This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a long time, but never quite found the time to. Today, we’re talking about author websites. If you think about your favorite author, whether indie or traditionally published. But can we be honest? A lot of author websites suck. I know that as a writer, my biggest skill is in the written word, but that’s no excuse not to have a fabulous website.  So today we’ll talk about launching websites for new authors (even those who aren’t published yet).

Launching New Author Websites

1. Buy Your Domain

Regardless of whether or not you actually plan to build your website now or not, but the domain. Domains are constantly being bought by people who make their money off of selling you the domain back, but for big bucks (we’re talking thousands of dollars). So buy your domain now and thank yourself later. Ideally you’ll want to get just your name. For instance, my author website is laurateagan.com Nothing fancy, nothing extra, just the name. But Laura, what if that’s already taken? 

Well, lucky for you I have a few other suggestions:

  • Add your middle initial. Kristen from She’s Novel has an author website, too (and it looks fabulous), but she includes her middle initial, so her domain name is http://http://www.kristenakieffer.com and it works. Also, I personally think the middle initial adds this weird level of professionalism/experience. And I mean weird in a way that I don’t know exactly how to describe how I came to that conclusion, but I did.
  • Tack “books” to the end of your domain. Another fabulous writer, Jenny from Blots & Plots, set up her author website under jennybravobooks.com If that doesn’t make it obvious what she does, I don’t think anything else does.
  • If neither of those float your boat, try adding writes to the end, maybe? No author website (Yet), but my editor’s username is namewrites everywhere.

PRO TIP: If you’re planning to build your website right now, look at deals. Places like Bluehost and Squarespace will offer you a free domain with a year-long package.

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2. Website Host

There are lots of website hosts out there. There are also lots of platforms out there. The ones you’ll probably most hear about are WordPress (there are two versions of wordpress, too), Squarespace, and Blogger.

First, WordPress vs. WordPress (if you know the difference, you can skip this section).

WordPress is a software. You’ll often hear people talk about wordpress.COM and wordpress.ORG. Dot com is essentially the wordpress software run on someone’s platform, and you have little wiggle room. .ORG is self-hosted, but you can pay a lot of money up front. I’d say, if at all possible, avoid .COM, just avoid it. You can’t sell anything, can’t have ads, etc. All you can do is host blog posts and pages. Oh, and you have to pay a monthly fee to route your domain to the wordpress.com host. Money you could be investing in actual hosting. If you’re going the wordpress route, go the wordpress.org route and get a hosting package.

Okay, that leaves us with two other options. Squarespace and Blogger. I’m still rather weary on blogger just because it’s owned by Google. Google can be great and all, but they can (and have done this to people before) take your site down without warning. If you’re looking for the free option, I still say go with Blogger before you go with wordpress.COM

Between Squarespace and WordPress.ORG I think it really depends on what you want. If you’re good at code and like having to do all the back-end stuff, I’d say wordpress.org. It’s a powerful platform, but it can also take a lot of time to maintain (those blasted plug-ins were the death of me). You also own your stuff on WordPress.ORG, and it used to be that they would say they can’t take your site down, but last week, my host actually turned my site off because of too much server usage (yay spam bots)!

Which is how I ended up on Squarespace. I started a new job this week, and while Squarespace isn’t as powerful as WordPress.ORG, that’s okay. I don’t have time to deal with the powerful right now (unless the powerful happens to be a sexy male character in my book).

So, I think between SS and WordPress.ORG, you should be fine on either, it’s really just a personal preference. If you want to play with SS, there is a 14 day trial you can get to play around and tinker with a website.

3. Design

If you haven’t already, this is the time you need to finalize your branding (this website is a phenomenal resource on branding). It’s okay if it’s temporary branding, but pick something you like. And something that fits your genre! I write mysteries, so I picked my branding to feature a lot of purple (because it’s dark and mysterious, but still feminine). Make sure you record all this stuff (I keep it all in Evernote so I can’t lose it), because it’ll be important.

The next two weeks, I’ll break down how I set up websites, both on Squarespace and WordPress.ORG, for design. And then we’ll talk about what you need to include in each of these.

Do you have an author website? If not, what do you want to know about them?