In this no-nonsense resource we're gonna go over the mechanics of building - or rebuilding - an author website that helps you sell more books, make more money and build you a tribe of irrational (passionate) reader fans who'll support you the rest of your writing career.
[Boring disclaimer] I know some authors who maintain their websites on free(ish) blog platforms like Blogger, Tumblr or WordPress.com.
Don't do this.
Hosting your blog on a free platforms sucks for so many reasons - can't add analytics, can't change the look and feel - but the biggest reason is you can't capture email addresses. (Your biggest source of revenue.)
So, now that my super un-subtle message is out of the way, let's get started with:
Author Websites (That Don't Suck) Action Step No.1: Register Your Domain
A website domain name is simply the "WWW.BestAuthorThatEverExisted.com" part. And it's super easy to register.
Ya just head over to to a site like NameCheap. (I use Namecheap, but you can use whichever one you want.) Just don't do GoDaddy...leaving the Yakuza mafia is easier than opting out of a GoDaddy email list.
When choosing the domain name, make sure your domain has:
- The .com extension. (Don't even think about them .net or .org extensions.)
- Your author name (michaelrogan.com) or brand name (indiepubnation.com).
- No words that are hard for a third-grader to spell (No "PotpourriExpert.com" or "MichaelRighettioni"
- No super long phrases (Ixnay on the "FantasyAuthorMyrtleEversonMcElroy.com")
What I Use: NameCheap (Cheap; Easy to use; No annoying upsells)
Author Websites That Don't Suck Action Step No.2: Get Some Web Hosting
Web hosting is renting space on other people's servers where you can put all the images, text and HTML stylesheets of your website. (And usually at a super cheap price.)
Here's what you need to know about web hosting:
- Start with a cheap plan ($3-$5 a month) and work you way up. (No need to buy the 12-month mega plan.)
- No such thing as unlimited bandwidth. I don't care WHAT the website says.
- Don't pay for installation extras. All these hosting companies make a ton of money on upsells. Everything you need done can be done - way cheaper - on Fiverr.
- It's easy to CHANGE web hosts. Don't let them "scare" you into large commitments
Author Websites That Don't Suck Action Step No.3: Set Up Your Site's CMS
A content management system, or CMS, is the ENGINE of your website. May not sound super sexy - unless your idea of "sexy" involves "wp-config" files - it organizes and categorizes your content into a coherent and logical structure. (Not just for humans, but for search engines too.)
Yes, there are quite a few content management system (CMS) options, but in my opinion the ONLY worth using is WordPress.
No, not the WordPress hosted blog I referred to earlier - I know, it's confusing - but the website management system known as "WordPress."
I love WordPress because it's:
- Easy to use
- Constantly updated
- Supported by a ton of third-party plugins
- Supported by numerous YouTube how-to videos, most of them created by fourteen-year-olds
- Google loves 'em (and so do I)
Now as for setting up your website with the WordrPress CMS, that can actually all be done in the back end of your website domain. (Usually found by heading over to "mywebsite.com/cpanel.")
But what if I just said sounded like a foreign language, head over to Fiverr and have somebody set it up for you for five bucks.
What I Use: WordPress (Free; Flexible; Best in the biz) - Fiverr (Fast; Cheap; Perfect for technical schlubs like me) - YouTube WordPress Tutorials (Free; Very helpful; Will walk you through how to publish in WordPress)
Congratulations! You have just built the foundation of your author website. (And yes, it LOOKS super crappy.) But that's what we're going to cover in Part II, making your author website looks supremely awesome. (And effective.)