In a digital world, an author website can make or break your success. It’s a home for all of your accomplishments and finished works. It’s your sales page, and it’s how you connect with others. In other words, your author website is the public’s access to you, the writer, and that’s vital to your success.
It’s been an easy task to start a blog on Blogspot or WordPress, register a domain name with your name in it, and call it a day. Unfortunately, it’s no longer that simple, and your audience expects more from you and your website.
To help you out, I’ve come up with this handy guide to talk you through the entire process. It’s full of personal recommendations and resources. I also try to give you the information in one place, so you don’t have to jump to various articles and websites to make an informed decision.
With that said, let’s dive into creating your own author website.
Author Websites: Why do You Need One?
According to Friesen Press, here is why you should consider creating your own website (if you haven’t already):
“An author website serves as a dynamic tool to promote yourself, your books, and anything else related to your personal brand. Websites can be used as a central hub for you to market your book and open a communication channel between you and your fans.”
The purpose of an author website is to direct traffic (aka readers and other interested parties) to your books with the hopes of converting those visitors into sales, among many other things. It’s a place where you interact with others and build an audience for your stories.
And I can guarantee you that this is one of the first places a literary agent or publisher will look for when they Google your name.
How do I know this? Well, because I do it whenever someone submits to my literary magazine or sends me an email asking for tips or help.
Self-Publishers Need a Website
If you think you can escape this because you’re going the self-publishing route, then I beg you to think again. An author website is crucial to a self-published author’s success!
Yes, you may sell most of your books on Amazon, but those same readers will want to know more about you, the author than you think, and you need to direct them somewhere. Sure, social media works, but which platform is hot or not constantly changes.
Which leaves you with, you guessed it, a website. They’re static and stable. It’s tough for someone to shut it down, and you can do whatever you want to it.
It can host your books, event information, your bio, etc., and it’s all in one easy-to-find place. You don’t get that with Amazon or social media. And the more remarkable things you have on your website, the more likely you’ll sell more books.
At the end of the day, it’s those sales that matter, regardless of whether you’re traditionally published or self-published.
How to Set Up Your Author Website
Creating a website does not have to be a chore or a mystery. There are many ways to go about creating and designing a website.
You don’t even have to do it alone if you don’t want to. You can hire someone to help or do it yourself. The biggest thing you need to consider is the platform you use for your website.
Domain Names and Hosting for Your Author Website
Before you get into your website’s design, you need to pick a domain name. Why? Well, it becomes the identity of your website.
In my opinion, go with your name or a pseudonym. It’s easily searchable, and you can sell numerous books under one umbrella. See, no decision paralysis is needed.
Whatever you do, don’t create a new website for every book that you publish. It’s a waste of time, money, and effort on your front. It’ll also spread your SEO and marketing efforts thin. So please don’t do it.
Check Your Domain Name Availability
Once you’ve settled on a name, you’ll need to see if it’s available. You can use a service like Namecheap to see what’s available and how much it would cost you to buy and upkeep the domain. You may want to have a few alternatives handy in case your domain is already taken. (I ran into this problem in 2016 when I registered my website.)
You may also need to consider a different address other than .com. However, try to avoid this if possible. .Com domains are in demand because they are the most trusted domain names out there.
Buying Your Domain Name
I’m going to let IngramSpark explain this one:
“[B]uy your domain name yourself with your email address and credit card. You should always know the username and password of your domain name account and where it’s registered (GoDaddy, Network Solutions, Register.com, etc.). You should be listed as what’s referred to as the “Registrant,” meaning you own it. If someone registers it for you, make sure they follow these guidelines and that you have the username and password to the account. It should not be registered in the web developer’s account with other domain names because you will not have access to it.
If your website developer registers your domain name for you, make sure you know what happens to your domain name registration if you want to move your website hosting elsewhere. Can you leave it there and still have access, or do you have to transfer it out? Transferring is a hassle, so this is another reason to register your domain name at an independent registrar like GoDaddy or Network Solutions, not through your web hosting company or website developer.
Domain names usually expire or come up for renewal every couple of years, so keep an eye out for emails reminding you to renew them. This is another reason you want your domain name registered in your name and email address to get the renewal notifications.
Some of the bigger domain name registrars also offer email addresses using your domain name, for example, email@example.com. It’s an additional charge, but a relatively small one. If this is something you want, check into the registrar’s offerings before you use them. You can also use Gmail’s G Suite to do this.”
Domain Hosting Services
After you’ve settled on a domain name and register it, you’ll need to find a host for your website. This isn’t an issue for some website building platforms, like WordPress.com, which registers and upkeeps the domain name for you. However, if you go with a website builder, like WordPress.org, you’ll need someone to host the domain for you.
There are numerous companies out there that will do this for you. Most of the hype around this depends on what you want from the host. One of the most popular hosts is Bluehost. They supposedly have excellent customer service along with some of the lowest rates out there.
Wix, WordPress, or Squarespace – Which Will You Choose?
The first thing you need to build a website is a website builder, and there are three big ones that people like to use: WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace. Each platform has its pros and cons, which I’ll outline for you here:
There are two types of WordPress out there: wordpress.com and wordpress.org.
WordPress.com maintains your website for you, and you’re locked into a paid plan that offers particular features. This version of WordPress also helps you choose and keep your domain name. It also has thousands of pre-made templates you can use to build your website.
The downside is that WordPress is hosting your website, and if they go away, you’ll probably lose your content. However, I don’t think this will happen because they have been around for a long time and continues to be a popular platform for bloggers and content creators.
WordPress.org, on the other hand, gives you complete control over your website’s maintenance, domain name, and customization. You will have to either build your website from scratch, hire a professional, or pay a developer for a theme you like.
You’ll also have to use a domain hosting service to register and maintain your domain name. BlueHost is one of the best domain hosters out there, or so I’m told.
The upside for both of these options is that they won’t break the bank. However, you will need to decide if you’ve got the skills, time, and patience to build your website from scratch. If yes, go with wordpress.org; if no, go with wordpress.com.
Want to learn more? This infographic by WPBeginner will give you more information on the two platforms.
Out of all three website builders I’ve listed here, WordPress is what I’d recommend using.
I have a WordPress.com account for this very website, and I love it. I used a template for my website, and it worked well for me up until last year when I outgrew it.
When that happened, I had to upgrade my account to a business plan to access plug-ins, which made sense. With the advantage of plug-ins, I was able to redesign my website from scratch using Elementor and add many necessary SEO elements.
If I had to do this over again, I’d go with WordPress.org. All of the things that you get with the pricier WordPress.com plans are already built into WordPress.org. It makes more sense financially and creatively.
Do I regret using WordPress.com? No. I would use it because it’s a great platform, but I’ve outgrown it and want to have more control over what I can and cannot do with my website.
Wix is considered by many to be the best overall website builder due to its ease of use. It’s a drag and drop builder, which makes it easy to reshape your website. However, the platform won’t allow you to make any changes to your theme once you’ve hit the publish button. So make sure things are perfect before going live!
I’ve worked with Wix before, and I don’t particularly like their drag and drop system. I find that it’s finicky, and it takes a lot longer to get what you want. (The same can be said for Elementor, which I use for this website and have a love-hate relationship with at times.)
The lack of customization after the fact also makes it a no for me. And this is something to think about for emerging authors. Your website will look completely different from the day you start to when you publish your first book.
Squarespace is known for making gorgeous websites, and their templates are feature-rich (meaning you can add things in like MailChimp and social media). They’re great for simple but stunning designs. They’re also easy to use and are more of a middle ground between the tech-savvy WordPress and Wix’s intuitiveness.
I don’t have one for this platform because I haven’t worked with it very much. The one thing I’d like to warn you about is there is no autosave function, so make sure you’re backing up your work regularly. If you don’t, you may lose your progress and have to start over again.
Squarespace does create some stunning websites, though, and if that’s important to you, then this may be your best bet.
Logos and Branding for Your Author Website
Once you’ve got your website builder down, you’ll want to start thinking about those design elements you’ll need, and those design elements tie into your branding and logo.
There is a lot to think about before you dive into colors, shapes, and logo designs. You’ll want to do a bit of research into your competitors and see what they are doing well and not so well with their websites. In other words, do some market research to find what’s working and what’s not.
Once you have all of that information, take an in-depth look at yourself. Why? Because you are your brand. Authors are public figures, and how we behave and conduct ourselves will impact how others see us. You’ll need to look at yourself and think about the image you want to project to your audience.
When you’ve gathered all of that information, start looking into your website’s design and branding aspects. It’s important to note that whatever you do now can change. It’s not set in stone, and your branding will change as you develop and grow.
I’d start this process by picking your colors. They can pertain to your genre, or they could be colors that you like. You can also take some online tests to help figure out the feeling you want to evoke in your audience when they view your site.
(Canva has a great tool to help you develop color palettes and tell you the meaning behind the colors you choose.)
From there, I’d then choose a logo. It can be complex or straightforward, and you can hire someone to make it for you or do it yourself on Canva. Whatever you decide, it’s up to you!
Your logo is your calling card. It should be easy for people to remember and identify with. It’ll usually contain the colors that you want to be associated with your brand.
While all of those things are important to consider, you’ll also want to give some thought as to where you want to display it. Obviously, you want to put it on your website, but there are a few different places that you can consider for its placement. A lot of that will come down to personal preference, but you should always include your logo at the top of each website page and in your browser tab.
Why? Because you want it to be visible at all times. It feeds into that whole brand awareness thing marketers go on about at length. The more someone sees a branded logo, the more they recognize it, leading to more fans of your work and brand.
The second thing that you should consider with logos is using them on your social media accounts. I do this because my logo is my name, and it brings more recognition to that name.
The only downside of this is that you need to ensure that logo is on all of your social media accounts. Any break in branding will throw a potential reader off. People like consistency.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and User Experience (UX)
I have talked about these two topics in length before, but it’s important, so we’re going to talk about this a bit here as well. Let’s start with SEO.
SEO is about creating content that people can find. You do this by making search engines (like Google) happy, and you do this by creating good content and answering questions inputted into the search engine. For example, if I wanted to know how to write a novel, I’d type that into Google, and whatever Google spits out will be “the best” answers for how to write a book.
The thing about SEO is that it’s all about helping the person asking the question, which goes hand-in-hand with this other thing called user experience. UX focuses on making it easy for prospective readers to find the information they need about a topic or buy a book.
And Google takes that into account when they look at your articles for SEO. It’s also one of the reasons why I redesigned my website.
User Experience, Content, and SEO Work Together
From a website building perspective, there are things that you can do to help boost your SEO. That is a blog post of its own, and I am not equipped to handle it myself. Thankfully, others can, and I am going to link you to them below:
- SEO & Website Design: Everything You Need to Know
- How to Create a Site Structure That Will Enhance SEO
- 5 Ways SEO & Web Design Go Together
Secondly, how you structure your tabs on your website helps all three things. When I started my blog, I had four tabs: home page, about, contact, and blog. I did not have a search function, meaning you had to scroll through backdated posts to find the one you wanted. I did not categorize my posts.
Basically, my website was a mess to get around, and it didn’t encourage people to stay and read more articles. Now that those things are fixed, Google has been ranking my articles higher because it’s easier for website visitors to find my articles.
Additionally, my content has been cleaned up to provide ease of use for the reader. It’s scrollable and lets you find sections that you are more interested in. And again, Google rewards me for that by ranking my articles higher.
What Type of Content Do You Post?
This is where most writers get stuck, especially if they don’t have anything to sell a potential audience. It can also be a lot of work to produce content regularly while also working and spending time with loved ones.
First, please know that there is no better time than the present to start building an audience through a website regardless of your writing status. You need an audience to succeed in today’s publishing climate. Period.
Second, there are ways to create new content, write, work, and spend time with your family and friends. You may have to sacrifice some Netflix time to do, though.
Third, you don’t have to post about writing tips or your work in progress. You could write about whatever you want to. You could republish other people’s work (with their permission) or talk about your dog or life. The possibilities are endless.
All I’d consider is whether you can keep up with the content you want to produce. Some topics can be limited in scope, which will make it hard for you to come up with new content consistently.
Here are some resources for you to check out for some inspiration, whether you’re just starting or a seasoned pro:
- The Fundamentals of Good Content
- The Best Ways to Obtain New & Exciting Content Ideas
- 189 Creative Blog Post Ideas That Will Delight Your Audience
- How to Come Up with 93 Blog Ideas in 10 Minutes
- 5 Creative Blog Post Ideas for Writers [Author Platform 101]
- 365 Blog Post Ideas for Authors and Writers
- 50 Great New Blog Post Ideas for Authors (Plus Book Marketing Tips!)
- 40 Blog Post Ideas For Novelists, Poets, And Creative Writers
Author Website Must-Haves
There are several things that your website must contain. Some of this will depend on where you are in your writing and publishing journey, while others are necessary from the get-go.
Protect Yourself and Your Content
While you are creating logos, content, and a funky website design, make sure you protect the time and effort you’re putting into your website. It’s a lot of work and effort on your part, and it would be a shame if that all came crashing down around your ears because someone wants to be a jerk.
These three things provide transparency and protect you against anyone wanting to come after you for any legal reason. It also lets visitors know how they can interact with your website.
And if you have the means, get an actual lawyer to draft these things for you. They will help you figure out what you need and give you the best defense possible.
I’m going to quote an article from Your First 10,000 Readers for this one:
[M]any authors get confused about the real purpose of their website. Common misconceptions about a website’s purpose include: “To look nice!” or “To strengthen my brand,” or “To give my readers my info about me,” or even, “I’m not sure… but I know I’m supposed to have one!”
Let’s set the record straight. Your author website has one purpose and one purpose only:
To grow your business.
That’s the underlying reason as to why you need to have a website, but it does break down into a bunch of different “goals.” Yes, you want to have a section that lets readers know more about you, but you also need to direct those people towards your books and mailing list to make some money.
And how you expand your business will differ depending on what stage you are in your writing journey. For writers just starting, you’ll want to focus on audience building. It means that you’ll be driving your traffic to sign up for a mailing list. To do that, you’ll need to design every page on your website to direct people to your newsletter sign-up form.
The same goes for a published author trying to sell their books. Every page will direct traffic towards your books or your email sign-up form (where you’ll try to sell more books).
The Necessary Author Website Pages
Aside from a purpose, every website has a few required pages that you need. These are the pages that I think are mandatory for all writers to have on their websites:
Let’s break these down into their own sections to look at their importance and relevance in more detail:
The Home Page
The home page is your most-visited page. It’s the first place visitors will land when they search your name on Google. And because of this, it’s also the page that needs to make the best first impression and drive people to buy a book or sign up for your newsletter.
You also need to consider what you want to push more: sales or email subscribers. There are benefits to both, but if you choose the latter, you could end up getting more value from one person than making just one sale. You can build a relationship with the people who sign-up for your newsletter, which will result in more book sales, increased loyalty, and much more.
Whatever you want to drive traffic to needs to be front and center on your page. All of the other goodies can wait.
On my website, for example, I drive people to my blog articles. I do this because I want them to read all of the fantastic articles I write, hoping they like the content enough to sign-up for my newsletter to grow my audience.
About Me/Contact Page
The about me page is the next page on your author website to get the most traffic. Yes, they want to know more about you, but they also want something from you on this page, so don’t forget to give them something that fits within your website’s purpose.
This is a personal preference, but I like author websites that combine their contact information and bio. It gives me all of the information that I may need in one place. Plus, it will help journalists, agents, publishers, etc., get the information that they need to help promote you and your books in one place if needed.
According to IngramSpark, you should have a short and long bio. The shorter version should appear elsewhere on your site with a read more link at the bottom, while the longer one should appear on your about me page. Be personable in the extended version and more professional in the shorter one.
And include a photo with both bios. People connect to people, so show them that you’re a real human and not a bot. For those working under a pseudonym or protecting your identity, you should still find something meaningful to use in place of a photo. Examples include a cartoon avatar or a picture of something that has meaning.
Protip: If you don’t have a photo you’d like to use, invest in a photographer and set up a photography shoot. Get various shots done that will work for your author bio, marketing materials, and books. It’ll cost a bit of money upfront, but it’s better than having that super embarrassing blurry photo from your acne-filled teen years appearing in an article on the web.
Your Book Page (also known as your sales page) is another traffic-generating page on your author website. This page needs to be functional and professional because it’s going to make you money.
And there are many things you need to consider when it comes to the design of this page:
- Your book’s cover design. It needs to be appropriate for your writing genre and look good because people judge a book by its cover. If you write in more than one genre, you may need to create more than one website. You don’t want to give mixed messages. (I also think that there are ways around this, but that’s just me.)
- Polished copywriting is required. You need to have something next to your book to give readers a reason to buy. Your book blurb helps with this, but it shouldn’t be solely relied upon.
- Contain a clear call to action (CTA). Tell people exactly what you want them to do (i.e., buy for $2.95).
- Use your reviews. Nothing helps sell things faster than social proof.
- No info dumps. It’s not good in fiction or sales and drives people away.
- Make it easy to navigate. If you have multiple books, genres, or series all housed on one website, make sure that people can find what they are looking for quickly by sectioning everything off into groups.
- Where are you sending visitors to buy your books? Do you want to send people to a bookstore or set up an online store? Are you able to provide good customer service, or are there any contracts restricting direct sales to you?
Your author website is designed to drive sales, but it should also drive traffic to an email list. I won’t talk about why newsletters are such a good idea because I’ve already briefly covered it in this article. But you need to have sign-up forms everywhere. And by everywhere, I mean everywhere.
But it’s also nice to have one page dedicated to telling potential readers all about what your newsletter is about and how often you send it. It’s also a good idea to link potential signees to your newsletter archives to give them a glimpse at what you offer. That being said, don’t give them the whole thing. Keep your archive backlogged a month or so, making them sign up for the most recent content.
You will also create numerous pages surrounding your newsletter and collecting sign-ups. For example, you should have a pop-up that asks people to subscribe and a thank you page to, well, thank them for their patronage.
Pssst. Speaking of newsletters, have you signed up for mine? I share valuable tips, publishing opportunities, book reviews, and more every Sunday. You can sign up here:
If you haven’t noticed, I love blogs and creating good content. They are time-consuming and troublesome (even more so when you run out of ideas), but they also provide an opportunity to drive sales towards your books and email sign-up forms and help you build an audience and community.
And as many authors and experts point out, it’s much harder to develop a fascinating blog topic for fiction writers than for niche-specific nonfiction writers. Regardless of what you write, it would be best to focus on driving sales, sign-ups, and engagement with your books and content.
I know this very money-focused, but it is a consideration for those authors with books to sell. For those who don’t have something to sell yet, blogging is an excellent opportunity for you to practice your writing skills and network with others within the writing community. For me, I use it to give back to the community, share my knowledge, make friends, practice my writing skills, and keep sane.
Link to Your Social Media Channels
If you have a social media presence, link to it! There are many SEO benefits to it, but it also encourages potential fans to further communicate and interact with you. It’s also a great way to direct publishers to your other platforms to show them that you have a fan base and are focused on growing it.
Optimize Your Author Website for Mobile and Tablet Use
Whether you want to accept it or not, we live in a digital world, and people are glued to their hand-held electronic devices. This means we need to cater to those tablet and mobile device addicts and make it easy for them to navigate our websites on those objects.
When you’re shopping for a theme or building your website, make sure it comes with the option of playing with the responsiveness for other devices. I used Elementor to design my website, and they had the opportunity to tweak the look and responsiveness for other devices in their design process.
Your Author Website Will Change
It’s true. Your author website will change throughout the years. You may decide to change your branding or need to upgrade the site to bring it in line with current industry standards. Or maybe you have to change it because you’ve outgrown its usefulness (read: you have a book to sell).
None of this is bad; it’s actually a good thing. However, it means you need to maintain your website. You’ll have to look critically at it and make upgrades over the years. Websites are a necessary time and financial commitment for your success as an author in today’s publishing world.
Please do not feel like you’re stuck with a design you don’t like or isn’t functional for your needs. Change it if you can and get the website you love and need.
As you can see, there are many moving parts when it comes to building a website. Fortunately, a lot of these things are a one-time thing that you need to set up. Some things need to be regularly maintained, such as a blog or about me page, but they don’t have to be as time-consuming or annoying as you may think they are.
Hopefully, this guide gave you the information and inspiration you need to start or revamp your author website.
If there is anything that I missed, please let me know in the comments below! I love hearing from you!
Stay safe, everyone.
Until next time.