fbpx
aa8d4a7f-nextchapters-logo_10be06k000000000000028.png

An author website is essential to your book marketing strategy. This is true for all authors, but especially for self-published ones. It acts as your personal platform, where readers can visit to find out more about you and your work. So how can you make one?

Find a purpose

Before you go any further, identify a clear purpose for your website. Is it to sell books directly? To showcase your work? To write a blog? Or to engage with your audience? 

Having a clear objective will define which features you should include in the design process. Once you have that figured out, you can move on to consider costs. 

Costs involved

There are two categories of costs when it comes to creating your website: the domain name and the website itself.

Domain

You can purchase a domain from a registrar such as BlueHost, GoDaddy, DreamHost, or Namecheap. This acts as a rental or lease – you can’t permanently purchase a domain. The cost per year can be anywhere from $2 – $20, depending on discounts.

Some web developers and hosting companies offer to handle purchasing the domain for you, but you should always buy this with your personal email and payment details. This way, you have complete access to your domain and can easily move it later if necessary. The names will expire or go up for renewal every few years, so having your email linked will allow reminders to reach you at an appropriate time.

The name of your domain should be decided before you develop your website, as it may affect the logo, website name, or the style of design you choose. Ideally, your domain will be your name – or pen name, if it is different. If that is taken, try experimenting by adding in related words. 

Here are some domain options:

If all of these are still taken, you can try .org, .net, or .me options. Making your name the domain will allow anyone looking you up to find your website. This is easier than searching for a book or series title, as your personal website will have all your titles (and more) in one place. 

Note: Some domain registrars will include an email address in their features at additional costs (ex: you@yourdomain.com). It can serve as a professional place for your audience to contact you. Google’s G Suite works much the same way –  you can personalize it and link it to your website.

Website 

When determining how to build your platform, assess your personal situation. If you are an unpublished author or an author with few sales, you will probably want to start with a DIY option. If you have disposable income or a recognizable name, you’re more likely to hire a professional developer or developing firm. 

DIY Website

Services like WordPress or Wix start free and allow you to craft your own website using the tools they provide. Pricing begins as you add features, pages, detailed styles, and integrate third-party apps as needed. 

One thing to consider is that an author website will be content-heavy. You may post blogs, short stories, or even longer written work. Many website-building platforms were not created with authors in mind, such as Wix and Squarespace. They are more oriented towards shopping brands, food, and photography – subjects that offer a lot of media to fill up space. You may need to find creative ways to make things work effectively for your goals. 

Pub Site is a platform that was made with books, authors, and publishers in mind, however, so be sure to check out its offerings.

Hiring a developer

If you want to customize a website, a developer can cost between $1,000 and $10,000, depending on the level of customization and the features requested. Developers can set up your blog, mailing list signups, social media integration, embedded media, and any interactive traits you want your website to have.

A design firm will create your website from scratch based on your needs, however this is the most expensive option you could choose. Web design firms can cost up to $20,000. If you ultimately hire one, first check their portfolio (ex: Have they made websites for other authors?) and make sure you know about any hidden or future costs (ex: What is the rate for updates? Do they charge extra per page added?).  

Designing your website

The design of your website should align with your personal brand. It’s up to you to decide what that is, but remember you can always rebrand later, if you want to, or set up a separate site for a different side of you (some authors write under two names in order to write in two genres, and have a website for each). 

Think about colors, layouts, fonts, and styles that resonate with you. Browse other author websites for inspiration and identify elements that appeal to you Your website should include a header, logo, and menu, at the very least. Other features could be a banner showcasing your latest work, an email list signup, endorsements, and social media links.

Content creation

First things first, you need the fundamentals: author bio and contact information. These are a must. Your readers will want to know more about you, and in order to increase engagement and spread your brand, you should communicate with them as often as possible. 

When it comes to a bio, you should have two versions. One version should be short – only a few sentences long. This one will go on the homepage as a welcome and short introduction so that your readers will know who you are. You can include a “Read more” button underneath it that links to a separate page for the other version, a long bio. 

The long bio goes on the “About the Author” page and is for people who want to know more about you. Here, you can include your background, your inspiration for writing, current projects, and photos. 

Next, be sure to include a way for readers to contact you. This can be at the bottom of each page, with your bio, or on its own page. Use a form that hides your email and doesn’t ask for too much information from the reader. Unless you’re very popular, you probably won’t get many emails this way. This means you should have enough time to respond to those who do reach out.

If you have an agent or publisher, consider including their contact information, as well.

Now that you have those down, you can add more content to your platform.

Mailing list sign-up

A mailing list is a great tool to reach interested readers and market your books. Email lists have been known to sell more books than social media ads. So, whether you know what you want to do with a mailing list yet or not, you should start collecting emails. Sooner or later, you will have a purpose for them. You can sign up for services like MailChimp or Constant Contact to send out messages to your subscribers.

Bookshelf

A tried-and-true way of showcasing your work is to put all your books on a collective page and individual pages. 

The collective pages will feature all your books together, organized by publication date or series. A search feature should be available for readers to easily locate what they’re looking for. Each book’s cover should be available with a short blurb beneath – something that attracts attention. This content should be clickable so that interested readers can go to each book’s page to learn more.

The individual pages should highlight each work. You should include the front cover, a typed version of the back cover matter or the book’s long description, as well as title and any subtitles. Consider including ISBNs, page count, publication date, and retailers or locations where they can be purchased (ex: Amazon, Barnes & Noble). Finally, add in customer reviews as you receive them.

Blogs, freebies, and more

Remember the purpose you assigned for your website before you got started? After you’ve set up your bookshelf, you can begin orienting towards this – that is, if the purpose is more than showcasing your books and bio. If your goal was to create a blog, add that now. To find out more about starting a blog, click here.

You can also create forums, a testimonial page, or add interactive media like photos, book covers, videos, audio, and links to your personal socials or other authors you follow. Some authors include their professional schedule, whether that includes events they’ll be attending (conferences, signings, etc.) or their writing sessions. 

Two key ways to generate more traffic are giveaways and digital freebies. 

A digital freebie typically comes in .pdf form and is something that your target audience desires – a reading guide, an excerpt from your latest book, tips and tricks. This can be attached to a pop-up once someone accesses the website that asks for their email. The reader gets their resource and you build your emailing list all at once!

Giveaways don’t have to just be copies of your book, digital or physical. You can give away pens, t-shirts, simple cosplays of your characters, themed tea packets, hats, a notebook, a personal training session, and more. Just ask yourself what your readers want, and then offer it. 

Strategic marketing

Your author website can be a warm and welcoming community or a professional place to interact with your audience distantly. The atmosphere depends on your preferences, stylistic choices, and intended purpose. However you shape it, don’t forget that it is a valuable tool. Your website is how you market your work, and through it, yourself. 

So have it reflect your unique personality and values, but keep it neat and organized. Plan ahead of schedule, keep up-to-date on design trends and costs, and your audience will see your efforts.