Establishing a strong presence online is crucial for all authors, and a fresh, informative, and on-brand website is the centerpiece of that online presence. Many authors choose to hire professionals to handle their website creation, but platforms like Squarespace make it possible for budget-minded authors to create their own sites from predesigned templates.
If you’re planning to create your own website, you can save yourself a headache or two by following these steps:
Make a sitemap. Before you do anything else, step back and define the objectives for your website. Do you want to drive email signups to build your list? Is the priority to highlight your thought leadership with valuable content for your readers? Does your writing offer great world-building and unique characters that readers want to explore behind the scenes? Make a list of what’s valuable to your readers to help define your marketing priorities. Keep this list handy when writing out a “sitemap,” a verbal description or outline of the website’s hierarchy. Some questions to ask yourself: What is the most important piece of content on your homepage? The second-most-important element? What tabs are in your header bar?
Write your copy. Unlike fiction, web copy must be brief; think in terms of headlines. Your homepage is not the place to be longwinded. Using your sitemap as a guide, write a draft of the text that will appear on each page. Make sure to include a concise author biography, a list of published book titles, upcoming events, any praise quotes about your work, and a way for your readers to contact you both directly and through your social accounts.
Choose a platform. WordPress and Squarespace are the most well-known and user-friendly platforms available for DIY website designers. Squarespace, in particular, has beautiful template designs, so if your design sensibility is less than professional, it’s a solid pick.
Purchase your URL. Even if you publish under a “company” name, we recommend choosing a URL closest to “yourauthorname.com,” as your name is what people will remember and search for. Choosing yourname.com as your domain will also contribute to your search ranking authority. If that URL is not available, try playing with your initials or add “author” or “writes” to the end. To purchase, go directly through the web platform you’re using to build your site (WordPress, Squarespace, etc.). Generally, the URL will cost about $20/year.
Customize the design. Now it’s design time! Choose a template and use that as a starting point. Take advantage of design features like fonts and colors, which will make the site your own and allow you to match the site’s aesthetic to the look and feel of your book(s). Not feeling creative? A good basic rule is to choose precisely two fonts to use throughout the whole site—one serif and one sans serif. You can use bold type, italics, and all-caps sparingly for emphasis and variety. The Adobe Color Wheel can also help you to generate a color scheme based on your book’s cover: upload an image of your cover (click the camera icon in the upper right of the page), and the color wheel will pull colors from your image to create a coordinating color scheme.
6. Maintain. There is no bigger turn-off than a “dusty” website that feels ignored. Freshen your site with current events and blog regularly. If that seems daunting, link your pages to your social media (ideally in the header or footer), and include a section that automatically populates your latest Twitter or Instagram posts. That way, even if you can’t commit to regular blog posts, a quick snap of your weekly #bookstack or retweet of your favorite author will show readers you’re present and active.