The author’s guide to building a kick-ass website in under an hour.

So you’re an author, and you don’t have a website. “Hey Liv, why do I need a website anyway? Isn’t that what Amazon’s for?”

No.

It’s so important as an author for you to have your own website, and why wouldn’t you? After all, the domain costs like $15 a year, and you can get hosting through the link I’m posting below for under $6 a month. So for under $90 a year you can look like a pro, have a bigger online presence, and give your readers a great spot to come and find all the info on your latest releases.

Not to mention, you should already be buying the domain name for your mailing list (having john@johndoe.com as your reply-to email for your mailing list will get you a much better inbox delivery rate than using johndoe@gmail.com), so really the only extra expense you’re paying for is the hosting.

Plus, it’s easy. I promise. Just follow the instructions below, it doesn’t take long.

“Alright Liv, you’ve convinced me, as always, because you’re amazing and you know everything. So how do I get started?”

First of all, you need to buy a domain name and hosting.

I always buy my domains from name.com. It’s not like they’re super amazing or anything, but I just started buying my domains from them and I like having them all in one spot. I’ve also heard really good things about namecheap.com.

If you’re really on a budget, you can also skip straight to the web hosting part of this tutorial. When you sign up for Dreamhost, they include free domain registration for the first year. I like to keep my domain registrations and hosting separate, but there’s honestly no reason why you shouldn’t take advantage of Dreamhost’s offer.

Now, when you’re on the main site, you want to choose your author website name. The number one, 100% best name to get is authorname.com

Always buy a .com domain. Even if the .com is taken but .net is available, don’t. People are so used to typing .com now that they’re not going to remember that your website is a .net.

If johndoe.com is taken, try johndoeauthor.com. Or authorjohndoe.com

At least one of those three should be available. Click “Add to Cart” and then go to checkout.

Now, when you’re in your cart on name.com, you’ll notice that whois privacy has been added for $3.99. DO NOT TURN THIS OFF. You absolutely want whois privacy on all your domains, it hides the information of the person who registered the domain from the public. Basically, if you don’t have whois protection, anybody with an internet connection can look up your real name and address.

However there’s no reason to pay $3.99 for this. So click the button for Promo Code, and in the window that appears enter ‘PRIVACYPLEASE’ and name.com will give you the whois protection for free.

Then enter your payment info, and buy your domain.

When you’ve bought your domain, you should be taken to your dashboard, which looks something like this:

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Click on the domain that you just bought (ie. johndoe.com)

On the screen that opens, you want to click on “Nameservers”, the third menu option down the left hand side. Your screen should now look something like this:

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Click that “Delete All” button above the nameservers, then “Apply Changes”.

Next, in the “Add Nameserver” box, you want to write ns1.dreamhost.com. Then click “Add”. Then, in that same box, write “ns2.dreamhost.com”. Click “Add” again. Click “Apply Changes” again. Now, the screen should look something like this:

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Congratulations, your domain is now completely set up!

Now, let’s set up your hosting.

Dreamhost is the host I use, and I’ve been with them since approximately forever (2007 kind of feels like forever ago), since long before I got into self publishing. They’ve always been awesome to me. You can pay with PayPal or credit card, their customer service is top notch, and I’ve rarely ever had any downtime with them.

Click here to sign up and get $50 off your first year’s hosting with Dreamhost.

You need to use my link to get the $50 off, otherwise you’ll be paying the normal, full price. It is an affiliate link, but if I just linked to the normal Dreamhost site, you wouldn’t be getting the discount. I’m not recommending Dreamhost for the affiliate commissions, I’m recommending them because they are amazing.

Start off by creating your account with a username and password. Then, you’ll get to the domain page. If you have already bought your domain, enter it in the box, and select “I already own this domain” from the radio buttons below. If not, enter the domain name you want to buy.

Always buy a .com domain. Even if the .com is taken but .net is available, don’t. People are so used to typing .com now that they’re not going to remember that your website is a .net.

If johndoe.com is taken, try johndoeauthor.com. Or authorjohndoe.com

Your screen should look something like this:

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Then click continue. On the next page, you’ll be given three different plan options to choose from. Select the middle option (one year at $50 off). You can choose three years if you want, up to you. If you can afford the money right off the bat, it’s some good savings, but if you’re just starting out I’d go with the one year option. Then click continue once again.

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The next page will ask you if you want to set up a MySQL VPS. Leave the box unchecked (for ‘no’), and click continue.

Finally, the last page will ask for your payment info. Once you’ve entered it and paid, congratulations, you are all set up to build your website!

Let’s get this website rolling!

Now, when you log into your Dreamhost dashboard, you’ll see this menu on the left hand side:

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The two options that I’ve underlined in red are the only ones you’re going to need to worry about to build your site. First, start off by clicking “domains”, then click the first option, “manage domain” from the expanded menu.

Click the “add hosting to a domain/subdomain” option that pops up. If you registered your domain through Dreamhost I’m not 100% sure if you have to do this step. If you opened the page in “Manage domains” and saw the domain you purchased already listed, you can skip this step.

Now, fill in the info on the page listed. It looks like a lot, but there are only two things you need to fill out: your domain name, and the domain username. Everything else can be left as is. I’ve added a picture showing you what parts to fill out below.

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Then when you’ve done that, scroll past everything else until you reach the captcha. Fill it out and click “fully host this domain”.

Now we’re going to install WordPress

WordPress is basically a content management system that makes it SUPER easy for authors to set up really awesome looking web pages quickly.

Remember this menu, on the left hand side?

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Now, you’re going to click on “Goodies”. Then below that, “One click Installs” (the second option down).

Click on WordPress.

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The only thing you need to do in the window that pops up is choose your domain from the first drop down box (the one underlined in red in the photo below) and press “Install for me now”

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Now, this is the most time consuming part of the process. If you registered your domain through Dreamhost, you only have to wait about ten minutes before you get an email telling you how to set up your site. If you registered through another registrar and had to change the nameservers, you’ll have to wait a few hours for the information to propagate. Basically, when you get the email from Dreamhost, try clicking the link in it every hour or so until your website loads. I find it usually takes 3-4 hours.

When you get the email, this is what it will look like:

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You only really need to worry about numbers 1 and 4. Click on the link under number 1 to create your admin user. Choose your language first, then click continue. Fill out the information it asks for, then click install wordpress at the bottom.

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Once you’ve done that, follow the prompts to log in, and log in with the username and password you’ve just chosen.

Congratulations, you now have a website! If you go to yourwebsite.com, you’ll see something that looks like this. Now we just need to customize it and make it yours.

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Customize WordPress to make it awesome and your own.

The very first thing I always choose when I start a new WordPress site is a theme. There are literally millions of themes out there. Some are free, some are paid. Here’s a list of a few free themes that I think would work pretty well for authors:

Grid

Digest

Hitchcock

Pine

Portfolio

GK Portfolio

Now, you can use any of these themes, or any others. Have a look at what you can find on Google, and if you find a theme you like, go for it! For this example, though, I’ll be going through how to customize Grid, the first theme on my list. Begin by downloading your theme from the website, in .zip format. Don’t bother unpacking the files, just leave them in .zip. Grid has a free and a paid version, I’m just using the free version.

First, on the menu on the left hand side, go to Appearance -> Themes.

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Click on “Add New” at the top.

Now click on “Upload Theme” at the top.

In the box that pops up, choose the Grid zip file you downloaded, and click Install Now.

When the file successfully installs, click “Activate”

Now, if you go to your website, it’ll probably look pretty empty. Time to fix that! We’re going to add your books.

From the left side menu, click on “Posts”.

There will be one post listed, titled “Hello World”. Mouse over the name, and a few options will show up. Click on “edit”.

Now, we’re going to put your books here. If you have more than one book, start with your oldest. In the title, I usually put New Release: [book name]

Then in the description, I put the blurb, and links to buy the book.

Now, before you hit publish, though, you need to add your cover as the “featured image”. On the right hand side are a whole bunch of option. Publish, Categories, Tags, etc. The very bottom one is called “Featured Image”. Click “Set featured image”. Go to “upload image” and choose your file. Upload it, then in the bottom right corner choose “set featured image”. If you’ve done it right, your cover will appear in the “Featured Image” box on the main part of the screen. This is what your page should look like when you’re done.

(if you want to see the full-size version: http://i.imgur.com/OqJvZ6d.png )

Now on the right hand side, click the “update” button. If you visit your website now, you’ll see your book’s information:

How cool is that?

If you have more books, you can go to Posts -> Add New and repeat the same process until you’ve added all your posts to your website. Remember to go oldest book to newest book, so that your latest release will always be the first thing people see.

Here’s what your homepage will look like with a few books added to it:

Now that your books are up, let’s make an “About the Author” page.

On the menu on the left, click on “Pages”.

Mouse over the one that says “Sample Page” and click “Edit”. Change it to “About Me” (or whatever you want to call it!) and add in whatever text or images you want. Then, click update on the right hand side.

Now we’re going to change the logo. With this theme, the logo has to be 800 x 200 pixels. Either make your own logo if you have the skills to do it, or hire someone on Fiverr to do it for you.

On the left hand menu, mouse over “Appearance” and go to “Grid Settings”. The first option you have is to add your own custom logo. Click the “upload your logo” button just under the option. Select your logo file. When it’s uploaded, a thin white strip will appear under where you selected your file. On the far right of the white strip it will say “edit”. Click on that. In the new tab that opens, on the far right is a box titled “save”. In that box is a line called “File URL.” Copy the link in that box, and paste it into the “custom logo URL” box in your Grid Settings tab. Then click “save changes” and go have a look at what your site looks like now!

Pretty cool, huh?

I’m really not sure why the “About Me” shows up twice on the top of the page. Honestly, I might not have picked this theme if I knew that it was going to do that ahead of time, it might be a bit of a screw up in the coding, who knows.

But regardless, I now have a fully functional website showing off all of my books!

Now, just a couple more details to deal with before we’re finished.

First of all, hover over “Posts” on the left hand menu and click on “Categories”. Mouse over “Uncategorized” on the right hand side where the existing categories are, and click “Quick Edit”. Change the name to “New Releases” and the slug to “new-releases” and click update.

Then, mouse over “Settings” and go to “Permalinks”. Make sure the radio button is set to “Post Name” and click “Update”.

And lastly, mouse over “Appearance” and choose “Widgets”. Everything under “Sidebar” on the right is what will show up on the sidebar when people click on your books. You can click and drag different widgets to and from the sidebar. I personally recommend the following:

  • Search
  • Recent Posts (when it’s in the sidebar, click to expand it and change the title to “latest releases” or something similar)
  • Categories
  • Text

In the text box I like to put a button to Like my Facebook page. You can get the code you need to put in the text box by clicking here.

From here, please feel free to have fun with your site! This is just the absolute basics. If you’re so inclined you can add more pages to your site. Go nuts with it, have fun. You’ve just created a website from scratch, and I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty awesome. And I bet it wasn’t nearly as hard as you thought it was going to be.

 

About the author

Liv

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