Author Website: Why I Built My Own and How (BWP Update 2)
Published by Nigel Billington in Book Writing Project · 12 June 2010
How to Create an Author Website Like I Did
As part of my journey of learning how to write a book (as well as getting it published and promoted), I knew from the start I needed an author website. If I’m going to be an author, I need my own piece of internet real-estate to promote myself and sell the book(s) I will eventually write.
Some might consider getting a website before writing my first book is back-to-front and stupid, but I don’t think so. I gave my reasoning in my book writing plan.
What Author Website Creation Options Are There?
There are really only two main choices when it comes down to getting a website - any website:
- Hire a web design agency
- Build it yourself
Looking on the internet, there are thousands of companies offering authors web design services, and there are many various do-it-yourself website building programmes authors can use. Each have their own price and package, as well as various competency (designers) and difficulty (DIY programmes) levels.
Boiling it all down, I chose option 2 - to build my own author website. Here's why…
Why I Decided to Build My Own Author Website
I looked at the pros and cons between hiring a web designer versus creating my own website, and this is what I came up with:
Cost: This was the most obvious benefit. I didn’t need to pay for a web designer, or a monthly fee some companies charge these days.
Control: With making my own website, I had full control over the content, the updates, and what I wanted to do with it.
Although I could have hired a designer to build an author website with CMS (Content Management System), where I could do my own content updates, I wouldn’t have complete control over the whole website. I would still need the back-up of the web designer, which would cost me.
Enjoyment: When I started looking at how I wanted my website to look, and the content that I wanted, I found it very enjoyable, satisfying, and creative. I actually had lots of fun building it.
Lack of know-how: There’s no doubt about it, making my own site, I had to be willing to learn a new subject. Even with the simple website builder I bought, I still had to learn how it worked. However, once I did learn, it became very easy to use.
Time: This was an obvious drawback if I wanted to create my own author website: I would lose time from writing my first book, which would equally add time to my book writing journey.
However, I saw this as a temporary drawback, until my site was fully created.
Now, I save a bit of time (and money) from having to do any back-and-forthing with a designer, about website updates and so-forth. I know I still lose a little time by doing it myself, but I am happy with the trade-off.
I personally think that learning the skill of making my own author website was definitely worth the time and effort. And just to let you know, I created this writer's website from scratch, using the website builder I bought.
The 5 Steps to Creating My Own Author Website
These are the 5 basic steps I followed, using my book writing plan, so I could create my own writer's website.
Step 1 - Choosing a Domain Name for My Author Website
One of the first things I needed to create my website was a domain name (website address).
How I chose my website's domain name
Picking the right domain name for my author business was very important to me, because once I had built my website using my domain's address, I can’t change it without creating additional problems.
So, the things I considered before buying my author domain name were:
Brandable Domain Name: I’m just starting out as an author and although no one knows me yet, in the future, I may become well known. So, I wanted a domain name that would eventually represent my brand - me, my book(s), and my business as a writer.
Memorable Domain Name: As an unknown author, I considered getting a quirky domain name that would be easily be remembered, or would attract attention, just because of the website address itself.
Domain Name Ending: I had to choose what Top Level Domain I wanted (the part of the domain, such as .com .net, .org, etc). I’m English, from the UK, so it would have made sense to get a .co.uk domain suffix.
Why Did I Choose the Domain Name: www.nigelbillington.com?
So, based on these three points above, I finally did what most authors and writers do; I chose my own name for my author website's address. My thoughts were, if I could eventually turn me and my name into a brand, it would become memorable to avid book readers.
I did however, NOT include the words "author" or "writer" in the domain name, as that would restrict me in what I could do with my website. With only my name in the website address and nothing else, if things don’t work out for me as an author, I can still use the website for something else - kind of a back-up plan.
Although I'm English, I chose a .com top level domain (domain name ending) over a .co.uk. My reasoning was, I felt the .com is a more internationally accepted suffix. If I become a well-known author in other countries, besides the UK, I want my website to reflect that.
I could buy up all the top-level domains for other countries, using my name, and redirect those website addresses to my .com version, but that becomes expensive.
Checking If My Chosen Domain Name was Available
Once I chose my author website domain, I needed to make sure it was available to buy and not already taken. I checked Whois.Com to see if it was available – it was. Luckily there aren’t too many Nigel Billington's in the world.
Step 2 - Choosing a Hosting Package for My Author Website
I can’t create an author website without website hosting, and this is usually purchased together with the domain name.
"Hosting" is the term used to refer to a website's storage space on a server (a large computerised system) that people can access over the internet. This website storage space is "rented out" by a website hosting company.
How I chose my website's hosting package
There are literally thousands of hosting companies - large and small - to choose from. So, besides the most obvious buying factor: price, I needed to decide for myself, based on my current business needs, which was the best hosting for my author website.
So, some things I considered before buying my hosting package were:
Website Storage Space: Because I’m starting out as an author and knew my website will be very small at first, less than 10 pages, this wasn't a big deal. For the time being, a small package with minimal storage space and cost was ideal.
Once my writer's website starts to grow (and it will, because I have BIG plans for it) I will need to upgrade to accommodate additional web pages, media graphics, and files. But for now, I settled with something small.
Speed and Uptime: This was a deal-breaker for me. Reliability of hosting is important and I made sure, by checking independent reviews, the percentage of uptime each hosting company had. I also checked for complaints on speed. The last thing I want is a website that is very often down (not working) and is super slow due to poor hosting.
Bandwidth: Another deal-breaker. Bandwidth basically refers to how much usage a hosting package allows. When people visit a website, it uses up data (bandwidth), and some hosting companies put a limit on this. I wanted uncapped bandwidth.
I do not want any situation that would prevent someone from accessing my website, and potentially buying a book, or subscribing to my mailing list.
Email Accounts: Most hosting packages allow for at least 10 email accounts. I'm essentially a one-man business, so this is fine. I can always upgrade later if I need more, but I very much doubt I will ever use more than this.
FREE Domain Name: Generally, hosting companies offer a domain name for free, for the first year, after which charge an annual fee. This wasn't something I generally cared about but was just a perk. I wouldn't have compromised the other hosting features just to get a free domain name.
There were other technical hosting features advertised, but currently, the ones above were the only major ones important to me.
Once I chose the hosting company and package I wanted, I bought it, together with my domain name.
Step 3 - Choosing a Website Builder to Create an Author Website
I've built a couple of websites before, though I’m not a professional web designer and don’t know how to build one using code. But that doesn't matter these days. There are many simple website builders that are do-it-yourself programmes specifically designed for people like me.
What Author Website Builders for Writers Are There?
There are many website building programmes authors can choose from, some "free" and some not. I say "free" loosely as there is always a cost. I discovered that the “free” programmes usually came with conditions and restrictions I didn't like.
Anyway, I found all of these programmes to fit into one of these two categories:
- Online website builders (free and paid versions)
- Web design software
Surprisingly, I haven't yet found a website builder or software specifically designed with writers and authors in mind, but I'm sure with a little more digging I could find one.
So, these are just a few of the more popular free online programmes I personally looked into, and played around with:
A couple of paid web design software options open to authors that I believe are easy enough to learn are:
- Website X5’s Pro
- Xara’s Web Designer+
I personally downloaded the free trial version for both of these web design software programmes to my laptop, and got a good feel for how they work.
I reveal which website builder I chose further on; one that I thought would be the better option to create my own author website.
A Warning to Authors About FREE Website Builders
FREE is an attractive word when it comes to new writers like me, but as I well know, FREE does usually come with certain conditions, and online website builders are no exception.
Limited Features: Most, if not all, of the free programmes I looked into came with restrictions on its features that would only be fully available if I paid a fee - usually a monthly fee at that.
Advertisements: Looking at other authors' websites using these free programmes, the free website builders often came with advertisements of its own product displayed on the authors' websites. It doesn't look good and certainly not professional.
Free Domain Name: The FREE domain name that comes with some of these free packages, is actually a sub-domain (part of the website company’s domain name).
Search "wixsite.com" + author in google to check out the website results using Wix.com. This is what the results look like. Notice the website addresses.
In my eyes, this doesn’t look professional. And, if I decided to create a professional author website later on, I wouldn’t be able to use that same domain name, because it belongs to the company providing the FREE site.
There was also another factor I had to consider that is very important: S.E.O. (search engine optimisation). If at first, I choose a FREE domain, but change it later to a standard paid one, I would lose any S.E.O. benefits.
My key take-away from my research: spend a little money, especially for a proper domain name.
How I Chose a Website Builder to Make My Own Author Website
Price: As ever, price is always a No.1 decider for me. I didn't want to pay out any monthly fees (especially as I'm not selling any books yet). I also didn't want a free Wix.com type of website, with those horrible ads and restrictions.
Simplicity: I wanted something that was simple to use that could still produce a great looking website.
Accessibility: I found the online programmes to be a little bit of a pain in the arse. They only allow access via the internet and logging in. I found this to be very restrictive, particularly if I can't get internet access.
To make my author website, I prefer to have a programme I can download to my laptop, whereby I can use it anywhere, anytime, and without having to connect to the internet.
Comprehensive: Even though I want to save on price, I don't want to compromise on functionality. I want a comprehensive website builder that has plenty of plug-ins or app type features.
The Best Website Builder I Chose to Make My Author Website
Based on my opinion, as a new author, the best website builder for writers is Website X5 Pro.
Why I chose it
Price: I only had to pay a once-off fee - no monthly fee - though there is a yearly fee called "Update Protection". This is a small fee which kicks in after the first year of purchasing the software.
Update Protection allows for continued software upgrades for a year.
The software is mine though, regardless if I pay for the yearly "Update Protection" or not, and I can still use it if I don’t pay; I just won’t get any further updated versions.
Simplicity: Of the two pieces of software, I found WebsiteX5 Pro to be the easiest. I created this site using WebsiteX5 Pro and you can see what I have to say about it in my short review below.
Accessibility: WebsiteX5 Pro is perfect for what I wanted to make my author website. I downloaded it to my laptop and can use it without having to connect to the internet.
Comprehensive: This website programme has so much to offer any new author who hasn't got a website yet, or even an established writer that now wants to create their own.
I can't go into every aspect of this software, it will take too long, but have written a brief review.
Quick Review of The Software I Chose to Create My Author Website
Website X5 Pro is the software I chose above all others I looked into to make my own site.
Who it is suited to
I've now used Website X5 Pro to build my own author website from scratch, as well as a couple of other sites, and I can personally recommend it to any author - new or fully published writer.
Yes, you will need to learn how to use the software, but luckily you don't have to learn how to code.
What I love about it
The software comes with adjustable templates, so I didn’t have to build my own site from scratch if I didn’t want to.
The software programme is what is termed a "Drag and Drop" website builder and is actually very simple to learn.
I didn't have to know how to code web pages; all I had to do was drag certain objects (apps) I wanted to use, to each web page I had created, and edit them.
It has many objects (apps) within the programme (free and paid-for apps). Some of these objects include: text, audio, video, image, animations, buttons, ecommerce, blog, forms, social media, galleries, and more.
In all honesty, I'm not doing it justice with my mini-review, so will write a better one later.
But just to finish off, you can create a really beautiful author website with this software: you just need to learn how to use it proficiently and be creative with it.
If you want to see it in action, watch this video.
Step 4 - Creating Content for My Writer’s Website
Once I chose the website software I wanted, and used it enough to understand how it worked, my next step in creating an author website was adding content.
Choosing my website's theme
As part of my plan, I had to decide on what genre and sub-genres my book would come under, so I could judge the best theme for the website I was going to create.
I decided upon THRILLER as the main genre of my book's story. I then chose sub-genres like ACTION THRILLER, SCI-FI THRILLER, SPY THRILLER, CONSPIRACY THRILLER, and anything mixed within those genres such as SCI-FI-SPY THRILLER.
I then looked at successful authors' websites, in the same thriller genres, to get a feel for the theme I would need to create for my own site - colour, fonts, images, website copy, etc. And based on this, I sketched out my own website's theme.
What web pages I need
- Home Page: to list books and link to book pages. Also, linking out to other important pages on my website.
- Book(s) Pages: A web page for each book I write.
- About Me: My author bio page so people can get to know me (the author).
- Blog: Relevant blog content that will drive more people to my website.
- Contact Page: For people to contact me - particularly my readers.
- Mailing List Sign Up: For building an email list of potential buyers for my book(s).
I will create additional pages as I go, but for now, these are the most important.
How I Created My Own Content for My Author Website
The "content" I’m referring to is the text, photos, graphics, videos, audio, etc. that makes up the many aspects of a website and website pages. The stuff people want to read, see, or hear.
Text: Some might say an author is at an advantage when it comes to writing website content, after all, they are a professional writer. But, as I have discovered, writing content for a novel is entirely different to writing content for a website.
What I have learned so far in writing website copy is this:
- Write interesting titles: keep titles concise, relevant, punchy, and catchy.
- Keep written content concise: make the point without added fluff.
- Create scannable content: headings, sub-headings, bullet points, numbered lists, white space.
- Create call-to-actions: links and buttons with "buy it here", "learn more", "join up", etc.
- S.E.O. Search Engine Optimised content: add relevant keywords to posts, articles.
- Add visuals to pages: images, graphics, videos.
- Watch the jargon: avoid words that are overly difficult to understand.
- Use clear website navigation: use descriptive links to relevant content.
- Stick to the subject: stay on topic about what the reader wants to know.
Learn more: Here's an article on writing website content.
Photographs: There’s that old saying "a picture tells a thousand words"; but not a grainy, distorted, stretched, crappy looking image, and whatever other adjective I can use.
I have a professional Nikon camera that takes beautiful photographs, but I'm not a professional photographer. So, I get my website photos from free photo stock websites such as Pixabay. These are royalty free images.
I have also purchased stock photos online, as well professional photo collections on CDs, which were cheaper.
I can easily resize or crop these images to how I want them, using the programmes that come with my Microsoft Windows computer: Paint and Photos.
Graphics: I wanted to have branded author web graphics for my website but knew hiring a graphic design every time would cost me too much, so I now create my own.
There are a few online design programmes authors can use such as Canva or Book Brush, but I wanted more flexibility without too many added costs.
I therefore researched and purchased a fairly simple graphic design programme. I learned the basics of how to use it and now I can easily create my own branded graphics for my author website.
The graphic design software I recommend is: Serif Affinity Publisher.
Book Promotion Videos: This is something I haven't fully looked into yet, although I did buy a video editing creator software. I have been considering creating my own book promotion videos for my website, but I may actually hire someone to do this for me when the time comes.
Audio Books: This is another area I’ve only touched upon. Audio books is a big income stream for authors, and so creating audio books I can link to from my website is something I want in the future.
I have purchased a course on creating my own audio books but haven't studied it yet. I will do that later so I can't fully recommend it yet. The course is: Audio Books Made easy by Derek Doepker.
Step 5 - How I Promote My New Author Website I Created
The purpose of having my website, as an author, is to be able to promote my brand and my books in the best possible way to create sales.
I’m not naive; just because I've finished building my new author website, doesn’t mean I'm suddenly going to get thousands of website visitors. My website is just the start: a spring-board for my growth as a writer.
Now that I've finished the basics of my site, I need to continually add content to it and promote it to the max.
I now need to learn how to promote it and my books EFFECTIVELY.
Two Quick Ways I Used to Promote My Newly Built Author Website
I don't have an email list of subscribers, or any books to promote yet. My website doesn’t really have much content on it to justify paying for ads, but there are a couple of things I did just to start the ball rolling.
Social Media Author Pages: Using my graphic design software, I have now created a few social media author pages: Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Facebook. These will help to get my author website promotion started.
However, I know that by just having these pages, they aren’t going to drive many visitors to my website. Social media promotion isn’t as good as it once was, unless I'm willing to pay for ads - which currently I'm not; maybe later I will.
Online Author and Writing Communities: I've found that there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of author / writing communities and forums on the internet.
I have signed up to some of the more popular ones, and created an author profile where I've added a link to my website.
My Final Words
There is a vast amount to know about building and growing my own website and promoting it online, and along with everything else, I will learn and apply what I’ve learned as I continue with my Book Writing Project journey.
Right now, I don’t really need to do anymore to my new website. I have my basic author website online, and have begun to promote it, but now I need to start writing my book.
- PREVIOUS - BWP Update 1: My Book Writing Plan and Strategy