The article Author Websites: 10 Steps to Building an Author Website (2022) appeared first on The Write Practice.
If you want to be a writer, one of the most important steps you need to take (besides writing a great book) is building an author website. Here’s the complete guide to building your online presence.
If you’re like most writers I know, you probably dream of getting published. But as I’ve worked with writers for the last six years, I’ve found that most are woefully unprepared for what publishing actually takes, and this means that either they never figure out what it takes to get published.
Or, when they finally DO get published, they find themselves disappointed with the process and with how many books they sell.
How do you prepare for getting published though? There are several steps, but the first step is building an author website. An author website is the first step to establishing a professional author platform and reaching out to potential readers.
In this article, I’m going to share a step-by-step guide to building a simple author website yourself that will support all of your publishing efforts. Note: some of the links below are affiliate links.
Why Building a Website is the First Step You Should Take BEFORE You Get Published
As book sales move more and more online, a website where you can develop a relationship with your readers is essential. It doesn’t matter if your book is being published by a big traditional publisher or if you’re self-publishing. You need a website.
Why is having an author website so important? Why not just focus on free and easy platforms like Facebook and Twitter for your book marketing efforts?
- Social media doesn’t sell books, but an email list does. You might think email is an old school way to sell books and that it can’t possibly work, but the numbers say something very different. In fact, 66 percent of people say they have made a purchase because of an email they received compared to only 20 percent of people who have purchased something from a Facebook post and six percent from Twitter. I’ve been watching this trend for years, and every statistic I’ve ever read has shown me that email is far and above the best way to get your audience to buy your book.
- The best place to build your email list is on a website. How then do you build your email list? Through your website. In fact, a simple, single-page website with an email opt-in form is enough to completely change your publishing success.
- You OWN your website. You don’t own your social media following. Facebook does. Twitter does. Instagram does. And they can change the rules any time they want, like when Facebook changed their algorithm to only show a fraction of people’s posts. Or when Instagram did the same.
“But I’m Not Tech Savvy”: Why Anyone Can Build an Author Website
If the idea of building a website is intimidating to you, though, it shouldn’t be. I’ve built over a dozen websites and helped other writers set up a few dozen more, many in just a few hours, and even though I’m pretty savvy, it doesn’t mean you have to be to setup a simple author website.
Anyone can set up a simple author website in just a few hours if you know the right steps and don’t get overwhelmed by all the options out there.
At the same time, when I built my first website, it took me weeks because I was doing it on my own, with no one to guide me through the process. My hope is that this guide will make the process simple enough that anyone can build a website.
10 Steps to Building an Author Website
If you read this article from start to finish and follow each step, you will have a great author website.
1. Choose Your Platform
You have many options when it comes to building a simple author website, but there are only three that I recommend.
Self-Hosted WordPress Site. My personal favorite is a self-hosted WordPress website (which is very different from a free WordPress.com website). I’ve been building websites on WordPress for almost ten years, and it combines ease, flexibility, and full control over your site.
You have to pay to host your website if you choose this option. That costs about $50 a year through Bluehost, which is the hosting company I recommend (you can click here to setup your WordPress website through Bluehost). Note that this includes a domain name, normally $12 a year. This is the least expensive, highest value option available.
WordPress has a number of free themes that allow you to quickly change the entire look and feel of your site. You can also purchase a paid theme (we use Divi at thewritepractice.com, and it’s amazing). Choose Self-Hosted WordPress (via Bluehost).
(HINT: I usually go with the Basic plan, paid yearly, with no add-ons. Bluehost and any other hosting service you choose will likely pitch you several add-on services for an extra cost. Personally, I always say no to all of them.)
Squarespace. If you’re not going to get a self-hosted WordPress, then Squarespace is a great second option. They have beautiful design and make it incredibly easy to set up and get started. Squarespace costs $12 a month to get started, about three times more than a self-hosted WordPress website, but they include a lot of features under that price. Choose Squarespace.
WordPress.com (free). Not to be confused with a self-hosted WordPress website (e.g. WordPress.org), WordPress.com is like the free, “light” version of a self-hosted WordPress website. If you want to get started quickly and for free, this can be a good option. I would still recommend Squarespace over WordPress.com—and a self-hosted WordPress website over both—but this can be a way to ease yourself into building an author website. Plus, it’s fairly easy to export and transfer to a self-hosted WordPress website when you’re ready to up your game. Choose WordPress.com.
Which Website Platforms to Avoid:
- Weebly. I’ve see a few good author websites built on Weebly, but most look clunky.
- Wix. Every author website I’ve seen built on Wix looks like it’s from 2005. Plus, their branding will be on every page. You should be advertising your writing, not your website platform.
- GoDaddy Site Builder (or any host’s native site builder). Hosting companies are good at hosting, not creating software for building websites.
2. Register Your Domain Name
A domain name is the URL where your website lives, e.g. joebunting.com. When people type it into their browser, they will arrive at your website. All three of the platforms I recommended above allow you to register a custom domain name through them, but you can also register through a third party like Google Domains or Name.com (although I dorecommend registering through the platform you choose above).
Your domain name is one of the first branding decisions you make as you build your website. The challenge is that as the Internet expands, more and more domains are registered and the best ones become scarce. How do you find one that’s both available and right for you? Here are a few important tips:
- Look around before registering. Your first choice for a domain may already be taken, so it’s important to search before getting too far into the website building process. You can use Google’s Domain Search tool to quickly look through different domain options (HINT: Once you find your perfect domain, don’t register it on this tool. Instead, register it through the platform you chose above. You can always transfer domain names, but it’s an extra step that can be a little complicated.)
- Use your first and last name (e.g. johngrisham.com). If it’s available, that is. If you write under a pen name, then your pen name would be the domain name, and if your name is difficult to spell, then you might consider writing under a pen name. If your name is not available, you can use a .me, .us, or .net domain, but I wouldn’t use .org unless you write religious or service books. I would not use a middle initial in your domain name. You can also append a word to the end of your name, like joebuntingwriter.com or buntingbooks.com. Not as good as your author name, but it can still work.
- Don’t use your book title as your (main) domain name. Because what will you do when you write another book. It’s fine to have a simple landing page or a basic website for each book you write (like this one), but not for your main author website.
- Don’t include dashes in the domain. Adding a dash in between your first and last name is an easy way to get your name if it’s alrea