You are probably thinking of creating a book website, but here I am going to tell you why you need to start an author blog instead. You will use this author blog when you upload new books, ‘social share’ your articles, and put your ‘media mentions’ or ‘media kit’ page together. A summary of this page will be provided down the bottom.
Rolling with the times, your brand will grow and change. If you set up a ‘book’ domain and website, unless you have some expert support, you may not have enough time to justify this approach. Websites take time and work to establish and rank effectively, and book launch promotions are time limited.
But… with your Author Website, the site can be added to and morph over a decade or so, as you put out more products for your growing number of fans. Journalists and editors can also find it more easily, especially if it is on press releases/emails. As soon as people hear about you somewhere, they can Google your name or company. (I have a site called PowerofWords, my business, but this one is better ;-).
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Author Blog Design recommendations
If you want to continually add and share articles, direct people to find out more about you, and add a book store, then WordPress hosted on your domain name is the best bet. Registering your Domain Name yourself means you always know where it is and when it is due. You’ll need website hosting for this, but it’s not too hard to do.
Website hosts like HostGator offer a simple control panel, letting people set up their WordPress initially with a click. Others offer installation for a small fee.
Which Hosting Plan to choose?
You can start off with a cheap plan, like Cloud Hatchling or WordPress Cloud Starter, from US$5.95 per month — discounted the first year. If you need a secure site for shopping cart functions, then you’ll need a minimum of Cloud Business or WordPress Business, from US$9.95 per month (about $160 – $300 p.a. Australian). But if you just use Paypal buttons, you won’t need that.
The reason I recommend the Cloud Hosting is the speed, uptime and overall economy. When people are retrieving the site from the US-based server, you want the Ping speed to be lightning fast. When I had hosting in Australia, I had a page retrieval speed of 28 seconds at times… ridiculous! Everyone was going away!
So I changed to Cloud Hatchling, and it sped up to around 3 to 4 seconds to load, depending on whether I have an image ‘Slider’ working or not. Inside the control panel, you’ll see the speed of the server as it works. However, the real speed of retrieval depends on a few factors, like the location of the viewer.
Since I like to pay in Aussie dollars and have a solid hosting service, I switched to Siteground. Now I just love these guys, they may hide the support link but the guys are absolutely expert when you do ask a tricky question. They also take care of the transfer of multiple sites. Phew.
Like many, their first year is about one-third the price of the second year. I got the GrowBig option as I have multiple sites, but you can try the smaller one (about $60) if you have ONE website.
Deciding on a Theme
Deciding on a theme can be a living nightmare. Like a complex design skin, the WordPress Theme lets you customise to your desired navigation styles, colours, sidebars, header images, normal page as a home page, blog widgets, etc. About 8 hours and 40 theme options later, your head is spinning! So let me recommend an option based on the experiences I’ve had.
We found that the choice of a supported, paid ‘pro theme’ is a good idea. This is because they are updated regularly, while free themes may be left to break and, basically, die.
2) IMPREZA. This popular theme may be customised to any brand colours and menu needed. You can choose layout templates, pick icons, and add eye-catching elements with a page builder called ‘Visual Composer’… all for US $59.
It is responsive to mobile devices, parts can be customised for smaller screens, and it is updated with every WordPress major change.
Loading the Theme is fairly easy — but the place you bought the theme can also install it for a small fee. You may then need some idea of how to customise a theme.
If you get stuck, there are plenty of WordPress experts to help out with customisation here in Australia at The Freelance Collective. With the US$ exchange rate being what it is, you may prefer to hire an Australian for full customisation without a language barrier.
If you DIY, order some vibrant web banners containing your author photo and book cover, of the right size for your desired header image (usually like 1024 wide). Designers can blend several elements together while sticking to your brand colours. You can expect to pay up to US$50 for this banner on Fiverr. Why not get a couple of options?
Consider these three smaller costs (and your time), compared to $2000+ cost of custom website design, and you’ll see why I go this route!
They also give 6 months support with the purchase, which is usually US$34, but is included with above theme. Their page builder works with WordPress Classic and new pages built can be done with WordPress 5 blocks.
Of course, with the many plugins and widgets, a novice will take time to learn how a WordPress website setup actually works. After all these years I still call on technical help for tricky issues. There are Pros who will install your social widgets and plugins that extend the functions on your new site.
Capture your Visitors from the Start
Whether blogger-author or business owner, you’ll want to capture your visitor emails with a valuable offer… we call these ‘lead magnets’. I have one about a Niche Marketing email course.
A lot of authors think they’ll just start writing a blog, but forget that 90% of their online visitors will forget about them not long after they visit. A Lead Magnet and email follow-ups allow us to build up a rapport and give value before they make any big decisions, like buying your book. It takes a little while to get used to inserting forms and setting autoresponders, but you will find the best email marketing systems also have the easiest interfaces, like Mailchimp, Aweber or Vision6.
For business authors, I recommend using an email subscriber helper, like ConvertKit or Sumo. For ConvertKit, you would get: unlimited Forms, Courses, Landing Pages, Automation Rules, Emails. That is pretty cool.
For Sumo, you get the list builder app and can opt for various types of sign-up forms on your web pages. But to truly integrate the forms with your email, you’ll need either Zapier rules or use Mailchimp or Aweber. You soon get the ‘upgrade now’ reminder, and the upgrade is about $280 I think.
Author Blog Summary
- Use WordPress on a self-hosted domain (e.g. yourname.com, yourbrand.com.au)
- Use it to steadily promote books, social share your own articles, and upload a media kit (high res photos of both YOU and the book/s)
- Use your domain name at the bottom of every press release.
- Put your name URL on business card, LinkedIn and on email signature.
- Get your domain name yourself and take note where the logins are kept
- Start with a smaller plan, like Cloud Hatchling or Hostgator Cloud Starter — but if in the budget, choose the SSL option, so both Google bots and people see the secure lock.
- Always get expert help when you’re out of your depth. Try PeoplePerHour.com or TheFreelance Collective.com.au.
- Use an easy page builder to design your website a bit better. Sliders are optional.
- Get an author web banner made – it will make your blog look customised straight away.
- Capture your visitors with an opt-in form (e.g. Sumo) and an offer of a free chapter or email course. Make sure the opt-in form SLIDES in, POPS up, or FLIES down. Nobody elects to just sign up.
This is provided free-of-charge by JenniferLancaster.com.au. Copyright 2018, Jennifer Lancaster.
Disclosure. This page contains some links to other websites, which if you click and sign up, would lead to a commission for us. We have assessed the viability of the information provided above and even use it ourselves, however, please assess your needs based on your current experience and efforts with technology.