Wanting to build an author website to promote your new book? Perhaps you’re curious, but haven’t yet decided if it’s worth the fuss? Author websites are acknowledged as an essential building block for writers looking to sell more books. But how do they work? What makes them tick? And how best to begin building your own?

I wrote this article to declutter and demystify. Join me as I carefully navigate those awkward tech questions you always wanted to ask. Shall we start?

What’s a Website?

This is your own online real estate.  Kinda like your Facebook page, just actually useful.

Your website homepage is accessed via a unique www link where your online visitors are treated to a curated experience. Ideally, every website should have a strong purpose with clearly defined goals for visitors. Visitors are nudged to take the desired actions by the deliberate use of buttons, hyperlinks and other visual cues.

What’s a Domain Name?

Every website must have a linked domain. Think of this domain as a PO Box that links your property to the outside world. This human-readable address or URL points to where your website is found. Google’s domain for example is – whilst our own domain is

Reserving and retaining control of your domain will attract a yearly fee. Similar to the costs of keeping your PO Box. Stop paying for your domain and you risk losing it.

What’s Web Hosting?

Once you’ve reserved a (domain) name, the next step is finding an open area of land to erect your (online) home. This online real estate is referred to as your website host. In reality, your website and all its related files are being saved on a computer hard drive somewhere in the world. This is your website’s “host.”

Hosting your website typically attracts a monthly charge.

How Much Does It Cost to Design an Author Website?

There are 3 main costs involved in the design of your author website.

  1. Yearly domain renewal*
  2. Monthly/ yearly web-hosting costs*
  3. Once-off design costs.

* The domain and hosting costs are paid for as long as the author wants their website to remain active.

The domain and hosting costs are both recurring costs. The exact amount paid each month or year depends on who helps you reserve the domain and hosting package. An author could safely budget ZAR 300/ 15 USD each year for retaining the domain name.

Web hosting can cost the author roughly the same each month. Assuming you opt for the more cost-effective “shared” hosting option offered by most ISPs.

For the once-off design costs, this is more of a “piece of string” question. How awesome do you want your website to be? For an author needing a bare-bones website, acting as little more than a calling card, you could budget at least ZAR 4500/ 250 USD.

For a website to be proud of, I would recommend the author rather budgets 2x the cost above.

Hidden Costs of Setting Up Your Author Website

These are the “hidden” costs that often surprise the author down the line. Don’t think of them as dishonesty from the designer, just somewhat technical or detailed topics that many don’t consider upfront.

Updates to the website of any kind. Need a new widget inserted on homepage, 3 months after the website design has been approved? These sorts of updates take time. For any website-related update needed after the website has been delivered – expect to pay your designer with at least an hourly fee.

Adding new blog content. Adding fresh articles to your website blog is a great way to attract new visitors. If you’re comfortable getting your hands dirty, this is something you can do yourself. Otherwise, your designer will need to be paid.

Technical SEO. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) means that we setup + structure your website to rank better within search engines such as Google and Bing. One of the reasons authors should consider SEO would be for your website to appear higher in the search results of your readers. On-page SEO also includes fine-tuning your website text to include relevant and popular keywords. Either way, this sort of work adds a chunk of time to the web design project.

eCommerce setup. This is for those authors looking to sell items directly from their website. Having shopping cart functionality as part of your website normally means an additional line item on your website design quote.

Measurement of website traffic. This usually means linking your website to Google Analytics. Using Google’s Analytics platform, the approximate number, location and other data of the website visitors can be known. Liking GA to your website is useful for authors who want to measure the success of various marketing campaigns.

How Does an Author Website Differ from Other Websites?

Effective websites (should) all have goals (known as call-to-actions) for their visitors. An author’s website typically has both prominent and clear call-to-actions focussed on promoting and selling the author’s books.

What Are Some Commonly Used Design Elements in a Writer’s Website?

Wondering what pages or widgets to include in your new author website? Here are some of the things you are likely to see as part of an author’s online platform.

  • Info on the author’s current books, including future writing projects
  • A tastefully written “About the Author” section for curious readers
  • Links to the various bookstores where your books can be purchased
  • Sample chapters from your books
  • Reader testimonials, summarised and tastefully displayed
  • Links to social channels where the readers can interact with the author
  • A blog, featuring the latest news or musings from the author
  • Videos of the author at events, or just reading from their latest books
  • A calendar indicating book-signings or other public events the author plans to host or attend
  • An online store selling books or other merchandise directly to readers
  • Links to join the authors mailing list, alerting readers of new releases or other event-specific info.

Does an Author HAVE to Have a Website?

Does an author have to attend book signings?

Does an author have to appear at bookfairs, on radio interviews or other events aimed at promoting their book?

A website is simply a tool to enhance all other marketing efforts. It replaces the need to use vague requests such as “Search for my book on Amazon”. Or worse – “Find me on Facebook.”

Owning a website reduces the need for your readers to remember tedious text such as book titles & shop info. Instead, they simply need to remember your www address. Once on your site, a visitor can focus on the important bits, without the “noise” cluttering most social channels.

Sound like something you might need?

What a Website Won’t Do

A website typically both mirrors and amplifies an author’s real-life activities and marketing efforts.

A busy author, attending events or interacting with readers via exTwitter will find that a website provides a comfortable and curated space to convince and convert curious onlookers into readers. To remain relevant and engaging a website often requires monthly updates and new content. No different to how a well-tended garden yields flowers & fruits if regularly watered.

  • A website doesn’t guarantee book sales
  • A website doesn’t guarantee an author fame
  • A website won’t attract online traffic without regular and deliberate marketing efforts
  • A website doesn’t negate the need for other marketing tools and campaigns.

Ready to start? For those feeling daunted by the task – perhaps you’d prefer starting simple, a single page website that acts as a basic (online) business card?

Should I Publish First Before Designing My Author Website?

This chicken and egg scenario will likely drive you into the depths of several cups of coffee ☕. Your website serves as a key tool in promoting not just your book, but you as the writer. You might also be offering your online guests professional services beyond just the sale of a book. Assuming this wouldn’t distract you from the book publishing process – why wouldn’t you want that kind of functionality setup sooner?

For most authors, I recommend setting up your website asap. Remember, it can easily be updated once your book has been released.

What Domain Type Should I Use for My Website? (.com, etc)

For most authors I recommend keeping it simple and sticking to a .com domain type. This shouldn’t break the bank and gives you a slightly more international feel when compared to using your country-specific domain type – such as for South Africans.

Note that not all domain types cost the same. Our local .coza domains are the cheapest, whilst a .com domain will cost a bit extra. Newer domain types such as our .online ( domain costs us about ZAR 900/ USD50 each year to retain control.

Read more on the different domain types, known as TLDs here.

Should I Use My Book Title in My Domain Name? (URL)

For the average author I recommend sticking with domain name (URL) that incorporates their real name. This will cover a scenario where you release multiple titles. It also covers you if you wanted to sell items other than the books themselves – professional services for example. Importantly, the URL should be kept short. Too many authors choose a domain name that trails off into multiple hyphenated words. Whatever you choose, keep it simple.

Here is a good article on choice of domain name for authors.

What If I Write Under a Pen Name?

For those of you needing anonymity, you could reserve a domain name that uses your pseudonym. It does however depend largely on your reason for remaining anonymous.

How Can I Reduce the Cost of My Website Design?

How much are you looking to reduce the cost by?

  • As a start, you could look into handling the domain and yearly hosting costs yourself.
  • You could also ask for a simpler website, possibly omitting blogging or eCommerce functionality for later.
  • For those of you with more time than money, you could try designing your own website. This option is not recommended unless you already possess a modicum of website design experience.

The Minimalist Approach for the Uncertain Author

Want a website, just not right now? Why not take the first step and reserve the domain name? Once the domain is yours, this link can then safely be inserted within your books pages as if it were already designed. Then, in the coming months, once you are able to find either the time or budget you can revisit the website design project knowing that the book interior won’t need an update.

PS. This “minimalist” approach also allows the author to make use of the associated email address. Meaning not only could you reserve the domain name and link it within your book’s pages – you could also then include the email address for that professional touch to your communication with readers.

Should I use WordPress, Wix or Squarespace to Design My Website?

WordPress CMS

For most authors, using the world’s most popular Content Management System (CMS) WordPress would be a great start. This website-builder is popular enough that the author will always be able to find free and helpful tutorials online, or at least someone to help with the website updates should you misplace your initial website designer. It’s also free, which helps.

Note that whilst the “core” WordPress functionality is free, there are paid-for components known as themes and plugins that you might decide to use within a WordPress website. For example, perhaps you wanted to add a fancy “bookstore” widget to your website – this functionality might be part of a paid-for plugin. These sorts of costs vs benefit scenarios should always be discussed with your designer upfront.

Wix + Squarespace (Drag n Drop Website Builders)

Both Wix and Squarespace offer fairly similar “drag and drop” functionality to build a website. Essentially an author can achieve the same end objective (a professional website) however maintenance and updates to the website should be simpler when compared to WordPress.

The power and configurability of both Wix and Squarespace are not as good as WordPress, however many authors might be happy with this trade-off if it means that they are able to carry out website updates themselves, avoiding having to pay a designer when they want to make updates in the months and years to come.

Aside from the monthly costs above the author would still need to pay a designer for the initial setup of either the Wix or Squarespace website.

Avoiding Free Websites

There are a few online platforms that present you with tempting offers of a “free” website + domain name. I know that both Wix and WordPress both offer a free tier. These “free” websites are usually simple enough to spot as the domain name is appended with the platform name.

For example, an author making use of the free offering from WordPress will have a website name looking something like this,

Whilst this offer is tempting, it also screams unprofessional. Ideally, your new author website should never be free. 👉 Goedkoop is duurkoop.

Should I Outsource My Author Website Design on Fiverr?

I have used freelancer marketplace platforms such as Fiverr with mixed luck over the years. There are some truly talented designers buried beneath layers of subpar freelancers, promising everything, but delivering far less. Use with caution. 🚩

Pros: You could find a talented designer and save a few bucks.

Cons: You could end up spending months fighting for feedback from a freelancer in a village far far away.

As my boxing coach always used to say, “Protect yourself at all times.

Does My Author Website Need a Blog?

Blogging is short but regular written articles released online. Exactly like this article. The keywords being short (500 to 4000 words) and regular (aim for at least monthly.)

Regular blogging acts as a natural magnet for visitors interested in your topic. Over time new visitors can find your article, possibly being converted into readers. Importantly, the topics of the blog articles will need to overlap with the topics from your book for the blog to benefit your book sales.

I only recommend an author starts blogging where they feel they are able to dedicate the time to create new content each month. Blogging doesn’t always have to be done by the author themselves and can be safely outsourced to a talented writer.

How Do I Sell My Book from My Website?

Lekker question, here are a few options for the curious among you wondering how best to sell your books from your shiny new website. 📚💰

  1. Hyperlink from your website to existing bookstores such as Amazon or TakeAlot (for SA-based authors/ readers.)
    • This is my recommend route for most new authors.
  2. Selling the book directly to readers from your website.
    • This requires eCommerce functionality to be setup on your website.
  3. Or a compromise of both options where your website directs readers to external sales platforms to make the purchase.
    • The book would first need to be listed on a platform such as Payhip or BookFunnel. These platforms then facilitate the trickier parts of selling your book – such as the online transaction and delivering book files.  Fees from these types of platforms are typically far less than some of the book retailers such as Amazon, Apple etc.

Here is a video where I explain the options above.

Does an Author Need eCommerce Setup on Their Website?

eCommerce describes a website setup with an online store. Visitors are then able to buy products directly from your website, using their credit card. Commonly sold items from an author’s eCommerce store include –

  • Physical paperback books
  • Bookmarks, cups, clothing all branded with the author’s logo or characters from their book.

Expect additional costs from a designer to include shopping functionality in your website. For most authors with a book or two you’d be better off simply hyperlinking your website to point readers to Amazon. Only once you have written enough books to justify the added expense and complexity of an online shop – consider crossing the eCommerce bridge.

Questions to Ask Before Designing Your Author Website

The most common mistake I find that authors make when designing a website is not giving enough information to their designer upfront. Here are a few questions to get your creative juices flowing. Jot down the answers and share with your website person to use as a starting point. They will thank you.👇

  1. What should your website visitor be able to do on your website?
    • List up to 3 prioritised goals.
    • These goals are known as a call-to-actions. For example – they should be able read about and then purchase your paperback book directly from the website.
  2. Go find examples of at least 3 websites you enjoy.
    • What exactly do you enjoy about the websites shared above?
  3. Which colour palettes can your designer use for your website?
  4. How many pages should your website have?
    • What pages should they be? (Think “About the Author, About the Books, Blog, Contact, Shop”, etc)
    • Can you share both the text and images that belong on each of the above pages?
  5. What books would you like promoted on the website?
    • Can you share the cover images, sales blurbs and any reader reviews for the books listed above?
    • Can you also share the shop sales links for each of the books above.
  6. Does your website need a blog?
    • Can you provide at least 3 pre-written blog articles for the designer to preload for you?
  7. Do you have any videos you’d like linked to your website?

Examples of Author Websites

See our portfolio of our professional author website designs linked here.

For those wondering, all our author websites from the portfolio above are designed in the free WordPress system, using the paid for Divi theme.

Further Reading

You made it to the end!

You made it to the end of my article – good on you! I really hope you were able to find some nuggets amongst the webpage FAQs I assembled in this post. This list, whilst comprehensive, is by no means everything. I’ll add new topics as and when I can. Just let me know what you think I might have missed? 🙏

Already have an author website of your own? Please consider leaving your website URL in the comments below for others to appreciate and learn from.