Authoring Web sites: 10 Steps to Creating an Authoring Web site (Your First Step to Publishing)
If you want to become a writer, one of the most important steps (besides writing a great book) is creating an author website.
If you are like most of the writers I know, you probably dream of getting published. But having worked with writers for the past six years, I've found that most are completely unprepared for what publishing actually takes, and that means either they never figure out what it takes to get published.
Or when they finally get published they are disappointed with the process and the number of books they sell.
How do you prepare for the release? There are several steps, but the first step is creating an authoring website.
In this article, I'm going to publish a step-by-step guide on how to create a simple authoring website that will support all of your publishing endeavors.
Why building a website is the first step you should take before getting published
With book sales increasing online, having a website where you can build a relationship with your readers is essential. It doesn't matter if your book is published by a large traditional publisher or if you self-publish. You need a website.
Why is an author website so important? Why not just focus your book marketing efforts on free and easy platforms like Facebook and Twitter?
- Social media doesn't sell books, but an email list does. You might think email was an old way of selling books and it might not work, but the numbers say something completely different. In fact, 66 percent of people say they made a purchase based on an email they received, compared to just 20 percent of people who bought something from a Facebook post and 6 percent from Twitter. I've been watching this trend for years and every statistic I've ever read has shown me that email is way beyond the best way to get your audience to buy your book.
- The best place to start building your email list is on a website. Then how do you build your email list? Through your website. In fact, a simple, one-page website with an email sign-up form is enough to completely change your publishing success.
- You own your website. You don't own your social media. Facebook does. Twitter does. Instagram does. And they can change the rules at any time, for example if Facebook has changed its algorithm so that only a fraction of people's posts are displayed. Or when Instagram did the same.
The best place to build relationships with your readers (and sell books!) Is on your author's website.
"But I'm Not Tech-savvy": Why Anyone Can Create an Authoring Website
However, if the idea of building a website intimidates you, 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 while I'm pretty savvy, that doesn't mean you have to set up a simple authoring website.
Anyone can get a simple authoring website up and running in a matter of hours if you know the right steps and don't get overwhelmed by all the options available.
At the same time, it took me weeks to create my first website because I did it on my own and no one walked me through the process. I hope this guide makes the process easy enough for anyone to create a website.
10 steps to creating an authoring website
If you read this article from start to finish and follow every step, you will have a great authoring website.
1. Choose your platform
You have many ways to make a simple authoring website, but I only recommend three.
Self hosted WordPress. My personal favorite is a self-hosted WordPress website (which is very different from a free WordPress.com website). I've been creating websites on WordPress for almost ten years and it combines ease, flexibility and full control over your website.
You will have to pay to host your website if you choose this option. That costs around $ 50 a year through Bluehost, the hosting company I recommend (you can click here to set up your WordPress website through Bluehost). Note that this includes a domain name, typically $ 12 a year. This is the lowest cost option with the highest value available.
WordPress offers a number of free themes that can be used to quickly change the entire look and feel of your website. You can also purchase a paid theme (we use Divi at thewritepractice.com and it's amazing). Choose Self-Hosted WordPress (via Bluehost).
((NOTE: I usually go with the basic plan that is paid annually with no add-ons. Bluehost and whatever hosting service you choose will likely offer you several add-on services for an additional charge. Personally, I always say no to everyone.)
place. If you're not getting a self-hosted WordPress, Squarespace is a great second option. They have a beautiful design and make it incredibly easy to set up and get started. Squarespace starts at $ 12 a month, roughly three times the price of a self-hosted WordPress website, but it has plenty of features for 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, "lightweight" version of a self-hosted WordPress website. If you want to get started quickly and for free, this can be a great option. I would still recommend Squarespace over WordPress.com – and a self-hosted WordPress website through both – but this can be a way to make it easier for you to create a writing website. Plus, it's pretty easy to export and transfer to a self-hosted WordPress website when you're ready to update your game. Choose WordPress.com.
Which website platforms should be avoided:
- Weebly. I see some good Weebly based authoring websites, but most of them look clunky.
- Wix. Every author website I've seen built on Wix looks like 2005. Also, the branding is displayed on every page. You should promote your writing, not your website platform.
- GoDaddy Site Builder (or a host's native site builder). Hosting companies are good at hosting and don't make website building software.
2. Register your domain name
A domain name is the url your website lives on, e.g. joebunting.com. When people type it into their browser, it takes them to your website. You can register a domain name through any of the three platforms recommended above. However, you can also register through third parties such as Google Domains or Name.com (although I recommend registering through the platform selected above).
Your domain name is one of the first branding decisions you make when building your website. The challenge is that with the expansion of the Internet, more and more domains are being registered and the best are becoming scarce. How do you find one that is both available and right for you? Here are some important tips:
- Have a look around before registering. Your first choice for a domain may already have been made. Hence, it is important to research before getting too far into the website building process. Google's domain search tool is a quick way to search through different domain options (TIP: Once you've found your perfect domain, don't register it in this tool. Instead, register it using the platform you selected above. You can always find domain names transferred, but it's an additional step that can be a little tricky.)
- Use your first and last name (e.g. johngrisham.com).. If it's available, this is it. If you're writing under a pseudonym, your pseudonym is the domain name. If your name is difficult to spell, you can write under a pseudonym. If your name isn't available, you can use a .me, .us, or .net domain, but I would only use .org if you are writing religious books or service books. I wouldn't use a middle initial in your domain name. You can also add a word to the end of your name, e.g. B. joebuntingwriter.com or buntingbooks.com. Not as good as your author name, but it can still work.
- Do not use your book title as the (main) domain name. Because what will you do if you write another book? It's okay to have a simple landing page or website for every book you write (like this one), but not your main author's website.
- Do not add dashes to the domain. Adding a dash between your first and last name is an easy way to identify your name if it's already taken. However, this makes it a little more difficult for users to find. Plus, it doesn't look very good in my opinion.
Other domain search tools:
This handy tool:
3. Find some authoring websites to model yours
Before you dive into the design process, find a few authoring websites that you might want to model yours on. Here are some authoring websites I recommend checking out:
As you look at the websites, keep in mind the main elements of each website. Here are some of the key elements:
- Header. The picture, logo or name at the top of the website. Don't be overwhelmed if you have no idea how images look as good as the sites mentioned above. These writers all have design teams, but a free tool like Canva makes it easy to make simple but amazing looking images.
- Selected banner. Often times, authors have a picture of their latest book as the first thing they see when you visit their website.
- Registration form for email / newsletter. This is the most important section of the website as your email list is the main method you use to develop a relationship with your readers. Building your email list is the best marketing step you can take for your writing. I particularly like Brad Thor's website because his newsletter subscription form is above average.
- Menu. Here is an idea of the main pages. You can almost always find an About Page, Blog, Book Page, and Contact Us page.
- Notes and ratings. Do they have recommendations from well-known authors or reviews?
- Social media channels. Are they linking to one of their social media profiles? What channels do they offer, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest?
4. Install WordPress
From here, I am assuming that you are setting up your website on WordPress using Bluehost.
After you've set up your new Bluehost account and registered your domain (see steps 1 and 2 above), it's time to install WordPress on your domain.
1. If you have not already done so, you can register your domain after registering with Bluehost (see Step 1). If you missed this step, you can register later from the Bluehost dashboard. So don't worry.
2. On the Bluehost dashboard, click Install WordPress.
What is really going on here? When you sign up for hosting, you are basically renting a computer, just a computer set up to broadcast on the internet. Your domain is similar to a folder on this computer. When you install WordPress, you are basically installing an application on this folder.
3. Click Continue WordPress Installation.
4. On the next page, select the domain that you previously registered in the drop-down list. Leave the directory form blank.
5. Enter your login information. Next, you will be asked to create login information (username and password) for your new website. These are really important to keep in a safe place, but you will also receive an email with them.
6. It will take a few minutes to install. After the process is complete, visit the WordPress administration screen of your new domain, e.g. yourdomainhere.com/wp-admin. Make sure to bookmark this page for the future.
That's it! You managed! You now have a new website! Congratulations!
5. Get familiar with WordPress
WordPress is pretty easy to use once you get your bearings, but can sometimes intimidate new users. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
This is your base where you can see the backend of your website at a glance and access all of your settings and pages.
At the top of the screen there is an admin bar with some helpful buttons.
- + New. Creates a new post or page.
- To edit. If you are in a post or page that you want to edit, you can click the edit button here to make changes.
- Home / dashboard button. Once you are in the dashboard, you can click on it to go to your website's home screen. Once on your website, you can click on it to go to your dashboard.
This is the main way to create pages and access all of the settings on your site.
- Posts & Pages. Posts are for your blog and usually contain comments. The pages refer to page-wide pages, e.g. B. on the page "Info", "Books" or "Contact".
- Look. Below there are several menu items that control the appearance of your website:
theme. Change your subject here. We'll talk about topics in a moment.
To adjust. Depending on your theme, you can preview some of the appearance adjustments here.
Menus. The menu on the front of your site is created and controlled here.
Widgets. These are things that will show up on your sidebar, such as: E.g. an email registration form or a picture of your book cover and a link to the Amazon / Barnes and Noble page of your book.
- Plugins. One of the things that make WordPress so great is the huge community of developers creating free and paid plugins to add functionality to your website. I'll mention in a moment which plugins I recommend, but this is where you'll install, activate, and configure them.
- the settings. There are a few settings that you should configure at the beginning.
General. Here you can change your site name and tagline, choose your time zone, and set your email address. You can keep this as the default, but I would change your time zone.
Write. This affects the appearance of the page and post editor. You don't have to change anything here.
read. This will affect your homepage and how many posts will appear on your blog. We'll get back to that screen in a moment to set up your homepage, but you don't have to do anything now.
Permalinks. This affects the URL structure and I would highly recommend changing it to the Post Name setting.
Plugins I recommend installing it
There are a couple of plugins that I think are important.
- Jetpack. Offers you great features like visitor statistics, hacking protection and spell checking. Learn more about Jetpack.
- Akismet. Blocks spam comments. Connect to your WordPress.com account and choose the free plan.
- Sumo. Allows you to easily add approvals to your posts and pages that float with approval icons on the side of your post. Also gives you powerful email subscription tools. It's free, but you'll need to create an account with Sumo after installing it.
- Contact form 7. Create a contact form here and copy and paste the shortcode you get onto a new page you create and title Contact.
- SEO from Yoast. Analyzes your pages and shows you how to write so that Google can find your website better. Very cool!
- Google Analytics from Yoast. Google Analytics is the best free tool for tracking the users of your website. First create a free account here and then connect to your website using this plugin.
6. Choose your topic
Topics have a drastic effect on the look and feel of your website. Hence, it is important to find the right one for you. However, there are so many great free and paid themes out there that it can be overwhelming. Here are a few that I recommend.
Free themes for authoring websites
Let's start with three free themes that I recommend.
Hestia. What I love about Hestia is that you have so much control over every element of your website. The best part is that you don't need to know any code to use it. It's great for creating clean, sleek authoring websites. All in all, if you are looking for a free theme, Hestia is the best option. Click here to try Hestia.
Lovecraft. I also love Lovecraft, a free theme inspired by author HP Lovecraft. It's easy and great for a simple blog-oriented authoring website. Click here to try Lovecraft.
Amadeus. Last is Amadeus. I really like how clean everything looks in this free theme named after Amadeus Mozart. Does not it look great? Again, I think Hestia is the most powerful of these free themes. However, if you're looking for something to get started with quickly and easily, Amadeus is a great option for you. Click here to try Amadeus.
Recommended topics for authoring websites
You get what you pay for, people always say, and while this is true of blogs, a free topic can go a very long way. Personally, I have used PageLines for this website for years. BUT there are a few things that free themes aren't the best at. For example, they're slower to load and not as feature-rich as some paid themes. Plus, the following two topics are really cool.
Divi. If you prefer a "what you see is what you get" editor for your website, Divi is amazing. You can edit font sizes, colors, spacing and more on the user page of your website. After years of using many different topics, we decided to go with The Write Practice. You can get Divi here.
tribe. Created by writer Jeff Goins, this premium theme has everything you need to create an authoring website and nothing else. Perfect when you want something simple but functional. You can get tribe here.
Custom themes. Alternatively, you can hire a web designer to create a custom theme. This is a great option if you don't have an eye for design and / or don't have the time to do it. Designers range from a few hundred dollars to $ 1,000 for an experienced designer and over $ 3,000 for a high-end designer.
7. Create your header
Headings can be a simple logo, as in The Write Practice. Or a picture of the author such as Elizabeth Gilbert's website. Or a full-width image like Gillian Flynn's website.
You can hire a designer to do this, but using Canva to create these yourself is easier than you think. Here's how:
- Before you can begin, you need to figure out the dimensions your header will need. It depends on your topic. So check the settings of your theme. For reference, Elizabeth Gilbert's head is 308 pixels wide and 29 pixels high (px stands for pixels, the most common unit of measurement for websites).
- Go to Canva.com, create a free account or log in with your Facebook account and then select "Use Custom Dimensions" (see screenshot).
- Enter your dimensions (e.g. 308×40 as Canva does not allow dimensions smaller than 40).
- Create your logo! I recommend keeping it simple for now, just with your name on a white background.
- Lastly, download your image (preferably a PNG file) and then upload it to your theme!
8. Add your core pages
Now that you've installed your theme, you shouldn't worry about the design. It takes a long time for a website to look the way you want it to, but just focus on setting up the general elements for now. Remember, your number one goal is to build your email list. Hence, getting the easiest website possible for collecting email addresses is ideal.
You don't need the chicest website in the world to be a successful writer, but you do need a writer website. These 10 steps will help you build a great authoring website.
Home page. By default, a blog appears on your website. However, for your author's website, I recommend creating a custom home page. Step 2 is for the items you want to include here: for example, a featured book image (which you can create with Canva), an email list sign-up form (which we'll talk about next), notes / testimonials and link to your blog. A good model for this is Jeff Goins' home page, as it's fairly simple, text-based and doesn't require a lot of image design.
About side. On one of your most visited pages, share a short biography here. As you write your info page, keep in mind that new readers don't care about you. They take care of themselves and the books they love to read. Don't write down your whole life story. Share only the information that your reader will be interested in to see if your writing suits them or not.
I like Brad Thor's About Page as a good model for this, especially his strong branding slogan: "Brad has been called the" Master of Thrillers "and" America's Favorite Writer. "His bestselling novels have been published in over 30 countries."
Books page. Just a page with pictures of all of your books and links where readers can buy them. TIP: Embed Kindle Instant Book Previews so readers can read your book right from your website. Here is how.
Contact page. Allow readers to contact you by creating a page with a contact form. First install the Contact Form 7 plug-in if you have not already done so. A "Contact Us" menu item will appear in your dashboard menu. Create a new contact form or use / edit the pre-installed standard form. Copy and paste the shortcode into a new page titled Contact Us.
Depending on your topic, the menu on your website may automatically add every page you create. Either way, it's a good idea to create a custom menu so that you have more control over what the menu contains. Here's how:
- On the dashboard, go to Appearance> Menu.
- Click the button to create a new menu.
- Add the pages or custom links you want (e.g. Home, About, Books, Contact).
- Click the box to choose where you want the menu to appear, usually the primary menu or the secondary menu.
- Save it, then go to your homepage to make sure it looks the way you want it.
9. Set up your email list
Your email list is one of the main reasons you do all of this. Your newsletter subscription form can be seen as the most important element on your website.
First of all, you need to choose an email newsletter provider. Here are some options I recommend:
- Mailchimp. I usually recommend Mailchimp as it's free for your first 2,000 subscribers. Mailchimp is a great company and very friendly service. That being said, I personally find it a bit clunky and difficult to use.
- Mailerlite. Slightly simpler than Mailchimp, but not quite as simple or powerful as Convertkit, many of our writing students have found Mailerlite a great option for their authoring newsletters. Here you can register for Mailerlite.
- Convert kit. We use Convertkit, and while I highly recommend it to writers, it's a paid service that can be quite expensive. However, your email list is a good place to invest. This should be one of your first upgrades.
If you're using Mailchimp, here's how to build your first email list and sign up.
Convertkit has great free training on how to make a large email list for writers that I recommend.
You managed! You have created your author website! And if you followed these instructions, you would only have had to work a few hours.
Next, learn how to write the perfect blog post or just rest in the glow of your achievements!
Do you have an author website? Share a link in the comments so we can see what you've created!
Do you have a question or are you stuck? Before leaving a comment, try Googling it or contacting your hosting company for help. If you've already done that, feel free to leave a comment!
Are you intimidated by creating an author's website? Start with the first step and look for your domain name. You can use Google's domain search to search for available content and then register it through your preferred platform (e.g. Bluehost, Squarespace, WordPress.com).
When you register it, let us know your choice in the comments! (But if you don't register it already, don't share it so no one will steal it!)
Finally, imagine for fifteen minutes what you want your authoring website to look like. Explore some other authoring websites as models and start building your authoring website! If you want to share in the comments, please do. And if you want to help others in the community, don't forget to provide feedback to your co-authors.
(Some of the links above are affiliate links.)
Joe Bunting is a writer and leader of The Write Practice Community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real adventure story in France. It was a # 1 new release on Amazon. You can follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).