How To Build Your Own Self-Hosted Author Website In Under 30 Minutes

Your website is one of the most important things to get sorted if you’re taking your career as an author seriously.

set up your author websiteIt’s your home on the internet and the hub for your books.

It’s how readers, agents, publishers, journalists, bloggers and podcasters judge how professional you are.

It’s where you can start to build an email list of readers.

A free site is not good enough if you want to take your author career onwards and upwards.

But your own site doesn’t have to be a big deal. It’s not expensive and it won’t take long to set up.

In this video, I take you through why having your own site is important, how to get a hosting account and set up your wordpress site, as well as using an example theme and how to start your email list.

You can watch the video below or here on YouTube. There are also step-by-step notes after the video.

[Please note: The links in the text and the video are affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage of the sale but at no extra cost to you. With the hosting, you even get a discount if you use my link. I hope you find the video tutorial useful enough that you will consider using my links so I can continue to provide free information. Thank you!]

How to set up your own author website video

Step by step guide to setting up your own author website

Follow this step-by-step guide and you’ll have your own author site set up in no time :)

(1) Why go self-hosted? [1:40 on video]

Plenty of authors use free websites. There are a lot of choices and you don’t pay a thing. But here’s why I believe you should successhave a self-hosted site.

  • Control. If you own your site, no one can take it away from you. Free sites are built on the goodwill (and marketing) of companies who own the real estate from which you are promoting yourself and your books. What if that company decides not to continue the service anymore? Also, if you’re an indie author, you understand that control of our own assets is one of the reasons we’re indie in the first place. So why wouldn’t you want control of your own site?
  • More functionality. If you use a free website service, you don’t have access to all the cool functionality you would if you self-hosted. For WordPress sites, this means you get to use awesome plugins which enable you to do so much more than the free sites.
  • More professional. Just as a book IS judged by its cover, so are you judged by your website. Readers, agents, publishers, journalists, TV producers, bloggers and podcasters will all visit your website – and they can tell a free site instantly. How seriously do you take this author career if you don’t invest in a pro looking site?

The good news: It doesn’t have to cost you much anymore to have a professional looking website that you control with all the functionality you need. Let’s get into it!

(2) Get a domain name and a hosting account [4:01 on video]

A domain is your address on the internet – usually your author name or business name e.g. or You can get domain names at lots of places (I use but you can also use the hosting site as I go through below as part of the setup which is the super easy option.

Hosting is basically a way to store and run your website on the computers of a specialized hosting company. You essentially rent space so people can access your website from all over the world.

bluehostThere are lots of options for hosting but I recommend Bluehost for my author clients and I’ve even built my parents’ sites on it, so I can vouch for it personally.

Why choose Bluehost? [5:14 on video]

  • Great 24×7 support by email, online chat or phone
  • Reliability – up time average of 99.9%
  • Ease of use – so no tech headaches
  • WordPress officially recommends 3 services and BlueHost is one of them
  • No limits – unlimited disk space, bandwidth, domains, email accounts – so your site can grow
  • Affordability – a few $ a month depending on which plan you pick – and you can get a discount off the advertised price through the link I share in a minute
  • Plus 30 day money back guarantee, so if you change your mind, no worries.

How to set up your account on Bluehost, claim your domain and install WordPress [7:44 on video]

Click here to go to the Bluehost site, so you can get your reduced hosting plan.

bluehost1The first page will give you an option – either you have a domain or you need to get one. In my example client setup, I chose to get the domain from Bluehost.

Then set up an account. It doesn’t matter which country you’re in.

Next, choose your account plan. The page will show a reduction if you use my bluehost plansaffiliate link, I recommend the Plus plan, mainly because you are likely to want to build other sites and have a scalable account. But of course, you can start small and upgrade later. Once you choose the plan, you will need to enter your payment details.

If it all goes through, you’ll get a confirmation email saying your account has been created and your domain has been assigned if you bought one through the site. You can now set up a password for your account on Bluehost. This is your administration password so keep it secure.

install wordpressNow you can install WordPress software and Bluehost makes this super easy. You will either get a pop-up which says Install WordPress or you can click the icon on the Control Panel. Seriously, you just click the button :)

Once it is installed, you will be given your login details. Keep this safe as it is the Administration access to your new website.

bubblyCongratulations! You now have an author website! [15:37 on video]

But it’s not exactly functional yet as you need to add content and also install a Theme.

The Theme is basically the design, the look and feel, or the ‘skin’ of the site. What’s brilliant about WordPress is that you can change the Theme over time, but the content remains. I’ve changed Themes four times on The Creative Penn in 6 years and it’s a perfectly normal part of developing your online presence on the internet.

This is also why I don’t recommend paying someone thousands to set up a custom design, because inevitably you will change it anyway!

You can get a Premium theme with SEO (search engine optimization) and Mobile compatibility for under US$100 and you’ll get a guide on how to configure your own site.

[If you’re scared of techy stuff, I would really urge you to give this a go. It is incredibly empowering to get to grips with your own website and it will save you a LOT of money and time going forward.]

studiopressI use and recommend StudioPress.[18:26 on video]

I use the Author Pro theme for and Beautiful Pro for But there are tons to choose from – just search WordPress themes and you will come up with many :)

My suggestion is to spend an hour looking and then make a decision. Don’t let this lead to procrastination! You will likely change it anyway, so just make a decision and get building.

But whatever Theme you choose, you download it as a .zip file onto your computer and then go to Appearance -> Themes on your WordPress dashboard and upload it. Activate the Theme and then you will need to customize it. Each Theme comes with a guide for how to make it look like you want it to.

I spent 34 minutes doing a demo on the video, which included book cover design for my example client!

Then you add your information to the site. Here’s a quick overview (and in the video at 23:34 mins, I take you on a whizz-around my sites!)

Pages are the static pages like About, Contact and your Book pages. Posts are used if you are blogging or podcasting, but that isn’t necessary for authors. It’s only if you want to produce regular content. Widgets are used for the front page, sidebars, top and bottom area and are important for the extra links you want to show. Plugins are extra little add-ons that let you do cool stuff e.g. add social share buttons.

wp101For more WordPress tutorials, I recommend, which will guide you through everything you need to know.

Or you can just muddle through with trial and error, as I did, and still do to some extent! As long as you’re happy to play around and you back your site up (Tools -> Backup), you’ll be fine.

Book Marketing: Start building your email list [30:01 on video]

One of the most important things you can do to market your book is collect emails from people who might be interested in buying it.

You can start this as soon as you have a website, or if your book is available already, you can start now as well. It’s like that old saying about ‘when’s the best time to plant a tree?’ It’s years ago, or it’s today. Every day you wait is another day that goes by when you’re not collecting interested people’s email!

Not starting an email list early is one of the top things that people regret, so definitely put it on your list!

aweberThere are two services that most authors use: I use and recommend Aweber. You can also use Mailchimp. Either is fine.

Each site will enable you to create a form on your website by copying and pasting some code. (It’s easier than it sounds and there are plenty of tutorials at either free stuffsite.) Then you can start collecting emails.

Just having a simple form on your site is a good start, but if you want to really build your list, you will need something that makes people want to sign up.

I use a free thriller on and the Author 2.0 Blueprint on

For your freebie, it needs to be some useful or inspirational for non-fiction and entertaining for fiction.

There are lots of options, but there are definitely ways to supercharge your email list signups.

10K readersI recommend watching the free video training series from Nick Stephenson on building your first 10,000 readers.

You can also read a case study here of how I used Nick’s tips to massively increase my own email list.

So there you are.

You now have your own author website with a professional looking Theme and you can start capturing emails of interested readers.

Happy creating!

Combating Platform Fatigue And Thinking Long Term For Your Writing Career With Dan Blank

In today’s podcast, Dan Blank and I have a candid discussion on the latest developments in publishing, as well as how to combat platform fatigue.

kobo writing lifeIn the intro, I talk about my trip to India and my 2 year anniversary as a full-time author-entrepreneur. I also mention the opportunity of using PubMatch through the Alliance of Independent Authors for foreign rights, as well as my speaking engagements. We also have a message from podcast sponsors Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system.

dan blankDan Blank is a professional speaker and consultant to the publishing industry. He teaches authors how to grow their platform and target readers through his online articles, courses and conference. You can watch the interview on YouTube here, or listen in the podcast stream or on iTunes.

  • How Dan got started in the creative space, how he got into the publishing business, and how all that has collided now into his business, We Grow Media where he works with writers and the publishing industry.
  • If the author is the source, and the reader is the destination, what role does the middleman play? We discuss the changing structure of the publishing world.
  • Authors are experiencing a fatigue around “platform.” Dan explains his definition of platform – communicating effectively with the people you want to reach and engender trust in the process. He talks about how to reframe platform and refocus on goals. We discuss trust and authenticity, and the fundamental principles around platform, rather than the technology and the ‘latest’ headlines that can distract.
  • Getting some perspective and thinking long term. Embracing patience and consistency for the long-term. The importance of relationships that you forge in real-life or cyber-space.
  • How the stigma of publishing has pretty much disappeared in the US. On foreign markets and other opportunities.

we grow media conferenceDan’s running an online conference for authors, Get Read, on Nov 13-14, 2013, focused on helping you ensure your books get read.

He also has articles and video for authors at

Find him on twitter @danblank


Divide and Conquer: Building an Author Platform by Proxy

The author platform continues to be controversial, and most authors want to devote their time to writing.

Zen BalanceBut if you’re lucky enough to have a partner invested in your success, you might be able to work as a team. Guest blogger Kristin Morin shares how she helps her husband with his book marketing.

Options for Building an Author Platform

Spend any reasonable amount of time learning about the current publishing atmosphere, and you’re going to quickly learn the importance of having an author platform. Most of the time, you hear 3 different options:

  1. Don’t do it, and miss out on that all-important connection with your readers
  2. Do it yourself, and devote a substantial amount of time that you cannot spend writing
  3. Hire someone to do it, and not only invest money, but sacrifice some amount of authenticity

However, if you have a close friend or loved one who works on the web, and is already familiar with websites, blogging, and social media, you might actually have another option:

Divide and conquer, by bringing a trusted partner into the process

As the wife of an aspiring author, I have a vested interest in the success of my husband’s book, especially because he eventually wants to make the shift from daytime mechanical engineer to full-time writer. Since he finished the first draft of his first novel a year ago, I’ve immersed myself in all the material I can about publishing, self-publishing, and building an author platform, so that I can support him however possible.

Finding the Balance

I know it’s important for authors to create genuine connections with fans, and show the world who they are, but I also know that there are certain things that I can do for him, given my 13+ years of experience in web design and development.

There are some things I’ll never be able to do for him, or we’ll risk potential fans connecting with me, and not really getting to know the person behind the stories.

So where’s the balance? How can the promotional and platform efforts be divided up so that everyone’s talents are maximized, but your true self as an author and a person still shows through?

Step 1: The Conversation

It all begins with a conversation. Similar to the planning you need to go through to decide on your personal brand, you’re friend or loved one needs to know what your goals are as an author, and what personality you want conveyed to the world. Chances are this person knows you well enough to know your personality, so mostly this conversation is about what parts of your personality to focus on.

My husband’s personality includes a fascination with how things are made and a meticulous attention to measurements that come along with his years as a mechanical engineer. However, it also includes a quirky sense of humor with a particular affinity for bad puns. It also includes a fanciful yet geeky streak from his days of Dungeons & Dragons as a teen. Since his book is an epic fantasy novel with quirky humor throughout, we know that these last two are things we want to focus on, yet we can downplay the first.

Step 2: Dividing the Effort

So what do you, the author, still need to do, once you’ve collaborated on your goals, and decided on the personality of your author platform?

The line really gets drawn at where authenticity needs to be 100% vs. where someone else’s knowledge of your personality can be “good enough”. So the better your partner knows you, the more that person can take on for you.

Your partner should be able to have a pretty good idea of things like:

  • who to follow on Twitter
  • what to retweet (and how to comment on it)
  • what to “Like” on Facebook
  • what book-related announcements need to go on the website
  • what type of website needs to be created for the book
  • which sorts of forums to sign up for
  • what content is worth commenting on and sharing
  • what LinkedIn groups to join
  • which blog topics to write

However, the more active components of the platform will always need your direct involvement.

The author should always be involved with some aspects of marketing

You should always have at least some involvement in things like:

  • writing blog posts
  • creating new quips / quotes for Twitter
  • crafting the actual comments or forum responses
  • engaging in live chats with readers
  • responding directly to reader questions

I don’t respond directly to any reader without my husband crafting the response himself. I may do the actual posting, but they’re his words.

I also have him send me any quirky links that he finds on the internet, along with his (often snarky) commentary on them, which I use to craft tweets by cutting down words, adding hash tags, and giving attribution to the creator’s Twitter handle.

He plays an online version of Bloodbowl, a game that resembles football, where the characters are fantasy characters like Elves, Goblins, and Werewolves, and had the idea for him to set up a team named after his book with his characters as players.

So while he gets to maintain a hobby, he’s also promoting his book and connecting with target readers. I simply provided him with a special link to his website, rather than a normal one, so that we can track how many referrals to the book’s site came from the game.

So far, this is still an experiment, but one that seems to be working out well for us.

It seems to let us take advantage of our strengths, keep him making genuine connections with readers, and maximize the time he has available for the actual writing.

This approach could also work if author’s have the budget to outsource some of this type of marketing. Do you have any experience working with someone else for marketing your book? I’d love to hear your experiences, pros and cons. Please do leave a comment below.

firehurler morinKristin Morin is a thirteen-year veteran of the web industry. Having dabbled in everything from design to development to project management, she is currently focusing on user experience. When she is not working making the web easier for everyone, she is engaged in one or two of dozen ongoing side projects, her favorite of which is helping her husband prepare his first novel for publication. Firehurler, an epic fantasy novel, is the first of the Twinborn Trilogy by J.S. Morin, due for self-publication spring of 2013.

You can find Kristin on Twitter at @kristinba, and learn more about Firehurler at or by following @authorjsmorin.

Top image: Zen Balance by

Book Marketing: Are Authors Secret Agent Marketers?

 The Author Platform is one of the fundamentals of book marketing, yet so many authors are scared of what it actually means. Today guest blogger Matthew Turner, Turndog Millionaire, explains how success depends on finding the right balance between strategy and creativity.

secret bunker Ahhhh, an Author Platform, if there’s ever a marmite product in the writing world, it’s this (for those of you who don’t know what marmite is, its tagline is: love it or hate it. I personally detest the stuff, but that’s for another conversation).

In the good old days, writers were writers and all they had to do was write. They left marketing to marketers, publishing to publishers, and accounting to accountants. However, then Amazon came long and changed the rules. All of a sudden anyone could publish a book, which many did, and the market became very crowded.

So, unsurprisingly, creating a platform to stand out from the crowd became important, not just for those self-publishing, but authors in general.

All of a sudden Writers needed to be more than Writers.

They had to become the publisher, the marketer, and yes, even the accountant.

The Birth Of The Author Platform

Hence the Author Platform was born, and we now live in an age where some people embrace it and others don’t. Those who fight it confuse me, though, because writers are secret agent marketers. Why do I think this?

Well, in my opinion, the key to 21st century success is the balance between Strategic & Creative Thinking. Writers, for the most part, stride along this fine line every day. Let me explain:

–          Creating a novel requires structure. Even if you write scene to scene, you still need a strong idea of the overall plot. At some point you need to consider the bigger picture, and for a lot of writers this is the first thing you do. In the marketing world, this is considered Strategy.

–          Creating a novel also requires creativity. You have to create whole new worlds, situations, and people. Yeah, you might take inspiration from those around you, but you still have to create something from nothing. Do you know who else does this? The Creative team in marketing agencies.

–          Creating a novel also needs balance. You can’t simply have a story full of action with no background. Likewise, if all you ever did were provide a nice structure with no excitement, well, you would have a rather boring story. In general, people don’t read boring. So, a writer is good at creating Balance.

You’ve Been A Marketer All Along

Now do you see? It’s been in front of you all along. All those writers you come across, they’re secret marketers waiting for their chance to shine. The only thing keeping this secret locked away is the fear of change. The change of becoming something you never wanted to become.

I’ve read some great articles recently about embracing Author Platforms. People like Jane Friedman, Joel Friedlander, and David DiSalvo have all looked at the subject, and the common ground they discuss is how a lot of writers look at an Author Platform as something separate.

How in one corner you have writing and in the other your Author Platform. Concentrating on one means avoiding the other, but where did this notion come from?

A Modern World Needs Modern Folk

One reason I left my job to become a Strategic Marketing Consultant was because I came across so many marketing folk stuck in their ways. You were either Strategic or Creative, and god forbid if you tried to be both. Does this sound like anybody else?

The modern day marketer embraces the two sides, and I see the same thing happening in Publishing. You have those who fight and those who embrace it. Are you a modern day Author? Will you embrace change and showcase your true skills?

It’s Time To Embrace

I’m not asking you to like building an Author Platform; merely not to separate it from your Writing. All an Author Platform sets out to do is make you a success. Its entire purpose is to showcase you in front of thousands and sell lots of books. It isn’t fighting your writing, rather enhancing it.

It’s all part of the same cycle. Great Marketing will not help you sell a Crap Book. Just like a Great Book will not fulfill its potential if you don’t communicate it to the world.

You’re Already There

As a writer you’re a Secret Agent Marketer, I honestly believe this. You hold all the skills, and I’m guessing the only thing keeping you back is fear. There’s no reason to be afraid, though, and that’s why I wrote How To Build An Author House. I hope to create a platform writers can embrace. A set of guidelines that is not only easy to follow, but easy to structure around YOUR needs.

In the end of the day you make the rules. Base your Author Platform around the things you love to do, love to write about, and love to share. If you do this you’ll meet great people, be seen by thousands, and sell piles and piles of books.

Now, is that really so bad?

Do you embrace the idea of the Author Platform? If not, what’s stopping you from delving in?

About the Author

Matthew Turner Turndog MillionaireMatthew Turner (aka Turndog Millionaire) is a Strategic Marketing Consultant & Author of both Fiction & Non-Fiction. With a variety of services to help writers create an Author Platform, he strives to meet modern Authors with a passion to succeed in the modern world. His FREE Ebook Series, How To Build An Author House, focuses on this.

You can download it Here or Join his Mailing List for daily doses of Author Marketing Fun

Turndog Millionaire – @turndog_million

Image: Flickr CC / Marcmos



Write Lots Of Books Or Build An Author Platform. Which Is More Effective?

It seems there are two opposing camps in terms of author marketing.

On the one hand, there are  people who say “Just write a lot of books” and the books themselves will sell the other books and you don’t need to do any other marketing. The evidence for this can be seen in Amanda Hocking’s ebook sales numbers and other writers on JA Konrath’s (brilliant) blog who basically write and distribute ebooks but do little hardcore marketing. It looks like they all do something but don’t focus on it.

On the other hand, there is the “build your author platform” camp advocating blogging, social networking, speaking, podcasting, videos and more. Obviously all this marketing takes away from writing, so which should you focus on?

I try to be very careful on the blog to only talk about things I’ve done myself. I don’t have a huge back-list of novels ready to load up into the Kindle store, I’m not making thousands per month on ebook sales. I have built a reasonable author platform and I have enjoyed every minute of it, so clearly I sit in the second camp at the moment.

BUT/ Amanda Hocking’s sales numbers gave me pause so I thought we’d better discuss it here. Justine Musk also wrote a brilliant post over at Tribal Writer on the same topic.

Here’s my thinking on the matter but please leave a comment as to what you think at the bottom as this is a critical discussion point as we all have limited time.

What are your overall goals for your career as a writer?

I want to be able to define myself as an author, speaker and blogger and I want to help people. I’m also an entrepreneur and sell my speaking services as well as online products. I make the least amount of money from fiction ebooks and the most from other products and services (at the moment anyway). Therefore my author platform gives me more than just a sales platform for fiction.

I speak at least once a month and last year spoke at a writer’s retreat in Bali, all from my online presence. I couldn’t do those things if I just had books. So my overall goals involve having a platform to run my online business from. I’m also passionate about sharing what I have learned in order to save you time, money and heartache so I have an inner drive to get the message out there.

What do you enjoy spending time doing?

Writing and being a blogger can be a solitary profession and as much as I love being alone, I also enjoy the community we have online as bloggers and also on Twitter and Facebook. I enjoy connecting on Skype and making my podcast and videos. I love being part of a group and improving my blogging/online marketing skills as well as my writing. So my author platform also serves a personal development and social purpose that goes beyond selling books. Blogging has given me so much joy in the last few years that I would continue doing it if I won the lottery! Writing a novel is a totally different feeling altogether.

What do you think is more effective for author marketing? Writing lots of books or spending time building an author platform? Why do you do what you do?

Image: Flickr CC Mysore colours Wen Yan King