Step By Step Tutorial: How To Build Your Own Self-Hosted Author Website In 30 Minutes

Hello Creatives, I’m Joanna Penn, bestselling author of 25+ fiction and non-fiction books, podcaster and award-winning creative entrepreneur.

I currently write under three different author names, including one new pseudonym that I demonstrate in these tutorials.

I’ve built a multi-six-figure business off the back of my author websites, so I know how important your site and email list are. Whether you’re just starting out with your first book, or you want to improve your existing author platform, this tutorial should help you along the way.

There are three videos and accompanying cheatsheets in this series:

I’ll take it step by step and you can follow along, so even if you’re not confident with technology, you should find everything you need.

In this first tutorial, I’ll show you how to set up your own author website. Watch below or here on YouTube.

Sign up below to get your accompanying PDF cheatsheet

Why do you need an author website anyway?

Your website is one of the most important things to get sorted if you’re serious about your author career.

It’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.

[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. 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!]

Why go self-hosted? [02:03 mins on video]

Plenty of authors use free websites. There are a lot of choices and you don’t have to pay a thing. But here’s why I believe you should have 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 to discontinue the service? Also, if you’re an indie author, you understand that control of your assets is critical for long-term success. 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 do when you own the site. 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 you are judged by your online presence. 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 your author career if you don’t invest in a professional 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!

What is a domain name and what is hosting? [06:08 on video]

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

I’d recommend NOT using a book name as your main domain name, because inevitably, you will end up writing more books! Consider using your author name or something broad enough to cover growth over time.

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

There are lots of options for hosting but I recommend Bluehost for my author clients and I’ve even built my Dad’s site on it, so I can vouch for it personally. (Check out www.ArthurJPenn.com).

My affiliate link (if you choose to use it) is:

Why I recommend Bluehost [08:09 on video]

  • Great 24×7 support by email, online chat or phone
  • Reliability – up time average of 99.9%
  • Quick to set up and easy to use – no technical knowledge required
  • 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 (dependent on the plan you choose)
  • 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. [Please be sure to read the Terms and Conditions around payment so you are clear what you are agreeing to.]
  • 30 day money back guarantee, so if you change your mind, no worries.

Just to be clear, you are not locked into any domain service or hosting service forever.

You can move services later if your site grows, as I have done with TheCreativePenn which now gets over 500,000 unique visits a month, so I need a premium hosting plan. Most authors don’t need something so significant, so I recommend Bluehost as a starter option and you can scale later as needs be.

How to set up your account on Bluehost, claim your domain and install WordPress [09:37 on video]

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

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

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

Remember, if you need technical help at any time, then use the Chat or phone function to speak to Bluehost directly. As an introvert, I definitely prefer online chat 🙂

Next, choose your account plan.

The page will show a reduction if you use my affiliate link,TheCreativePenn.com/bluehost.

I recommend the plans with Unlimited websites, space, email accounts etc, mainly because you then have a scalable account.

They also have an option for a website with SSL, which is basically the HTTPS secure site functionality. This is necessary if you want to sell direct, but is unlikely to be needed straight away for most authors.

It’s always better to start small and upgrade later.

Once you choose the plan, you will need to enter your payment details.

[Note: Bluehost may change the names and prices of plans and what’s included, so please do check the details carefully. They will also offer you other associated products e.g. security layer, personalized email, and other things. I don’t think you need all the extras – again, start small and upgrade later if you want to. The costs in the demo are based on the basic package without the extras.]

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.

During the signup process, Bluehost will offer you WordPress themes to consider. By all means have a look, but I’ll also be showing you how to set up the theme I use, Author Pro, in the next video, so you don’t need to pick a theme now. You can always change that later.

Once you have been through this signup process, Bluehost will build your new site. During the period of setup, you will get a message as follows:

Basically, hang tight. Make a cup of tea, do some stretches and then come back to carry on with your setup 🙂 Bluehost are building your site for you so you don’t have to do any technical installation – cool!

You can always access your site and your account through the email that Bluehost sent you after signup.

Here’s what my account looks like.

You can log into your new site by clicking Log in to WordPress and you will be inside your new site.

If you have used WordPress before, then this will be familiar to you.

If it’s all new, don’t worry, I’ll show you more about how to set it up in the next video. Just follow along, and remember, we all learned how to write, so you can learn how to use your new website too!

Click Welcome -> Visit Site from the top left menu, and you will see your new site! I used EmmaJBenson.com as an example site.

Don’t worry about what it looks like for now. It’s an empty building waiting for you to fill it with your books and paint it with your favorite colors, which I will go through in the next video.

NOTE: Your site will have a Maintenance/Coming Soon notice on it until you activate it from your Bluehost account.

Go to Bluehost, then click My Sites. Click on the site you want to Manage. Click Settings. In the bottom left is a toggle, Coming Soon Page on my Site. Once you are ready for the world to see your website, click this to OFF.

CONGRATULATIONS! You now have your own author website!

This is an exciting step and it’s really only the beginning.

I set up my first WordPress site in 2008, and my third site, TheCreativePenn.com, became the backbone of my author business.

By owning your own site and using WordPress software, you can change your theme, grow and scale over time without worrying about expensive re-designs. Happy times!

In the next video, we’ll go through How to set up your website with the Author Pro theme. 

Just a reminder, there are three videos and accompanying cheatsheets in this series. Just click on the link for the tutorial you need below:

Happy creating!