How to Create an Author Website FOR FREE [Ultimate Guide 2023]
Since writing the book is the hard part, a lot of authors stop there. But book marketing is an important part of the publishing process; maybe the most important. Having an author website is a crucial part of your book marketing strategy. A lot of authors find this part overwhelming, but don’t worry, we have laid out a beginner-friendly step-by-step guide on how you can build your own professional author website with little to no budget. No coding skills or design skills needed!
Here are the quick links to your complete guide to building an author website:
- Benefits of creating an author website – why you need one
- How to make an author website for free (4 simple steps)
- Things to include on your author website
- Frequently asked questions
Benefits of Building An Author Website
Here are some of the benefits of building an author website.
1. Ability to build meaningful relationships with your readers
An author website allows you to establish an author platform where you can interact meaningfully with readers and fans. It can also be used to build an email list to keep your readers informed of upcoming events and new book title releases.
Website builder platforms such as Payhip even allow authors to set up memberships or subscriptions where you can share bonus chapters, announcements and updates, photos and videos of your behind-the-scenes, or any other information that you’d like to showcase to your readers. Your readers will also be able to interact with your content through polls, likes and comments. This allows you to better understand your readers’ interests, and thus market your books more effectively.
2. Ability to sell directly to your readers (cut out the middleman)
Selling books directly to readers from your author website have several benefits including:
- Higher profit margin. You won’t have to pay hefty royalty fees. Platforms like Payhip only charge a 5% fee per sale (up to a maximum of $99/month). In comparison, platforms like Amazon typically take about 30-35% royalty fees.
- Instant payouts. No more waiting for your income to reach a certain threshold, or waiting for a specific day of the month. Selling from your own author website means that you can get paid as soon as orders come in, resulting in more budget that is readily available for other things like book marketing.
- More control over order fulfillment experience. Your readers’ purchase experience is entirely within your control. Send your readers memorabilia or trinkets such as signed copies of your book, coffee mugs, and more. Additionally, you can respond quickly to customer feedback and provide personalized customer service. This can help to build a loyal customer base and increase your book sales down the line.
Some platforms such as Payhip also provide additional tools to make your life easier when selling books directly to your readers. If you’re selling ebooks or audiobooks, Payhip can automatically deliver those files to your customers as soon as they check out. Check out Payhip’s comprehensive guide on how to sell ebooks online for more information.
Payhip is also free forever, which means you can use the platform to sell your ebook and don’t need to pay anything until you start making a sale.
3. Ability to establish additional income streams
If someone has bought your book, there’s a good chance they will be interested in other related products you have to offer. These include products such as:
- Online courses
- Coaching services
- Memberships (paid subscriptions in exchange for providing content to your members)
- Physical products such as merch
A good example of this is, if you’ve published a book titled HOW TO START A PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS, you can use your author website to sell online courses and seminars, or one-on-one coaching related to entrepreneurship or photography business.
How to Create an Author Website for Free in 4 Steps
1. Choose Your Website Builder Platform
The first thing you need to do when building author websites, is choosing a website builder platform. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you select the right platform for your author website:
- How much money do I want to spend on my author website? Spoiler alert Yes, it is possible to create professional author websites with a $0 budget. This will depend on what stage of your career you’re in. If you are new and just starting out, it probably makes sense to use a free or low-cost platform. Note: Payhip has free forever pricing, meaning it costs you nothing to build your author website that has a built-in online store functionality.
- What kind of web building or design experience do I have? If you have no or limited prior experience building or designing websites, you will want to use a website platform that makes it easy for you. Take a look at the examples and default themes available to users. Look for simple drag and drop website building tools that do not require any coding skills.
- Do I require any special functionality? For authors, we recommend you select a website-building platform that has built-in eCommerce functionality (i.e. ability to accept transactions) so you can sell books directly from your website.
We recommend using Payhip as it is a completely free website building platform that comes with tons of notable features for authors including:
- Very generous free plan: Payhip’s forever-free plan gives you unlimited access to the entire platform’s features. You will only pay a 5% fee for every order up to a maximum of $99/month (i.e. you won’t be paying anything if you don’t get any book sales – great for beginner authors)
- Free website themes + simple drag and drop website builder
- Free hosting and free domain (you can also connect a custom domain)
- Ability to sell various product types such as physical products (e.g. books and other merchandise e.g. bookmarks, tshirts, etc), digital downloads (e.g. ebooks, audiobooks), online courses, coaching services, and memberships
- Automatic handling of UK & EU VAT so you can sell internationally with peace of mind
- Integration with BookFunnel and Zapier
- Integration with Google Analytics
- Instant and secure payout via Paypal and Stripe
- Marketing tools such as discount code, affiliate marketing, referral system, cross-sell, upsell, and more.
Payhip is popular for having an intuitive and user friendly interface. Payhip also provides a lot of guided video tutorials online to ensure your success in setting up your author website. You can sign up for a free account today to get started.
2. Upload Your Books and Other Product Listings
After selecting a platform of your choice, start uploading your product listings including your books, ebooks, and anything else you want to sell.
Each product listing should include the price, a corresponding image, and a brief description of the product.
For books, images should be your book covers, and the description should be your back cover copy; a short, interesting summary of the content of your book, around three hundred words.
Payhip also gives you the option to link to related products, so if you have corresponding courses, for example, you can link them off your book page.
3. Customize Your Website Design
You want the design of your website to do two things: communicate your brand and promote your work.
If you’re just starting out, you might want to take some time to think about your brand before you start to build your author site. Think about the kind of audience you want to connect with, and what you want customers to understand about you when they land on your page. New potential readers should understand something about your writing as soon as they land on your page. (If you’re a fantasy author, for example, then you should lean towards fanciful colors and images. If your writing is nonfiction and informative, then you want to present a professional aesthetic.)
If you’re not tech savvy or have no coding skills, Payhip allows you to build a store quickly using free themes, so you won’t need a professional web designer. There are built-in tutorials to aid you in every step of the store building process, and lots of ideas about how to customize your author site. We recommend you spend some time looking around your account to take stock of the possibilities.
This video tutorial covers all the basics of how to get your website up and running:
If you have a technical background in coding and want to further customize your site, this option is also available to you within the store builder.
4. Promote Your Author Website
Once your site is finished and you’ve uploaded your books and other products, the next step is to make sure people are actually visiting your author website. Here are some simple ideas about how to drive website traffic and keep people visiting.
- Include the link to your website on all of your social media accounts.
- Include a blog on your website where you discuss your work, upcoming events, and topics related to your publications. Link to your newest or most popular blog posts on your social media accounts to drive new and return traffic. Creating blog content also allows you to have more opportunities to rank on Google Search Results, resulting in more website visitors to your author website.
- Create an author community by posting reviews and recommendations for other authors’ work. Tag the author’s profile on their social media sites. The idea is the author you’ve referenced will link your work to their followers.
- Create a reader magnet or lead magnet to build an email list. Newsletters sent out to your followers can include links to your site detailing any new work or promotional offers. Another great example is to offer a free chapter of one of your books in exchange for signing up for your email list.
5. (Optional) Connect a Custom Domain Name
If you’re using a website builder platform like Payhip, by default you will get a free fully-hosted domain name with the following format: payhip.com/[yourwebsitenamehere] or an example would be payhip.com/janesmithauthor. This means you won’t have to spend any extra budget on domain names.
However, you also have a choice to connect a custom domain name of your choice e.g. www.janesmithauthor.com. A custom domain is your personal web address on the internet, and it makes your website looks more professional. You can purchase your desired domain names from any domain hosting companies (e.g. GoDaddy), and you can easily connect the domain name that you’ve purchased on your Payhip website.
Here are some tips on how to choose the right domain names.
- Your name is your best shot. If that’s already taken, then add something simple at the end, like tomjoneswriter.com
- Keep things as simple as possible. You don’t want to include any difficult spelling. Readers should be able to glance at your domain name and know what it is without concentrating too hard. Extra points if it’s easy to memorize
- If possible, don’t include any numbers or hyphens as it makes it harder to communicate your domain name to your readers
- Don’t make your domain name the title of your book. You want your domain name to be applicable for years to come, even when you have new publications
Things to Include on Your Author Website
Successful author websites should include important elements such as:
- Author bio page where new visitors to your site can become acquainted with you and your brand. This dedicated page should include a brief bio, as well as highlight publications, credentials and any distinctions awarded to your work. Make sure to include an author photo
- Shop section of your site should list all of the items that you’re selling from your author website
- Product page (i.e. your individual product listing page) should include a brief description of your book, book cover image, as well as additional things such as an FAQ, You-might-also-like, and customer reviews
- Contact page that includes an email newsletter sign up form. If applicable, you may also want to include your agent or publicist’s information on your contact page. Remember to include social media links so your readers know where they can connect with you on social media platforms
- Blog will keep potential readers returning to your author site, and will have your website ranked on search engines such as Google. Use your blog space to communicate up-to-date information about your publications and upcoming events. You can also create blog post on book reviews, recommendations, and links to other authors’ blog sites in this section
FAQ – Creating Author Websites
Do I need to purchase a domain name?
It is a good idea to purchase a domain name to make your website look more professional. However, this isn’t always necessary. You can utilize free domain names from the website builder platform of your choice. Payhip provides a free domain name with the following format payhip.com/[yourcustomnamehere]. You also have the option to purchase and connect a custom domain name as well.
Can I sell ebooks on my website?
Yes! Payhip makes it easy to sell ebooks through your store. You simply upload the digital file of your ebook, and fill out the product information such as description, price, product photos, and more.
Is an author website necessary?
It’s strongly recommended to have an author website, and most authors choose to have one. Author sites give you more control over what you want to communicate with your audience. They make it easy for readers to connect with you and your work, and steam line your book marketing efforts. If you can drive more website traffic toward your product page, this means you will see increased book sales. Even a basic website is well worth the effort.
How much does it cost to build an author website?
The short answer is $0. You can create a professional author website with built-in ecommerce functionality with little to no upfront cost.
The breakdown of the things you need to pay for is as follows:
- Have an author website with built-in ecommerce functionality
Cost: $0 (if you use platforms like Payhip)
- Conduct marketing activities to drive traffic to your website
Cost: $0 (there are plenty of ways to drive traffic to your website without any budget – see our tips above)
- Have a custom domain name
Cost: $0 if you’re using the website builder’s free domain names. But you can also purchase your own domain names at various costs from as low as $0.99 to thousands of dollars depending on the domain name of your choice.
Beyond the costs, you might also be wondering about the time and effort required to start and continuously maintain your author website. With the 4 simple steps that we’ve laid out above, you are likely to be able to finish setting everything up within a day (but of course bear in mind that building and increasing site traffic will take more time and will depend on your marketing efforts).
Building an author website might be an intimidating part of your journey to writing success, but it’s an important part of establishing an engaging author platform to connect with your readers. You can have a professional author website for free without having to hire a web designer by following the step-by-step guide that we’ve laid out above. You may find that the marketing value of your author website is well worth your time and efforts.
Join over 130,000 creators who have successfully created their online businesses with Payhip. Sign up for a free account on Payhip to create your author website today.