If you intend to cement a permanent presence as an author to market your books and tell the world about yourself and your masterpieces, you will need a website. Here is what you need to know to create your author website.
During my years as a small and home-based entrepreneur and mentor to new start-up hopefuls, I built and managed many websites dedicated to marketing my products, services and affiliate products and helping new businesses launch their own sites. Although several years have passed since then, the principles remain the same; there are ways to do it and pitfalls to avoid, irrespective of the type of site you propose launching.
Since the advent of Content Management Systems such as WordPress, the days of having to pay someone else to build and manage your website are long since gone, although the option is there if you don’t have the time or inclination to do it yourself.
But there is no logical reason you can’t design and build your own author website; all the tools to help you are out there and almost all of them are free! So why pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to a third—party developer.
My purpose is to highlight what you need to know to proceed but not to take you through the actual build process step-by-step, although I will point you toward excellent video tutorials which will teach you how in a couple of hours.
Let’s get started with getting you your own website.
What’s it going to cost to build an author website?
That depends on how fancy you want your website to be, but I would suggest start simple, you can always upgrade to more expansive and expensive layouts later.
To start; you need a domain name and a website hosting provider. You can get both from the same place as I explain below, but if you opt to separate the two, a domain name will cost you anywhere between $10 to $15 a year depending on where you buy it.
The first step is to decide on a domain name; the name for your website. As a author I would suggest you use your own name unless your intention is to offer courses on, for example, how to become a writer, then you may need to choose something that is more relevant. Author K.M. Weiland’s website Helping Writers become Authors is not only about her books but offers tutorials, podcasts and courses on how to be a better writer.
You can check the availability of your choice by either a Google search, or better still, go to a site like Namecheap and type in your selection in their search field. It will advise you if the name is available or already taken.
If perchance your preferred name is taken, then you may need to add “writer” or “author” before or after your name. Your domain name would look something like this: johnsmith.com or johnsmithwriter.com. You want to try to secure the extension .com as opposed to .us or .net. This is a personal preference. In the past, the .com extension was believed to have better ranking opportunities than others although I am reliably informed this is not the case today.
Your domain name needs to be registered and hosted by a domain name or website hosting company. The validity of the name is usually for one year, and so you need to keep it renewed or you will lose it.
There are two options as I mentioned to get a domain name. You can either:
- use a dedicated domain name provider such as Namecheap, which I use, or
- you can sign up with a website hosting company (the company that will host your website on their servers) and probably get one included in the cost of the hosting service.
Website Hosting Provider
Now that you have a domain name, you will need to sign up with a website hosting company. As with domain name providers, there is a host of good companies providing the service you will need. Over the years I have used 4 different providers and through customers became acquainted with two others. The two I would recommend is Siteground, which I use, and InMotion but you need to do your own research. Here is an article listing the best 10 companies for 2020 (in their opinion) and compares pricing, speed, reliability and other important considerations.
There is some terminology you need to become acquainted with as you will encounter a whole gambit of new words and phrases as you build your author website. Here are some frequently used ones.
This is the most used CMS software platform on which your website will be built. See it as the foundation or engine room for your site. WordPress is driven and managed through your dashboard, where you add plugins, customize your site, create the menus and widgets and compile your Pages, such as the Home page, the Contact Me and About pages. All your posts (this article is a post) are created using this platform and you can either type each post into the template or paste and copy from other applications. This is what the dashboard looks like for all WordPress installations. The menu on the left will change as you add additional resources to enhance your site.
Pasted on top of the CMS is a Theme, the building blocks for your site if you will. It’s what will give your website its “look and feel”. There are thousands of themes available out there both free and premium. Most times you can try out the free version before you spend money and upgrade to the premium to gain access to additional features. It may be a good idea to visit WordPress.org, select themes from the top menu and browse what is available and what each theme offers. Narrow your search down to blogging or you’ll be on their site for an eternity. I use the Astra theme, which is amongst the most popular free themes (it has a premium version) and ideal for bloggers.
Page Builders is an addon to your theme. The reason you would use one is that they provide features and tools that allow you to custom build your Pages (Home, About, Contact, Product page, etc.). They add “glitz and glamour” to the overall appearance and once you get familiar with them, you can build a very impressive website. Their flexibility lies in using blocks which you can populate and manipulate with drop-and-drag abilities, and if you know what you are doing, you can build a page in minutes. There are several options available such Elementor, Brizy (which I use), Beaver Builder, Divi (both a theme and page builder and probably the most popular), Page Builder and others. Some, like Brizy and Elementor, offer a free starter version which I use and find more than adequate. If you opt to use one, I can only recommend the three I have used in the past: Divi, Brizy and Elementor. Page Builders are for building pages and not usually used to create posts.
In December 2018 WordPress released version 5.0 of their CMS platform, known as Gutenberg. The fundamental difference with this update was that it introduced the use of blocks, as used by the Page Builders. Prior versions had what was sometimes called a WYSIWYG layout to type in your posts. In other words, What You See Is What You Get. The post editor provided a very basic word processing capability that could be tweaked with the addition of plugins, but Gutenberg changed this and introduced application specific blocks; one for text, another for an image and so on. Since release, numerous plugins have been developed to enhance its capability, and it is not a bad tool in its current state. Some love it and have moved away from Page Builders, while other users hate it. I use it for my posts.
These are like apps for your cell or mobile. They provide additional features and tools that will improve the performance of the site or features for viewers to use. The social media share buttons you see at the top and left of this post are displayed and linked via a plugin. As with Themes you can view the many plugins available at WordPress.org.
The column you see to the right of this post is called the sidebar, and the images and text you see displayed are what are called widgets. Many come with the theme while others can be added with plugins. The most common widgets are the search option, most recently published posts, categories for your posts and social media follow-me links. The side bar, depending on the theme, can be on the left or right of the post. Many websites use it to offer products and is a good place to announce your most recent published or about to be published, book. Widgets are usually displayed on all post (article) pages only.
Time to build your author website
I would suggest that here you seek expert advice which will walk you through the process of setting up your first site. I recommend that you start with these two YouTube channels:
Please watch their videos before you start as their tutorial videos will guide you through the whole process from finding a domain name to launching the completed website. Both offer Beginner tutorials using the Astra theme and either Brizy or Elementor Page Builders.
Good luck with building your author website!
Disclosure: I am an affiliate for some of the products mentioned or displayed in this article and should you purchase any of them I will receive a small commission which will not affect the advertised price