Building Your Author Website From Scratch

A comprehensive guide for self-starting authors looking to host online content, such as a blog, online portfolio, or eBook shop.

Building Your Author Website From Scratch

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***This post contains affiliate links. Please note that I do not partner with affiliates that I have either (a) no used their product(s) myself or (b) have not researched diligently.

Are you in the market for an author website?

Maybe you’ve done your research on web developers and freelancers and realized, “Hmm, websites aren’t that cheap.”

Maybe you’ve looked into free hosting services like WordPress.Com, WIX, and others but found they just don’t offer that much customization/web traffic ability.

Maybe you’ve just always been a self-started and have no problem building your website on your own, you’re just not sure where to start.

No matter what the dealio may be, you have come to the right place. 

Keep reading for access to helpful documents, freebies, tips, and even a comprehensive video eCourse.

Something I like to put out there to authors and writers new to the game: I do not suggest you create your website UNTIL you have created your author brand.

Don’t have a brand? Before you build your site, enroll in my free email course “Building Your Author Brand”. This eCourse is only three days long, and it will help you generate your author brand in easy-to-follow steps. Having your author brand in place will save you horrible design headaches later.

Already have your website built + need to skip ahead? Jump to the section you need.

 

Why do I even need a website?

Your author website is the foundation for your content marketing campaign. It is, essentially, the “home base” of everything you promote with your author brand attached.

Many authors/writers believe they can be successful without a website. 

While in some cases that may be true – not having a website will limit you to the type of content you share. If you only ever send people to your Amazon link, you may get a purchase but will you craft a loyal following?

Not likely.

Today, the average consumer relies heavily on access to what I like to call “greater information”.

Your readers will always want more: 

  • a spoiler from your upcoming novel
  • a blog post on the behind-the-scenes of your work-in-progress
  • or any number of content propaganda outside of your book. 

The point is – your website is where you could house all these different promotional items. Having diversity will also allow you to grow your fan-base.

Why? Because we all crave “greater information”. We want options!

Choosing a Proper Web Host

Before you go shopping for a theme or plugins to make your website stand out, you need to focus on finding a website host.

What is a website host? Basically, it is the invisible platform that holds your website, allowing others (like your readers + fans) to access your website.

There are several web hosting services out there. However, the two I am most familiar with – and therefore will share with you – are GoDaddy and Bluehost.

I personally use GoDaddy. However, when I was shopping around for 

web hosting, Bluehost popped up everywhere. I honestly think I may switch to Bluehost later when I gain more website traffic. 

What’s the difference?

The biggest difference is what you plan on building with. Bluehost is exclusive with WordPress.Org. GoDaddy, on the other hand, offers you some flexibility while also offering WordPress.Org.

Both services have affordable “starter” packages. These are the two platforms’ current promotions:

Bluehost

  • $2.95/month
  • FREE Domain
  • FREE SSL Included
  • 1-ClickInstall
  • 24/7 Support
 

GoDaddy

  • 24/7/365 U.S.-based expert support
  • Guaranteed 99.9% uptime
  • Industry-leading load times
  • They currently offer 30% off on their services with the code “30OFF”

Click here to check out GoDaddy.

Both services have exceptional customer service and try to provide the best costs to their consumers. 

My only reason for looking into switching to Bluehost is purely because I don’t plan on moving outside of WordPress.Org, and they are the best for hosting WordPress sites.

My greatest suggestion is to do your research, and remember you will be working with the host long-term. You want to ensure they offer everything you need, so you’re not having to pay for a third-party on top of their fees.

Want to learn more about web hosting?

Enter your email to receive my FREE guide on “Everything You Need to Know About Web Hosting”!

Getting Started With WordPress.Org

The best way for me to show you how to use WordPress is through this quick video tutorial.

After you watch it, you should have a pretty clear idea as to how to navigate your WordPress dashboard.

Next, let’s talk about plug-ins.

My Favorite WordPress Plug-Ins

There are thousands of plug-ins yo can choose from for your author website.

While it ultimately comes down to personal choice, these are the ones I currently use + love on my website:

Elementor

If you’re not a coder or developer, then you’re likely in the market for an easy-to-use website builder.

I recommend Elementor.

Previous to Elementor, I used Visual Composer. Visual Composer is GREAT – if you like to start with a pretty blank canvas.

If that is even remotely intimidating for you, then I suggest going with something like Elementor, which provides you with multiple layouts and templates to play around with.

From homepages to blog posts, Elementor has templates for pretty much everything you need on your author website.

On top of that, every template is very customizable, so you can make it your own and match it to your brand.

Elementor does have a free version. However, it’s pretty limited. I really wanted to use some of the Pro templates, so I paid the extra cash for Elementor Pro.

If you’re interested in learning more about Elementor Pro, click here.

WooCommerce

I use Woocommerce for my online store. Later in this same post, I go into depth on using WooCommerce to build your author shop.

Click here to go straight there.

Powerkit

This is a great plug-in for social sharing and some pretty handy shortcodes, such as automatic Table of Contents for blog posts.

The only thing I’m not a fan of is that Powerkit isn’t all that compatible with Elementor. It is a fantastic plug-in when you use it with any of the Code Supply Co. themes (I’ll go into themes next).

If you don’t go with a Code Supply Co. theme, then I would go with a different social sharing tool. There are several to choose from.

Some top alternatives are:

  • Social Warfare
  • Easy Social Share Buttons
  • WP Social Sharing

Disclaimer: I have not personally used any of the three plug-ins listed. I ulled these from popular articles on Google on which plug-ins were the best for social media sharing on WordPress.

MailChimp

If you’ve never heard of MailChimp, it is an email marketing system. It’s very streamlined, and it’s free for up to 2,000 email subscribers.

Because of my budget (which is basically zero) and because I’m just at the beginning of my blogging career, MailChimp was a simple choice for me.

I love how easy it is to use, as well as the templates that are available for building emails. For beginners, it’s a great place to start when building your email list.

For more on MailChimp, click here.

Choosing a Website Theme

When you are creating your website, you will need to look into wbsite themes.

WordPress provides you with some free templates, which can be effective.

When you pair one of WordPress’s free themes with Elementor Pro, you can pretty much build whatever you want.

Had I known about Elementor Pro before I bought my WordPress theme, I probably would’ve stuck with one of the free ones.

However, purchasing a theme does have its perks. Several come with pre-built demos. All you have to do is place your content and be done with it.

If you aren’t the design-type, then buying a pre-built demo may be your best option.

In this post, I go into some of the best WordPress themes for writers. All of these were pulled from ThemeForest, which is a great source for WordPress sites.

Building Your Author Pages

When you have your WordPress theme and plug-ins picked out and activated, it’s time to build!

For me, this is my favorite part. You get to be super creative!

However, I totally get how this can be super intimidating for a lot of authors. This is usually where authors spend the most money on outsourcing.

But, let me be frank, I really don’t think you need to, not with this eCourse I put together.

In it, I dive into all of the things above, such as hosting and themes, but I also spend a decent portion building an author website. 

As someone enrolled, you would get to follow along via the video tutorials.

For building, I use Elemtor Pro, which I mentioned above as one of my favorite plug-ins. 

During the eCourse, however, I deactivate the “Pro” part of Elementor and show you everything you can do with the free version. The last thing I want you to think is you need to spend a ton of money. 

You can use a FREE theme and a FREE builder!

The four pages I tackle in this eCourse are the core pages I talk about in the next section: your homepage, about page, portfolio/shop page, and your blog.

You can get more information on, as well as sign-up for, my “How to Build a Website” eCourse here!

Writing/Planning Content For Your Author Site

In my personal opinion, there are four pages every author website should have:
  • Homepage
  • About page
  • Portfolio/Shop page
  • Blog page
All of these serve their own individual purposes. The only one that may not be necessary is the blog if you don’t plan on blogging (I don’t recommend this). When you have the framework of these pages built, it’s time to write content. Some people will say this is backward. From a lazy standpoint – I wouldn’t want to over-write, and then have nowhere to place content. This is especially true if you, yourself, won’t be designing your site. Plus, I often have a much clearer idea of what content I need to write after I have my pages laid out. The exact content you put on each page will ultimately be up to you. However, there are three key criteria I believe should be on your site – maybe even on every page – if you plan on building a following of readers.

A Spot to Subscribe

Every author should have a mailing list. I know it’s 2019, and you may be thinking, “Huh?” But, email is still one of the best ways to get your readers interacting with your content. I believe – as do most marketers – that you should have an email opt-in on every page and post of your website. That doesn’t mean bombard your readers, but it does mean have it on there at least once in a non-disruptive spot. Having email opt-ins isn’t as simple as just saying, “Hey, subscribe!” You want to be sure you are offering value in exchange for your readers’ information. But what kind of value can you offer? Read this post to find out.

A Picture of…YOU!

I know. Us, writers, aren’t exactly the #selfie type. However, I’m not saying to go post your picture on social every day. I’m just saying to at least have your professional author photo on display, especially on your homepage. You want your readers to be able to connect with you. How can they do that when they don’t even know what you look like? Having a face to put to a name is helpful. It doesn’t have to be blown up. It doesn’t have to be everywhere. You could simply have it in your website’s sidebar or even next to a brief bio on your homepage. The placement is up to you. Try and make it a photo that you’re fine with associating with your work. Many authors go with the same photo they use on their book covers. Whatever photo you choose, make sure it’s you. If you write romance novels and a laid back blog, then it would be kind of strange to attach a visual of yourself in a suit. Be smart about choosing your attire. Remember – this is part of your brand.

A Promotion For Your Work

Whether it is your published novel, short story, or even just your latest blog post – it is important to make it easy for your reader to get to.
 
The less clicks the better!
 
For me, when a reader first visits my sie, I want to direct them to where their needs lie. Tha’s why, instead of featuring all of my new 

Build an Author Brand That's YOU...

Yeah, sure, you can pay hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of dollars for someone who doesn't really know you to craft your brand OR you could follow my easy totally-free email course.

posts, I break them into three categories: How to Write, Build Your Author Website, + Author Marketing Strategies.

Each delivers on a very specific goal the reader may be after.

So, when you’re thinking about what to feature, think about what your readers’ needs are. 

If you know they’re coming for your new book, then have it available to buy on your homepage. If they’re coming for your portfolio, then have some of your works displayed in a nice collage on your homepage.

It really does come down to what your readers want, especially if you are trying to sell something.

Writing Website Content Resources:

Creating Your Personal Book Shop

Hey, you know what’s great? Having one place where someone can find all of your products…like your own book shop!

Your book may be on several online marketplaces, such as Amazon or Barnes&Noble, but is it available to buy directly from your website?

A lot of authors underestimate the power of their own online bookshop.

They think, “Well, it’s on Amazon. My reader can go there if they really want it.”

I hate to break it to ya – someone new to you and your books isn’t going to chase down your work.

Unless you’re J.K. Rowling.

Just like I talked about above, in the content writing section, people don’t like to click a million times just to get to what they want. Having a bookshop integrated into your website enables your readers to stay on your site (which increases your Google Rank) longer.

You want this!

The longer they stay on your site, the more familiar they become with who you are, what you write, and the products you offer (beyond just your book).

So, how do you go about building your shop? I recommend using the WoCommerce Plug-in.

Not sure how to build a shop page? Well, that’s what my eCourse is for. 

If you already have the rest of your website completely built out, and you literally only need to build a shop page, you can pay only for that section of the eCourse here [coming soon!].

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