Monday 28 March 2016

Five Steps to Building Your Author Website

Over the last four weeks we’ve looked at why you need an author website and an email list, which form the basis of your platform. We've also undertaken some of the preparation in terms of deciding on genre, colours and fonts, and drafting some content. Now it’s time to pull it all together and start working on a website.

1. Get your photo redone

You know what genre you write, what “feel” your website should have, what colours you’re going to use. Now get an author photo that reflects that. No sunglasses (unless your novel is set on the French Riviera in the 1960’s and you’re going for the Jackie O look), and no selfies (unless you’re thirteen). A professional photographer is recommended, although I found a teenager with an iPhone can do a competent job.

2. Sign up for Canva’s Design School

The Canva Design School is a free 30-day challenge that will teach you the basics of design using the free Canva design tool, which will enable you to design your own blog graphics and memes. I’m a convert—mostly because of the design school.

But Canva isn’t the only free graphics program available. Others include BeFunky, PicMonkey and Pixlr.

3. Organise your social media profiles

Use Canva to design your perfect profile photo, cover photo and/or header for each of your social media outlets (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest). You may also want to develop a website logo (try 500 x 100 pixels). Then upload.

The beauty of using Canva you don’t need to know the perfect size: Canva has them as preset options. As a bonus, your Twitter header can also be used on your website.

Also remember other profiles, such as Amazon, Goodreads (and any other reader communities you’re a member of), and photos on websites you contribute to, such as group blogs. Get them all looking up-to-date, and consistent.

4. Develop your opt-in gift

This isn’t compulsory, but it’s current recommended best practice: to offer something to entice potential readers to sign up for your email newsletter (as discussed last week). You can design your opt-in gift in Canva, then save as a pdf file.

This could be:
  • The first novel in a series
  • The second novel in a series (e.g. if the first is already available as permafree)
  • An exclusive novel or novella
  • Some content related to your book (e.g. recipes)
  • Your 20 favourite Bible verses
  • Your 20 favourite inspirational quotes
  • A monthly giveaway of a novel in your genre
  • A free video training course

Note that you can’t give away any book currently enrolled in KDP Select.

What's my opt-in gift? I've got two

Feel free to check out one or both of my lists!

5. Sign up for Shannon's free WP-BFF 5-Day Website Challenge

This free video series takes you through loading and customising your own WordPress website click by click using the free Make theme. Her recommended approach does use two paid products:
  • The paid version of MailChimp to deliver the free opt-in gift, although you can continue to use the free version of MailChimp if you're not offering an opt-in gift. If you want to sign up for the paid version of MailChimp, use this affiliate link and we'll both get some Monkey Rewards. Or sign up via Shannon's website, so she gets the MonkeyRewards.
  • The Bloom plugin from Elegant Themes, for designing an opt-in form (also an affiliate link, or use Shannon's link if you prefer). If you don't want to go the paid route yet, SumoMe is a free alternative (although you'll have to work out how to use that one yourself!)
Yes, completing this challenge is going to take you longer than five days (it took me two weeks working about an hour a day on, but I got through more quickly because I had an idea of what I needed to do).

The challenge does assume a level of knowledge of Canva, so you might find it easy to complete the Canva 30-Day Design School first. However, completing this challenge will be quicker if you’ve taken the action steps outlined in over the last few weeks (as I found one of the most time-consuming elements was coming up with my colour branding and fonts). And at the end, you’ll have a ready-to-go website!

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website (, or follow me on Facebook (, Twitter (@IolaGoulton) or Pinterest (

Note on affiliate links: Using an affiliate link doesn't affect how much you pay, but it does mean if you use the affiliate link, I will receive some commission (or Shannon will, if you use her links). I'm only using links to products I use myself and recommend.


  1. Some wise counsel and practical tips, Iola. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  2. Thanks Iola,
    Have been wanting to update my wordpress site for some time. Do you think it's necessary to have both a blog and a website? Can I get away with just one or the other?

    1. Hi Kiah

      No, I don't think it's necessary to have a blog and a website - you'd only need both if they have a different focus. For example, I still have my book review blog as well as my editing website and an author website, because all three serve a different purpose (although in the longer term I'll stop the blog and move all those posts to one of the websites).

      If you do choose to have a blog, have it as a part of your normal Wordpress site - which is what I've done on my author site. You also need to commit to blogging at least once a week, for SEO purposes. I'm currently blogging twice a week. One is an original get-to-know-me post, and one is a review taken from my reviewing blog, so that's just cut-and-paste.

      But yes, as a fiction writer, you can get away with just a website. Most fiction writers who take this approach concentrate on building relationships with potential readers through their email newsletter, so building an email list is important if you're not going to blog.

      I hope that helps!

    2. This is a tremendous help, thanks.

  3. Hi Iola, (or anyone else), I was told (elsehwere) that Squarespace is probably the best way for me to put together my website. I am wondering you have any reflections/experience/comments about it? Thanks, Ruth.

    1. Ruth, I've just seen your comment.

      I haven't used SquareSpace, so can't really tell. My understanding is that it's a relatively simple drag-and-drop site, but doesn't have the breadth of functionality of WordPress. Of course, that breadth of functionality is what makes WordPress seem complicated for new users.


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