A website is an essential marketing tool. With it, you can connect with readers, post content that will help you sell books, and free yourself from third-party sites. Check out these steps to creating an author website.
Choose a Platform
We recommend creating your website on WordPress, which has many free and paid options. It’s good both for those who are tech-savvy and those who aren’t.
WordPress.com has a free option that you can try out, but it does have “wordpress” in the URL, and limits your themes, plugins, and the ability to edit the code. You can upgrade (a minimum of $4 a month) to get your own domain.
If you want more control of your author website, you may want to use WordPress.org. WordPress.org requires you to self-host the site (we’ll talk more about that below), but it also gives you a lot more freedom.
If you want to start out with WordPress.com, then move to WordPress.org later, that is possible! You would just export your site from your WordPress.com dashboard and import it in your WordPress.org dashboard. If you bought a domain from WordPress.com, you can enter that in when you set up your site on WordPress.org.
Buy a Domain Name
This is the URL for your site. We recommend buying the domain rather than sticking with WordPress.com’s free options for URLs. By buying a domain, you can have a URL that is your author name without any extraneous words, which is easier for readers to remember and creates better name recognition. Preferably, choose [authorname].com, but if that’s not available, try adding the word “author” or “writer” before, or the word “books” or the genre you write afterwards. Keep the domain as simple as possible. (Note: some authors will buy various domain versions of their name and forward all of them to the same site. So if you are using your first and middle name, you may want to buy firstmiddlelast.com and firstlast.com.)
Like we mentioned before, you can buy a domain name through WordPress.com; it is included in the $4 a month price upgrade. If you decide use WordPress.org, you can get a domain through your host (see below).
Choose a Host
A host is the server that keeps your site running. There are many options.
Free hosting limits functionality, including e-commerce and analytics, but it’s a great choice if you’re just starting out. Free hosting options include Wpnode and Freehostia. We do recommend a paid service, though, because you don’t have to deal with ads and you get better support, while at the same time they’re pretty cheap.
With self-hosting, you can fully customize your site design, add more e-commerce functionality, and get better website analytics. If you want to self-host your site, you’ll need to use WordPress.org, not WordPress.com.
Hosting providers that work easily with WordPress include Bluehost, SiteGround, HostGator, InMotion Hosting, and GoDaddy. These providers only cost $4–7 a month. With these services, you have to take care of site security. If your site goes down, you’ll have to call your host to get it back up.
For less hassle, you can choose to get a managed or premium hosting service instead, but that does cost much more (From $30 to more than $100 a month). Premium hosting includes regular site backups, site security, site staging, and better support. Popular managed hosting solution include WP Engine and MediaTemple.
Choose a Theme
WordPress offers many well-tested themes, and you can check the ratings and reviews for each theme at WordPress. If you choose to self-host your site, you have more themes available to you, and you can even upload new themes and customize your site by modifying the CSS.
To settle on a theme, check out other authors’ websites that write in your same genre. Write down features you like and look for those features in a theme.
Create a Home Page
Your home page shouldn’t be the default blog page that WordPress provides. Create an attractive home page that includes an image across the top. This could be images of your books or an image that represents the genre you write. Your home page should also include a sign-up bar for your newsletter. You could then feature some of your best-selling books or feature some compelling links like “in the works,” “newly released,” “videos,” “news,” etc. Images do the best at pulling in readers, so be sure to include images with your links on the home page.
Use Good Design When Creating Your Author Website
Follow these tips to create a professional-looking site.
- Create a clear, easy-to-find navigation bar.
- Keep your site clear and uncluttered. A lot of “white space” (empty space) is good!
- Stick to a theme—don’t use too many different colors or fonts. Choose one main color and one or two supplemental colors.
- Keep elements consistent (color, layout, and fonts), so every page looks like it belongs to the same website.
- Check your site on different browsers to make sure it looks good everywhere.
- Keep text on your site short, with plenty of subtitles and bullets. Readers need to be able to scan your site to discover information.
- Make sure you have a way for readers to sign up to receive emails from you. For an easy way to do this, post an image of a free book or novella you offer to readers in exchange for signing up for your newsletter list. Link the image to your reader magnet here on Book Cave and let us collect the emails for you!
Search For Answers
If you have questions on how to do something on WordPress, use your favorite search engine to look for tips and techniques! There are so many help articles and forums out there to help you make your website just the way you want it.
Do you have any questions about creating an author website? Or any tips to add? We’d love to hear in the comments below.