Today, we’re going to be continuing our Author Resources discussions by talking all about author websites! These are websites dedicated to you that work to give your readers a place to find all the information they could need.
In this post, we will cover what website platforms to use, domain names and hosting options, what content your website should include, and how to manage and keep your website up to date! Let’s get started!
There are lots of different platforms you can build your author website on. Some are free, and good for starting out. But the ones that really will benefit you in the long run are going to cost some money.
Here are some of the most common platforms to use to build your website:
- GoDaddy Website Builder
Wix and GoDaddy Website Builder both have the options of drag and drop to build your website, while WordPress is admittedly a bit more difficult to master but more rewarding in terms of customization. Shopify and Squarespace are ecommerce website builders, so if you’re planning to primarily focus on selling direct, these two would be good to check out.
All of these sites have free options for you to start with. However, once you add a custom domain name and begin to see what other features you want, this is when it begins to cost money.
DOMAIN Names & HOSTING
Unless you want your website to be something like AUTHORNAME.WIXSITE.COM, you’re going to need to pay for a custom domain. While the branded domains are fine to start out with, people will take you more seriously with a domain that is just AUTHORNAME.COM.
You have several options for getting a domain name as well. Both Wix and GoDaddy offer domain names and hosting as part of their premium plans, so if you’re planning to use either of these sites, you can get your domain directly through them.
If you’re planning to use WordPress, there are several options for your domain name and web hosting. However, I absolutely 100000% recommend you check out Lyrical Host.
They are absolutely amazing and walk you through everything you need to do step by step to get your website up and running. They also offer WordPress help, so if you ever can’t get your website to do something, they’ll help you figure it out.
Other options for platforms include SquareSpace, Shopify, Weebly. Sqaurespace, Shopify, and other e-commerce focused sites are great if you’re planning to focus on selling direct.
I’ve used Wix, GoDaddy, Shopify, and now my website is through WordPress, and my shop is still with Shopify. They all have different learning curves and things to offer, so make sure to research and see which one fits your needs best.
You don’t have to get fancy with your author website if you don’t want to. In fact, it’s usually better to start super simple and then build out things over time. Most author websites have “common” elements, and you can probably guess what they would be, but let’s go through them anyways.
There’s really only three (maybe four) pages you absolutely “must” have when building author websites. Those are:
- A home page – This page will basically be a summary of all your other pages, but it’s important that it’s there. It gives people a place to “land” on your website. This is the first page they will see, so make sure it is well put together and matches your Author Branding.
- Your books – Even if you’ve not published a book yet, your books need a home of their own. There are many ways to format this, but the way I’ve seen most authors do it is to have a drop down for each book or series, and then on that page, have the cover, blurb, and purchase links. This helps readers find exactly what they’re looking for.
- About You – Believe it or not, people want to know about you. They’re on your website, after all. Making sure you have a built out About Me page will help answer any questions readers might have, and provide context to frame you as an actual human being and not a book robot. You can also include contact information, and a place to subscribe to your newsletter on this page.
- Blog – This is the fourth element that is kinda iffy on the “must” have side. I think it can only benefit from being there, but some authors simple don’t have the time or energy to write blog posts, and that’s okay! But if you do, even one blog post a month will help bring in more traffic to your site. You can write about anything. Share writing tips, talk about your writing process or your current WIP, share what you’re currently reading. The sky’s the limit!
As I mentioned earlier, start simple and build out to the fancy stuff later. Now, I bet you’re wondering, what’s the fancy stuff? Let’s get a little bit in to that. (I’ll be making an Author Websites part 2 eventually to cover these in more detail, so don’t worry). Some ideas for extra pages include:
- Bonus content – Share bonus scenes, fan art, anything that didn’t make it into the book that readers might want. Readers love exclusives.
- Character profiles – People love to learn more about your characters apart from what they see in books. Did you do a personality test for your characters? Share it!
- Maps – Even if you have maps in your books, having them on your website is also a plus!
- Shop – Want to sell merch? Signed books? Something else? Most of these platforms have the ability to set up shops fairly easily, and it’s another way for you to get money coming in.
- Links Page – We’ve all seen the linktrees people use in their bio. It takes you to another website and houses links to all the things you’re involved in. What if I told you that you could make that on your own site and drive traffic straight to your own website while still providing all those links for people? Because you can!
Your website is a reflection of your branding. So, if you haven’t already determined what your author branding is, I encourage you to go back and start on this post.
Most website builders will come with free “themes” which are preset appearances that you can then tweak in different areas to get what you’re looking for.
For GoDaddy and Shopify, those themes are fairly limited in terms of customization, so what you see is pretty much what you get apart from changing colors.
Wix and WordPress have much more in depth customization. Wix is customizable often to the point of being overwhelming in that you can put anything you want anywhere on the page, and you have to do the manual work to get each page to look how you want it to if you go outside the theme presets.
WordPress themes are a bit more…enterprising. There are hundreds of thousands of WP themes to choose from, and depending on the theme, they are easy to customize and simple to update.
Personally, my website theme is from HelloYouDesigns, and I love it. They have drag and drop blocks that work with WordPress’s native block builder, and they offer lifetime theme support and a seriously in depth library of tutorials. Between them and Lyrical Host, I had all the support I needed to build my website and make it pretty and functional.
My biggest advice starting out for appearance is this: Keep it simple.
Oh, and MOBILE OPTIMIZE. Don’t build your website appearance on your desktop and never see how it looks on mobile. Most people browse on their phones, so mobile first design is extremely important for a functional website.
You don’t have to keep your website up to date every second of every day. It’s not feasible and will just stress you out. Instead, I recommend setting aside time once or twice each month to go through and make updates. Additionally, if something big happens (like a book release), I recommend planning your monthly update to coincide with that so you’re not doing more work than you need to!
My system for making updates is just going page by page, checking if anything needs to be changed or if anything needs to be added. It doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking.
If you’re looking to build your website and just don’t know where to start, I highly recommend Wicked Reads Services. She makes stunning websites and is super amazing to work with.
If you have questions, please feel free to reach out!