How to Make an Author Website in 8 Steps

author building her website

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

The importance of an online author platform for any published writer should be self-evident. And while “author platform” might sound fancy and intimidating, it’s really just a catch-all for the entirety of your online profile, including your author website, social media accounts, book sales pages, blog, et al.

Listing your author website first in the list above was intentional — it is the central hub of all your book marketing and is the cornerstone of your online presence. Social media platforms go in and out of style, and their algorithms change with the weather, but your author website is entirely yours, every page, from domain name to the footer, and it’s important to think through everything you want to include before you figure out how to make an author website.

Step 1. Define your author brand

I don’t love the phrase “author brand,” I’m not a fan of commoditizing art, but it makes sense for several reasons. Everything we present online is staged. Your “brand” might truly align with your personality and you as an individual, but you are writing the content, deciding how to present yourself and your work, promoting your books in all their glory — your brand refers to how you present yourself in these forums.

Are you witty, offbeat, and irreverent? That’s the voice of your brand. Are you a professional self-help expert with a PhD? That voice will sound different. Your artwork, font choices, and color schemes will flow from the image you portray: these are the things that define your author brand.

Of course, market expectations and the type of reader you are hoping to attract factor into how to present your work, which social media profiles you want to lean into, and what ancillary endeavors you’ll highlight. Your professional author website should portray all these things and should lead the charge, right on the home page.

Step 2. Choose the right domain name and platform

A domain name is your internet address, also known as a URL (uniform resource locator). These are the characters that take you to a specific site on the web (e.g., BookBaby’s Blog domain name is blog.bookbaby.com).

Generally, you want your custom domain name to be simple, obvious, relevant, and memorable. As an author, your best bet it to go with your name as it appears on your books.

Find the right domain name

Now, there are many reasons why that might not work. Is your name difficult to spell? Is it 75 characters? Is it already spoken for? Then you’ll have to come up with something else. Adding “author” to your domain name is a possibility, and going with a .net or .us (etc.) domain may be another option. But you’re better off not limiting your domain name to a book title or something clever that’s not immediately obvious.

You can check the availability of domain names at places like whois, godaddy, or domain.com (there are many others to choose from), and many website builders will include a domain registry as part of the service.

One final point, you are best served to buy your own domain name using your credit card and email address (probably not affiliated with your new domain/website). Keep your username and password on file — make sure you have access to your account and know where it is registered.

Grow your author brand with eBooks

Choosing a website platform

There are several options when it comes to building and hosting a website, and most website builders include templates and other tools to make web design simple. Well, maybe not simple, but you won’t need to know coding and programming.

WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace are among the more popular, well-known, and affordable options (i.e., free, though you’ll have to pay for hosting and plug-ins and other odds and ends), and Pub Site boasts being “the best DIY platform for building author and publisher websites.” (For what it’s worth, you’re reading this blog post on a WordPress website).

If you go this route, you can hire a web designer to get you started, or you can try to design the site yourself from the ground up. Mind you, while these services are user-friendly, building a website can get pretty complicated pretty quickly — there are a lot of variables to consider and maintain. But, whether you do it all from scratch or hire a web designer who specializes in author website design, you can make edits and changes and updates yourself, if you so choose.

If you have loftier ambitions for customization or zero inclination to build and maintain a site yourself, freelance web developers and designers abound. It’s likely you have connections in your local community, and there are plenty of online forums and resources where you can find a talented web designer who can implement all the bells and whistles and present your author brand to your specifications. You can expect to spend a few thousand dollars in the process, but again, this is central to your author platform and part of what it is to be a published author.

Step 3. Design your author website

In addition to an attractive home page that includes an obvious call to action (buy my new book, sign up for my weekly newsletter, visit me on my book tour), your site should include:

  • Your author bio.
  • Your latest book and all your published works.
  • Your writing portfolio (poems, short stories, guest blog posts, and other writing samples).
  • Blog. Most web platforms will include an option to host a blog site.
  • Mailing list. Add a contact form, build an email list, and mail a monthly (or regular) newsletter to your readership. There’s no better way to promote a new book, book signings, merch, etc. than a direct outreach to someone who has provided you with their email contact info.
  • Reviews. Social proof, including reviews and reader-generated content, is a great way to promote your brand and your book.
  • Contact page. Let people know how to get in touch with you, and include your social media links.
  • Calendar of events.
  • Media page. Include a professional headshot, images of your book covers, and links to any interviews, podcasts, and press you’ve received.

Step 4. Craft a compelling author bio and about page

Your author bio or “about the author” web page isn’t the place to tell your whole life story — it should be a brief and engaging summary that introduces you to potential readers. That said, where your book and press release bios should be concise and highlight significant elements of interest, your web bio can be a bit longer and showcase your personality with more detail. But still… don’t overdo it.

Free guide offer for Promote Then PublishIn addition, unless your on-brand approach is to speak directly to your audience, write your bio in the third person. In fact, as this is a strangely difficult assignment for many writers, you may benefit having someone else write it for you.

And remember, a little history goes a long way. Readers don’t need to hear about the book you wrote in 2nd-grade English class and the name of your first three pets. Focus through the lens of your writing and include relevant biographical details that shed light on how you developed as a writer.

Step 5. Showcase your books and portfolio

Sounds obvious, but your books should be the stars of the show on your author site. Include book excerpts, show handwritten notes penned as you were working, include audio clips from your audiobook. Find ways to weave graphic elements into your site—images of the room where the murder took place, a photo of the hotel where your characters met with the mob, fan art of the unicorn protagonist of your book series.

If you have a blog, additional works that you’ve written, or other artistic endeavors, here’s an opportunity to showcase them as well.

Obviously, these pages should include explicit links and offers to purchase your books. If you are a self-published author with books on BookBaby’s Bookshop, this is an ideal opportunity to drive traffic to those pages so you can maximize your profit. Certainly link to the big retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million — allow your visitors to shop where they’re most comfortable.

You can also implement e-commerce solutions for your author merch — that’s what you designed it for, after all. Give your visitors a chance to support you financially by purchasing your books and any other merchandise you’ve created.

Step 6. Build an email list and connect with readers

Constant Contact and MailChimp are popular services for email list building, and many website builders include services for email management. Building a list takes time and effort but can pay dividends as your career grows. Social media is necessary for frequent blasts and short messaging, but email communications are much more effective for selling goods, promoting a speaking engagement, and featuring long-form content.

Use your email outreach to promote book sales, merch sales, and to push your latest blog content and promotional endeavors. Of course, this can primarily be a means of speaking to your audience and perpetuating your brand and art — it’s not just about sales. But email is undoubtedly a better vehicle for driving sales than social media and is another reason that having an author website is crucial for your sustained promotion and interaction with your readers.

Step 7. Integrate social media and blogging

How to effectively use social media is a topic for another post, but your social media efforts should lead interested visitors to your website, and your website should link to all your social media profiles.

The benefits of blogging is also a topic for another post, but suffice it to say that as a writer, hosting a blog has obvious merit. This, for sure, is another time commitment and is not exactly a “must-have” for every author, but a blog does present continuing opportunities to connect, attract, and engage with your ideal reader. Blogs can also be leveraged for guest posts, and inviting other writers to post can expose you and your work to their audiences.

Step 8. Search engine optimization (SEO) for authors

Just like the right metadata helps interested readers connect to your book when they search keywords that relate to your title and content, so does search engine optimization. The idea is to make sure you use words, terms, and phrases in your web copy that will help Internet search bots find your site and serve it in search results when users type those terms into a search engine.

There’s an art and a science to SEO, but the general principle is to serve content to the right users and try to attract readers who will enjoy your content to your site.

What are you waiting for?

Like most things, there’s a lot under the surface, and a beautiful, effective author website takes a lot of thought and design, not to mention constant maintenance. But this is your house on the web, and as an indie author, you want to attract visitors, inform them, entice them, collect their information, and sell your books, and you can do it all from here.

Here are some examples of writer websites of popular authors for inspiration. Have fun designing!

Neal Stephenson
Neil Gaiman
Rebecca Yarros
Iris Yamashita

Book Publishing Plan guide

Related Posts
What Is Your Author Brand?
How to Make and Market a Self-Help Book
About the Author Examples to Get You Inspired
Author Merchandise Ideas to Boost Revenue
How to Market a Book on Social Media

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you, Andre, for the great advice! In my case, I had the website first, and the branding, and all that good stuff – and subsequently I became an author. You’re right that once you have your site you can control your own content and it remains your own platform. I’ve been updating mine as the needs grew. It helps me that I also own a web-development company, which helps me drive the process without being at the whims of other companies (both on their time and budget). I would like to add a caveat that many “free web services” tend to have a lot of up-charges and users don’t really ever own their site despite all those expenses. I appreciate your highlighting that although social media integration is a very important option, the terms of service are also going to evolve outside the user’s control. I’ve definitely leveraged BookBaby’s Bookshop site, and that adds to that layer of security, and credibility to our site. Everyone is welcome to visit us to see an example of what I am speaking of here.

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