Saturday, March 10, 2012

Jennifer Rapp Peterson talks about author websites

Every author needs a website.  But finding the right one isn't easy. You want to stand out in the crowd, but you also want to have something that feels and seems like you. I thought it would be a lot of fun to interview a website designer, who also has some other very cool companies. I'm thrilled to Have Jennifer Rapp peterson here. Thank you so, so much, Jennifer!

First, tell me a bit about your company. is a hosted website content management system (CMS) for creatives.  Our platform builds and hosts websites for artists. IndieMade is a DIY all-in-one website solution that integrates a blog, ecommerce cart (for goods, services or downloads - e-books), reviews, custom pages and portfolios.  Hosting, upgrades and tech support are included.  Our packages are affordable and you can use your own domain name with our service.  Our dashboard is ridiculously easy – it empowers anyone to create a strong web presence - with the control to add or change the content and design anytime.

With, the website content and design are separate.  If someone wants to change the look of her site, it doesn't affect the content whatsoever.  With a click of a button, a website can be rendered in a whole new way. I have found writers and artists often lack the technical skills, time or money to build a successful "brand" online.  Using, an author can create a customized website in minutes. (Really.)
It is hard to talk about IndieMade without talking about how it came into existence.  In a previous life, I was in technical consulting and helped automate hundreds of libraries throughout the Midwest. When I finally gave in to my creative side, I became a cartoonist and started a greeting card and licensing company.  I also illustrated several children's books.  After selling the greeting card business, I invented toys and licensed them.    

But, even as a technologist, I found creating and maintaining my websites was needlessly difficult.  And then I married a software developer.  He rebuilt my websites using a CMS. We quickly realized that not every artist is married to a developer, so we built

What's your creative philosophy?

 I believe space (some folks call it boredom) and necessity are both mothers of invention- either alone or in concert with each other. I think everyone is creative.  Humans are problem solvers and therefore creative.  It is only the stories we tell ourselves that get in our way.   Fear is what keeps us from developing a plan, making the time or taking the action to achieve our goals.

Personally, when it comes to my artwork and writing, I am an intuitive creator.  I don't really have a philosophy regarding my own work - I don't think, I listen and take notes.  I never feel responsible for my work.  What makes my work unique is how I interpret what I hear - how my channel tunes the message.  I am most productive when I can be quiet. was an invention born out of both necessity and a lot of careful consideration. My philosophy when it comes to websites is that I believe technology is a tool.  Tools should not get in the way of expressing who you are online, they should help you express it.  They should be easy to use and assist in achieving your goals.

What's the process involved in figuring out how to do an author's website?

The most important part of the creative process for any writer to build a website is have a vision of what you want.  It sounds easier than it is.  An author should know what her business goals are for a website.  

Someone can start with these questions: 
Should my website be a promotional vehicle?
A place to promote my career as an author? Or a place to express myself plainly?
Should my website help me sell more books?   Or help me secure a publishing deal?
Is it to be a reference site for all of my work? 
Is it to engage my existing audience?  Or do I want to introduce new readers to my work through my website?
Do I want to promote myself as an expert?
What am I selling? My books, my creative expertise, my advice, my perspective?
What websites do I like?  How are they designed?
How can I interpret my writing visually?

When you know what you want, putting a website together comes naturally and easily with the right tools.
How often do you feel writers should change their websites?  

If you are promoting yourself as a writer of any kind, content should be added/edited regularly.

What's the worst mistake writers make with their websites?
  • Artists in general don't consider themselves in business for themselves.  This basic assumption can be a set up for failure.  Making a living from your artwork or writing is a business. You are your best representative.  This doesn't mean you shouldn't hire people to help you, but you are in charge.
  • Writers especially forget that when it comes to the Internet, early impressions are visual.  They undervalue the importance of good website navigation, design and imagery. 
Other mistakes are:

  • Letting your website become obsolete.  Your website should be current and updated regularly.
  • Not blogging on your own website. To get found online, you have to be adding fresh content to your own website and having a blog on your own site gets this done. Search engines evaluate your site based on how often it’s updated and how valuable (sticky) the content is.  The more valuable, the more often and prominently your website will appear on a search results page (SERP).
  • Not connecting the dots between your website and social media, it should all work together as a cohesive brand.

See how Molly’s site includes social sharing?  This way the sites visitors can spread the word to their network easily.
You've done everything from toys to illustrations to greeting cards--which are amazing and playful (the toys especially knocked me out.)  How are you able to veer from one thing to another so successfully?  

I consider my “muse” a entire relay team.  One goes for a while and then passes the baton - each have their own voices.  With IndieMade my muse had to learn a team sport, to work simultaneously. 

It was my technology and business background that gave me the confidence to become a creative entrepreneur.  Once I learned failure is irrelevant to my self-worth, it became easier for me to take risks and to move around. I feel very lucky to be drawing from all of my experiences with IndieMade. Nothing is more satisfying than helping artists achieve their goals.


Bill Peschel said...

This looks interesting. I'll have to check them out.

Karen Kouf said...

As a long-time publishing professional, I know the advantages of authors maintaining their own site! You need to be your best self-promoter — add reviews, post events, and, most of all, use your creative voice to get loyal fans. The Indiemade platform sounds perfect!

Scottie said...

IndieMade and Jennifer rock! I use IndiemMade for two of my visual/sales sites and know Jennifer personally and creatively as well.

molly moynahan said...

I'm the "Molly" referred to in this article. Jennifer is amazing; talented, kind, patient and excellent at her job.

molly moynahan said...

I'm the "Molly" referred to in this article. Jennifer is amazing; talented, kind, patient and excellent at her job.