An author website is a non-negotiable for any modern author…
That’s a bold statement, but let us explain why.
For authors who wish to build brand awareness, grow their author platform and email list, or generate more readers, creating an author website allows you to have a digital presence.
If you’re an author and you’ve just completed your masterpiece, you ought to reward yourself for such an awesome feat.
However, an article on Writer’s Digest bluntly states that finishing a book is, in reality, “only 10 percent of the work” – to which published names will heartily agree.
After the pleasurable (and sometimes grueling) task of writing, you need to work on the self-publishing services required to get your book published (yes, even if you use Amazon self-publishing!). This includes proofreading, editing, critiquing, cover designing, formatting, and many other steps in between to prepare your Obra Maestra for publication.
Then you arrive at another crucial phase in the publishing process: book marketing. Your goal here is to spread the word about your book, then get it into the hands of as many readers as possible – put plainly, to generate sales.
Related: How to Publish A Book
To achieve this, you must employ the right strategies at the right time to the right audience, and these include having an author website. It is highly recommended that your website be up and functional as early as pre-publication.
This guide to author websites covers:
- Why You Need an Author Website
- How to Create an Author Website in Eight Steps
Why You Need an Author Website
If you want to make consistent sales from your book or even reach the bestseller category, then having a website is necessary.
#1 – An author website allows you to build an email list
According to this survey, the majority of consumers made purchases because they were convinced by an email they received.
Like other online businesses, authors selling their books can expand their income stream through a subscription list of loyal followers.
With your website, you can collect your fans’ email addresses using “lead magnets” – a teaser chapter or an ebook of writing techniques that you give for free in exchange for their email address.
Once you get their emails, you can then send them automated, personalized messages with embedded links to your books on your website or Amazon.
#2 – An author website is your personal space on the web
Unlike social media, a website is something you own and control. You can add as many features as you want, e.g. a blog, an e-commerce store, a gallery of books you’ve written, your biography, contact details, and more.
Fans and potential readers can always connect with you on your website. As a new author, you only want them to find accurate information about you when they google your name. And the best place for them to land would be on your website!
With a website, you establish your unique brand and credibility as an author.
Let’s not dilly-dally any longer and dive right in!
How to Create an Author Website in Eight Steps
#1 – Purchase your domain name
A domain name can be compared to your street address. It is where people can find you on the Internet.
Each domain extension serves a unique purpose, e.g. .com for commercial, .edu for educational, and .org for organizational.
So before you rack your brain about themes or brand colors, the first thing you must do is to purchase your domain name before someone else does.
How to Choose a Domain Name
For authors, this is not much of a challenge. Just register your real or pen name. The clue here is to use the name your readers are most familiar with. Using your name as your website domain can help your fans find you easier.
To find out if your desired domain is still available, you need to search at a domain registrar, entities where you can buy and register domains. Be sure to select a reputable (plus affordable!) one with good reviews, like www.namecheap.com (I’m not affiliated with them in any way).
In this case, I tried searching for my shortened name:
Once you click that search button, you will find out the verdict:
The domain name I want is already taken; good thing, I was the one who bought it just recently!
If the name you want had been purchased by someone else, all is not lost. You can always add words like “author”, “books”, or “fiction” after your name. This has proven effective for many book writers.
How to Purchase a Domain Name
Once you’ve found the perfect domain name for your author website, you might as well buy it without delay. Just click “Add to Cart” then follow the next steps, as you would when making online purchases.
Domain registrars sometimes offer promos. We need to verify using Google search or by visiting NameCheap’s promo page.
True enough, they are offering discounts for new domain name purchases.
I applied the first code and got a discounted rate!
By the way, don’t forget to have WhoisGuard protection enabled before clicking “Confirm Order”.
You will need to register for a Namecheap account so that you can log on to their website later. Here, you must provide your contact information to be recognized as the “registrant” or owner of that domain. It is advised that you use your credit card and email address (not your programmer’s) when purchasing a domain.
For your renewal settings, it is critical to select only these two and not follow Namecheap’s recommendations (if you don’t want a bigger bill next year!).
After entering your card details and making your payment, your domain name will be all yours!
#2 – Buy hosting and connect your domain
If a domain is like an “online street address”, a website host is similar to an empty lot. To build a house (website), you need space. This is where hosting services come in.
Hosting companies provide your website with storage space, functionality, and support so that visitors can access your website on the World Wide Web.
There are various kinds of hosting (e.g. free, shared, managed, dedicated, etc.), but the most popularly used among professionals is shared hosting, also known as self-hosting or paid hosting.
Authors also choose this type of hosting for several reasons:
- Total design freedom and functionality
With coding knowledge, you can customize any part of the website to fit your brand (a feat quite impossible with free hosting). But if you abhor code, there are also loads of free and premium themes that you can download and modify to your liking.
- A plethora of plug-ins
Plug-ins allow your website to accomplish more things for you. Whether you want an online book shop, an email signup form, or in-depth analytics, more often than not, there exists a perfect plug-in for your website’s every need.
- A professional-looking web address
This is the major reason why professionals invest in paid hosting. Free hosting services only offer subdomains such as yourname.wordpress.com, while paid hosting services let you use your registered .com domain name (see #1) for your website.
Where to Buy Hosting
Based on numerous positive reviews, www.siteground.com is, hands-down, the best hosting provider out there.
SiteGround shares the same features with other web hosts, e.g. one-click WordPress installs, a user-friendly interface, affordable introductory prices, and more.
Yet it stands out from the pack for its proven 24/7 customer support and remarkable loading speeds. Other providers also promise these, but only SiteGround consistently delivers (I’m not affiliated with them either).
SiteGround’s StartUp plan provides pretty much the necessities to build a decent website at a very affordable price.
After picking a hosting plan, encode the domain you just bought from NameCheap.
There are instances where customers are not happy with their host and become desperate to transfer to a different host on the next subscription period (hopefully, this will not be you or me).
To prevent additional problems with domain transfer, I honestly find it wiser to purchase my domain and hosting from different providers.
Whether it’s SiteGround or not, hosting plans are generally purchased per subscription year. So at $3.95 per month, you will need to pay $47.40 to avail of hosting at SiteGround for a year. (But I trust SiteGround’s reputation among web developers, so I would opt for the two-year plan.)
Below is the look of your SiteGround dashboard once you log in. To view the websites you’re hosting on SiteGround, click “Websites” at the top menu.
How to Connect a NameCheap Domain to SiteGround Hosting
This step is very crucial if you want your website to be accessed on a web browser using your official domain name.
Click “cPanel” to proceed to your account’s “Control Panel”. Here, you can manage all the technical aspects of your website. (Don’t freak out! It’s not at all that bad.)
Below is a sample cPanel. In your cPanel, copy the two links under “Name Servers”.
Then, sign in to your NameCheap account’s dashboard.
Scroll down to the domain name you purchased and click “Manage”.
This portion will expand to show details about your domain. Look for “Nameservers” and select “Custom DNS”. Paste the two links that you copied from your SiteGround cPanel.
Lastly, visit www.whois.com to check if your nameservers have been updated.
If they are, then you have successfully connected your Namecheap domain to your Siteground hosting. Congratulations!
Maintaining a self-hosted website can be costly. Hence, it is more suitable for published authors who are generating a steady income. Nevertheless, it remains a worthwhile investment for all authors who seek to build their online presence or are about to publish their book.
#3 – Set up a Content Management System: WordPress
Now I can almost hear you muttering,
After surviving all that “tech stuff”, I’m not done yet?
Don’t worry! I can assure you that, beginning from this section up until the end of this guide, things will be so much easier and less technical than the first two sections.
Plus, if you give up at this stage, you will never feel the pleasure of finally seeing your official .com website loading on your browser.
How to Install WordPress to Your Website
In your SiteGround cPanel, click WordPress under AutoInstallers.
WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS) – a website building platform where you can design, organize, and manage all the contents (assets) of your website. WordPress is, by far, considered the “most popular CMS in the world and is used by nearly 75 million websites.”
Click “Quick Install”.
Be sure to select the latest version, 5.4.1.
A friendly reminder: When creating your WordPress account, don’t use “admin” for your username – this is every hacker’s favorite.
Installing WordPress will take a few minutes, but once it’s over, you will be directed to your WordPress dashboard. Here, you will surely enjoy customizing and adding all sorts of content to your brand new website.
Oh, and don’t forget to look up your domain on your browser. It should be up by now. 😉
#4 – Check other websites for inspiration
So, you now have a website – which is practically empty! What’s next?
Before you plunge into themes, colors, and whatnot, I suggest visiting other writers’ websites first. See the assets they have added, e.g. a blog, email newsletter, online shop. These will give you ideas for your website.
I gathered a handful of best author website examples, for you to gain inspiration from. To achieve such stunning looks for your website, however, may sometimes require the skills of a front-end web developer.
If you’ve set certain expectations for your website, you might decide to hire a professional web designer or programmer instead. It will surely cost some bucks but frees up your time to write more while having a gorgeous website.
Nevertheless, if you’re starting on a meager budget, going DIY can still result in a great-looking website that does its job. Find out how in the next sections.
#5 – Install a theme
When making our first website, the fun usually begins upon picking a theme. (Mind you, there are thousands!) Be warned, though, you could lose track of time poring over collections.
Themes determine the general appearance of your website, which includes the placement of headers, font styles, colors, and more.
With the WordPress Customizer tool, you can easily modify a theme to suit your taste. Furthermore, advanced HTML or CSS coding can transform a website so much that you can hardly recognize what specific theme is used.
Below, I’ve handpicked popular WordPress themes designed for author websites:
#6 – Plan your branding
If there is anything aesthetically pleasing about themes, it often boils down to consistent visual branding.
A smart color combination reflects your personality and evokes certain feelings in your visitors. If you wisely utilize the same color palette throughout your website, you can make your first “online impression” last. This principle similarly applies to fonts, shapes, and other styles.
It is worth noting that your website branding is but a tiny fraction of your author brand, that is, your identity. A brand is how you present yourself – and how the public perceives you – as an author. When expressed properly, your brand can be seen and felt everywhere – on your website, social media accounts, and other places you appear in.
#7 – Edit pages and content
Once you’ve decided on the overall web design, you can at last do what you do best: write content!
However, in addition to the plain and hyperlinked text we read online, website content likewise consists of enhanced images, graphics, and sometimes, videos.
To give you an idea on how all this applies to author websites, I borrowed some items from Jane Friedman’s list of content must-haves:
- Your author biography in the third person
- Images of your book covers
- Short descriptions for each book
- Links to websites where your books are sold online
- Your agent’s contact information, if available
- Links to your social media author profiles
- Notable reviews about your books
She also suggests organizing these assets under specific pages on your website, e.g., Homepage, About page, Books page, and Contact page.
#8 – Leverage your website for book marketing
Everything that you’ve done on your website so far (it must look awesome by now) has all been aimed towards one main purpose: to be an effective book marketing tool.
To set your author website up for marketing success, there are two more assets – plug-ins, in particular – that you should consider adding.
One is MailChimp for WordPress, an email marketing plug-in that has helped thousands, authors or not, to grow their audience and make sales.
You can easily install it right from your WordPress dashboard.
The other WordPress plug-in is WooCommerce, which allows you to build an online book shop on your website!
There are two advantages of owning your bookstore:
1. You get to sell your books at a higher price.
2. You get to keep all of the sales.
Thanks for reading all the way here. I hope that this guide on building author websites has simplified the entire process for you, and perhaps even inspired you to begin creating your author website.
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