The Psychology of Why you Need a Website
It’s all part of the Author Entrepreneur Mindset.
When you have a professional looking website with your name, or pen name, on the header – you are claiming your space as a professional author.
It does make a difference to how you see yourself.
I know. Weird but true. This is the home of your author IDENTITY>>> Your Author Brand. It is who you are as an author and that is a different mental persona to who you are in ordinary life.
The beautifully dressed and made-up lady author with the perfect salon hair, whose photo is on that website, is not Miss or Mrs A whose day job is B and home life is C, and who lives in D with her charming children/partner/spouse/zoo.
No. This is who you are inside your head as a writer and an author. Come alive on the page as though it was a character.
It is also about how other people see you.
You can probably count on the fingers of both hands, the number of people who have read your work and know and appreciate that you are an author with unique skills and talent.
It can feel a bit like going out in public wearing a wig and completely different clothing to your normal style, so that people will see you in a different light.
It can be revealing, exposing and very exciting. But totally worth it, when you claim your identity as a writer.
There are actually three options that I would recommend to any writer thinking about building a website for their brand and their work.
Option 1. Totally free hosting with WordPress.com and a free website which will have the .wordpress.com extension to the name of your website. Example: Topauthor.wordpress.com.
This is an ideal option for anyone who is pre-published, never had a website or blog before and wants to learn the ropes and experiment using professional software, for free. You don’t worry that your website name has a .wordpress extension at the end and neither do your website visitors. This is my old site which I used for years: https://ninaharrington.wordpress.com/
Option 2. Free Hosting with WordPress.com and you pay $25 a year to have your own domain name for the website. Example: Topauthor.com.
Next step up. Maybe you have tried WordPress.com out and really like it and decide to use it for your home base. You can upgrade at any time and register a domain name with WordPress, or transfer a name that you have already purchased to your existing website.
Or you want a no-frills website where you don’t have to learn about coding or software or hosting options. You are not interested in custom code or special options and are happy to accept that WordPress controls the coding for your site.
Option 3. Self-hosted website with WordPress.org and you pay a hosting company to maintain the files for your website. The hosting fee usually includes the domain name for the first year and how much you pay varies from hosting company to company. I recommend Bluehost which is the company that I use, and I have an affiliate link which means that you have a free domain name and hosting for $3.49 a month. Example: Topauthor.com.
This is my new latest site: https://ninaharrington.com/
What Option is the Best for You?
This depends on:
- Your budget
- Where you are in your writing career
- How you want to use the website for your writing and
- How much time you want or have to spend on developing the site.
- Are you pre-published? Or published with one or more books available in any form, for readers to purchase?
- Do you want to settle on a particular pen name at this time? Or would you prefer to use your own name and build a following around that name, recognising that you may publish under other names in the future?
- Do you want to create an email list of people who will subscribe to your newsletter?
- Do you want to create a blog where you review books, chat about the writing process and have long-form content [like this blog post] – or do you prefer social media and just want your website to be a hub for your brand name as an author?
When you know the answers to these questions you can make some informed choices.
When I started blogging over ten years ago, I used the free Blogger platform and that worked fine, but when I was offered a contract in 2008 I knew that I had to build a new website as a professional author, using my new pen name and the links to Harlequin.
So I went looking for a professional platform. I played with the WIX site builder, and spend days and then months trying to make it work, but really didn’t like it. After much research and frustration I moved to a free WordPress blogging site using the free WordPress.com software and now I am on WordPress.org where I pay a hosting company to store the files for me.
What’s the difference between WordPress.com and a WordPress.org?
WordPress as a software is free for you to download and use, but WordPress.org is where you can download WordPress to put on your own hosted domain which you pay for – that’s why it is called Self-Hosted.
The Wordpress.com is where you can setup your blog for free and they host it for you. You don’t need to pay for anything, and you can have a blog up and running in no time, but you don’t have much flexibility with extra features. WordPress do all of the hosting for free so they can run ads on your site and they control the code that makes the site work.
There are tons of free WordPress.com themes and templates which make it so easy to get started and they look fantastic. That’s why I stayed with WordPress.com for years.
Best thing? You can change your theme with one click and make it totally your own. And the new themes are totally Responsive, which means that they look great on a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
Having fun experimenting with a free WordPress site will teach you tons about how to build a website and use images and fun links and video to engage your audience – and you don’t pay a penny for the hosting of all of your content, or the behind the scenes coding which makes it all happen.
But there are two downsides to the free WordPress.com blogging platform.
Downside One of WordPress.com
You can call your free WordPress.com website any name you like, but the web address will have an extension of wordpress.com.
So instead of yourauthorname.com the free site will be called yourauthorname.wordpress.com.
Every free site comes with a free address with .wordpress.com in the URL.
You can hide the .wordpress.com part by registering a new domain with WordPress so you pay for the domain name which makes your site your own.
If you have already bought a domain name then you can transfer it to your WordPress site and the domain registration costs comes down, but you have to remember to pay for your domain name separately every year and it can take a day or two for all of the transfers to happen in the background. Plus you are responsible for organising the switch and learning how to do that can be time consuming first time around.
In spring 2016 the fee is $25 a year for a new domain name, including privacy protection and $13 a year to map a domain name you have already bought somewhere else. Find out more about this here – https://en.support.wordpress.com/domains/#available-domains
Downside Two of WordPress.com
There are not many extra Bells and Whistles on offer.
Because WordPress hosts and maintains the site and the code that runs the website for you, they limit the edits you can make to the code.
When you first start out you have so much to think about that it makes total sense to focus on the essentials.
But the more you work on your blog and explore what it can do then it can be frustrating to find that some of the features you want to add are not available in the theme you have chosen, or offered in the free WordPress software.
You customise any website in three ways:
- By selecting a prebuilt theme which matches your idea design and gives you flexibility with the colours and layout
- By using Widgets. Widgetis a fancy word for tools or content that you can add, arrange, and remove from the sidebar(s) of your blog. Widgets make it easy to customize the content of your sidebar(s) if you want to use them.
- By using Plugins. A plugin is a WordPress add-on that enhances your site with extra features. These are custom pieces of code which allow you to do things with your content without knowing a thing about coding.
If you take a peek at my old https://ninaharrington.wordpress.com/ website you will see that the blog is on the homepage – the first page the website visitor will come to – and on the right there is a sidebar with lots of extra information and links, including social media links. These are widgets and there are lots to select from.
Don’t worry – they are all super easy to add in.
There is one widget which is very important to any author – how a visitor can subscribe to and follow your blog.
But there is a catch. This is built into the WordPress.com function and you do not have access to the email addresses of your subscribers.
If you look at the Stats for your site, WordPress will display the WordPress sites for each of your subscribers, but not their email addresses.
You could contact each of the subscribers in turn through their websites but hopefully you will have lots of subscribers and that could be very difficult and time consuming.
Ideally you want to build up your own email list outside of WordPress.
This mailing list will be fans of your work who are happy to receive emails from you. And most importantly – you control the email list. Not WordPress.
Q> So how do you build an email list using a free WordPress.com website?
A >By using an email marketing service and linking it to your website.
WordPress.com only supports signup form links. Because WordPress hosts and maintains the site and code for you, they limit the edits you can make to the code.
I have only worked with MailChimp. It is very easy to use and it is completely free for the first 2000 subscribers. There is also a paid version, if you want to create automatic email sequences, but right now I suggest that you register for the free service and use MailChimp to collect email addresses.
Link to Your Signup Form
Copy the signup form’s URL from MailChimp’s Form Builder, and insert it as a link in your WordPress site’s main navigation, sidebar, or footer. Visitors can click the link to go to the form and then return to your site when they’re done.
Summary for Options 1 and 2.
How to Build an Author Website totally for Free in less than an hour.
- Sign on to WordPress.com.
- Create an account with the name you want to use for your website – it will have the .wordpress.com extension or you can select to purchase a domain name or transfer one to this site.
- Make a note of your log on details and password – you will need to use these to log onto WP-Admin.
- Select a theme to get you started. WordPress will suggest a few. Don’t spend a lot of time on this because you can change your theme at any time and test it.
- Get to know the ‘Dashboard’ where you control what happens behind the scenes. There are lots of free tutorials available.
- Create some pages for your website.
- Write your first blog post for your home page.
- Create a free account on Mailchimp.com.
- Follow the instructions on MailChimp and create a mailing list and an Opt-in form for that mailing list.
- Copy the signup form’s URLfrom MailChimp’s Form Builder, and insert it as a link in your WordPress site’s main navigation, sidebar, or footer. Visitors can click the link to go to the form and then return to your site when they’re done.
Option 3. Self-hosted website with WordPress.org and you pay a hosting company to maintain the files for your website.
A self-hosted site is where you pay for someone to host the WordPress.Org website and then select from 1000s of themes compared to the free option.
You are fully in control of the theme and the software and coding and you can add in all the bells and whistles you want, and customise your website in any colour and font and with loads of prebuilt templates. This is all about owning your content.
- Decide on a domain name.
- Decide on a website hosting service. I recommend Bluehost.
- Create your account on the hosting service –which usually comes with a free domain name.
Decide on a domain name.
This is your personal brand so you should select it carefully. Real name or pen name? If possible, don’t use your real name. A pen name separates your online identity from your real life identity.
Coming up with a pen name can take days or weeks and you should always come up with a shortlist of names which fit both your style and your genre.
- chat about it with an agent or editor if you have one, or your writing pals
- search for that name on the internet and on Facebook.
Example. Author Lizzie writes fun contemporary romance. She has come up with 3 names that she likes – Susie Jones, Kristin Carr and Beth Morgan.
With those names in mind, time to get started on the fun part – claiming the domain name and creating a website.
Find a hosting company.
A website is basically a collection of database records which feed into front forms of code which we call website pages.
That database and software layouts have to be hosted by a company who will hold the information on their servers so that when someone types in your website name, it will automatically go to that file.
Where the server is physically located is irrelevant. What matters is that the separate pieces of information all come together seamlessly when you click on a page or arrive on a home page.
The hosting fee usually includes the domain name for the first year and how much you pay varies from hosting company to company. I recommend Bluehost which is the company that I use, and I have an affiliate link which means that you have a free domain name and hosting for $3.49 a month.
Click on get started now.
Select the basic plan. What you are buying is shared hosting which is fine for personal author websites.
Type in the domain name that you want to use. Let’s say that it is for Susie Jones.
This tells me that susiejones.com has already been taken, so I will click on the [show more suggestions] box – and hundreds of options appear.
Try to resist the [hotsusiejones.com] and go back and put in the name of your second choice to see if that is available. This was Kristin Carr.
Success! You can use Kristin Carr as your pen name if you wish to.
Click on next. This is where you claim the domain name and commit to paying for the hosting service.
If you have already bought the domain name somewhere else – click on the second box.
Let’s say that you own the domain name for SusieJones.com
The system with then automatically take you straight to the sign up page where you can create your hosting account – but you will have to go through an extra step to make sure that the company where you bought the domain name points anyone looking for that name, over to Bluehost, or any other hosting company, and the correct database.
Any hosting company has to tell the domain name companies who the owner of the domain is and how they can be traced so it is important that you complete the form accurately with your real name and details.
You will then be taken to the page where you select which package you want.
Take a careful look at this section line by line and unclick what you do not want to buy in the package.
- The first thing to notice is that the cheapest price is for a 3 year contract where you pay the full hosting fee in one payment in advance. It is more expensive to go for a 12 month plan.
- Domain privacy protection. This means that the system will block a visitor to your site from hacking into your real name and contact details. Worth it if you are using your real name and not a pen name.
Note – if you have already bought a domain name with another company, then they will be taking care of this for you, and the option will not appear on the form.
- Site backup Pro. Look at the details under the more information. BlueHost automatically run back-ups of all of your files as part of the standard fee.
- Sitelock security – find. Look at the details under the more information. There are great free plug-ins which will capture spam for you.
Let’s say that you opt for the 3 year package without any extras.
Total cost for hosting your website for 3 years is $125.64 – including the domain name for the first year. The US dollar currency exchange rates change on a daily basis, but as at April 2016, $125 US dollars equates to approximately £85 UK sterling for all 3 years.
Let’s say that I want to go for the 12 month plan without any extras.
The total cost would be just under $60 for the year, which is about £40 UK sterling.
Personally I think this is great value because of the service and background systems which make it so easy to use in the next step, when you actually create your website in WordPress.
If you are happy with this, then read the terms and conditions documents and click the box to confirm that you have done so, before clicking on submit.
Congratulations. You have just purchased a domain name and hosting for your new website.
Part Two. Use the Fast Install process to create a WordPress website for your domain name.
The hosting company will create a Control Panel, or CPanel, for your account which has all of the data for your website.
There are loads of tutorials from Bluehost on how to do that in one click and how to get started. It is worth viewing this before you dive in and start clicking away.
Here are two in the series which will save you time:
From this CPanel you can Install WordPress to create a WordPress blog against that domain name.
Ignore the paid options that will pop up – you just want to install WordPress. So just click on the green button.
Make a note of the Admin User Name and Admin password because you will need those to access your WordPress site, when you add posts etc.
If you want to take a tour of this whole process, Michael Hyatt has a useful video. Again, ignore the pitch at the end for his custom theme.
Note – There will be a time lag while all of the systems around the world align to link your domain name with the website that you have just created – this can be up to 48 hours but usually a lot shorter than that and often just a few hours or overnight. So while all that is happening you can get on with the design.
- Design your ideal home page for your new website on paper or in a text document where you can add in pictures and plan out what content you want to have on your home page.
- Look at websites you like.
- How are they laid out?
- What is in the menu bar at the top? Usually links to Books, Blog, About and Contact – but often much more.
- What colours do you like?
- Most authors have a blog. Do you want to have your latest blog posts on the front page? Or would you rather have your books and book news on the front page with a link to Latest News instead of a blog?
- Social Media links. You can insert live updates from Facebook and Twitter as well as links to other platforms.
- Your Author Brand. All of these style aspects will vary enormously depending on the kind of books you write and the image you want a visitor to take away about your brand as an author. An author who specialises in dark paranormal romance will want to create a very different front page compared to an author who writes for the historical inspirational market. The colour schemes and fonts might be similar to the book covers, for example.
- If this is your debut book and you have not had a blog before – I would recommend having your blog posts on your home page. This is a great way to give website visitors a glimpse of your personality and a peek behind the scenes of a new author.
- Select a WordPress template design for the home page which matches your ideal design for your website.
There are 1000s of free templates to browse and paid ones. Filter the choice down to make sure that the site will be Responsive – this means that it will work perfectly if someone is looking at it on a smartphone, tablet or laptop etc. Unless you are great at coding, then I would stick with the simple free templates.
Now the fun time starts. Beware – this is a total time suck because it is so much fun to try out new themes and ideas and watch them come alive.
Best of luck!