Authors are creative, often introverted, occasionally a bit neurotic. It’s all part of their charm. They craft worlds and characters with mere words. It’s an entirely different skill than the analytic, left-brained fun of setting up an author website. And yet, having a solid presence online, a hub for your books and social media activity, is a vital part of an author’s career these days.
It can actually be simpler than you might think. You can set up a professional website in a single day for less than $12/month.
Before you actually start setting up a website, you need a few accounts. These are the underpinnings of your site and can be set up quickly and with very little effort, especially if you’ve already selected the passwords and lies to security questions you’ll use.
First things first, though. Decide on a username. For most services, your username is how people will find you (think pinterest.com/ilovebunnies). If possible, you want your username to match across all social media platforms and also to match your domain name. Whether it’s your full name, or initials, or even a nom de plume, you can check knowem to see if it’s available across all platforms.
If the name you want isn’t available everywhere, it’s not the end of the world. Most people are going to reach your social media sites via a link rather than inputting the url manually. Whether they click from your website or a web search or someone else’s post, linking to social media accounts and good SEO for your website is more important than matching usernames across all platforms.
Do the best you can, but don’t stress about it. Once you have settled on your username, it’s time to start setting up some accounts.
There are other accounts you need for privacy, apart from your website.
Since this is a post about building your website, I won’t delve into the other accounts that are important for your career as an author. If you haven’t already, though, review my author privacy checklist. They’re mostly free steps (except for the PO Box) that are well worth an hour of your time.
Ok, back to your website…
Not because you need two inboxes, but because of the additional services both Microsoft and Google offer.
- Microsoft offers OneNote, which is my favorite way of organizing resources, notes, goals and tasks, all sorts of information for our blogs. OneDrive is a great way to store files and access them across all your devices.
- Google offers Drive, which performs the same function as OneDrive, but I prefer the interface and organization of OneDrive better. Google also offers Domains, Analytics, Web Tools and other services vital to running a successful website. Because of that, if you have to pick one them Gmail is the email you need.
- One advantage of having two email addresses is you have a better chance at getting exactly the username you want, rather than something close but not quite. Or, if you can’t get what you want through Outlook and Gmail, you can set up an email address once your website is all set up.
Your domain is the web address for your site. Google Domains offers free privacy protection, a nice interface to manage your domain easily and competitive pricing. It’ll only take 5 minutes to log into your Google account and setup your domain.
Your web host is where all the files that comprise your site are stored and accessible to your audience. BlueHost is a great option to setup up your site. At only $3/month it’s a fantastic price for stable web hosting. Plus their helpful interfaces walk you through the setup process and they offer good customer service.
It may seem a bit daunting upfront, but selecting the three year option with BlueHost will be the most economical. And they have a refund policy on any unused months, if you decide it isn’t working for you.
Cost: $108 for 3 years
Once you have your web host in place, installing WordPress is only a few clicks and filling in a few blanks. WordPress makes it easy to build and manage your website. In fact, they power 25% of all sites on the internet.
Choose your theme
A theme controls the overall look of your site. WordPress has hundreds of options, some more customizable than others. Some of them are free.
My favorite is TweakMe v.2, hands down! Not only can you customize almost every piece of it, it’s so simple! You don’t need to know code or functions or anything.
I use TweakMe on all three of my current websites and you can see how versatile it is: BelleSavvy, Blogging.BelleSavvy and Annie Jackson Books. Even with the most extensive customizations, the longest it’s taken me to get a site setup is about 3 hours.
Or, if you want something ultra-easy, simply use one of the 5 pre-made layouts in TweakMe. You’ll have a great looking site up and running in less than 15 minutes.
Plugins are small pieces of software that enhance the functionality of your website. We have a list of the essential WordPress plugins you need.
Installing plugins is a simple matter of clicking Install, then Activate and possibly adjusting a few settings if needed. You’ve already installed WordPress and a theme so you’ll be a pro at this.
One plugin that’s incredibly helpful for authors isn’t on our essential list. Novelist by Ashley at Nose Graze is a fantastic way to display your books on individual book pages and in galleries, organize them by series and genre. It provides an awesome layer of professionalism to your site! And best of all… the base plugin is free.
Cost: $0 (for all plugins unless you choose any available upgrades)
Now you’ve got a website!
The next step is easier, since you’re a writer, but takes a bit longer. It’s time to start creating content. Your newsletter (you can do it with very little effort!), pages on your site like About and Contact, blog posts (if you’re doing a blog), and of course information about your books (if your published).
Then, of course, you want to help everyone find your new site. From social media to talking to other authors and to book bloggers, it’s time to get out into the digital world and connect!
If you’re looking for a social media boost, here’s some bonus tools to help you launch your new site.
Pinterest scheduling tool that allows you to space pins out to be posted at optimal times. Tailwind keeps you organized, strategic and methodical without feeling stressed. It incredibly easy to pin to multiple group boards and see which pins are performing well.
Cost: $119/year (after 100 pin free trial)
Scheduling tool for Facebook and Twitter. I find it easiest to schedule posts to social media. It frees me up to engage with readers and friends when I have to time to be on social media without worrying about strategy or promotion.
Another Pinterest scheduling tool. Boardbooster keeps your pins fresh by looping them to the top of your boards so new followers can find evergreen information.
Cost: $5/month (after 100 pin free trial)
The simplest newsletter tool. Mailchimp provides simple design and navigation with great looking emails. Even if you don’t know what to say in a newsletter yet, it’s good to have your list set up and options throughout your site for readers to subscribe. Since you’re a writer, I’m confident you’ll find something to say.
Cost: $0 (up to 2,000 subscribers)
Did you find this guide helpful? If you created a new author site, share it in the comments! I’d love to see what you created!