Ready to take your author platform seriously? One of the first–and most important–steps in establishing your author platform and growing a solid readership is to create a professional author website.
If you have no web design experience, this might be intimidating. You’re not alone! In this article, we’re going to get you started strong.
A website is just one of those things you have to have for people to know that you’re a professional. If someone googles your name and can’t find a website, that’s a potential sale lost, because a good website sells books and whatever else you’re offering. Having a professional place to display everything you offer will help readers and clients find the information they need to make the purchases you need.
If you’re interested in making money, make it easy! Create an attractive website with clear call-to-actions for potential buyers to follow.
Whether you’re selling books, offering services from your author platform, creating content, or a mix of the three, having a strong, clear website with accessible information will ultimately help you make more money.
Now that we know why we need a good author site, how do we do it?
Author sites can range from free to thousands of dollars.
You might put together a free website through a service like Wix or Weebly, then not have a custom domain. That means your site URL would be something like: hannahleekidder.com/wixsite or, if through wordpress it will be hannahleekidder.wordpress.com.
This isn’t the most professional option, so I highly recommend at least buying a custom domain. A free site with a custom domain would run you around $20 a year.
The thousands of dollar options come into play when you hire a web designer to code your website from scratch.
This is not necessary to have a professional, attractive website, so don’t sweat it if you don’t want to drop that kind of money.
The average amount I’ve seen authors pay for their sites is around $200.
I paid for a template, had a developer friend customize a couple bits of code for me, and now I just pay for my domain every year, which can range from $10-$20 for the whole year. All-in-all, I’ve paid well under $500 to keep my website updated and live for several years. My website makes more than that every month, so the investment is more than worth it.
As you can see, the cost varies a lot based on your preferences and skill level, so do some research and see which options are best for your budget and goals.
How to Create an Author Website Step-By-Step
So how do we get started creating our site? The first step is choosing where you’re going to host and build your website, then decide on the content!
1. Choose where to host your website
There are a ton of website hosting platforms. These are the softwares and database you use to login, edit, and post your content.
Some popular site builder options are:
Do a little research and find which option is best for you considering your content, aesthetic, and the level of skill you have in designing a website. Most authors will use customizable templates, which is a great option for a professional, attractive website without having to dump piles of money on a web designer.
We recommend WordPress as an easy and highly supported platform for those not as technical. Squarespace is newer and has a monthly cost, but you can easily sell directly from the site with built in e-commerce integrations.
Once you’ve chosen a host, set up your pages and content.
Websites should be built to accomplish whatever your specific platform and sales goals are, but here are a few things you’ll usually find on author sites to give you some ideas. Take what makes sense, leave what doesn’t!
Your homepage can be as simple as your author photo and name, or you can do something like I did where you scroll through my books and end on a little summary of the other content I create:
Other authors utilize their homepage for the latest release, so the entire homepage is dedicated to their newest book and where to buy it.
Poke around some of your favorite authors’ websites and see the different strategies! Which style works best for you and your brand?
“About Me” Page
Who are you? Let us know! An about page should have your author headshot (or stand-in logo, if your face isn’t connected with your platform), a little bio to make you personable, and your social links.
It’s good to have a comprehensive list of your books or publications on your author site. You can include books that are already released, as well as books that are available for presale.
Each of my book’s pages have reviews, buy links to several sites in several formats, and a brief preview of the audiobook. You might include something like a first chapter download or an embedded book trailer to spark some interest!
Upcoming Projects Pages
This is a good place to “soft announce” your works in progress. Even if you’re not loudly promoting those projects yet, it’s nice for fans to have a look at what you’re working on.
TIP: Consider using stand-in titles (like “Fantasy Novel” or “Farmcore Romance Series”) and stand-in book covers before you’ve properly revealed those things. Announcements like titles and cover reveals are a great opportunity to get some hype for your books, so don’t let anything slip prematurely!
DOUBLE TIP: Consider using early access reveals as special privileges for your newsletter as incentive for people to sign up.
If you offer services (like a lot of indie authors do), you might compile them into one page on your website.
For example, I have a page listing all of my services in one place, then shoot-off pages with more information for each one.
My services page:
The rundown page for a specific service:
Have a way for people to reach out! This could be an in-website contact form or a list of your contact information. Be sure to keep these updated, and don’t forget to link your active socials!
Reviews and Testimonials Page
If you offer services, it’s great to have past customers say a few nice things for future customers to feel more comfortable hiring you. As an author, this is also a great place to post reviews on your books. You might manually insert a few significant reviews, or use a plugin or widget to have a live feed of GoodReads reviews, amazon reviews, or tweets with your book’s hashtag.
I like to incorporate reviews and testimonials in the relevant sections (like with the book pages I showed you earlier), so these different categories don’t necessarily have to be their own separate pages. I’ll show you an example later of an author with a single-page site!
Mailing List Page
You might have a pop-up mailing list prompt, but it’s also a good idea to have an easy-access sign-up page. That way, you can link people toward it, and they can find it on purpose in case their browser settings don’t allow the pop-up to come through.
There are a few ways to monetize your author platform outside of selling books, and two of those are merchandise and affiliate links. I sell some of my own merch on my website, but I also utilize my blog, newsletter, and other parts of the platform to stream in affiliate income.
Do you have any ideas for monetizing your website outside of book sales? Let us know in a comment!
The most common content creation for an author (outside of their books) is their blog! Blog posts and articles are a great way to produce quick-turnaround content to draw in new readers and to monetize your site.
You might blog about writing, life, business, or anything else that holds your interest and draws in readers or customers. I double-dip with the content I produce for YouTube, turning those scripts into blogs to post on my website.
Think about blog topics that might draw in your target readership!
Frequently Asked Questions Page
You also might include a page for Frequently Asked Questions to let clients and readers find information without having to contact you personally.
TIP: every page should have some kind of lead. Whether it’s a buy link, a direction to another page, a signup form–each page of your site should funnel your potential readers and clients somewhere else and engage them to keep them on your site as long as possible. The longer visitors spend on your site and the more they do during that stay, the more Google will favor your site in the search engine.
Author website examples
With those possible pages listed above, your author site can be as simple or as thorough as you’d like! Let’s look at a few examples of different author sites.
For a simple one, take a look at Kayla Ancrum’s author website. It’s a great example of a self-contained, single-page site.
She hits the essentials of an author website:
- Author photo, brief bio
- The books
- Contact form
- Book reviews
- Links to bring readers to other places–interviews, FAQ, socials, etc.
There’s no reason that you need tons and tons of pages with a huge menu on your site. If you want to keep it simple, keep it simple!
For an example of a more involved website, we’ve already seen a lot of mine. As you saw, I hit a lot more information with separate pages. My website is set up to make money (with merchandise, affiliate links, and service listings), while Kayla’s is a good example of the essentials that you need as an author.
Here is a good breakdown of an author website menu:
- Book page for each book
- With an additional page for each service
- Mailing List
As you can see, you can include as little or as much information as makes sense for your platform and brand.
Like any project or endeavor, building an author site should start with: making a list.
Let’s brainstorm specifics of how you should build your website.
To start on your author website, try answering these questions:
- Who is your ideal user? Describe one specific person that your site is for. Their demographics, their interests, their problems, their strengths and weaknesses, etc.
- What do you want your site to accomplish? Do you want to grow a readership, convert sales, attract new clients?
- What would attract your ideal user, then compel them to accomplish that site goal? For example, if your main goal for your website is to grow your mailing list, how are you attracting your target demographic to join the list? Do you have a sign-up incentive that might appeal to them? Is the website designed in a way your ideal user would find appealing?
After you answer those three questions, you should have a pretty solid idea of which direction to take your website.
Need help? Check out this free training to help you sell more books!
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