Indie author's website guide title image

Indie author’s guide to building a website

In one of my earlier posts, I wrote about the importance of blogging for new authors.

In this post I am going to share with you, 3 different tools using which you can build your own, branded, Indie Author Website.

Similar to every other subject, the world of authors too, is divided – to have or not to have a website. We are not debating the opinions here today.

And when we know that some of the most successful indie authors have one and recommend others to have one, there is little room for debate.

Yes, you need a website. And a good one at that. Especially if you’ve chosen the self-publishing route to stardom.

I know that many authors, indie or not, especially the first-timers are not very enthused at the idea of a website. Even if they do have one, the website sadly resembles an afterthought.

Most authors are put off by the thought of the effort involved or the money involved hiring a web designer.

Good reasons, but not valid if you ask me. There are scores of inexpensive alternatives available to build an author website with ease, you no longer need remain web-challenged. If you can use a computer and MS Word, you can pull off a beautiful indie author website for yourself.

There are a gazillion choices out there. For simplicity and based on our experience,  I am showcasing three.

I feel these website builder tools are best suited for indie authors at different levels of enthusiasm to handle technology.

1. WordPress.com – just get started…

I am sure you have heard the name. You probably already have your blog running on one. If not, wordpress is the  most trusted names in the world of websites.

However, many don’t know that wordpress comes in two different flavors and here I am talking about the first one.

WordPress.com is your goto tool if handling technology is the last thing on your mind. It is the ideal solution for indie authors who wish to have a professional looking website while keeping the innards of technology at bay.

You get a free version, that’ll include the wordpress subdomain. Meaning your website or blog address will be (https://yourwebsitename.wordpress.com).

Or you can go for the paid plan, where you get to strip the wordpress domain and have a web address like (https://yourname.com). I guess this wasn’t the case few years back.

I suggest you go for the paid one – mainly because you get to have your own brand in the web address and I think that is the way it should be from day one.

Among the three paid options available, I think the ‘Personal’ plan would suit an indie author, the best.

Under the ‘Personal’ plan you get 6 GB of storage, hundreds of mobile-ready, free and cool themes to choose from, basic customization, beginner tutorials and help files but most importantly email and live chat support. For a start, this is a really good alternative.

Signing up for wordpress.com is like outsourcing almost everything related to website hosting and management to the guys who built wordpress.

But there are a few downsides to this too. As an indie author you may want your website with more flexibility and control to design the user experience to your liking or make it stand out among others.

WordPress.com does have an inbuilt customizer but with basic design customization under the ‘Personal’ plan. If you want more, you’ll need to upgrade.

Another limitation is that under the ‘Personal’ plan you don’t get to install and use plugin software. Plugins give you the ability to extend your website’s functionality or add new features.

This is a big let down for those looking for better flexibility and control over their website.

However, as we said earlier for a start this is a good alternative. If at a later date you choose to migrate to self-hosted wordpress.org you can do that for free and with with ease.

To get started, visit wordpress.com > select ‘See Plans’ > select ‘Personal’ and follow the step by step setup wizard.

2. Wix.com – wear the designer hat

You are someone who doesn’t enjoy going under the hood, but you like your tech. You don’t mind tinkering here and there and would like to give a personal touch to your website using your own creative ideas.

If this is you, than Wix.com is the ideal website builder for the indie author in you.

Wix, is a cloud-based website builder. It comes with an easy, drag and drop visual builder tool that allows tech noobs like you and me to create a beautiful, mobile-ready website with minimal effort.

Having said that, we do feel that some amount of web designing experience will come handy to the enthusiasts.

However, if you can pull off your website design (I know you will), you don’t need to worry about all the other ‘to dos’ required – such as domain name, website hosting, stock images, image editing etc to take your website live.

You get all this and more, right inside your wix dashboard.

This tool also offers hundreds of free themes to choose from, like the one here exclusively designed for an author website.

Moreover, the drag and drop DIY visual builder comes feature packed with all possible options that an indie author would need to build a website. Check out the comprehensive feature list here.

One last thing we wanted to mention is the ‘App Market’ available on the platform. Having a plain jane website is not much help and neither recommended.

The ‘Wix App Market’ is nothing but suite of plugin software developed exclusively for Wix users by Wix or third party developers.

Whether you need a contact form, or need a way to grow your mailing list, or social media icons for your fans to connect with you.

Using some of these tools will make your website reader friendly and give a professional touch to your website.

If you choose to go premium (which I think you should), you have four plans to choose from – eCommerce, Unlimited, Combo and Connect Domain.

For an indie author website, we think Combo plan is the one you need. Be sure to scroll down and read the FAQs before signing up.

One last thing, and the most important for you to note is, what if you change your mind at a later date and want to switch to platform such as WordPress?

I suggest you don’t and it means that you really think through before signing up.

However, for some unanticipated reason if you do end up in such a situation, you will need the help of a professional developer to get you through since it is just not that straightforward.

There are free plugins and guides available to help you but you’d rather spend your time writing then worry about migrating your website.

So there, if Wix is what appeals to you, go ahead and sign up that includes a 14-day money back guarantee.

3. WordPress.org – experience freedom

You are someone who won’t mind spending money hiring a pro designer or maybe you are a tech nerd. Yes? Then wordpress.org is the best alternative out there for your website.

Fabstori.com too is self-hosted on wordpress.org for the flexibility and control it offers.

There are no limits to what all you can do to make your  website look beautiful, reader and mobile-friendly.

But all this comes at a price. What does that mean?

It means, you’ll need to pay a website hosting provider to host your website. Most hosting companies include free domain names and other features in their basic plans.

Finally if you’re not up for the designing effort – pay for hiring a pro designer to do it for you.

So what makes wordpress.org the best alternative for this group?

First, you get to choose from thousands of free and paid themes for your website. I mean there is no limit to the number of options available for you to choose from. Here’s one such showcasing 29 author centric wordpress themes.

Like Wix.com, many themes, mainly paid ones on wordpress.org come with an in-built page builder like this one here from Elegant Themes that can help you design your pages in minutes.

Second, you are free to choose your own website hosting provider. We use bluehost for this site but there are hundreds of them out there. Just google and you’ll be overwhelmed at the available choices.

Third, flexibility and control while customizing the user experience of the website for your readers.

You’ll recall how inability to use plugins restricts flexibility and control of your website under WordPress.com.

This drawback is addressed in the self-hosted wordpress site since you get a free rein with thousands of plugins – free and premium to use on your website.

Most likely, you won’t need a lot of them but using a few of them, will definitely help you give a personal touch to your website.

And you get the full customizer to fingerprint various elements of your website, depending on the theme you choose to use.

For those who don’t have a tech or web design background need not feel let down. Don’t be intimidated by effort of designing your own website. If we could pull it off, so can you.

Yes, there is a learning curve but you can enroll for courses on sites such as Udemy.com and learn to design a wordpress website in no time.

If you are not up to the effort, just reach out to a geek friend from within your LinkedIn network or hire a wordpress designer from freelance platform such as Upwork.

Conclusion

I hope the article has answered questions you have, cleared confusion, and help you make a choice that best suits your liking and comfort. Your choices are not limited to these three – there are many more out there.

Here’s a good, detailed review of 10 website builders you will find useful before taking out your credit card. Surprisingly doesn’t include WordPress though.

But before putting in the money do your research, talk to people, ask us if you still have questions.

And if you already have one on a different platform, do share your experience below for the newbies to learn from.

Whatever you decide, don’t ponder over it for weeks – make it quick and get started. There are bigger battles to be fought as an indie author.

Good luck.

Author: Jabal Shah

Accidentally ending up in digital publishing while helping his wife publish her book, he now spends his waking hours learning and blogging ideas on book publishing and marketing strategies, digital tools and web 2.0 to help authors including himself find success with self-publishing.

Jabal Shah

Accidentally ending up in digital publishing while helping his wife publish her book, he now spends his waking hours learning and blogging ideas on book publishing and marketing strategies, digital tools and web 2.0 to help authors including himself find success with self-publishing.

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