When you are building your author website from the ground up and trying to keep expenses low, it helps to have a friend who knows a thing or two about website design and development. You know, that friend you have that helps you out in a pinch and who can show you the ropes? Who asks only for your friendship – and maybe a free coffee – in return?

Swenson Book Development, LLC is that friend.

Today, writer friends, I give you my tricks of the trade. My freebies. My tool kit. If you implement these tools appropriately, you can jazz up your website with all the latest bells and whistles like those best-selling NYT / Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 authors we all love to hate (and hate to love – damn, the writing is good!). I’ve gathered these goodies up over the past few months to present a small guide to tricking out your ride, frosting your lady, and generally decking the ball hall that is your shiny, new author website.

Tool #1: Free social media icon sets

Want to encourage readers to share your blog posts? What better way to encourage a bit of free self-promotion than with snazzy social media icons? These articles have collected eye-catching, elegant and hands-down bad-ass icon sets, and now I share them with you:

  • Elegantics.com: MG and children’s writers will have fun with the Hand Drawn and Magic Marker sets, while the artistically-inclined will feel inspired by the  Splattered and the Picasso sets. My top choices of the bunch are the Dark Denim (eye-pleasing and simple) and Crumpled Paper (bookish and quirky) sets.
  • Top Design Mag: All of these sets are simple, clean and effective, but the sets to best serve a writers’ website are Social (bottle cap-looking icons), Social Jeans (yes, denim is actually a trend in social media icons, not just a sturdy fabric) and 12 Sweet social media.
  • Design Modo: An older article, I admit, but the sets provided here are classic and a good starting point for any new blogger. I recommend any of the following: Stained and Faded, Retro, IC Minimal, or Setway. Plus, any architecture writer or critic worth reading absolutely must have the Blueprint set on their blog – am I right?

Tool #2: Free stock images

camera and spools of film by OeildeNuit, via sxc.huClaire has already explained why writers should use free stock images to complement blog posts, but I bet you could use a few more places to snag free images. Why not? Take a break from reading the fine print on Flickr and check out these websites:

  • Creative Commons: The number one resource for finding stock photos. The only catch? All photos require some form of attribution. You gotta give credit where credit’s due. Meghan Ward has a great post detailing the CC symbols, and offers her own guide to free stock photos, which you should definitely check out.
  • Nations Illustrated: Great source for photos of landscapes and locations around the world. Add photos to your download list, click on “My Downloads” and then download your selected photos in a single ZIP file.
  • PhotoGen: Sign up for a free account to download stock images for commercial use.
  • morgueFile: Search photos by keyword for most effective use. To download,  click on the image of a photo and look to the lower left corner of the image for a “download” button. If you fall in love with a photo, share the love and be philanthropic: donate to the photographer.
  • stock.xchng: Now hosted by Getty Images, this is a search engine for free photos. Like CC, many images require some form of attribution, so be sure to read the fine print. Start your search by navigating the “+ image categories” list at the top of the page.
  • Want more? Check out this article from Stylish Web Designer (HT for the above resources).

Tool #3: Social Media Best Practices

Building a web presence is tough. A lot of mistakes and mishaps happen in the learning process, but it helps to have gurus on your side to keep you from making major social blunders. You’ve heard horror stories. You know – Writer Eager who, after querying several agents, discovers hopes of success now snuffed because she blabbed all over Twitter and Facebook telling friends that New York Agent couldn’t wait to see a full MS and ka-ching! now her rent-paying days are over.

Um, no. No one wants to be Writer Eager. She made a mistake and didn’t realize how steep the consequences could be.

While the team at Swenson Book Development, LLC is happy to serve as a social media guide for the wary writer, it helps to have a few other social media mavens by your side with tips and tricks to navigating your new e-community. Here are several articles and blog posts we fully endorse, for fear-free blogging, tweeting, posting, sharing, pinning, stumbling, and whatever other active verb-ing suits your fancy:

Are there any amazing resources I’ve missed? Do you have questions about any of the tools I’ve shared from my kit? Let me know by leaving a comment below! 

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