The Study: Issue #28 - Do I Need an Author Website? 3 Options for Building Your Own On Any Budget
Do you need an author website? Probably. Plus, Headlines and Submissions.
All About Author Websites
Whether you’re working on your first book or your fifth, if you haven’t been published yet, you might be asking yourself, “Do I need an author website?” However, you should be asking yourself some other questions, too:
Do I have any publishing credits to my name, like short stories, essays, or flash fiction?
Am I getting ready to release my book, either from a traditional publisher or through self-publishing?
Am I looking to blog as a way to get my name out there?
If you answered “yes” to any of these, then you might want to consider putting together your own author website. An personal author website can be a great way to promote yourself online and give a way for readers to find all of your work in one place.
There are countless ways to build your own website, from simple blogging platforms to elaborate (and expensive) content management systems. Here, I’ll outline three of the most popular platforms for building a website so you can set up shop in your little corner of the internet.
WHO IS IT FOR?
Authors looking for a gorgeous static site to showcase their work.
If you’ve listened to a podcast in the last two years, you’ve probably heard about Squarespace. Squarespace has emerged as the place where creative types and small businesses go to establish an online presence.
While they do offer solutions for bloggers, Squarespace’s templates are geared toward the visually-oriented who value minimalism above all else. Big, beautiful photographs and a little bit of text go a long way in conveying a certain kind of aesthetic. If you’re a literary author or someone with publication credits in The New Yorker or Tin House, this might be the solution for you.
Bloggers can also find something, too, but choices are slim.
Be aware, however, that Squarespace may not be ideal if you like to get into the weeds with your site’s HTML and CSS. They do offer customization options via HTML blocks, but warn you ahead of time that messing around with a site’s CSS can (and probably will) break your template. Custom code also falls outside of what their support staff can help you with. If you mess up, you’re on your own.
Still, if you’re looking to get up and go without too much fuss, plus you like to have a suite of analytics tools at your disposal without having to sign up for Google Analytics and deal with custom code injection, you could do worse than Squarespace.
In fact, the website for my podcast, The Shelf Life, is built on Squarespace.
Integration with numerous third-party extensions
Limited design choices
Not ideal for custom coders
Pricey compared to other platforms
PRICE: Personal plans start at $16/month, $12/month if paying annually.
WHO IS IT FOR?
Bloggers and authors looking for variety and customization.
Wix’s big draw is variety. Seriously, they have templates for everyone and anyone. Writers, plumbers, electricians, doctors' offices–you name it and Wix probably has a template for it. There are even specific templates just for authors!
I have a Wix site that I don’t update too often, mainly because I don’t particularly like working in Wix. Certain templates are easier to customize than others and the platform as a whole is much slower than WordPress or even Squarespace.
If you know what you’re doing, then making your site look exactly the way you want it shouldn’t be too cumbersome and the catalog of integrations and add-ons is extensive. Some premium extensions do cost money though.
But if you need your site to have custom fonts, animations, and other bells and whistles, you could do worse than Wix.
100’s of professional-looking templates
Countless integrations with third-party services
Use custom fonts and HTML/CSS to make your site look the way you want
Slow user experience
Customizing isn’t always easy
Aggressive upselling for other Wix products
PRICE: Free (with ads, limited options), $13/month for a site with no ads and custom domain (billed annually)
WHO IS IT FOR?
Bloggers and authors who need freedom and endless plugins.
WordPress is kind of the best of both worlds between Wix and Squarespace. It’s infinitely customizable and you can even dig into the HTML to your heart’s content. You can either register for a site on WordPress.com or head over to WordPress.org and download the free version, which can be deployed to the web host of your choice.
WordPress’s templates run the gamut from minimal portfolio websites to text-heavy blogs. My blog, Curious Rat, is built on WordPress after two previous iterations on other platforms. I don’t think I’ll be moving it from WordPress any time soon. It does exactly what I need and gives me the freedom to customize it how I want (which isn’t much).
If I need additional functionality, I can install one of any number of plugins to take care of things like form submissions, search engine optimization, and spam prevention.
Great for budget-conscious authors
Countless themes for all kinds of sites
SO. MANY. PLUGINS.
Works with a variety of text editors for automatic publishing
Certain theme updates can break your site or plugins if you’re not careful
WordPress is very popular and a prime target for hackers. Verify what plugins you install.
PRICE: Free, $4/month for Personal plans, $8/month for Premium plans (all billed annually)
This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive deep dive into every platform, only a preview of what each one offers. You’ll have to do your due diligence to figure out which one is right for you based on your needs.
And remember: no matter which service you choose, you’ll need to register a domain name, too. I recommend using a third party registrar like Hover. Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress offer free domain registrations with their paid plans, but I prefer to keep them separate in case I ever decide to leave one platform for another.
I register all my domain names through Hover. If you use my referral link above, you can get $2 off your first order and I’ll get $2 toward my own account.
And remember: I’m on Twitter every day. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line. I’d be happy to help.
In Case You Missed It…
“Essential Work for Inessential Workers” by Mo Perry | Medium
“Print Unit Sales Rise Nearly 5% at the End of April” | Publishers Weekly
“Writer Bites with Harry Marks” | Steph Post
“There are No Shortcuts to Querying” by Jessica Faust | Bookends Literary
Terrific thread from DongWon Song about writing your book’s opening:
A section devoted to current submission opportunities without submission fees.
Moran Press — Stand-alone short fiction, dark literary, pandemic-themed | Deadline: Unclear
Little Something Press — flash memoir and fiction, poetry, visual art | Deadline: June 15th
Gold Man Review — Nonfiction, Poetry, and Fiction (only from residents of California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii | Deadline: June 3
Volney Road Review — poetry, short fiction, creative non-fiction | Deadline: August 1st
Three Crows Magazine — Short fiction; dark/weird fantasy, horror, and sci-fi | Deadline: Unclear
33 1/3 — Short books about music and COVID-19 | Deadline: July 1
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