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Hello, everyone – I am Alexa Dunn and today we are going to be talking about building author websites. Why do you need one? When should you have one? Where should you build it? How much will it cost you? I’m, going to be downloading you on everything I know and it’s a decent amount of knowing I I know a lot.
So this video is going to be a little bit long, but I am going to include down in the description some time stamps so that you can skip around if you want to, and especially at the end, I am going to be going over my three key Recommendations at all price points and skill levels with an onscreen demonstration to show you some of the sites that I’m talking about.
So I want to start a little bit with my background with building websites. Just to give you context of kind of where I’ve come from my perspective and some of my skill sets. I have been building websites for Wow, like two-thirds of my life.
Since I was a teenager, I really got into it when I was 13 or 14, so that was like 1997 1998 and it was all because of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I I had a fan site. I had a fan site and I ran a fan fiction archive.
I taught myself basic HTML. I was on my high school’s web team because I was so cool guys. I was so cool um and I’ve. Just always been really fascinated by it and it’s been really interesting to see how things have evolved and we have come a long way.
You know ever really need to know HTML to build a pretty attractive website. There are some excellent options out there, but some of the best ones are not free, though I am going to be going over free options as well.
Personally, I’ve, been doing personal website since about 2007 I’ve had a blogger. I’ve had a wordpress, those were blog good base sites. I’ve, also done salt hosted, I’ve, been so posted for at least the last five or six years, and that is when you pay a host to host your website.
But you have to do everything, but it still is considered DIY. I’m, not an expert. I have also two short to make self-hosting work for me and i’m going to go over that too. But before i talk about where you build your website or how you build your website, i’m, going to recommend that you get yourself a domain.
I think that is the number one most important thing. When you are setting up an author website, it’s going to make you look way more professional. If you have a.com that is easy to remember and make sense to you, it should really be your name, so my domain is alexa.
com, but if that hadn’t been available, I could have done alexa done. Author comm alexa done books, comm beta an author, a John books, Alexa’s, nya, etc, because I think it’s really important to get a dot-com.
If you can most people default to calm when they are searching for a website, and if they know you as an author, the most likely thing they’re going to do. They might not even Google you they might go to address box and type in your name comm, and you ideally want the site that comes up to be yours.
Domains are going to cost you about 15 dollars a year and I highly recommend getting them through your web host. Whatever host you choose to go, is I don’t recommend getting your domain from a site like GoDaddy? It is kind of the brand name in domain sites.
I mean it’s, the one that I knew for ages and ages, but I just heard from really bad horror stories, including from fellow authors, about stuff going wrong with GoDaddy, both with their hosting service with it not being particularly good, but also with Them getting really screwed over with the domain that they bought from GoDaddy.
I’ve heard stories, as you know, the domain expiring and the author missing it by like 24 hours and then GoDaddy holding their domain hostage for a year before they could buy it back at an exorbitant fee.
So, even though GoDaddy has lots of deals where you can get your domain for $ 2.99 for a year or $ 4.99 for a year, I just don’t. Think it’s worth the savings pay $ 15 a year to a reputable web host and know that you won’t have a problem, keeping your domain at $ 15 a year in the far-flung future.
It’s. Just the safer option, in my opinion, now what should you have on your author website? Think of your author website as your portal for all things on the internet, it should be a one-stop shop where people can go to get all the information that they need about.
You as well as links for you to go other places on the internet, so you definitely want to have an about page, which is exactly what it sounds like it’s about you. As the author, I recommend having a short bio written in third-person.
Much like you would find on the back flap of a published book. You can also have a longer – or you know, fun, bio, but have it in addition to that short and sweet one. Then you want to have a page about your book or books, which is really straightforward.
You’re, going to have the title: the publisher, the publication date, a short description, a cover if you have one and when you get into multi book territory. I highly recommend organizing your page by series and chronology readers are going to go to your site to figure out like well what’s, the first book in the series and what order should I read these so make sure your books page is really Clear about this next, you definitely want have a contact page with sounds self-explanatory, but a lot of authors, don’t or if they do it, doesn’t have all the information needs to have.
So obviously it should have a way to contact you and I recommend creating a separate email from whatever personal email you use. I wouldn’t. Do your first name dot laughing it at gmail com unless it’s, a pen name, because you want to keep the stream separate.
In my opinion of the email that fans and readers can email you at vs., you know the one you use for all of your everyday things. They can filter into the same inbox, especially if you’re using Gmail. It’s.
Really easy to set up an email on your domain and then have it import into your personal Gmail. I would do that personally. Next, you need to have your professional contact information on your contact page, and that means your agent I can’t.
Tell you how many times I’ve gone to an author site wanting to know. Oh, I wonder who their agent is and it’s not on there. It should be, for you know, curiosity sake. People like me, you want to know aspiring writers want to know who represents you, but it is for business inquiries as well.
If someone has a legitimate business opportunity for you, that would be a film opportunity. You know for and right sub rights, all sorts of things you want to have your agency information on there and who people can contact for business inquiries.
Once you’re published, this is also the space that you want to have contact information for your publicist that your publisher, if it is the preference that things go through them, such as arc requests, authors really shouldn’t, be handling those Next, I do recommend having an events page.
If you’re going to be places, you know put that on your site, so that readers know where to find you pretty straightforward. Once you get going. I also recommend having a frequently asked questions page, because inevitably you’re, going to get the same questions over and over again in that nice email that you set up on your contact page and putting up an FAQ can maybe stop you from getting Some of the more common ones or not, but also just as a reader.
I’d, like to read FAQ pages on author sites. I think it’s. A good idea, if you have an author newsletter, make sure that information is prominently displayed on your website and easy to find, ideally on the home page and also, if you have a navigation bar on your site in the navigation bar, make it easy for people to Sign up because it is one of the best ways to get the word out about your books and last, but certainly not least, if social media links and everywhere else that you are on the internet.
You want to have these displayed prominently on your site, ideally on every page good website. Builders will have a function where you input your social links once and then they display on every single page.
You know Twitter, Instagram, etc. All the places that people can find you on the Internet. Finally, I’m going to talk about actually building your website. Where should you do it? How does it work? How much does it cost? The answer is it varies.
Ultimately, the choice depends on your budget as well as how web savvy you are. The choices fall into two basic camps, which is website builders and self hosted. So posted is ultimately going to be a little less expensive than a web builder that you pay for, and it’s going to be fully customizable.
But you do have to have of some skills. On the other hand, website builders are going to be slightly more expensive, usually the ones that you pay for, but it’s super intuitive. In DIY, I advise authors, who are definitely less tech, savvy and coding savvy to just pay for a website builder.
Even if you’re spending a little bit more prettier than I am for being self hosted, you’re, going to have fewer headaches, but if you want ultimate control or a really custom design, self-hosted is the way to go.
But I want to start by digging a little deeper into website builders, which is what most people are going to go with. Most of these sites start out as free options, and you’ve, probably heard about a lot of them, such as blogger, WordPress, tumblr, wicks and Weebly.
It is free to sign up for these services and you can kind of build a little page, blogger or WordPress and tumblr, of course, are primarily blog platforms. All of these offer an option to then add a domain name so for the same cost that I already mentioned about $ 15 a year.
You can just attach a professional domain name to your free site. You’re, not paying for anything else, but you are limited to the basic design tools available to free users and ultimately, I think that these sites look like free websites and that’s.
The downside, but if you’re on a really limited budget, there is nothing wrong with doing a free site and a domain. However, I will say that once you get into the territory where you have a book deal, provided you got a decent amount of money for it, but even if you did it, a poultry advance should still cover having a professional author website.
This is when you get into the paying a decent chunk of change for a web builder, but getting beautiful results. That said not all of these sites and their pay options are created equal. I break them into what I consider worth it versus not worth it boxes.
On the not worth its side, I personally don’t think it is worth upgrading your wordpress.com or your blogger site to a fully paid option, because even the fully paid options which are really expensive, like wordpress.
com the fully paid option that gives you as Much customization as they are willing to offer. You is over $ 200 a year. It’s approaching $ 300 a year, making it $ 100 more expensive than Squarespace, which I’m, going to get to in a minute but spoiler.
I recommend Squarespace / WordPress com, you’re, just not getting much for the money I feel like WordPress has changed a lot honestly over the years and now they go ooh. We’re, going to pull in unsuspecting people who don’t know much about the Internet, charge them $ 300 a year and haha, if only they knew if they were self hosted, they could pay a fraction of this and get way More functionality on the same platform, I think it’s, a racket.
I have similar issues with Wix and Weebly. They are better options than blogger and WordPress com, but even as the full pay option you’re, still really limited in what you can do and a lot of the sites, I think, still look a little bit unprofessional.
Ultimately, you’re. Going to pay less for some of the other options, I’m about to go over for a nicer looking website and I think that with websites it should always be a delicate balance between the price, how good it looks and how customizable is with Your skill level and what you are able and willing to do and the thing is: if you have a low to moderate skill level, you can get a better website for less money out of Squarespace or tumblr, then you can with blogger WordPress, Wix and Wheatley.
Thus I’m about to talk about the ones I like. I’m, going to start with tumblr. This is a great free, low cost option. You can have a free tumblr. You can add your domain on to it again. That’s 15 dollars a year, and then you can purchase a one-time template.
They have options that start at about $ 19 and they go up and kind of average out at about 49. You find one that you really like for a one-time purchase of, let’s, say $ 49. You can use that template for all time, so it’s, a one-time investment, and then you have it for.
However, many years you want to use that template, I think that’s, a really good kind of low option. You know the initial investment of 49 plus 15 and then the yearly 15 domain renewal. That’s, a very good option and tumblr has the built-in function of the ask box, but great.
If I could say that word: ask bucks that’s really hard to say which I like, because it encourages engagement. I’m going to go over that at the end too, I’m, going to show it to you. Then there is Squarespace, which is my new favorite thing.
I don’t use Squarespace, but I kind of wish I did, but I’m, so deep into self hosting that there’s there’s. No going back at this point, or at least at this point maybe later, but I have helped friends build squarespace’s and also a lot of New Times.
Bestselling authors now have their sights on Squarespace, which I think says a lot. Squarespace is only a hundred and forty-four dollars for the year. If you pay upfront, it’s a little bit more expensive.
If you go for the monthly installments, but I think you should do the upfront payment and of course that will then be 140 for every year. But that includes your domain. It’s, bundled into your Squarespace purchase, and then they have a variety of DIY drag-and-drop templates.
They are so easy to use. I will say: wicks and Weebly also have drag-and-drop functionality, WordPress doesn’t. I don’t. Think blogger does so. I honestly haven’t used it in a long time, because I found it not quite as satisfactory as other options, but Squarespace is design.
It is, I really think it’s, the best of all worlds. You’re, getting a beautiful website that’s, easy to put together at an affordable price. Take a look at the end of the video. I’m, going to show you some author websites on Squarespace and it might surprise you who has one last, but certainly not least, is being self hosted.
I mentioned before that this is you pay for your own host and then you use tools to build your website yourself. It sounds daunting, but it really isn’t as bad as it sounds. So in my case, I use a Bound host.
You may have heard of other web hosts. Godaddy is one of them, but I don’t recommend it. Don’t forget that there’s also Bluehost. I also have reasons – and I don’t – recommend that one and I used it for years, but I’ve, been at Avon host for about two years, and I’m, really happy with it.
They essentially provide the space for me to put my website or websites on one nice thing about self hosted. Is that for one hosting fee you can host multiple domains such as nice, but they’re, very the tools.
The tools are easier to use and you think what I use is actually wordpress.org. I know I was throwing some real shade on WordPress just a few minutes ago, but that is wordpress.com. WordPress.Org and wordpress.
com are two separate entities, so they have the same base code. WordPress comp is a free website that you can sign up for and you use their blogging tools, their back-end tools. So when you use wordpress.
org it’s going to look very similar because it is the same base program. However, wordpress.org is a free website building tool. The trick is, you have to pay for your own host, but with wordpress.org you get far more flexibility that you’re, just not going to get on wordpress.
com. So I use wordpress.org software to build my websites. I can upload custom themes, install plug-ins there’s, all sorts of cool things that you can do and it’s really intuitive from the backend, and that brings me to themes.
WordPress.Org has a ton of free themes that you can search and install onto your website. You’ll, be familiar with those if you have used WordPress com, but here’s. The thing all of those themes that you see when your wordpress com that they won’t.
Let you install into your website unless you pay two hundred and like forty four dollars a year, are free to install through wordpress.org it’s. A real rocket wordpress.org is fantastic. Personally I use outside seams.
I use a site called elegant themes, calm. This actually came to me as a recommendation from susan dennard. So if you go to susan dennard calm, that is an elegant theme scene that susan has customized herself as she has some real coding know how I use elegant themes, theme Divi.
It is a drag-and-drop theme very similar to what you see on Squarespace or Wix, and I love it. It’s incredibly versatile and I’ve been able to play around with it and you know develop sites looking the way that I want them to it.
‘s, not perfect, because I’m. Not a coder. Devi is definitely meant to be a base theme that people with coding know-how can do all sorts of whiz-bang things too, but even the super basics produce a very nice-looking website.
I’m very happy with it. Elegant themes, I believe, is $ 79 year and you get access to all their themes. They have over a hundred. I just have like fallen in love with Divi and stuck to it, but if you want, you can experiment with all sorts of games that they have and they have themes that are really good for blogging that are really good for photo based websites.
There are tons of options. What I like about being self hosted, which I mentioned before, is that for a relatively low cost. I have this hosting space that I can use any way that I want so I paid Yvonne host 120 dollars when I signed up for two whole years of hosting.
That is nothing that’s like six dollars a month that’s. An amazing deal compare that to you know: Squarespace is a hundred and forty-four dollars for a year, so you’re, paying more for Squarespace for a year than I am paying for email host for two years.
It’s. A pretty good deal, then, as I mentioned, I have my yearly elegant themes, cost plus my domain cost, because I do pay for elegant themes. My yearly cost is probably on par with what any author would pay to have a Squarespace, but I like it because of the versatility I have with self hosting.
I could just do lots of different things too website. That said, there are downsides to self hosting that I do want to warn people about. You do have to have a little bit of technical know-how. I I do some CSS to customize my site.
The way I want, and also you have to manage your own security. So hosted sites are vulnerable in a way that, if you use a website builder, they’re. Not because part of paying a website builder is that they take care of security themselves.
Whereas if you’re self hosted you have to take care of it yourself, and I do also pay for a premium security service to keep my WordPress site safe. So I mean there are pros and cons to them. There’s.
One thing I haven’t brought up yet, and that is hiring a professional website designer to design your author website. You absolutely can do this and a lot of authors do. If you’ve gone to an author website and it’s like extra snazzy.
It was probably custom designed and if you’re gonna hire a custom designer. You need to be self hosted. They need the flexibility of a self hosted website platform to build you a site. So if that’s, the option you want, you’re, going to end up being self hosted.
So, in addition to what you’re, paying for the host, you’re going to pay the designer of fee, it is usually a one-time fee. You don’t, get continual updates from that designer. So when you pay for a design, you need to be sure that you’re, going to be happy with it for at least a year, if not more, because some designers, I mean they’re expensive because they’re.
Doing custom and intense work for you, so you’re, going to pay a couple thousand dollars for a really good website designer so make sure you aren’t, going to change your mind in six months and want to change your design, Which is why I don’t recommend hiring a designer if you choose to until you have your cover.
That said, if you didn’t get a really large book advance. I personally don’t recommend hiring a professional web designer. I think that you can get just as far if not further going with the Squarespace option.
It’s. Really my favorite option for authors. It’s. My number one recommendation, because it’s, a perfect middle ground. You’re, paying a little bit of money per year for an incredibly sleek and attractive our website.
There’s, a lot more to go over when it comes to author websites. Despite how long this video is there’s even more and in other videos, I’ll talk about things like branding, designing a logo working with WordPress org.
If you decide to go self-hosted, maybe I’ll even do something about Dibby it’s, a really great layout theme. I might also dig in the Squarespace for you, but to close out this video. Now I’m, going to show you what my three key recommendations are in the primary areas, which are free option, pay website, builder option and self hosted.
So I want to go over my key recommendations of where you might build your author website and I want to actually show you a kind of what some of my recommendations look like, starting with your best free option.
My recommendation is tumblr, so you might already have a tumblr, as you know, it’s free to find out for – and this is the back end of my tumblr. In fact, this is the current look. I use a pretty traditional layout, but you can compare that with, for example, this is agent Tally’s, tumblr, which she uses as a website.
You can kind of see that on the top she has options for sub pages. So if you’re in the backend you can browse through, there are a lot of free layout options on tumblr that you can customize. This is one that you can definitely customize to look like website.
When you’re going through. You can kind of see if they have a top column option. There are a lot of different choices and options, and also what you can do on tumblr. It’s, kind of half free free in the sense that tumblr itself is free to be on.
They do have paid layout. So for a one-time, a cost, you could pay for something. If you look at and see if it looks like the kind of style that you want, so this is of the digits crap book style for $ 19.
49 is kind of the sweet spot on tumblr. But you’re just paying for one template, but you have a lot of options: a lot of people design for tumblr. You have a lot of different directions that you can go in so going back to what Tao has she has an about me page.
This could be your about me, author page. She has how to submit, but you know you could do page about your books and then she has an ask an agent function, which is using the built-in tumbler ass box feature.
This is one of the reasons I like tumbler as an option so much because it encourages engagement while also enabling news you have website function, because you then have your tumble log on your main page and you can post all sorts of different things.
You know. So you can see here also towels using the side bar really well to have additional information about herself. Of course, how is an agent, but as an author, you can adjust this to fit your own needs.
Next, my favorite option for website builder is Squarespace. This is going to cost you about one hundred and forty four dollars a year if you pay for it all up front, which is what I recommend that includes getting your domain, which makes it incredibly cost effective.
They have a variety of clean and really versatile layouts. I’m just going to scroll through, you can see some of the ones that they promote on their main page. They’re sleek and clean, and everything in Squarespace is based on drag-and-drop templates.
So each of these things within them. When you go in, you’ll, be able to pick preset templates but then drag and drop elements around in it. So it’s completely customizable. I helped an author friend set up her website on Squarespace, and this is her website.
It’s very straightforward, very simple, so we picked a template that we liked and then I design a logo for her. So that’s in this space, and this is a very basic landing page. It’s, got her book information and a sign up for her newsletter.
I like this Squarespace, is easily integrated with MailChimp, so this is linked to her MailChimp signup. So it’s, really seamless. You can see also social icons. These are easy to integrate, so I did add the Goodreads icon myself, but that’s.
A great example, you can add all sorts of customizable things to your Squarespace and then you just you, do your sub pages about the author, about your books etc. Another great author website of a professional author who uses Squarespace is Victoria Aveyard.
I really like what she’s done. She’s picked a template that has this nice image, splash page with her main links in her social icons. Then you can just click around to kind of look at what she’s got I just really like Squarespace as an in-between option for authors.
You you can get a lot out of this for a small budget and a little bit of work, but the backend is incredibly intuitive. Even if you don’t know a ton about building websites. Squarespace is going to be pretty easy for you and, unlike some of the other options, I talked about Wix and Weebly.
I just think it looks the best relative to what you were paying for it last but certainly not least, is self hosted, and this is when you pay for your own web host and you use software such as WordPress, or give ask the platform that I use And templates to build your own website.
This is my DIY website. It’s, not the fanciest, but it’s functional. So I use something called elegant themes. This is a subscription service where you pay a yearly fee to have unlimited access to their themes.
They have a lot of them, but my bread and butter is this one right here, which is Divi. It’s, an incredibly versatile drag-and-drop theme. In that sense, it’s very similar to Squarespace, where it’s built on the drag-and-drop idea, and you can kind of see in their animated demo here you know you click and type and drag and drop.
I really enjoy it. So this is my site that I built using Divi. I kind of dragged up a splash page here and then I ‘ Ve got a page about me all sorts of sub pages and in the case of something like this page, which is my contact page, there are actually pre-made blitz for dizzy that you can upload and use within your site.
So it’s. Just really easy and customizable so another site that I built on a self-hosted platform using the Divi layout, just to show you a different style of site. Is the author mentor match websites soak up the top bar here and then I have a dynamic homepage.
It’s, got a rotating list of blog posts here and then I have multiple sections. This is a really cool thing that you can do in Divi. You can add sections like this and have icons at the top. Then you know I ‘
Ve got the the mentors with the photos and the descriptions, it just looks really sleek, and this is all pretty intuitive to do. I found building this really pretty easy. What I like about the cel toast hosted option for me is that I have a base of web skills and for a pretty low cost.
I’m able to take care of these projects myself, so hostess is also a good idea. If you do, plan on hiring a designer, a designer is going to be able to do way more for you in open back-end, with unlimited options, and they will on any other kind of site.
You’re, really kind of shackling yourself. If you want to hire a designer, but you’re, not willing to pay for your own hosting space, i do my hosting through ebay on host, which I definitely recommend, and it costs me just one hundred and twenty dollars for two years, which is A really good deal, then, of course I pay for my domain and my elegant themed subscription.
So that is a general overview of your three options in my recommendations, so self hosted with WordPress org and something like elegant themes or tumblr, which is free or the middle option, which is Squarespace for one hundred and forty-four dollars a year self hosted welcome back.
I hope that was illuminating. There is actually a lot more to cover about websites, but for now I’m, going to leave you to absorb and decompress, and please hit me up with questions in the comments. I have lots to say and in many cases it’s easier to give advice on a case by case basis, but also do you have an author website? What did you end up doing? I’d, love to sear links and check it out and if you’re using any of these options, but you’re stumped on something.
Maybe I can help