Build Your Brand & Expand Your Reach with an Author Website: Tips & Tricks
You’ve written your book, and you’re getting it ready for self-publishing or sending the manuscript to agents and publishers. Tick. So, what do you do now? Sit on your laurels and wait for the offers to come flooding in? How about setting up a stunning author website?
Maybe you think websites are for the likes of Amazon and JK Rowling? Perhaps you’re under the misconception that websites cost thousands of dollars to build?
But, actually, without a website, there’s every possibility that — as an author — you don’t really exist. Harsh, perhaps, but fair.
This article is about why you should build an author’s website and what it can do for you. With tips and tricks along the way so that even complete beginners can start their own little cyberspace marketplace.
What is an author’s website?
Love it or hate it, networking is part and parcel of being a creative. In the past, we may have met other writers, agents, and publishers at networking events and swapped business cards.
Well, having an author website isn’t a million miles from this — it’s just better.
Your author’s website is a platform to share your creative prowess. It’s a place to bring your new book into the spotlight, but it’s also a location to build a community, develop a newsletter, and share your thoughts in a blog.
You might even consider an author’s website more important than having an active social media presence. Sure, it’s good to actively engage with LinkedIn, TikTok, and all the others, but your website is where you send your followers to find out more about you.
An author’s website is the first place an audience looks
You could even say that your author website is the first place people go when they’re looking for information about you as a writer.
So, put your stake in the ground, and build a website that markets your work and gives you a voice to engage with a community of followers.
What should my author website do?
Whether you’re setting up your own website (don’t balk, it’s easier than it sounds) or paying someone to set up your site, it’s easy to get lost in the almost infinite possibilities.
So, consider what you want your website to do. We recommend that your goals could be:
- Sell your books: Don’t be coy: you want people to buy your books. After all, why else did you become a writer?
- Develop a community: Your website is an opportunity to collect email addresses to gain access to people’s inboxes. This helps you keep your audience up to date with new books, events, and workshops you might run.
- Create a blog: We’re long past the days when people thought you were a narcissist for having a blog. A blog is one of the best approaches to keeping your website current (and searchable!). Find a niche, and share your tips, tricks, and thoughts.
Some inspiration for great author websites
Before deciding what to include on your author website, let’s consider what other writers add to their sites.
Love her work or hate it, E.L. James has been one of the most successful writers of the past couple of decades. And her website is a strong platform for her catalog.
And while there’s nothing particularly fancy about this home page, it’s easy to use and simple to find what you’re looking for.
- Introduced to the writer with a welcome message
- Offered a teaser for her new book
- Provided an opportunity to sign up for updates
- Given a library of her books, followed by a link for merchandise
- Linked to social media
So, while this is a good author website, the opportunity to sign up for updates could come before “the fold” — what you see before you scroll. Nonetheless, it has a crisp, clean look, using a sassy shocking pink color palette that implies something about the author.
Ava Richardson — Relay Publishing
Eva Richardson is a prolific novelist, published by UK-based Relay Publishing, and her website represents some excellent features that draw in the audience.
We’re introduced to Eva’s new short story, which she’s offering for free in return for an email address. This is a great way to build your newsletter community, offering an exclusive in return for contact details.
This is closely followed by a highlighted release, giving a short synopsis to draw the reader in, then offering a Get it! Button, which sends the visitor directly to Amazon.
Each section of the site is visual, but it’s already done its job before we reach the fold. Essentially, this homepage is easy to navigate, although it could do with a little more text accompanying each section, which will help with the site’s SEO.
Do I really need an author’s website?
Now, you might not have a back catalog like EL James or Ava Richardson — but you have to start somewhere. So, we’d recommend setting up your author website sooner rather than later to ensure you’re leaving a lasting legacy from your first book to your last.
How do I set up my author website?
And we’re off with the million-dollar question: how do I get started? But before we get started, there are three principal steps:
- Choosing a domain name
Go for something that helps people find you. You might struggle with “yourname.com” because that domain is probably already taken.
We’d recommend avoiding using the name of the book or series as your domain name. It won’t represent you in the long term. If you can’t get .com, go for a regional alternative.
- Signing up for a hosting platform
There are many web hosting platforms out there, from Wix to WordPress, many of which allow you to set up your site without zero coding experience or knowledge.
We recommend WordPress for ease of use. You can buy your domain name through WordPress and set up a free site, although you’ll get more functionality if you pay for one of the business subscriptions.
WordPress offers tons of author site templates to help you create your author’s platform. Simply select your template and replace the text and images with your own. It’s literally a ready-made, highly-customizable website with thousands of plugins for increased functionality.
The platform’s back end can be a little confusing at first. However, once you know how to control each element, you’ll be in your element.
Ultimately, WordPress is the world’s most popular website platform, with a massive community of users who are happy to help each other. There are thousands of “how to” pages on the web if you get stuck and online support for the paid packages.
Other excellent web hosting platforms include:
- Choosing an author website theme
Once you’re set up with WordPress or one of the other website builder sites, you can choose the most appropriate template for you. Of course, you can start a new site from scratch, but if you’ve never set up a website before, you’re much better off going with a template.
Website templates have a specific color palette, font style, and presentation style that carries across the entire site. This simply allows you to make the most professional-looking website possible (without ANY experience).
Once you’ve chosen your theme, it’s time to add your content.
What content should I include on my author website?
Every site is different, of course. But for most starter author websites, you’ll need:
- Homepage — this is your welcome page, but it is also used to help visitors navigate the rest of your site. Remember, first and foremost, you’re trying to sell your books — so keep this in mind when creating your homepage. As mentioned, include a brief introduction and a sign-up opportunity before the fold.
- About page — this is your opportunity to share your author’s story. Tell us about relevant experience; you could even discuss your day job. If you’re marketing your first book, tell the readers how you got to the stage of releasing your first work.
- Books page — this is where you share your catalog. Ensure each book has a purchase button — you might offer downloads from your site, Amazon, or another online book retailer.
- Contact page — add a contact form rather than leaving your email address on the page, which is a fast-track route to getting bombarded with spam. Give your audience (and press) a means to get in touch.
Other pages that may be valuable additions:
- Blog — use your blog to share news about new releases and events you might be hosting. People love to hear tips and tricks that help them to get where you are — a self-published author with a portfolio — so don’t be afraid to use your blog to encourage others to follow in your footsteps.
Do I need an author website if I haven’t finished my first book?
Sure. Use your site to share your progress as you write. Maybe offer sneaky peeks into a new chapter. Perhaps even ask for feedback or input from your audience.
However, ensure you focus on finishing your book rather than endlessly tinkering with your site!
Find out more about self-publishing with Cascadia
Cascadia is a complete book concierge service helping authors commit their work to print. We offer guidance and support every step of the way, from helping develop your book to getting it in print with great designers, printers, and distributors.
Check out our free Publishing School resources for articles to help progress your aspirations of becoming an author.
Thanks for reading! And good luck!
Harry Wallett is the Managing Director of Cascadia Author Services. He has a decade of experience as the Founder and Managing Director of Relay Publishing, which has sold over 3 million copies of books in all genres for its authors, and looks after a team of 50+ industry professionals working across the world.
Harry is inspired by the process of book creation and is passionate about the stories and characters behind the prose. He loves working with the writers and has shepherded 1000s of titles to publication over the years. He knows first-hand what it takes to not only create an unputdownable book, but also how to get it into the hands of the right readers for success.
Books are still one of the most powerful mediums to communicate ideas and establish indisputable authority in a field, boosting your reach and stature. But publishing isn’t a quick and easy process—nor should it be, or everyone would do it!