So you are an author, or an aspiring author and you want to build your own author website? Well, you have landed on the right page. This article is the complete guide to creating an author website, written by an author for authors. But I am not just an author, I also make websites and write books on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). The aim of this article is to assist you in making an effective author platform that will assist your author business. This is a resource for indie authors and traditional authors looking to add the best author website to their business to potentially further their author career. So let’s get started.
Things to consider before building your author website
The main thing to consider before building your author website is the goal.
- Why are you building it?
- What is the purpose of your author’s website?
- Is it to sell books?
- Build a community?
- To build a newsletter following?
- Build a platform to allow you to become a bestselling author?
- Or to share your insights and build a bond with your readers?
- Or create a site that will bring in new potential readers?
- A place online to get your books to readers?
These are all worthy goals. Now whatever it is you need from your author’s website, you will need to set this out at the beginning and define it clearly, as this will influence the direction your website takes.
Personally, I built a kind of Swiss army knife author’s website here at robbwallace.co.uk, feel free to look around. I have a place to advertise and market my books; I have a place to blog and share my ideas and opinions about everything I am interested in; I have a place that links to all my social accounts and a place where any potential readers interested in me or my content can find my books and the ability to buy them easily.
For me, the key reason to have a website is to have your own space online where you can sell your books (directly or indirectly), showcase your latest book, your author bio, contact information and more. You are an indie author and you need to have an online presence independent of any publisher, your own slice of online. After all, you are building an empire, your building a brand, your building a platform, a place where readers interested in your work can easily access your content and buy your work.
Before I go any further, I have two books for sale that will take this article to the next level (and your website) and help you build an author website way beyond what I can cover here.
1: SEO A Layman’s Guide is a book about all aspects of search ranking, covering in-depth everything you need to rank your website in today’s ultra-competitive search rankings, i.e Google. There is no point in having an author website if no one can find it! My book will show you how to rank it.
2: Smartphone Smart Marketing is a book about marketing, which shows you how to use your phone to create content, and every author website and author platform ( social media channels etc) needs content.
That is my sales pitch, and for a few pounds/dollars, you could tap into my fifteen years of experience in web, SEO and marketing. But if not, that’s OK, I will cover the basics here. But don’t think your competitors aren’t reading my books!
The author platform refers to the full brand that you as an author need to generate, this is inclusive of your website, online stores (Amazon, Apple, Google Books, Kobo, B&N), social media channels, networking on specialist author platforms like Siteorigins, book bub, good reads and any forums or groups where you interact with other authors or fans. Essentially everything that makes up your online and offline author brand. This will grow as you mature and just remember Rome was not built in a day.
Ok, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
Hosting for a writer’s website.
Web hosting is where your website lives, like buying a plot of land for your house, your domain name being your house, the plot of land being the host. There are lots of hosts available, and lots of confusing technobabble in the offers and packages. But essentially, you are looking for enough bandwidth for the traffic your website will generate, enough storage for you to build a decent website and enough room to upgrade as your website expands. However, to be honest, most modern-day hosts overdeliver on all these options and for a small author website, which in truth is a very low resource-intensive website that can be built on the most basic of packages. I recommend SiteGround. They are well priced, with great resources and, most importantly, fantastic customer services and technical help.
For around £3 or $3 per month, you can get a single WordPress website hosted on Siteground.
- Check out SiteGrounds award winning hosting here. (Affiliate Link)
Please note this is an affiliate link to Sitegrond hosting, it does not cost you anything but for transparency, if you take a passage does kick back a little commission to me. I host all of my websites on Siteground, because they are good.
This is your web URL i.e robbwallace.co.uk is my domain name and as I write under my own name this is the perfect domain name for my author’s website. For domain names, you really want to stick to the .com or the national level domain for your country .co.uk .de etc These domains usually start at around $1 for the first year and move up to $15 a year after.
Popular options are your author’s name, the book series name, the book title, the publishing company name etc. Most hosts will offer you the ability to buy the domain name and hosting package together making this process even simpler.
Choose the right CMS or Content Management System
A website is built on a CMS. The most popular CMS in the world is WordPress but there are other competitors, including WIX, Square Space, Joomla, Drupal, Shopify and more. Plus, nearly every domain name and host has its own purpose-built website builder or CMS.
I recommend WordPress as the CMS of choice to build your author’s website. Why?
1: WordPress is the leading CMS and website platform on the web.
2: There are unlimited options available for WordPress.
3: There are plenty of helpful sites, YouTube videos and instructional available for everything WordPress, so there is always something online to answer any problems you encounter.
4: It is Free.
5: Plugins: If you want to integrate a payment gateway or a system for capturing an email address for your newsletter sign up, or host live video or add extra security, there is a plugin for that on WordPress. It is a very mature ecosystem and the optimisation and customisation are unlimited.
6: The platform is responsive and looks great on mobile phones and desktops alike.
7: Lots of theme options. The theme is the skin you apply to WordPress and there are thousands to choose from for free or professional custom-built themes, including author-specific themes. I always build on the Generate Press Theme and if you are looking for specific author themes, check out Theme Forest.
However, one of the most important things in SEO (optimising your website for search) is not website design but speed and page size. Building your website on Generate Press gives you a solid foundation. The code is well written, lightweight and it is one of the fastest and lightest WordPress themes available. Period. Because the theme offers the world doesn’t mean it works! I had literally installed hundreds of themes before I discovered Generate Press. They offer a FREE version, but I am building an empire, and I want all the features written in the best code. This is why I build on with Generate Press.(Affiliate link)
8: This website is built on WordPress, using the Generate Press theme.
FREE Author Website Options
There are options for free websites, with free web design which include, WIX and WordPress. WordPress can be self-hosted. This is primarily what I am describing. However, you can get a WordPress site hosted by WordPress with a free domain. Wix also offers this. These are a great place to test out the platforms at no risk to yourself, but for a professional author, looking to make an impression a poorly run free website will not inspire confidence in the author.
After you have sorted your host and domain, you really need to think about user experience. The user experience of your author’s website is paramount, just like you want your readers to enjoy your books and have an excellent experience when reading your books. You want those same readers to find your website and have an excellent experience. I can not tell you how many websites I have been on that are absolutely horrendous, painful in fact (check out my NO NO list at the bottom). They advertise or post something on social that appeals and you click through to their website, to be hit with a website from hell. Nope, back button, back to safety. A great user experience should have clear navigation, links that work, readable, big fat finger-friendly buttons for mobile navigation. My SEO book covers this in great detail.
Note: Most web users now interact with websites via a mobile phone, in fact, Google moved to a mobile-first indexing systems years ago. So whatever you do make sure your website looks and functions great on mobile.
Search Engines, Search Engine Optimisation And SEO
First off I have a book on this subject, and as much as my title for this article says “complete guide,” there is no way I could cover all the ins and outs here, in fact in my book it takes me over 100 pages just to cover all the basics of just SEO. From UI, speed, Tags, Headers, Google Analytics and tracking, images size and compression, mobile-first, keywords, meta descriptions, titles, links, backlinks, open graph, performance analysis, audits, technical, page analysis, domain analysis and more. The book is written as an introduction, a layman’s guide to SEO and covers all the bases that need to be covered when optimising a website for ranking. It is highly recommended.
So in a nutshell, to make sure your website ranks you need to optimise your content for both Google (Search engines) and humans.
1: Optimise the website and content for Google, let it know what the pages contain, and make sure that the website is fast, lightweight (page size) and technically sound.
2: Optimise the website for humans, again this comes down to user experience, making sure the website is fast, easy to navigate, has great content, professional images, and brings value to the user.
Cover these two bases and your website will start to rank naturally in Google. People ask Google questions, and Google returns the best answers, if you have a great website with good content that answers the questions asked, you have a chance of being featured in the search results. For more in-depth details on SEO check out my book.
Free SEO report at the bottom of this page! (I will add your email to my newsletter)
The home page is really just a landing page, it is a welcome page and navigational aid that allows potential visitors to get to the pages they are looking for be it a book sales page, a blog, a podcast, a freebie, a review etc. Make your homepage, fast, clean and clutter-free.
Have a welcome message, a newsletter sign up but not a pop-up or pop out, links to your social sites, social proof (i.e testimonials of you, awards etc and or reviews of your books) and be personable, relatable, after all, you are selling you. People by people.
Use good quality images, (this does not have to be a professional image, but they have to be good quality) but make sure they are compressed, large image files take longer to load and decrease user experience, by making the website slower. Find the balance. Find more about image compression and website page size and page speed loading times by Googling or by buying my SEO Book.
Email List / Mailing list
Allow readers of your website to opt-in to your mailing list. Email marketing, whilst losing popularity in other business sectors, is extremely popular within the author community. Building a large list of dedicated followers allow you to communicate with them directly. Another advantage of having a mailing list/newsletter on your website is to collaborate with other authors, mail swaps, shared promotions etc.
Most modern email systems will integrate with WordPress, Square Space, etc. Allowing you to capture email and build your newsletter database.
Another action you can facilitate on your website is publishing your email address so that you can accept communications directly from your readers, a lot of authors enjoy reading emails and getting direct feedback from their fans. However, do not make this the main email address as any email address left open to the web will no doubt incur SPAM.
Sign up for my newsletter, I push out one newsletter a month with a collection of interesting topics curated for my audience.
I use useinbox.com/
But popular newsletters are mailerlite and mailchimp.
If you are looking to sell your books direct, then an online shop as part of your website is a must. Adding a shop can give you the opportunity to make a larger percentage of the profits for each book you sell. CMS like WordPress, Shopify and Square space, make integrating products and payment gateways, like PayPal, etc easy and efficient. I have personally elected to direct my potential customers to their platform of choice when buying my books. Be that Appl, Amazon, etc. But selling direct for a lot of authors and writers is a major selling point of having your own website.
Every author website and author platform should have a blog. A blog is a fantastic tool and is a big part of a website’s modern SEO, Search Engine Optimization strategy. This is a blog, hopefully, a piece of content worthy of your attention. This blog has been used as bate. I have given you valuable content that has brought you to my website, it has hopefully made you cautious enough to ask the question, is there anything else of value on this website? You may go from here to my articles on Publisher rocket is it worth it?, self-publishing 101, atticus.io review, why authors need SEO, best software for indie authors or to the page of my books, curious about what is in the SEO book etc. So the point of a blog is to provide value to your website visitors and then hope that they then share your content and sign up for your newsletter etc.
- All my Author Focused blogs can be found in my Self publishing Resources
I also use my blog to sell affiliate products. These are all products that I use and recommend and I write reviews of the product or post links to them like this and this.
In short share-worthy content that is worthy of being shared and worthy of being read.
Social Media Platforms
Last but not least for the modern author platform and website is the links to your social media channels. Social media channels are a key part of the modern self-published authors’ marketing plan, more about marketing and constant creation here.
Navigation wise you should again make it as easy as possible for anyone who wants to access your social media channels, mainly this is done by putting your links in the header and footer of the website. Also, you want to make it as easy as possible for anyone looking at your website, book product page, blog etc to share it to their social media audience. If something is of value, it has more chance of being shared. This is another reason for writing and creating great content for your website.
Also, you need to be proactive in sharing your website, your products, books and your blogs on social media, share them to the Facebook groups you interact with, to the forums you interact with etc.
Finally, being first to the party can be advantageous, i.e jumping on TikTok (or whatever the next big channel is) before the masses arrive etc.
Conclusion Author Website.
Hopefully, I have given you enough meat and two veg to make some informed decisions about your upcoming author’s website. If you like this article check out my Why authors need SEO, my Self Publishing 101, and my Book SEO A Layman’s Guide and Smartphone Smart Marketing and please feel free to share this article with your audience, and finally please sign up for my newsletter. I only push out one email per month, with updates on my books, marketing, web, business, as well as inspirational content. It really is awesome, I would love it for you to join me and my growing community there.
Until then, enjoy building your website and stay awesome.
Two books to help every author with their website.
1: Smartphone Smart Marketing – Marketing ideas, social media and content creation.
2: SEO A Layman’s Guide – How to rank your website. No point in having a website if it does not rank!
BIG NO NOs for an author website.
In researching building my own author website I came across each of these at least once and in some cases multiple times.
1: Websites created with no passion, then abandoned into the depths of Google because no one visits!
2: Thinking that because you have a website people will visit it. If you build it they will come, is a fantasy. You must optimise it.
3: Creating a website that is not mobile-friendly. Trying to buy a product but the buy now button does not resize to the screen!
4: Making it so slow that it forces people back to Google. No one has the patience for a slow website.
5: POP up banners and adverts that attack you as soon as you arrive and never give up until you exit back to Google.
6: No form of navigation, just walls and walls of text that scroll to infinity.
7: Uncompressed video or audio that automatically plays, taking ages to load and with no controls to pause it or mute it.
8: False advertising and false promises, sign up to my newsletter for …. and it never gets delivered, i.e duping visitors for their email address.
9: Hosting your blog externally to your website.
People Also Ask – FAQ
How do you make an author’s website?
Follow the guidelines laid out here and you will be one step closer to having your own author website.
What should an author website have?
Ideally, an author website should have easy navigation, mobile-friendly, social media links, newsletter sign up, blog, good SEO and a book shop.
Which website builder is best for writers?
I recommend WordPress as it has the largest community and the most possibility.
How do I create an author website for free?
Sign up to WordPress, or WIX and make a website for free, but read through my guide to understand what a website needs.
Is WordPress good for an author’s website?
I believe it is the best platform to build an author website.
Is Wix good for writers?
A platform is just a platform, it is what you do with it that counts.