ($15 value). We got an introductory price and used a coupon, and it came out to $64.58 for the domain name the first year and two years of web hosting service. I'd recommend shopping around and finding what works for you best. If you'd like to make a website hosted by Hostinger and support this website at the same time, please use this link to sign up:, and it helps me out a little.

Building the website took an afternoon, and filling it with content took another few days. How much content you put up depends on your work and the kind of maintenance you want to do. I've heard it's important to have a consistent social media presence, and this is the hardest thing for me to keep up with. You'll need social media pages and links on your website to help people connect with you. A bio and a page showcasing your published work is a must, and it's good to have a way to engage with your audience, like a comment section or contact form.

When it came to spreading the word about our site, we decided to print book marks that double as business cards. They had our names, websites, and social media handles. I had an idea to distribute them at Imaginarium 2023 by attaching them to a bingo card. This may sound strange, but I got the idea from playing DragonCon bingo. Mysterious bingo cards are laid out all over the convention halls for DragonCon, and you mark off squares like, "take three pictures with Deadpool cosplayers," as you complete the activities to try and make a bingo match. I wanted to make something similar with Alisa that would encourage and gamify networking, exploring the convention space, and seeking out a variety of events and activities the convention offered.

We contacted Imaginarium organizer Stephen Zimmer and received his blessing. Then, we designed several versions of our bingo card, printed them, and even included space for people to take notes. We clipped our bookmarks to the cards with small binder clips, and in our instructions directed gamers to clip any business cards and contact info to the card, to make it easy to find and keep together for later when they connect online with the people they networked with. Of course, your social media like LinkedIn, Facebook, Tik Tok, and Twitter are great platforms to spread the word about your website and reach your audience.

If you'd like to receive a copy of the project plan I made to start building a platform, please subscribe to my newsletter with the form below, and it'll get emailed straight to you. I'd love to hear any thoughts or advice you have about building a platform or making connections with your audience and the publishing industry, if you have them. Thank you for reading my post!