Have you written a book and are looking for ways to promote it? Or do you just want to get your name out there as an author? There’s no better way than with a professional website. However, most authors struggle to find the time and energy to create an author website, and most don’t have the budget to hire a designer or agency to create one for them.
When authors set out to create a website, they often get overwhelmed by the process and become stuck. They wonder how much content should be on the site? Where do I even begin? It’s hard for authors to figure out what steps are necessary and which ones can be skipped over. This is frustrating because it takes away from writing more books!
I created this blog post as an easy-to-follow guide on how you can create your own author website in just 4 simple steps. Follow these steps, and you’ll be ready to launch your new site with confidence!
Step 1: Get clear on your branding
This step is very important. I didn’t do it and I’m paying the price. I don’t want you to end up like me, so I’m laying this out here for you now. Do this work up front and you will set yourself up for success in the long run, even if you have to revisit and update your branding work later.
Here are the basic elements you need to get clear on for your author brand:
- Values: Everything stems from your values. You can find a free values exercise here.
- Vision: Your vision is an aspiration for your business, a vivid mental image of what you want your author business to be at some point in the future.
- Mission: Your mission describes how you plan to achieve your mission, in terms of the products and services your author business produces for its customers.
- Brand Promise: Your brand promise is the value or experience your readers and customers can expect to receive every single time they interact with your author business.
- Brand Personality: All brands have a personality. Defining that personality upfront can help you stay on brand and deliver on your brand promise more consistently.
- Brand Image: What colors, fonts, and logo image will you use to represent your brand?
If you need help with any of these steps, I offer coaching calls on Superpeer to walk you through the process of each element.
Step 2: Select and purchase a domain that is in alignment with your brand
After you are clear on your brand, you are ready to select a domain name for your website. Most authors go with some version of their name. For example, I have both CarmaSpence.com and CarmaSpenceWriter.com. And, even if your branding work suggests going with a brand name for your domain rather than your name, I recommend securing your name as a domain anyway. That way no one can buy it and dilute your brand, and it will be there should you decide to use it in the future.
Other things you should consider when selecting your domain include:
- Make sure it reflects who you are as an author.
- Make sure it is easy to say and remember.
- Ensure that it doesn’t conflict with other brands or websites.
- Don’t make it too long.
- Be careful that it doesn’t have hidden and unfortunate words in it. (For example, ChooseSpain.com, could be read as ChoosesPain.com.)
- Avoid hyphens—You want YourName.com, not Your-Name.com because including hyphens makes it harder to say and remember. Only use hyphens if absolutely necessary.
- Use easy to spell words. I’ve had no end of problems with DragonWyze.com!
Follow these guidelines and I’m sure you’ll select a domain you’ll be happy with for the long term.
Step 3: Develop the launch content for your website
I recommend writing the content you want for your website before you start developing your website because it will make the build and launch phase go much more swiftly, and it can also help you identify areas where you still need to think things through.
For a minimally viable author website (MVAW), these are the pages that you need to write content for:
- The homepage: This is the page that most random visitors to your site will see first, and the rest will see second, so it is the most important page on your site. The information that you want to include on this page is:
- Who is your ideal reader? Call them out by name.
- What do you do for them? Describe what you offer. What kinds of books do you write? Do you offer them anything else? What benefits do they get by reading your books and working with you?
- Why should they trust you? Include your best book review and any book awards you’ve won and important accolades you’ve earned.
- What single objective do you want them to do next? Do you want them to sign up for your newsletter? Join a Facebook group? Select one action and invite them to take that one action.
- Your book(s) page(s): Current website use research indicates that after visiting a company’s homepage, 86% of visitors will seek out that company’s products/services page(s). Therefore your book pages need to be outstanding. If you have only one book, then your book page is its sales page. However, if you have more than one book I recommend having a landing page that showcases all your books, with each cover being clickable. When a visitor clicks on the cover, they go to that book’s sales page. This makes for a much cleaner and more user friendly experience.
- The “About the Author” page: After visiting a company’s homepage, recent research found that 52% of visitors want to see “About Us” page, making it the third most important page. On this page, you should weave a story that tells your story with your readers’ perspective in mind. What would they want to know? What would matter to them? Remember, this page may be called “About You” but it is still all about them.
In addition to writing content for your website pages, you’ll also need to develop your first and primary opt-in incentive. This is the gift you will give your website visitors in exchange for their email address and the privilege of sending them emails. Make this incentive something that is enticing to your audience and relevant to what you have to offer. It should act as a bridge from where they are when they visit your site to the first best step of interacting with your brand, be it buying one of your books or something else.
If you have time, you can also create three blog posts for the launch, as well.
Step 4: Build and launch the website
This might be the most challenging step for some, but it doesn’t have to be. For one, most website hosting companies offer a WordPress installation service at the click of a link for no additional cost. Then all you need to do is select a theme, install it and apply your branding to it.
Again, you can get assistance with that, as well. There are books, online courses, designers, and coaches who can help. In addition, I offer an Author Website in a Weekend program that walks you through all four of these steps and includes some other bells and whistles, as well. WordPress has become increasingly user friendly, so don’t be afraid to dabble and jump in to learn it.
Additional Growth Steps for your Website
After your MVAW has been launched, you can start to tweak and grow it with the following “nice to have” additions.
Connect with Your Social Media Presence
Provide links to your social media pages from your website. Add widgets that show off your feeds, as well, However, don’t do this step until you’ve updated your social media branding to match your website branding!
Post Reviews and Testimonials
As positive reviews of your books and testimonials from happy clients come in, be sure to add them to your website. They help build the trust factor for the visitors to your site that are unfamiliar with you and your work.
Show, Don’t Tell
Add video to your website. This can be in the form of a welcome video on your home page, or videos sprinkled in as part of your blog. Video helps your visitors get to know you better, and it helps your search engine optimization because it keeps people on your site longer.
Consistently Added New Content
The best way to optimize your site for search engine traffic is to consistently add new content to it. That means using the blog feature of WordPress. This new content can be blog posts or podcasts or video podcasts or any mixture of the three. The key is to be consistent.
Help the Media Help You
Add a media kit to your site to make it easier for members of the press, bloggers, podcasters, and the like to work with you. This kit should include images they can download, three versions of your bio (short, medium and long), potential questions they can ask you, and more. For inspiration, check out the media kits I created for Public Speaking Super Powers and Home Sweet Home Page.
Encourage Reading Groups
One idea I haven’t explored myself yet, but many authors have had success with is including a kit for book clubs and readers’ clubs. This page would include a guide for the facilitator of the group, including suggested discussion questions. You can find some good ideas here:
- How to Make a Book Club Kit as a Self-Publishing Author
- Author Marketing Mastery #4: Include A Reader’s Guide In Your Book!
Don’t Sit on Your Author Website Laurels
The four steps I discussed in this post are what it takes to create a minimally viable author website. The purpose of your website is to attract and convert visitors into leads, so make sure it’s a place where they want to stay. This foundation is a great start, however it isn’t the final destination.
Be sure to continue growing your site into something that really reflects who you are as an author. Consider adding some nice-to-haves as time allows. These additions will help grow your site over time by making it more useful for both you and your visitors alike. And don’t be afraid to experiment with new opportunities as they pop up in the future. You never know what may work until you try it out.