If you’re an established author, chances are you have already created and are managing an author website. You may have hired someone to do this on your behalf. If that’s the case for you, then congratulations! If you’re a writer who’s curious about how to build an author website, then welcome. This article will break down the steps for building your own author website. We’ll be discussing:
- Why an author website is important,
- How to determine your budget,
- How to decide between DIY and hiring someone,
- How to pick your website publishing platform,
- What your website should look like,
- How to envision your design and bring your creation to life,
- And, lastly, how to spread the word of your website.
Keep reading for more on our step-by-step guide. For a more in-depth, educational course on building a website, check out our free online class that walks you through how to set up a mobile-friendly, cost-efficient and beautiful website.
1. Why are author websites important?
If you’re an author, you should have a website because they can be a great way to flaunt your writing, build your audience, and give your readers an idea of who you are. Websites can even set the tone for your books. Have you ever visited a website that was professional, easy to read, and helpful? If you have, I’m willing to bet you returned to visit that site. Similarly, if you create a top-notch author website then you have the power to attract loyal readers who will want to return to your site (and buy your books!).
2. How do I determine my budget?
First things first, you’ll need to decide on the type of budget that you want to spend on your website. While we’ll break down the exact price of some of the more popular website building tools later in this article, there are inherent costs to setting up and operating a website. Consider the fact that websites will require a host (such as WordPress) which will need monthly, or yearly, payment for usage as well as a custom domain name. If you’re interested in incorporating images into your site, you may also have to pay to use copyrighted pictures.
3. Do I go DIY or hire help?
Aside from the financial cost, there’s a huge time commitment to building a website. This is why many authors decide to forgo doing it themselves and choose to hire a web designer or programmer. The main difference between these two is that web designers target the look and feel of your site, while web programmers really work on website functionality (such as speed and optimizing your site to be user-friendly). The higher the level of customization you choose with designers or programmers, the more this will cost. According to Ingram Spark, this option can “range from maybe $1,000 to $10,000, depending on the customization, the level of graphic design, and the features you want included”.
On the other hand, creating a website on your own puts the power in your hands. Not only will developing your own website be cheaper than hiring someone to help you, but it will actually be easier to manage! By having a site that you personally manage, you won’t need to worry about asking someone for help or needing assistance with making updates. However, you’ll also need to have at least a basic level of comfort with operating technology or learning how to use platforms like Weebly. If this sounds like too much of a headache for you, steer towards the hiring option. Upwork is a great place to do this.
4. What website builder should I choose?
Let’s take a look into the four services that this article will be focused on: Weebly, Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress.
|Site name||Web hosting cost||Free trial?||Pre-made themes?||Image gallery?|
|Weebly||$5 / month (basic)||No||Yes||Yes|
|Squarespace||$12 / month (basic)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Wix||$13 / month (basic)||No||Yes||Yes|
|WordPress||$7.99 / month (basic)||No||Yes||Yes|
How to build an author website on Weebly
Something unique about Weebly is that it offers you two options when setting up your author website – you can create a regular site or one that includes an online store. While the online store option may be more popular for someone who is using their site solely as their business, it’s an interesting option for anyone who might want to sell hardback copies of their books themselves.
Once you decide what type of website you want to create, Weebly gives you a wide range of themes (labeled by category, such as “Personal” or “Blog”) to choose from. This will be the frame for your website. Adding in extra content and images is entirely up to you.
Upon choosing a theme, you can start adding in the fun stuff to your site. Set up your menu, link your books to your home page or their own separate “books” portion of the site, and more. Their drag and drop option makes it simple to add your own content, adding to the appeal that generally it is an easy site to use. You don’t need to know technology to use it. Once you’ve updated colors, text, and added in all relevant information, you can choose your free domain name (included in the monthly cost of your site) and then choose the paid plan that works for you.
Plans for Weebly range from $5 to $38, depending on what types of tools you require. For a basic author’s website, the $5 price point will suit you nicely.
How to build an author website on Squarespace
If you’re hoping for a website builder with more template options, and one that’s a bit more hands-on, then Squarespace may be a good fit for you. With more templates than you’ll probably require, Squarespace gives you many ways to create a beautiful website.
When you sign up for Squarespace, similarly to Weebly, you will first need to choose the template and design of your site. You can even save some into a “My Favorites” tab for later use. When I signed up, I was able to access a two-week-long free trial of the site. This enabled me to fully set up my domain including deciding on a domain name. When you’re working on your website, there’s a helpful countdown at the very bottom of the screen that shows you how many days are left of your free trial.
If at any point you’ve decided to move forward with a paid plan for Squarespace, click on “Upgrade Now” at the bottom of the screen. You’ll now have a $12 and $18 paid option for using the website. As the $18 option is really aimed at businesses, you’ll likely only need the $12 plan for your author site. This, like Weebly, includes your free domain name.
How to build an author website on Wix
As the most expensive option from the four website builders that we’ve mentioned, you’re right to expect quite a bit from Wix. While Wix does have a free plan, your domain will include “wix.com” within it. In order to make the most of the website’s features, you’ll really need to pay for the $13 a month plan. With this plan, you’ll be able to access a simple drag and drop interface that has innumerable themes, fonts, and options for “pretty-fying” your site.
Upon signing up for the platform, you’ll be walked through steps to make your site customized to what you need. You could make this site for yourself, for a business, or for someone else. From there, the site can be classified as a blog, online store, restaurant, and more. The customization options with Wix are strong – as one would expect at a higher monthly price point. You can even include information on whether or not you’ve built a website before. This will tell Wix how much help you need throughout the process. While some of the other sites mentioned need higher degrees of tech knowledge than others, Wix can adjust per customer.
My favorite part of the Wix experience is that you can slowly, gradually build a website yourself… or get it done almost instantaneously. For example, I selected that I was building a blog for myself and had no prior knowledge of building websites. Wix allowed me to select the type of blog I needed (in this case, I chose a news blog), asked me what features I’d like to include (such as a subscribe form), and then gave me a theme to choose. From there, Wix built me my own site. And all it took were a few clicks from my mouse.
While it can be this quick and simple to set up a site with Wix, remember that you also have the option to do everything yourself. Once you’ve created your site and are ready for it to be published, choose your custom domain name by signing up for one of four premium Wix plans – priced from $13 to $39 a month. For someone creating an author site, we recommend the $13 plan.
How to build an author website on WordPress
Oh, WordPress. If you’ve worked on websites before, I’m sure you’re very familiar with this website building option. What’s great about WordPress is that it has customized plugins to give you an experience all of your own. What’s not so great? All these plugins can be hugely overwhelming. It also lacks the sleek user experience and plentiful, modern themes that other options offer. However, the website builder that Written Word Media uses is WordPress. It’s clearly popular for a reason.
When you sign up for an account with WordPress, you’ll be walked through similar steps that the other sites provide. You’ll choose what your blog is about, decide on a style, and pick a personalized domain name. The first year of a domain name is included in a paid plan with WordPress, though you’ll need to renew that for as low as $18 a year after that.
While there are less-than-stellar parts of the WordPress experience (I wasn’t overly impressed by their theme options), the price points for basic blogging are great. For only $3 a month you can have a basic blog set up, including anything an author’s website would require. Pricing options go all the way from this one to a $45/month option, which is best for online stores.
5. What should an author website include?
We’ve previously written an article on the seven main features that all author websites should have to increase your audience and grow reader engagement. For a quick overview, remember that your site should include the following:
- A mobile-friendly site.
- A domain name, preferably ending in “.com”.
- A front and center viewing of your books.
- Visual cues that give the reader a taste of your brand.
- An email list signup.
- A contact form.
- Follow buttons for social media.
To give you a better idea of what we mean by each of these examples, let’s look at two websites that Written Word Media developed: Squarespace author pages for Jack London and Jane Austen.
Immediately upon viewing these websites, you can see that there are both computer and mobile friendly versions. The sites (janeaustenauthor.com and jacklondonauthor.com) both have personalized domain names ending in “.com”. While there are other options for your domain (such as .net, .org, etc), consumers are more likely to trust one that ends in .com. Besides having a beautiful, professional website, your author site ending in .com will look much more polished.
As you can see on Jack London’s example website, we have listed his books front and center on the homepage. While this is entirely optional, it’s a great way to show that books are the main focus of your site right off the bat. While books do help with this, other cues like website theme, color, font, and photo options can reveal your author brand. See how Jane Austen’s site includes a photo of a Tudor-era building in the background? This gives viewers a British, old-school feel (which is appropriate for her style of writing).
On the top part of the author’s home page, you can see the menu options along the lines of a home page, the author’s books, “about me”, a mailing list signup, and a contact page. These are all important for building your audience and showing that you are approachable, friendly, and can easily be contacted! These are also great places to link to your social media. Remember, the more contacts you can get means more potential readers to buy your books.
You may have noticed that some authors have personal blogs, or just blog posts, linked to their website. While this isn’t something that we feel will make or break your author website, it can be a successful way to give samples of your writing and further building connection and community. Think about the things that you like to see when you visit a site. How can you emulate those things can give your viewers the best website experience possible? Try to have that question at the forefront of your mind when you create your own site.
While those are the main points of what an author page should include, let’s go over a few things to focus on with author websites. First, it is vital that your site is easy to read, easy to navigate, and helpful. A “bad” author website will be difficult to read, confusing, and will leave readers with more questions than answers. Take a look at our example “bad” author website:
It’s pretty easy to see why this wouldn’t work for a website. The colors are clashing and make it difficult to read the text, the main image included is fuzzy and includes watermarks, and there is no easy navigation to be found. Some of the top mistakes that authors make on their websites can be found in this one example. Bottom line – try to abide by clear, crisp, professional examples (like Jane Austen and Jack London) and avoid the author webpage that I created.
6. How do I create a design and bring my vision to life?
As a bit of a perfectionist, creative tasks like this are hard for me. I’ll have the perfect idea of what a project, website, etc. should look like in my mind, but then will feel paralyzed when it comes time to actually create my vision. With innumerable template options, tons of fonts, color palettes to choose from, and pictures to incorporate into your site, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when building a website. One of the biggest benefits of hiring a website designer is that you’ll tell them about your vision and they will bring it to life. You won’t have to worry about any of the “techy” details. A designer is there to modify your vision and fit it to the computer screen.
But if you’re looking for more of a budget-friendly option, it is possible to bring your ideas to life yourself. I like to look at the sites of some of my favorite bloggers and make note of their color palettes, fonts, and overall style of their pages. This is a great way for me to see what is visually pleasing. For example, Joanna Penn’s website is a helpful example of what has worked for a successful self-publisher! Her website is easy to navigate and the color layout is easy readers’ the eyes.
Once I browse author websites and see what looks best, I can then apply this inspiration to my own page. Remember to consider what we’ve learned about what doesn’t work with website design. You want your site to be user-friendly and as appealing as possible.
7. How do I bring readers to my website?
Wondering how to draw attention to your site? We recommend including a link to your author website on your Amazon author page. Think of every social media platform you use – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and so on – and consider linking your author website through those platforms, too. The more eyes you can get on your site link, the more site visits you’ll receive. And remember, you’ll be more likely to keep readers returning to your page if it is easily navigable, easy to read, and has a pleasing theme and color scheme.
Once you have readers visiting your page, they’ll be able to access your reader signup form. This is how you starting building an email list. Our guide to email marketing is a great way to learn about using email lists to build an even bigger reader audience. This combination of having an email signup page on your website, along with building your reader audience through emails, is an effective way to steadily grow your audience.
If you’re an author intent on creating a website of your own, you have a huge number of options. Depending on what your needs are, you could build a website of your own for as little as $3 a month on one of the most popular services out there (WordPress). You can also choose a platform like Squarespace to get something really unique and beautiful. Keep in mind that what you’re most looking for is a site that will give users and potential readers an easy, enjoyable online experience. Think about the traits that you love most from your favorite sites and try to emulate those! And if you have further questions, or are interested in a more in-depth approach, remember to check out our free online class that walks you through how to set up a mobile-friendly, cost-efficient and beautiful website.