I love talking about author platforms. As someone whose day job involves working in the internet and tech industry, I cannot stress enough the importance of building an author website. They’re vital in terms of building your author brand—something you can’t afford to pass up in today’s market-yourself world (assuming you want longevity in the publishing world instead of a one-and-done book deal).
So maybe you understand why building an author website is good. (Thought leadership. Marketing. Growing a strong following.) But hey, we’re writers. You can’t expect us to craft wonderful, engaging stories and be right-brain enough to put together a website, right? Believe it or not, building an author website doesn’t require years of expertise or practice with code. And if you’re concerned about your wallet, there are ways to build a visually appealing author website without breaking the bank.
How to Build an Author Website
Even if you elect to go the route of a professional designer (and want to fork out some dough), there are a few things you need to do to set yourself up for success.
Pick a domain.
Choose a platform.
Decide on design.
Ready to dive in? This step-by-step guide for building an author website will help you establish a strong author platform and give you a jumping-off point for online branding. Let’s get started.
1. Pick a Domain
You can’t have an author website without a domain name. Plain and simple.
A domain is what you see in the address bar, like Google.com. It’s the address for your site, and should be memorable and indicative of your author brand.
For authors, choosing a domain should be relatively straightforward. It should be your name. Or your pen name. For example, my website is MaxymMartineau.com. That’s my pen name and what my novels will be written under and it’s unique. If you search my name in Google, it appears in the top results (second to Twitter, because that’s a behemoth with tons of SEO juice backing it up).
The last thing you want is to have someone search your name and be unable to find your website. And if, for some reason, your name or your pen name is taken, remember to K.I.S.S. And not just because we like kissing at All The Kissing, but because it means “keep it simple, silly.”
Here are a few other factors to consider when coming up with an effective domain:
- Length. Why length? Because the rule of thumb for average short-term memory recall is seven. The shorter the domain, the easier to remember. This is often irrelevant when it comes to using our names (as they tend to be longer than seven letters), but if you’re looking for different options, keep this factor in mind.
- Memorability. So yeah, this is where name/pen name is important. But again, if that’s not possible, then pick something memorable and indicative of your brand. Write fantasy romance? Maybe FantasyRomanceAuthor.com is the option for you. Not only will that work wonders for SEO (because people will search for “fantasy romance author”), but it’s an immediate brand identity play. Which brings us to…
- Brand. You’re an author. Use words like “author” or “writer” to establish your brand credibility as well as find a domain that is available. Take a look at All The Kissing cofounder Tricia Lynne’s domain: TriciaLynneWrites.com. If your pen name/full name isn’t readily available, consider adding a brand-specific word.
Once you’ve made sure your domain is available, grab it while you can. They’re usually not expensive and can be registered fairly quickly. The last thing you want is to mull it over and have someone else snag it before you get a chance.
2. Choose a Platform
Before you can actually build out an author website, you need to decide what to build it on. Your platform of choice depends on a few things:
- How comfortable you are with tech
- How much time you have to dedicate to tech
- And of course, cost
You can build a more than suitable author website with a drag-and-drop builder like you’d find through GoDaddy or Wix. Most builders nowadays even have a blog function, which can be used to establish yourself as a thought leader with credible blog posts. Generally, drag-and-drop or WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) builders are more cost-effective and easy to manage, requiring little to no coding. Hosting should be included.
If your domain is the address, your builder is the structure of your house, and hosting is the plot of land beneath it. Most builder packages include the plot and the house building.
The other options is something called a content management system. One of the best known examples is WordPress. For reference, All The Kissing’s site runs on WordPress, and we use it to do a number of things that aren’t always feasible with builders:
- Host a multi-author blog
- Connect to our podcast
- Create multiple back-end users
- Have total control over the theme and build
Now, the average author doesn’t need all the bells and whistles found on All The Kissing. The biggest difference between something like WordPress and WYSIWYG is the amount of “tech” knowledge and customization available. Because you could feasibly get into the code of a WordPress site, you can totally customize it to your liking. A WYSIWYG builder is limited based on the functionalities provided by the company you purchased it from.
Either option works—and many WordPress builds these days are easy to manage even with little to no tech knowledge.
Hot Tip: Make sure to factor updates into the equation, too. If you pay someone for a design but don’t know how to manage it, then you’ll be left struggling to fill in the blanks. Determine ahead of time if updates are included or set up a plan in case something goes haywire.
3. Decide on Design
Designing your author website is the fun part! What colors do you want to use? Font? Images? What information do you want to include? There’s a lot to consider.
There are a few pages you should always include in your author website:
- Home/About page. Often, this can be one and the same, but feel free to separate them out. You just want to make sure that your author bio and headshot is present somewhere, as well as a little bit about what you write.
- Contact page. You don’t have to list your private information, but you should have a contact form somewhere on your site. If you keep up your marketing, people will want to collaborate with you, and they’ll need a way to get hold of you.
Beyond those must-have pages, here are a few optional ones to consider:
- Blog. I know, I know. Do you really even have time to blog between writing your next bestseller and wrangling the fam (furbabies, humans, turtles—whatever that family may be) and working a nine-to-five and… you get it. The truth is, though, that if you can squeeze in time for an author blog, it can really help establish yourself as a thought leader, as well as generate SEO goodness.
- Newsletter. If you don’t have a dedicated page for this, that’s okay—just make sure your newsletter signup is easily accessible on other pages in your website.
- Fun stuff. Playlists! News! Inspiration! Anything you can think of that humanizes your author identity and gives readers a peek at your process.
The key is to still have fun with your website while highlighting pertinent information that makes it easier for readers to connect with you.
Whether you decide to build it yourself or hire a pro, you want your site to be legible and easy to navigate. Don’t cram your pages full of busy images or gifs, and break up the text for easy reading. Stick to a legible font (or, in the case of us authors, if you get one made for you book, that’s probably okay, too). Pick a color scheme that matches your identity, but don’t go overboard.
We’re writers, which means we are no strangers to research! Got a new book idea? Research. Not sure what style of clothing you want your MC to wear? Research. City landscapes and setting ideas? Research.
Take note of other author websites you love. What are they doing wrong? What are they doing right? Make a list and incorporate your learnings into your own design.
And always factor in your audience. You can take ideas from that middle grade author you adore, but if you write for an adult audience, it’s likely the content you curate and create for your own author website will be quite different.
Get Ready to Build
That’s a lot to consider, I know. But hopefully some of these tips will help you claim your space as an author on the internet! Of course, if you have any questions or want to discuss ideas further, please drop your thoughts in the comments or reach out on Twitter (@maxymmckay).