“Do I really need an author website?” Yes. Yes, you do. I know what you’re thinking: “I have an Amazon author page. I’m on Goodreads 24/7! I use #hashtags on Twitter and I have tons of likes on Facebook.” That’s lovely and I’m impressed. I really am. You still need a website. A study by the Codex Group with over 21,000 participants showed that websites are one of the key ways readers find new authors.
It turns out that, when it comes to discovery, Facebook and Twitter play a smaller role than author websites. This means that new authors benefit more from having a presence on the world wide web than by being active on Social Media. The main reason for this has to do with SEO (search engine optimization) and the keywords readers usually type into search engines like Google and Yahoo. If you’ve taken steps to build a SEO-friendly website then your content is likely to match what a potential reader is looking for. (Personally, I hope to one day be in the top ten results on Google for readers looking for: “Diverse romance books with sinfully sexy heroes that will keep me reading all night.”)
But more importantly, having your own website gives you the opportunity to present a controlled message to your visitors. It allows you to introduce yourself on your own terms while showcasing the content that you find most valuable in a way that is appealing to individuals interested in your work.
In addition to you being able to control the way you present yourself, having a personal website gives you the chance to connect with your readers in a way that Facebook and Twitter aren’t build for. It gives you the opportunity to build a newsletter mailing list. A newsletter mailing list is an essential promotional tool, and when utilized correctly can become indispensable. It allows you to connect directly with readers who are already favorably disposed towards you. They wouldn’t have given you access to their inbox if they didn’t want to know more about you and your work. Building and keeping up a mailing list can save you tons of money in the long run since you won’t have to pay to reach your target audience. As a result, you will be able to notify your readers about upcoming releases without having to invest in ads.
In addition to the above, having your own website allows you to build a personal relationship with your readers. And believe me you’re going to need more than 140 characters to do that. You want people to be interested – to feel invested – in what you are producing. The best way to do that is via a website. Twitter and Facebook are helpful tools but they lack the permanence and accessibility of a website. A reader is more likely to go looking for an old blog post of yours that he or she might have missed, than to go digging for an old Tweet or Facebook post on your always evolving timeline.
And for any remaining skeptics out there, Publishing Trends notes that; “Website visits translate directly to the number of books bought. Book shoppers who had visited an author website in the past week bought 38% more books, from a wider range of retailers, than those who had not visited an author site.”
So, now that I’ve lectured you on the reasons why you need to have a website (and maybe irritated you a bit with my know-it-all tone – hey, I tried to edit most of it out), let’s move on to the good stuff, namely the section of this article where I help you build your own website and make it look good. Please note that this is a three part series. In this article we’ll be focusing on WordPress.com. WordPress is a publishing platform that makes it easy for anyone to publish online, and proudly powers millions of websites. It comes in two flavors: the fully hosted WordPress.com, and the self-hosted version, whose software is available for free at WordPress.org.
In my second article, we’ll talk about the other option that’s available to you, namely WordPress.org, which offers more choices but also comes with strings attached: you have to do more of the work yourself and that includes setting up hosting. In the last article I’ll walk you through some other websites that allow you to create a free webpage like Blogger and Wix. But today? Today we’ll focus on WordPress.com.
WordPress lists the benefit of getting a free wordpress.com website on their website.
Focus on your beautiful content, and let us handle the rest. Premium hosting, security, and backups are included. You can even upgrade to a custom domain, like YourGroovyDomain.com. Choose from hundreds of beautiful themes. Make it your own with Custom Design.
Integrate your site with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social networks.
Popular features like sharing, stats, comments, and polls are included.
Personal support and the WordPress.com forums are always available.
You must register for an account on WordPress.com and abide by our Terms of Service
Sounds good. If you’re a beginner or if you’d rather not spend any money on hosting or purchasing a domain then WordPress.com is your best bet. Personally, I first acquired a WordPress.com website to familiarize myself with their platform, but in the end I decided that WordPress.org gave me more flexibility and offered me more choices. However, if you’re new at this then WordPress.com is, like I said before, your best bet.
Let’s get started!
First open up your browser and head on over to www.wordpress.com.
Get annoyed when wordpress.com won’t allow you to open the US version. Smack something. Try again.
Click on GET STARTED. (You figured that out for yourself, didn’t you? Ok. Sorry.)
The first step is all about layout and your choice will depend on your personal preference. For an author website, I’d personally go with number two since it allows you to present a welcome page to your visitors. I prefer that because it will allow you to showcase your books and other content you find important on a permanent basis without forcing your readers to go look for it. You can always link to your blog posts. Presenting your books should be a priority at this stage. The first thing readers need to see after your website has finished loading is your books. Not some random blog post. Your books.
Two of these authors have a blog, but it’s not on their landing page. The landing page should be about your books.
So, yes, let’s go with the second option.
The second step is incredible fun. You get to choose a theme! Think of step one as you choosing the body of your website. Maybe you’re a leg person or maybe you really really like a nice b.. back. Yes, let’s keep this PG and go with back. You’ve chosen the perfect body for your website. At this stage you’re purchasing clothes for that baby. Let’s go with EDIN. I have big plans for EDIN.
Now you have to pick a name (domain) for your website. Don’t complicate the matter. Use your author name. If it’s already taken, slap the word “author” or “writer” in front of your first name. For this tutorial, we’re going to pretend that my name is Navigating Indieworld.
WordPress will then list all the domains available. Luckily, Navigating Indieworld has not been claimed yet. Let’s claim it!
At this stage, WordPress will try to get some money out of you. Hold your wallet close and click on the free option.
And that’s it. The domain is yours.
Let’s fix it up.
At this point, your website is a total mess. It has some standard content that WordPress slapped on there so that you’re not confronted with a scary blank page but it’s clearly in need of some content.
We’re going to do a couple of things now. First, we’re going to give the website a title and a subtitle. Next, we’re going to set up a Menu. For this tutorial, we’re going to keep it simple and make the website about three-menu-options deep.
WordPress will try to help you out by giving tips here and there. Some are useful but the system is build in such a way that you will be able to figure it out without having to read pages and pages of guidelines.
By clicking on Customize and then Site Identity, I was able to fill in the title of my website, a subtitle and upload a logo (optional). It took twenty seconds, top. Hit save and publish and let’s go build a menu.
At this point, my website looks like this. It wasn’t incredibly smart to upload a logo that says the exact thing as my title but hey, you live and learn.
Let’s create a menu. To create a menu you will first have to create some pages.
Click on MY SITE and then on PAGES [ ADD ]. You can choose to add a “featured image” but skip that for now. You won’t need a featured image for the pages that will appear under your menu. Save that option for blog posts.
Now let’s click on MENU and then PRIMARY MENU, which basically means your main menu. You see that WordPress already has two pages on the MENU (Home and Blog). (I deleted two other standard pages, you might see an About page here as well. Remember that I made my own About page for this tutorial.)
Click on the plus sign (+) above ADD NEW ITEM to add the pages we just created, namely About Me, Contact and Navigating Indieworld. Add all three pages that we created until your menu looks like this.
At this point I regret my theme choice so let’s change it up, shall we? Click on THEMES and look for the free options.
I like this Theme better. Do you see the menu we just made? But let’s get rid of that logo and maybe get a better header image too. The path is MY SITE – CUSTOMIZE. Under there you can change the header, the font size, the font itself and more.
Okay – let’s allow people to contact you! WordPress installs the FORM BUILDER plugin for you automatically. If you want to check it out, the path to it is MY SITE – PLUGINS and then FORM BUILDER. But you don’t need to check that out right now.
Adding a contact form is pretty simple. Visit the contact page that we’ve created. Then click on EDIT. Next click on the arrow pointing down next to the word “paragraph” and then on Contact Form. Finally, click on Insert and you’re done. You’ve set up the contact form.
You can edit the other pages the same way. Use the control to add text, images, documents, change font, change colors. Play around with it.
Let’s check out what WordPress has in store for us under the menu tab “blog”. Yup. They added a blog post for you. You can edit that one. But you can also add your own. In addition to that, you can add a featured image (the image that will appear next to the intro text of your blog) and create a category to store the blog post under. Don’t forget to do this! It makes it easier for your readers to find the content they want later on.
See? Now we have two posts!
Okay, we’ve set up a WordPress website, we’ve chosen a theme, changed the font and header, added pages, added a contact form, added a menu AND blogged for the first time.
Let’s set up the homepage now. The path is MY SITE – STATIC FRONT PAGE. Choose the option that shows a static page and not your latest posts.
You can now turn that static page into the page that mentions your book(s)!
I didn’t like the green theme, so I changed the background to PINK and decided to feature another book on the homepage. Well, a book about Princesses just called for a pink header so that was added as well. The end result is a simple website to get you started. You can check it out here: https://navigatingindieworldblog.wordpress.com
In part II, we will fancy it up a bit AND talk about WordPress.ORG, hosting and my favorite themes and plugins. Have fun building your free website!
Author of “In flagrante delicto”