Author websites are an important tool in book marketing. Whether you have published multiple books or are getting ready to release your first, having an effective website is a must.
In this post, we break down why websites matter for authors, how to build a website, what to include on your website and show examples of great websites for authors. Whether you are building a website for the first time, or wondering if you should update your existing site, here’s what authors should consider.
Why create an author website
A website is an essential marketing tool for authors. It both directly enables other marketing techniques, and improves their effectiveness. Here’s how a website helps authors:
- Email List Building
A website signup form is the best way for authors to collect reader’s email addresses. When a reader visits your site, they are showing interest in your and your work. So, if you can capture their email address, you have a direct line to a potential customer for any new books or your backlist.
- Drive Sales
Your site can help readers of one of your books find more of your work and buy it. You should list links to buy all of your work on your site, and readers who are looking for more will take advantage.
- Brand Building
Your author website is a great place to showcase your personality, share a longer bio, provide updates on future books or writing plans and ask for reader feedback. Your site is where your readers can find all of your social media profiles and book links in one place. It is an essential hub for those readers that want to know more about you and follow you.
How to set up an author website
Choose domain name
The first step in setting up an author website is choosing a domain name. Most writers simply use their name (or the name they publish under) or a close variation. This is a strong choice because you want your site to appear in the search results if someone Googles your name, and this increases your chances.
To find out if the domain name you want is available (i.e., no one else currently owns it), you can simply type it into your search bar or use godaddy.com’s domain search tool.
You may find that someone already owns the domain you want, but sites like GoDaddy can suggest close variations that are available. For example, if you’re a writer named Sylvia Chung, you would type sylviachung.com into GoDaddy’s tool. You find that someone has already purchased that domain, but sylvia-chung.com and sylviachung.net are available. If you don’t like their suggestions, you can try something like sylviachungauthor.com or sylviachungwrites.com.
Purchase and register your domain
There are a couple ways to purchase your domain name. One is to buy through a domain registration site like GoDaddy or Google Domains, the other is to buy it through the platform you use to build your site.
Those who aren’t terribly tech savvy may find it easier to buy the domain through their website platform. If you buy your domain outside the website builder, you’ll have to take a few extra steps to link your new domain to your new author site.
The cost of registering and maintaining ownership of your domain name will vary based on the platform you use to purchase it, but expect to pay about $10–$40 per year.
Choose an author website builder
There are plenty of website builders for those who don’t want to build a site from scratch or pay someone else to do it. Sites like Squarespace and Wix let you set up and launch a website in a couple of hours.
Squarespace templates are sleek and modern. This platform has a lot of tools and functions you can easily add to your site, like event calendars, ecommerce, email capture, and email campaigns.
Cost: $16–$54 per month if billed monthly, $12–$40 per month if billed annually
Wix’s toolset includes a logo maker, a web app so you can create a site from your phone, and even multilingual site options.
Cost: $14–$39 per month
WordPress is the original site-building tool for non-developers. All of the site builders listed here have SEO optimization options, but WordPress easily has the most plugins available for advanced features.
Cost: $7–$59 per month if billed monthly, $4–$45 per month if billed annually
Anyone can create a site with Weebly, but this service does specialize in ecommerce. So if you’re moving a lot of books, this might be your best option. This platform even has a professional product photography service, in case you want slick photos of your books, merch, or other promo materials.
Cost: $0–$29 per month if billed monthly, $0–$26 per month if billed annually
What’s the best author website builder?
Writers use all kinds of website builders, and there’s no single best option. The right one for you is the one that is affordable and is equipped with the tools and features you need.
What to include on your author website
Every site needs a homepage, of course. How you use this real estate is up to you, but good uses include: introducing yourself with an author bio and photo, promoting a new book, and/or announcing a new event or appearance.
Write a bio that tells your audience who you are and what you write. You might also talk about why you write, awards or accolades you’ve won, or what you’re working on next. This bio can be as long or as short as you like.
You might name this page “bio,” “author bio,” “about me,” or “about the author.” This is Malcom Gladdwell’s short bio at gladwellbooks.com:
Malcolm Gladwell is the author of five New York Times bestsellers — The Tipping Point, Blink,Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath. He is also the co-founder of Pushkin Industries, an audio content company that produces the podcasts Revisionist History, which reconsiders things both overlooked and misunderstood, and Broken Record, where he, Rick Rubin, and Bruce Headlam interview musicians across a wide range of genres. Gladwell has been included in the TIME 100 Most Influential People list and touted as one of Foreign Policy’s Top Global Thinkers.
A list of published work with links to buy
You want visitors to buy your work, naturally, so create a page that tells them what you’ve written and where/how they can buy it. You can also mention any upcoming publications.
Novelist Miranda Popkey includes a long list of places readers can buy her book, including ebook and audiobook formats.
Many authors will include praise or blurbs for their work to entice site visitors to buy.
On this page you could also link to any articles or stories published online in journals or magazines. If you have a long list of bylines, they may warrant their own page.
You might call this page something like “work” or “books.”
Include a way for readers to contact you, your agent, and/or your PR representation.
Most website builders will have contact forms you can use. Readers fill out a form that goes to you, but they can’t see your email address. This can keep spammers from collecting your email from your site and sending you emails.
If you want to list an email address on your site, that’s fine, but you may find yourself getting some more spam email.
An email list sign-up
Collecting readers’ email addresses is important for you to keep your readers engaged. You can announce new books, readings, and events or promote your blog.
Michael Lewis, who wrote of The Blindside, The Big Short, and The Undoing Project (among many others), has this email signup on the homepage of his site, michaellewiswrites.com.
An email list can be one of the most powerful marketing tools for authors. By putting the email signup front and center, Lewis is making sure that his readers know about his email list, and can easily join.
Here are a few bonus pages and features you can add to your author site.
Create a blog on your site so you can share your writerly thoughts with readers. Here you might publish posts about your writing philosophy or announce upcoming publications, readings, or events. And now that you have your readers’ email addresses, you can let them know whenever you’ve posted something new.
If you give readings, virtual or in-person, or host or attend literary events, keep a calendar of these appearances on your site and announce them to your email list.
If people are talking about your writing, show it off! You could create a page with links to articles and reviews written about your work.
Blurbs/praise for your work
If you’ve gotten blurbs or praise for your work, include it on your “books”/”work” page or on a page all its own.
A link to your Patreon
Patreon is a great way for fans to financially support your work and get some fun extras too. Link to your Patreon account in a prominent place so readers can sign up to support.
If you’re active on social media, include links to your profiles. If you do this, make sure your accounts are active. If you keep a blog on your site, promote posts on your social channels, or if you give readings or attend events, announce them here.
Ann Patchett has a page on her site where she lists her favorite books by year. This is a great way to help out other readers and offer your own readers recommendations.
Tips for maintaining a rich and engaging author website
Update it regularly
Even if you don’t have any new publications coming up, you can use your site to keep your readers engaged by updating your blog regularly or hosting virtual events.
Announce new books
If you have released or are about to release a new book, don’t be afraid to promote it right on the front page of your site. National Book Award winning author Jesmyn Ward has this announcement above the fold on the homepage of her site, jesmynwardauthor.com.
Engage your readers
You have their email addresses, so don’t forget to make contact with your readers. Host book giveaways, virtual readings, Q&As, and conversations with other writers to keep your readership active and engaged with your work.
Take advantage of your site builder’s technical tools
Take advantage of your website builder’s more technical features, like SEO optimization tools and site analytics. Using all the features available can help you brand yourself as an author and grow your readership.
Examples of great author sites
As you’ll see, there’s no single way to build a great author website. Some are clean and sparse, others are packed with information about the writer’s work, many fall somewhere in between.
Novelist Haruki Murakami’s site is simple but rich. It promotes his latest book on the home page and even has a library of resources—like playlists of music mentioned in his books, reader’s guides, and interviews with the author—and a community page where readers can submit notes and thoughts on Murakami’s works for possible publication on the site.
Like Murakami, Roxane Gay promotes her latest work right on the homepage of her simple but colorful site. She dedicates a page to each of her books so readers can explore her work before buying.
Poet Kate Baer’s site makes it easy to buy her books and even has a merch store with prints and tote bags.
As soon as you land on her site, Tayari Jones makes it clear she wants to engage with her readers with that handy little email-capture pop-up.
Hurley’s site is more extensive than most, but that’s what’s working for this writer.
It’s rich, detailed, and up-to-date. It includes a myriad ways for readers to engage with the author and her work, like an email newsletter, a Patreon account, a link to her Substack, a page about her podcast and ways to listen directly from the site, original videos, a regularly updated blog, announcements about upcoming publications and events, and easy ways to buy Hurley’s books.
Jenn Shapland’s site is clean, clear, and minimalist, much like her writing. It hits all the high notes—bio, work, events, contact—and promotes her upcoming work. Short and sweet.
Mona Awad writes dark, fairy tale–influenced horror, and she’s branded her site to reflect the cover and marketing materials of her upcoming book—and the overall tone of her oeuvre.
Do you have advice for other authors on websites? Have you found success with particular pages or content on your site? Let us know in the comments.