You know you need a website, but you don’t have one yet. 

We received an email from Mary Hamilton, a listener of the Novel Marketing podcast, who said dealing with her website was her writing pet peeve. 

“My biggest peeve is my website. I’m not techy enough to understand how to fix any issues with it, and I hate spending the time it takes to learn it. Except for my blog, I’d rather just set it and leave it.”

Many authors don’t think they have the interest, money, or time to build a captivating website. But a compelling website is critical to captivating readers, editors, and agents. 

So how do you build a website without spending thousands of dollars? 

How do you create a site when you don’t know how to code, design graphics, and do all the back-end technical stuff yourself? 

Help is on the way. You can build an author website yourself in less time and for less money than you might think. In this article, you’ll learn how to build an amazing author website for $459.20 (possibly less).

Step 1: Choose a Website Service

When you’re trying to build a website quickly, it’s tempting to go with a service like Weebly, Squarespace, or Wix. They can work if you’re just getting started or if you simply need to create an online brochure. But the downside is that they’re expensive. They spend a lot on advertising, and if you visit their websites, you’re likely to see their ads online for the next month. They are also limited in what they can do. 

 People who use these services tend to get more frustrated the longer they try to use them and end up switching to something else. Weebly experiences a net loss of users each month. When the community of users is so small, it’s challenging to find the help you need from other people using their services. It’s even hard to find answers on Google. You typically have to get help from the company itself.

What website service should I use?

I always recommend WordPress. They’ve made considerable developments in the last few years, and WordPress now uses something called the Page Builder, which allows you to easily drag and drop elements to build and design a web page.

The page builder I recommend and use for Novel Marketing is a service called Divi (affiliate link). It’s a theme framework from Elegant Themes that allows you to drag and drop to make changes to your website’s design. 

What theme should I use for my website?

WordPress has always made it very easy to change the text of your content. But if you want to change the look of your website–the colors, the layout of where things are in the design—it was difficult. Now, with services like Divi, you can drag and drop like you would on a Squarespace site or a Wix site. 

Divi also has premade theme layouts for authors. 

The template is an author website built with a random author’s book and photos. You swap out the book and the photo with your own, and you can have your own author website that day. It’s extremely cool and easy.

Divi comes with two premium plugins, which is another reason I love to recommend it. 

Monarch

Monarch is a social media sharing plugin. It places social sharing buttons in various locations on your website. Your readers will easily be able to like and share your blog content on social media sites. They have share buttons for Facebook, Twitter, and more than 20 social networks. It’s powerful, easy, and has multiple design options. 

Bloom

Bloom is a plugin used for growing your email list. It’s a powerful pop-up tool that comes with great support if you have questions. 

Divi offers two payment options. You can pay $89 annually or a one-time fee of $249 for a lifetime (affiliate link). If you plan on having a website for at least three years, the lifetime membership and the lifetime use of those two plugins are a great value.

How to use Divi

  • After you purchase Divi, log into your WordPress website. Go to Appearance -> Themes -> Add a theme and then upload the zip file.
  • Once Divi is installed and activated, you start building your pages.
  • Load one of their author layout packs from the library and start customizing.

Running total for a website:
$249 for Lifetime Divi Membership

Step 2: Set up Website Hosting 

When you build a website, you need more than just the theme. You also need a computer on the internet where your website can live. This is called hosting, and it’s something you must pay for. 

Free hosting services put their ads on your website, which are often sleazy ads. These advertisers pay the hosting service to place their ads on your website. This is how the hosting company can offer their services to you for free. 

But these advertisers are the bottom feeders, the internet. They are not likely to be companies you want to associate with. Their ads on your site might end up discrediting you as an author and a person.

 I don’t recommend free hosting as a general rule. 

I do recommend paying for hosting with Bluehost (affiliate link). If you are a new customer and purchase three years of hosting, it amounts to $3.95 per month.  

You get three years for $142.20. So that’s the next big chunk of our $total to build a website. 

Blue host is very WordPress friendly. I recently led a website building class, and as we were moving through these steps, it took 20 minutes for the students to have a WordPress site. 

Let’s just say it took much longer “back in the day” when I built my first website. 

If you’re a hardcore blogger getting hundreds of thousands of visits, Bluehost isn’t great. But for a typical author, especially novelists, their websites do experience high traffic, and Bluehost is sufficient. There’s no need to buy a bus when all you need is a sedan.

Bluehost and Divi can answer WordPress questions, and they can help you scale to some degree. 

When you sign up with Bluehost, they will walk you through the setup steps. It’s very easy. After you work through those steps, you can upload Divi (if you decide you want to use that theme)

How to use Bluehost 

  • Sign up for Bluehost. Feel free to use our affiliate link.
  • Follow their steps to get a WordPress website
  • Get a domain name or point your domain at Bluehost

DreamHost is another hosting option. I don’t have experience using DreamHost, but friends who I respect have had positive experiences, and Dream Host is in the same category as Bluehost. 

Running total for the website: 

$249.00 for Lifetime Divi Membership
+$142.20 for 3 years of hosting

$391.20 Running total

Technical Time Out:

If this sounds and feels overwhelming, you are in good company. For many authors—and anyone who’s building a website for the first time—these terms and steps can make your head swim. 

Remember to take one small step at a time, and don’t rush. For nearly every question you have, there is an answer on Google. What’s more, you can search for your question on YouTube and find several videos that will walk you through your question. 

If this sounds intimidating, remember help is at your fingertips when you search on Google or YouTube. 

Step 3: Install Two Great Plugins Specifically for Authors

MyBookTable Pro  ($49)

MyBookTable Pro is a bookstore plugin I built, especially for authors. It follows the industry’s best practices. MyBookTable Pro allows you to have your own bookstore on your WordPress website that links to online bookstores where visitors can buy your book. You won’t have to take credit cards or worry about shipping, but you can still lead people to buy your books from your site.

I have since sold the plugin, but it has been featured in Randy Ingermanson’s Advanced Fiction Writing Newsletter. It’s a high honor because Randy doesn’t take submissions for that honor. He just recommends things he loves.

You can get the basic MyBookTable version for free.  I recommend starting with the free version. It’s still very powerful and helpful. If you’re happy with it, you can add the pro features.

The Pro version allows you to use your affiliate links in your store so you will earn money when people click your link, and you still don’t have to take credit cards or ship books! The Pro version also comes with other powerful features you can read about here.

MyBookTable Pro is especially helpful for authors who have multiple books, write in multiple genres, or have a series. If you have only one book to sell, it probably won’t save you time.  

But if you have 5-50 books, MyBookTable is a life changer. Novel Marketing Patrons save 25% on the plugin. 

Running total for the website: 

$249.00 for Lifetime Divi Membership
$142.20 for 3 years of hosting
+$ 49.00 MyBookTable PRO (free version also available)

 $440.20 Running Total

MyBookProgress ($19)

MyBookProgress is another plugin I built especially for authors. One of the reasons readers visit their favorite novelist’s website is to find out when their next book is coming out. MyBookProgress displays a progress bar on your website so readers can see how close you are to completing your work in progress. 

It includes a powerful dashboard to help you stay on track with your writing. If you have a writing goal of 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo, it will track your daily word count. As you update your readers, you can track your progress to see if you’re on schedule. 

Through the plugin, readers can give you nudges by clicking a button to send you a note to encourage you to keep writing. They can also click a button to be added to your email list and get notified when your book comes out. In that way, it can help you sell more books when the time comes.

Running total for the website: 

$249.00 for Lifetime Divi Membership
$142.20 for 3 years of hosting
$ 49.00 MyBookTable PRO (free version also available)
+$ 19.00 My Book Progress (optional)

$459.20 TOTAL

Step 4: Branding Development

So far, you can do all these steps yourself. But we do recommend hiring a branding expert to help with the branding and web copy on your site. 

Why? Well, it’s the difference between success and failure.

Imagine two restaurants. One is a hard-to-find, hole-in-the-wall with fantastic food. The second restaurant is in a gorgeous building on the main street, but the food is terrible.  

Which restaurant will succeed? 

Your website branding and web copy should clearly communicate who you are as an author. Your branding and content is the high-quality food that’s going to help the restaurant succeed and draw people back. 

If you have a gorgeous, easy-to-find website, but the copy and branding are unclear, it will substantially decrease the value of your gorgeous design.

You really do need someone to help develop your identity, your branding, your visuals. The words on the page of your website and how they’re presented are much more important than the beauty of it.

Websites with excellent content beat pretty websites with weak content every day.

A branding expert, like James L. Rubart, will help you develop web copy and branding that’s clear and will dazzle your readers. 

However, if you’re just getting started and can’t afford a branding expert, you can do it yourself. If you’re planning to do the branding yourself, commit to becoming a student of marketing, branding, and identity. If you do, you’ll eventually have a restaurant where the food is as fantastic as the outside of the building.

Start by listening to the Novel Marketing series, “How to Create a Breakthrough Author Brand.”

Step 1 – Look in the Mirror (Who am I)

Step 2 – Look at Your Readers (Who are my readers?)

Step 3 – Look Through Your Readers (What do my readers say about me?)

Step 4 – Look in Your Reader’s Mirror

If you can’t afford that branding expert now, you can still build your website and invite someone to help polish the branding later. Unlike a printed book, websites can change and get better as you learn and continue to develop your site. The best websites are constantly evolving. 

Oftentimes, when you do hire that person, they will use what you’ve created as a starting point to improve it. It’s easier to start from something than it is to start with a blank page.

Step 5: Create Amazing Content (Cost: your time and creativity)

Your content must be excellent. Keep honing your writing craft. Study your readers to find out what resonates with them. Continue to improve your website one step at a time, and you’ll be on your way to serving up the delicious writing that will keep your readers coming back for more.

Featured Patron

Lucia’s Renaissance (Affiliate Link) by CLR Peterson

Heresy is fatal in late Renaissance Italy, so only a suicidal zealot would so much as whisper the name of Martin Luther. But after Luther’s ideas ignite a young girl’s faith, she must choose to abandon her beliefs or risk her life in the turbulent world of late sixteenth-century Italy.

Sponsor

Rubart Writing Academy

The Rubart Writing Academy is a four-day writing intensive focused on the Four Pillars of Publication.

You, along with 8 other writers, will get group instruction, one-on-one coaching with Jim, and leave with a customized roadmap, specifically made for you, so you will know exactly what you need to do to get published.

No more guessing. No more wondering. You’ll finally have a clear roadmap to publication.

Book Cover Design Brief Template

Join our mailing list to receive a template to help you communicate with your cover designer.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This