A Complete Guide To Building Your Author Website

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A great website combined with a sure-fire marketing strategy puts the pedal to the metal on the book sales gas pedal. Our ‘no-frills’ approach will help you get to that point faster, easier, and more effectively.

Here at SiteFlight, we build websites across various industries. SiteFlight works closely with publicists and book agents to combine their book marketing tactics into a total website system. We offer a standalone website system that takes all of our cross-industry marketing and website knowledge and packs it into one definitive author website package.

This guide shares a lot of that knowledge for free to help you make the best decisions for your website. Whether you’d like to take a DIY website-building approach or hire help, this guide to building your author website will have you confidently up and running quickly. 

Define Your Purpose

First, point your ship in the right direction by defining your purpose. Ask yourself, “How will I use my website?”.

Will you use it to sell books directly? Is it a place for you to write and share your unique personality that defines your author brand? Do you want to use your website to promote speaking and book promotion events? Are you a prolific writer who wants an outlet to share your thoughts through a blog? Do you want to promote your expertise on a particular topic and gain speaking opportunities? Do you have opinions and thoughts that you’d prefer to take total ownership of with your website?

For most authors, we recommend using your website to build a loyal following through blogging, sharing events, and collecting emails.

But be sure to create your site with realistic expectations. Remember that your website is a tool to support your marketing efforts and act as your most definitive and reliable source of information. This means that even with a website, you still need to focus marketing on non-website-oriented activities like approaching independent bookstores, leveraging your local newspaper and publications, and creating book signing events. The best website strategy is the one you will use and continuously do! 

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We partner with expert book literary publicists who can set the direction of your book marketing strategy. For just $100, connect with Blue Cottage Agency for an hour consultation on your book launch.

How to build your author site, and how much will it cost?

You have four options for building your website.

1. WordPress

2. A website builder like Wix or Squarespace

3. Hire us at SiteFlight

4. Hire another independent agency/freelancer.

Whatever you choose, we’ve laid out all of your costs and most of your considerations below.

DIY Site with WordPress

Costs: Hosting + Domain + Theme ~= $120 – 200/year

Who it is for: technically advanced users, people who want lots of customization

Who it isn’t for: non-technically advanced users, e-commerce users

This is the most technically advanced and potentially frustrating route.

If you’re unfamiliar with WordPress or how the internet works, be prepared for many hours of experimenting, reading articles, and troubleshooting problems. Building a DIY site with WordPress is feasible, but it will be tricky; it will require setup time and it will require monthly maintenance. If you choose to go with WordPress, you need four main things – Hosting that offers automated WordPress setup, WordPress (included with the hosting usually), Domain Name, and a WordPress theme.

To make this very easy for you, we’ve outlined two detailed approaches showing exactly what you need to do to set up your WordPress website. Keep in mind, we’ve eliminated decisions for you by choosing SiteGround as your host (we highly recommend them) and Namecheap as your domain provider. In approach number one, we use some paid plugins like Elementor Pro and rely less on the theme. In approach number two, we use a WordPress theme.

You’ll also notice that in neither approach do we use e-commerce. That’s because although WordPress does have e-commerce options, it is far more tricky to set up. We’d only recommend this for the brave! You’re better off using third-party online sellers or a system like Shopify or Wix.

In both approaches, we take you right up to the point of adding content. Once you get through these steps, you still have much more to do, but you’re getting close!

As you go, SiteGround’s website setup workflow will walk you through some of these initial configuration steps. Then once your site is set up, you’ll manage your site by logging into your website’s management backend.

Customize everything on your site with Elementor Pro. This is my favorite approach, but it does require design chops and technical skills.

Costs: Domain, Hosting, Elementor Pro ~= 180/year

Accounts Required: SiteGround, Google (free), MailChimp (free), Namecheap

Theme: Hello Elementor

Plugins: MC4WP, Google Sitekit, RankMath SEO, Elementor, Elementor Pro, WP Mail SMTP, SiteGround Optimizer, SiteGround Security

  1. Setup a Gmail account if you do not already have one

  2. Purchase your domain through Namecheap https://www.namecheap.com/ (jump to the domains section)

  3. Purchase WordPress Hosting Through SiteGround https://www.siteground.com/wordpress-hosting.htm

  4. Click the one-click installer for your SiteGround WordPress Site

  5. Point your nameservers from Namecheap toward your SiteGround account

    — For most of the following steps, you’ll be working in your WordPress Admin Dashboard, SiteGround has a one click admin access, but you can also access your site by going to yourwebsite.com/wp-admin —

  6. Install the Hello Elementor Theme

  7. Install Elementor and Setup Elementor Pro

  8. Choose and install an Elementor Pro Website Kit. Pro-tip: A lot of new content will be added to your site at this point, pay attention to what was in the pages tab and what was in your media library before and after the installation. 

  9. Setup a Free Account with MailChimp

  10. Install and configure a plugin for your mailing list, MC4WP: Mailchimp For WordPress https://www.mc4wp.com/

  11. Install Google Site Kit, then set up and connect Google Search Console and Google Analytics, you must use a Google-associated account

  12. Install RankMath SEO free version

  13. Install and configure WP Mail SMTP

  14. Configure SiteGround Security

  15. Configure SiteGround Optimizer

  16. Make your pages and customize them!

Create a site based on an existing theme. Converting themes can be confusing at times, but you will have an excellent design without much work.

Costs: Domain, Hosting, Premium Astra Theme =~180/year

Accounts Required: SiteGround, Google, MailChimp

Theme: Astra Pro

Plugins: MC4WP, Google Sitekit, RankMath SEO, WP Mail SMTP, SiteGround Optimizer, SiteGround Security

— From here on out, you’ll be working in your WordPress Admin Dashboard, SiteGround has a one click admin access, but you can also access your site by going to yourwebsite.com/wp-admin —

  1. Setup a Gmail account if you do not already have one

  2. Purchase your domain through Namecheap https://www.namecheap.com/ (more on picking a domain name later)

  3. Purchase WordPress Hosting Through SiteGround https://www.siteground.com/wordpress-hosting.htm

  4. Click the one-click installer for your SiteGround WordPress Site

  5. Point your nameservers from Namecheap toward your SiteGround account

    — For most of the following steps, you’ll be working in your WordPress Admin Dashboard, SiteGround has a one click admin access, but you can also access your site by going to yourwebsite.com/wp-admin —

  6. Install the Astra theme, then upgrade to the Pro Astra Theme, (pro will provide tons of prebuilt templates)

  7. Setup a Free Account with MailChimp

  8. Install and configure a plugin for your mailing list, MC4WP: Mailchimp For WordPress https://www.mc4wp.com/

  9. Connect Google Search Console and Google Analytics with Google Site Kit

  10. Install RankMath SEO free version

  11. Install and Configure WP Mail Smtp

  12. Configure SiteGround Security

  13. Configure SiteGround Optimizer

  14. Make your pages and customize them!

Wix or Squarespace

Costs: $150 – 250/year

Who it’s for: less technically inclined users, e-commerce users

Who it’s not for: people who want lots of blogs and customization, people who want to tweak performance, people who want to own their content, people who want to have flexible SEO options.

This is a much less technical option, we are far less familiar with these systems, and they are generally easy to use. However, don’t believe the hype in their commercials; getting the site you want still takes work, and it can be pretty challenging if you have a specific design vision in mind.

Remember, these are still entire systems in themselves, meaning you must learn how to use the system. These sites tend to be photography heavy, and having the proper photography is required to make the themes look as good as their designs.

We’re semi-onboard with these; we’re all for using these for e-commerce, but we are against their marketing claims that make it seem like building your site is something you can do without a thought. 

SiteFlight Site with WordPress 

Costs: $999 today and $450/year

Who it is for: non-technical users who want an author website pro on their team, users who want lots of customizability

Who it is not for: DIY users; we offer e-commerce, but Shopify or Wix still might win, especially for small sites.

This option is a hands-off approach. If you can use email and receive a few phone calls, you can do this.

These sites will be customized to you and include substantially more WordPress features than the barebones setup. We go far beyond your typical WordPress site or your local WordPress site builder. We build many author-specific decisions into the site and incorporate social media, email, marketing, and advanced custom configurations for your site backend right in.

Plus, we take the time to understand your book and personality, then create a design that reflects you.

The systems are designed to be easy for you to write blog posts, post events, have good search engine visibility, run fast, look great on mobile, and drive marketing engagement.

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Other freelancers or website design services:

Costs: 0-$20,000

There are lots of website builders and designers out there. Their prices can range substantially. Most of your average small and local website design agencies will probably quote you between 2,000 and 5,000 for your website. If you’re hiring a free or inexperienced friend, expect them to invest two weeks or more into your site and for that two weeks to be stretched across their free time, which could end up being more like two months or more. Suppose you’re eyeing a very talented and in-demand designer who doesn’t specialize in author sites or a large agency that’s not specifically building sites for authors. In that case, you should expect to pay from 6,000 – 20,000.

What domain should you choose?

A quick warning: this is the one thing we don’t do for our clients.

We believe you should own your domain and always have complete control over it. Losing your domain from failure to pay a bill or having a freelancer disappear can be a massive mistake that impacts your SEO and all sorts of things, and unfortunately, this happens to people a lot. So, buy your domain today and bring it to whatever service you use.

Here is how to do it:

Go here https://www.namecheap.com/ and start searching for good domains. A good domain for author websites will be something like yourname.com or yournameauthor.com

We don’t recommend having a specific domain for each book you sell for SEO reasons and because of the complexity of this type of system if you publish multiple books.

If you’re confident that you will keep your domain name for a long time, consider purchasing your domain for ten years.

Pro Tip: How do you get an email that uses your domain name?

This isn’t required but can amplify how professional you look. If you’d like to do this, some technical setup is required, but we recommend using Google WorkSpace. You can purchase your Google WorkSpace account from various vendors, including from within SiteGround. As of July 2023, a Google WorkSpace starter plan starts at $6/month.

What content to put on your author’s website?

Ready for the real meat of your author website? Here we break down the essential content for your author site and then tell you exactly what pages to put that content on. It is important to remember that your website is a tool for communicating via the web. It simply organizes your content in a website way.

Start by gathering your content. Then you can allow that content to inform your website design decisions! This is a helpful trick, especially when picking out templates. If you have your content organized well first, you can look at pages and ask yourself – based on the content I have, what should go there? That way, you’re building your site to a realistic guideline. Sometimes, the scope of your website changes dramatically because you didn’t plan your content out first.

Content To Gather Before You Build Your Site

If you work with us, we will ask you for almost all of these! If you don’t work with us, we recommend that you include almost all of these things on your site!

Link to the social media accounts that you use. These can include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest or even sites like Medium, Reddit, Commaful, or Wattpad.

Were you a guest on a podcast? Did someone feature you in a publication? These are great things to share. Get a link directly to the article you’re featured in so you can share that on your site. Having links like this handy is also fantastic for creating social media posts in the future! 

Your list should include the name of the awarding organization, the name of the award, an image of the digital badge that shows the award, and a link to the award page.

For images, save these somewhere and name them nicely to make them easy to share in the future!

For links, find a link that goes directly to the award page. For example, if you were recognized as in The New York Times Best-Seller list, don’t just link to the New York Times; link directly to the page that shows your book!  

Here are some great places to sell your book, be sure to get links to the pages where customers can purchase your book in all of its different formats:

  • Local independent bookstores
  • Amazon
  • Bookshop.org
  • LibroMobile
  • Barnes & Noble

The long author bio should be an overview of your story including information like awards that you’ve won or been nominated for, grants that you’ve been awarded, a little about your books, and highlights of your personal story. Your long bio can be 200 – 350 words.

The author short bio will appear in a small blog of text and should be about 75-90 words. It should focus on your personal story with a sentence or two dedicated to awards or recognition.

These can be long reviews or short reviews. You should always include the name and the title of the reviewer.

This is a 75-90 word paragraph about your book that can also be used as your back-cover blurb. Try to include important keywords from your book that hook your readers without giving away too much. Drive curiosity and make the reader connect with the main character of your book. It is a good place to highlight the theme, tone, and quality of your book.

This is a short 100-200 word description of your book that incorporates many of the same aspects of your short blurb. Continue to spark interest and hook the reader on your book by highlighting the main character and their journey without giving away too much.

This should include a Word Document or PDF that contains your author bios, book blurbs, a few book reviews, and a press release. It should also contain high-resolution headshots and your logo if you have one.

Blog posts depend on the type of books that you write. If you write fiction, writing short stories might work well. If you write non-fiction creating posts specific to your content will be most effective. Or you can continue to make your blog a place to share personal thoughts or ideas.

This should include required grant language along with any required logos.

Your author logo should be simple, either your signature or your name in a fancy font or some combination of the two. To prep your logo, sign your name with a black sharpie on a white sheet of paper. Then grab a photo of that paper. If you’re working with a designer, they can easily turn that into a logo. If not, go here: https://www.adobe.com/express/feature/image/remove-background and save the file as a .png.

Repeat the steps for making your author logo, but this time just do your initials!

Try to grab more than one and maybe even have them professionally done. You should have one against a solid white background and one in a more natural setting. More of these to choose from with all sorts of different dimensions will make design much easier!

Lots of high-quality photos make building a website a lot easier! If you have great photos that you’re comfortable sharing, be sure to put these in a special folder or share them with your website designer.

Videos aren’t required, but they are a huge bonus. If you’re comfortable doing videos, do videos. You should post these to your social media and YouTube, but there will also be a place for them on your website. Videos drive tons of engagement.

Pages for your author site.

Now it is time to take that content and disperse it throughout your website. For your author website we recommend having a home page, about page, book(s) page, single book page, event(s) page, single event page, press, blog archive, blog post page, and finally a contact page. 

This is the one page that we’re going to get into a lot of detail about. Your homepage is usually your most important page and will be the first thing that your users see.

Hero Section

This is the main section you see when you land on the page. The Hero should be a relevant photo of you or of your book. It should also include your name, book titles, a short blurb either about your or about your book, and a Call to Action Link.

About The Book

This is a section about your book or about your books. It should include cover shots of your book or your main books. It should include the title, a short blurb, and a link to learn more about the particular book. This can also be a great place to add any awards or a short review snippet.

About You

This can come above the book portion and should include a short author blurb, your image, and a button that links to your about page.

Social Proof

This section can be a combination of things. It should link to you in the news, or it should be a gallery that shows the different awards, accolades, or nominations that you’ve received.

Most Recent Posts

This should be a list of your most recent blog posts. Try to have at least 3 blog posts to start. Be sure to set this up only to show 3-4 blog posts at a time.

Newsletter Subscribe/Call To Action:

This is your primary call to action section. We recommend that it is your subscribe to a newsletter call to action, but it can be whatever you like. It should be simple just requesting the user’s name and email.

This should include:

  • author name
  • a short blurb
  • your author headshot
  • the long blurb
  • a gallery of 5-10 images or a video
  • social proof such as you in the news or awards you’ve won
  • finally, either a call to action for reading your blog, subscribing to your newsletter, or buying your book.

This should show a list of all of your books. If you only have one book, ignore this page for now!

It should include:

  • an image of the book
  • the title
  • the short-blurb
  • a link to learn more about the book.

If you can fit it, it should also include reviews and awards or nominations the book has received.

This is for a single book and should include the title, short blurb, long blurb, and reviews.

If you have multiple places to buy your book, you want to put all those links here. It is smart to include a preferred vendor or a group of special links to stores where the user can buy a signed copy.

Keep the call-to-action focused. Focus entirely on getting your user to buy the book rather than encouraging them to subscribe to a newsletter. If you use popups, ensure only popups relevant to purchasing your book go here.

This should be a list of all of your events. If you use SiteFlight’s Author setup, this will include links to specific landing pages for the events.

One reason for having an individual landing page for each event is that you will be easier to show a specific event to Google and other search engines. To do this you need to understand some advanced search engine topics like schema markup. While understanding schema markup isn’t necessary, it will help you gain more visibility.

This means you are more likely to show up in the event listings on Google. To do this, you need to use proper schema markup will allow Google to place your events in its events listings.

This should be a list of some sort that displays articles that you’ve been featured in. This is also where the link to download your press kit should be.

Your blog page should allow users to navigate through all of your blog posts. This is an archive.

Blog posts should include:

  • the name of the blog post author
  • links to share the post on social media
  • similar posts
  • and a call to action. A great call to action here can be for the user to subscribe to your newsletter.

Blog posts should include:

  • the name of the blog post author
  • links to share the post on social media
  • similar posts
  • and a call to action. A great call to action here can be for the user to subscribe to your newsletter.

Noteworthy Sections

We call these sections out specifically because you should have them if you have content to put in them. These are very important sections that users want to see or need for proper navigation.

If you’re using a site builder or WordPress your website will include a menu out of the box. We tend to believe that menus are one of the most important parts of the site. They allow users to more quickly navigate and find what they want.

This is what your menu should include:

  • Logo
  • Author Name
  • Link to these Pages: Home, About, Contact, Blog/News, Press, News, Events, Book/Book(s)
  • One primary call to action: subscribe or buy my book

This will most likely appear throughout your entire site.

This should be very simple and should request the user’s Name and Email. It should also have a box to agree to terms and conditions so you can contact them.

Your footer is the very bottom of your website. This is a place to repeat everything in your top menu, but to add additional links and information like how to get in contact with you.

How to use your website as a marketing tool

Post your events

Posting your events is fantastic, but you can gain even more traction and event recognition by using special schema markup to share your events with Google Events. If you do the events right, your event will appear on Google Searches when people look for events near me. This is a more advanced topic but is included in the websites we build.

Think About The Long-Term

SEO is a long-term strategy for authors, especially those trying to establish their thought leadership on a particular subject. It involves creating and publishing content that is relevant to your audience. Remember that even the best SEO strategies don’t start performing until three months after implementation. Without investing too much in SEO, we encourage you to ensure you’re connected to Google Search Console, ensure you make payments on your domain on time, and you routinely write blog posts that resonate with your readers.

Post Blog Posts that Cater To Your Audience

This is a lot like the above point, but it is also important to remember that you can use blog posts to get people to attend your events or signup for your newsletter. If you can consistently post engaging blog posts that resonate with your readers, you are far more likely to keep your readers engaged and interested in your books. This will translate to more book sales.

Gather Emails and Send Out A Newsletter

Building an email list can be a highly effective way to drive engagement with your current audience and prospective customers. You should plan on gathering emails and using a service like MailChimp to send out newsletters weekly or monthly. Sometimes you can even automate these letters!

Create Popups for Current Events or Offers

When done right, popups can be incredible for encouraging users to engage with specific content. You should have one popup on your site that drives users to a call to action, like signup for your newsletter, buying your book, download a pdf, or attend your next event.

Monitor Your Analytics and Pages Viewed

Connecting to Google Analytics right away can be a potent tool in the long term. You might learn some very interesting things. For example, you could learn that one blog post gets a lot of traffic or that most of your users are clicking on your About the Author page rather than clicking through to your book page.

You can then use these insights to make something specific happen.

For example, if they read a specific blog post, maybe add a relevant Call-To-Action on that page or write more content around that topic.

Monitor Search Terms Used to Find Your Site

Another fantastic tool is Google Search Console. It provides insights into the different searches that your website is appearing for. This is another excellent way to determine what content on your site works well and drives the most traffic. You will probably learn that lots of your users search for your book by name or search for you by name, but with time you might find that you’re appearing in search results for specific keywords.

View our Author Website Program
We've found what we're good at and we want to use it to help you do what you're good at. Working with us will save you loads of time and deliver fantastic results. To get started fill out our signup form.

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