As an indie author, having a website or blog is essential. It’s also the least expensive way to promote your book to the widest possible audience. In a 2009 book buying survey by Verso Digital (US), 58% of the 5,640 US respondents said they became aware of books online through search engine results. Author websites and blogs were the second most popular resource, with a respectable 30 percent.
To set up a website or blog, you will need to do two things:
- Get a domain name. You can purchase a custom name, or use a free domain extension (the latter is not recommended).
- Sign up with a hosting service, where your website will be “housed” and developed. It is possible to use free sites that have advertising on them.
You domain name will become the URL.
What is a URL?
The URL or web address is what people see in the search bar. For instance, my book cover design site is at https://bookcoverexpress.com. Since that’s a bit long, so simply saying bookcoverexpress.com will lead people to my site because today’s browsers will fill in the rest automatically, or people will use a search engine such as Google to find it with the name.
You can include it as an active link people can click on at the bottom of your e-mail, in the signature line. Make sure to include your website URL on your business card.
1. Your domain name / URL / web address
There are many companies that offer out-of-the-box packages where you can choose your domain name, or use a free subdomain name (a longer domain name that includes the name of the company hosting the site). The latter is not a good idea. The names are often quite long and difficult to remember. Having your own domain name also looks more professional.
Cost: Free – US $15/year
What to watch for: Special introductory fees. Sometimes domain names are free with a hosting package, or .99 cents, but, the price can go up quite high when you need to renew them. Make sure you check what the fee will be to renew the services after the introductory offer expires.
Where I buy my domains:
- JC-Hosting.net. I’ve been with this company for more than a decade, and in the interest of full disclosure, it is also the company that I work with through BookCoverExpress.com to create client websites, unless the client requests another service.
- enom.com (I have several domains purchased through them).
- WordPress.com (if you’re using WordPress as your web host, this saves you a step). I have purchased domains through them).
This is very important and possibly the only real money I strongly recommend you invest. But, you don’t have to spend any money. You can set up a website completely free of charge with a subdomain, and having a site with sponsor ads (which often tell readers it’s a free site), which I’ll describe shortly.
Having your own domain name gives you a “web address” and a level of perceived professionalism. It’s also a great marketing tool. If you’re talking to someone, simply tell them, “yes, I wrote a book. Visit my website at sellyourbookbetter.com.” (Of course, you’ll use your own URL). Having people visit your site, as opposed to searching directly on Amazon for the book, means that you can sell more than one book, and let readers know about upcoming books. And it also means you can sell books directly off your website, if you choose to manage your own e-commerce transactions to process payments.
2. Hosting your website and blog
You’ll be able to direct readers from your website to your Amazon sales page to buy your book. You’ll also be able to advertise your book before it’s available for sale, and even accept pre-publishing orders if you are savvy enough or hire someone to set that process up on your page. Some services, particularly free ones, will not allow you to sell directly from your website (but you can still send people to your Amazon page with a link to make the purchase), so check that out beforehand, if that’s what you want to do.
This short list of hosting services offer various features, but if you just need a site so people can find your book, contact you, and click through to your Amazon sale’s page, any of them will be fine. Site hosting services I have used (and some I still use):
Jc-Hosting.net: US $35/year – US $97.99/year
This is the host I use for my main sites. I like it because it’s privately owned and there’s excellent customer service. And they’ll be rolling out a new and awesome author-centered site soon.
Google sites: free
Google sites are free. The URLs are long though and it doesn’t look professional. I set up a quick site on Google sites and this is the URL: https://sites.google.com/view/bookcoverdesigner/home. Not easy to remember. Easy site to make, though. And remember, you can purchase a domain name and “point” it to this free site, which will mean the URL will simply read www.yourdomainnamehere.com.
If you want to explore this option, go here: https://www.google.com/business/how-it-works/website
You can also avoid the long Google site URL by purchasing your own domain name and using that. The instructions to do so are here: https://support.google.com/sites/answer/9068867
WordPress.com: free – US $399/year
You can also go to WordPress.com and set up your site directly on their servers. This is an attractive option for beginners. The free option contains ads.
WordPress is a free platform that you can use with almost any website host. I used the WordPress platform for BookCoverExpress.com hosted on JC-Hosting.net. Installing it is not super hard, but there is a learning curve and you do have to have some understanding of backend mechanics for websites. You can pay to have it installed with another hosting service, on their servers, and it’s usually a nominal fee. Then you can log in and build your WordPress site.
Wix.com: free – US $300/year
The free option is heavy with ads, but there are many paid plans to choose from that are quite affordable.
PC Magazine rated this the best service in July 2018.
GoDaddy.com US $72/year – US$240/year*
One of the most popular web hosting companies available. They often offer introductory prices, but the renewal will go back to the regular price. You can buy your domain name through them. The first year will be very inexpensive, with some deals as low as .99 cents, but that will go up to about US $10 for renewal.
*It’s impossible to give exact US prices as they would not allow me to view anything except the Canadian prices.