Writing a book isn’t easy. It takes skill, time, commitment, and passion. Even after completing your masterpiece, you will still need to find an audience for your article, short story or novel. A website will be of great help when looking for the audience. An author website is a crucial tool for long-term platform and book promotion. A website is used to share all the information surrounding the literary life. You can share photos, news, links and writing samples to book retailers and social networks in one place. It should be a resource that is available 24/7 to your readers.
If you only use social networking to serve the purpose of an author website, that is a bad idea. You will be at the whims and mercy of a third party. You won’t have control of what Facebook or other social media site does – with the design, functionality, and followers/likes. When it falls out favor, you will need to start all over again.
A good author website keeps you in touch with readers as it stronger with time. It is also a long-term investment in the author career. Here is how to set up an author website.
- Choose a platform
A host ensures that your site is always up and running. You have three broad categories to choose from: free hosting, managed/premium hosting, and fee-based hosting.
Free hosting – if you have ever used WordPress or Blogger, then you have an idea of a free website hosting service. These services are easy to use and hassle-free. But they have some limitations like:
- You won’t fully customize your website
- You will have limited functionality when it comes to monetization or e-commerce
- You may not get in-depth analytics about how people find the site or visitors
Free hosting is the best option for unpublished authors as you will be developing your brand and maybe you don’t require the freedom that self-hosted site offer. However, if you want to be in a position to change from free hosting to self-hosting, you can start with WordPress since it allows a seamless transfer.
Fee-based hosting – self-hosting offer you complete control and access to your site platform, environment, and files. Self-hosting is perfect for established authors or anyone who wish to monetize their website. The benefits of self-hosting are:
- You have the ability to customize your site such as deciding colors, fonts, headers, page templates, footers etc. It’s important for long-term branding.
- You get insights into site traffic and the working marketing efforts.
- You have the freedom to add functionality to earn some money for the website such as e-commerce, advertising, paywall areas or membership.
- Effective integration of newsletter sign-up tools.
The most common hosting providers are HostGator, Bluehost and DreamHost. They all offer 24/7 support and one-click installation of WordPress. It cost as low as $4-7 per month.
You can also consider Smooth Publishing Hosting Service. We host only Author websites and our server is optimized for author websites and blogs.
Self-hosting makes you responsible for the site security. You will have to backup your site if your host doesn’t do that for you. If the site goes down, you will be the one to solve the problem. If you find that worrying, then you should consider premium hosting or managed hosting service.
Managed hosting – you pay higher which can be up to $30 per month for services like regular backups, superior support, and site security. If you are an author with little experience and little technical background, managed hosting might be perfect for you. The most popular managed hosting solution for WordPress is WP Engine.
If you find managed hosting too expensive and self-hosting to be scary, then you can try:
- Squarespace – it offers managed hosting environment and e-commerce functionality. It might not be WordPress based, but it allows one to export some content when you leave. It costs $8 per month.
- Upgrading WordPress.com – it costs $99 per year and you get additional customization, functionality, and storage.
- Wix – using Wix is easy to use. It saves on development cost. It has elegant templates. You can have a free version to test.
- Hiring a professional to assist you properly in setting up the site.
When and why should you hire help?
You can need a web programmer or a web designer when getting started. You can also find these skills in one person. Website designers will help in customizing the feel and the look of the site including page templates, headers, fonts, colors, etc. if you need the site to show your author brand, you will need a designer.
Programmers focus on extending and improving site functionality, security and speed. Both programmers and designers can help in getting your website off the ground and ensure that everything is in place. They will also offer guidance when you need to manage it on your own.
Hiring a professional can help in speeding up the process, give you peace of mind and reduce frustration.
- Register your domain name
You will need a domain name, which is a URL where your website lives. When a visitor types it into a browser, it will take them to your website. Some platforms allow one to register their domain name through them. But, if you want, you can register through a third party.
A domain name is one of the branding decisions that you make while building a website. As the internet expands, there is an increasing number of domains being registered and it can be challenging to get the best ones. How do you find a domain that is right and available for you? Here are the tips that can help you:
- Search before registering – your first domain name choice may have been taken. Therefore, it’s good to search first before getting into the site building process. Google Domain Search tool can help you to look through different options. When you have found the perfect domain, you don’t have to register it on the tool. Register it with your platform. You can transfer domain names.
- Use first and last name – you can use your first and last names if they are available. You can use your pen name as a domain name if you write under a pen name. If your name isn’t available, you can use .net, .me, or .us domain. Avoid using .org unless it’s service or religious books. Also, avoid using a middle initial in a domain name.
- Avoid using the book title as the main domain name – what will you do when you write another book? You can have a basic website or landing page for every book but not for the main author website.
- Avoid adding dashes in your domain – a dash can be added to your names if you want to get your name if it’s taken. But it makes it harder for readers to find you.
- Find some author websites to help you model yours
Before getting deep into the website design, find other author websites that you like. When looking at these sites, look at the main elements of the site. Here are the crucial elements:
- Header – the logo, image or name at the top of the site. Don’t feel overwhelmed if you can’t make images look great as on the site. You can use free tools such as Canva.
- Featured Banner – authors have an image of the latest book featured as the first thing a person sees when they visit their site.
- Newsletter/email sign up form – it’s crucial since email list is the best way to develop a lasting relationship with the readers. Building an email list is the first marketing step.
- Menu – the menu gives you the idea of the main pages. You can always find a books page, a blog, about page and contact page.
- Endorsement and reviews – it shows any featured reviews or endorsements from established authors.
- Social media channels – do they add a link to their social media profiles such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest?
- Install WordPress
I will assume that you are setting up your site with Bluehost. After setting up your Bluehost account and registered your domain, you need to install WordPress on the domain. Here are the steps to follow:
- On the Bluehost dashboard, click install WordPress.
- Confirm that you want to install by clicking continue WordPress installation
- On the next page, pick the domain that you registered earlier on in the drop-down and let the directory form remain blank.
- Enter the login credentials. You will be asked to create username and password for your site. These should be kept in a safe place, but you will get an email with them.
- It will take few minutes to install. When it finishes installing, visit the domain’s WordPress admin screen. You can bookmark the page for easy access.
- Familiarize yourself with WordPress
When you familiarize yourself with WordPress, it can be easy to use, but it is sometimes intimidating to new users. You can take note of some few things:
The dashboard is the home base, where you can access all the pages and settings.
Admin header bar
This bar is found at the top of the screen. It has several helpful buttons. You can create new page or post. You can also edit by clicking the edit button and make the changes. It has a home button where it will take you to the site’s home screen.
You can create pages and access settings on the site. You can change the theme and customize some appearance. You can control and create the menu on the front of the site.
You can learn every part of the WordPress so that it can be easy to use. It has many parts.
- Choose Your Theme
Your site can drastically look different when themes are applied. Therefore, finding the right theme is important. With so many great free and paid themes, it can be hard to find the perfect one for your site. Here are few ones that can help you get started with your author website.
PageLine – this is a free theme that gives you a lot of control and you don’t have to be a programmer to handle it.
Divi – it is amazing. You can edit colors, font sizes, spacing and more.
Tribe – these themes offer what you need for your author website. It’s perfect when you want something simple and functional.
Custom themes – you can also hire a web designer to build a custom theme. It’s a good option when you don’t have an eye for design or when you don’t have time to do it.
- Create your header
Headers can be an image, logo or a full-width image. You can easily create this with Canva. If you can’t, you can hire a designer. However, using Canva is simple. Here is how you can do that:
- Before starting, you need to know the dimensions of the header. It is determined by the theme. Check the theme’s settings.
- Go to Canva.com and create a free account. You can also log in using Facebook. Select “Use custom dimensions”.
- Enter the dimensions such as 308 by 40.
- Create your logo. You can just keep it simple with your name and a white background.
- Download the image and upload it to the theme.
- Add content
This is where you add content to your new WordPress site. Some author websites fail to add fundamental pieces. Some sites don’t even have buttons to buy the book. Some others don’t have a way to contact the author while others don’t have book description. These guidelines will ensure that you have everything needed in an author website.
Here are the things that an author website should have:
A homepage should not have everything in but should have important things only. You can give highlights of your important things and let people click to learn more. It should have;
Latest book – your latest book should be placed at the front and center on your site. Show its cover, add a brief description with blurbs and the links to buy should be made prominent. It makes it easy for readers to purchase your book and it’s good for branding. If people have read your most recent book and visit your website, they will immediately know that they are in the right place.
Email subscription box – as a call-to-action, invite people to join your newsletter lists.
Headshot and bio – add your headshot and a bio that ends with “learn more” and add links to about page. The bio should be short. As a tip, use the same headshot everywhere – LinkedIn, Facebook, website, Amazon Author Page etc.
Excerpts of other content – add links to your resources page or latest three blog posts or short stories. Make it easy for readers to find extra content online.
Connect – you should add where your readers can connect online such contact page, social media links etc.
The page let the readers know about you and what you do. It allows bloggers and media to get the images and information they need.
You should make it clear how readers can connect and contact you.
Email address – most people fear to add their email mainly because of spamming. If you are using reputable services like Gmail, you don’t have to worry about spam.
Mailing address – if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your home address, use the office address. It’s crucial to make it possible for readers to mail things to you.
Social media links – share your Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ etc. People should connect with you on all platforms if you want to get more readers.
Not all authors will need this page. But if you regularly speak or arrange book tour, you should have the page on your site.
Resources help in sharing your collection of content. The content that doesn’t get old. You can use this page to share writing tips, white papers, stories, interviews, videos etc.
- Set-up your email list
One of the reasons why you are doing all this is the email list. A newsletter signup form is the most crucial element on the site. You can use MailChimp since it’s free for the first 2,000 subscribers. The company offers friendly service. You can also use Convertkit. It can be great for authors, but it’s a paid service and it can be expensive. However, the email list is a good place you can invest. It should among the first upgrades.
- Search engine optimization
You have created your first website. These instructions can take few hours if you follow them keenly. When all these are done, you can now add a perfect blog post.
When you have all the content on the site, you should ensure that the author website gets attention from Google and other search engines. The process of making your site appealing to Google and other search engines is known as Search Engine Optimization. Making content appear in search results can take time, but the following advice will help you.
You should add a description for the page and mention the genre and type of book. These terms can be the terms that readers use to find your books on search engines.
You should know that Google is smart when it comes to search engine optimization. You can’t trick it and it would be time wasting if you try. You can just ensure that you have a lot of text on the site and mention genre, name, book titles and other attributes that visitors might look for.
You should also use proper headings throughout the site. You should put a large heading element at the top of the page. Use medium and small headings to introduce sections of the page.
- Maximizing your site
Keep your site updated at all times. This way you will get more traffic to your posts than to the homepage. It should be easy to do if doing a speaking engagement or when writing new material, but adding news will keep Google and audience coming back to the site.
You can also gain traction for the author site by ensuring that you link your site from your social media profiles. You should have a YouTube channel and Google Plus listing as these usually show up high in search engine themselves.
Ensure that the website header, sidebar, and footer appear on the site offer the most important calls-to-action since there are many visitors who don’t go to the homepage.
If you don’t add posts, it’s a bad idea to have posts center and front of the home page. This is the default setting of many WordPress sites and themes. Remember to change this.
If the readers reach the bottom of the post, it means that they are engaged. It offers an opportunity to add call-to-action such as a book for sale or newsletter sign-up.
If you want to maximize your site’s effectiveness, install an analytical tool. You can use Google Analytics, which is popular and free. It is available to anyone with a Google account. As soon as you install it, you will collect data on the site traffic and visitors, the most popular content and how people use and navigate the site.
With websites, there is the power of incremental progress. A person doesn’t have to perfect everything and launch at once. Start small and smart and you can build your skills and presence with time. You can add complex functionality and customize as you get comfortable.
Having a site for a writing career is vital in building a platform and selling books. It’s the first place people look when they need to find information about you and what you do.
However, when you have a bad or incomplete website, it can hurt you instead of helping you. Your site doesn’t have to be the most beautiful site, but it should have the right content and information available to visitors. People should know they are in the right place, they can easily find and buy your books, and they can sign up for the email list and contact you whenever they want. This article will help you get your site setup and adding the right information.