You’re a new author, looking to set up a shiny new website to help launch your career into the stratosphere.
Or maybe you’re an existing author with no website, or with a shonky old website that you need to revamp.
The first thing you’ll need to decide before you can start building your new site is which website platform to use. And choosing can be tricky.
Do you go for the platform that makes things easy to start with? Or one that offers you more flexibility down the line? One that’s free, or one that you see as an investment in your future?
The questions you need to ask yourself will be different for every author. But I believe that there’s one platform that meets your needs whether you want something simple or complex, something free or that costs a bit more.
And that platform is WordPress.
OK, I’m biased. I’ve been developing with and writing about WordPress for years. But I wouldn’t have chosen to build a career around WordPress if I didn’t think it was an excellent platform.
So here’s why I think WordPress is the best platform for an author website.
My book WordPress For Writers is about creating an author website with WordPress. It doesn’t cover website builders, or blogging platforms, or any other way of creating a website.
I made that decision deliberately. Partly because if the book covered everything, it would be way too long, but mainly because I believe WordPress is easily the best platform for a professional author website.
I’m assuming that you want an author website because you want something that reflects well on you and your books. In other words, you want a professional website.
WordPress is the website platform used by over a quarter of the entire internet. It’s used by everyone from mom and pop operations to multinational conglomerates, because it’s flexible, robust, and great value for money.
Here are a number of reasons why I think WordPress rocks:
1. It’s Free or Very Cheap
The code underpinning WordPress is free, and always will be.
You might be rolling your eyes and saying, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before. Facebook told me that reaching my fans would be free, but now I have to pay to boost posts.
WordPress is different from Facebook.
Facebook is and always has been a for-profit business. WordPress is run by a nonprofit organization called the WordPress Foundation. Its code is developed by hundreds if not thousands of volunteers. Some of these people are paid for their time, yes, but they’re not paid by the WordPress Foundation. They’re paid by the companies that employ them, because these companies are built around WordPress and know that developing WordPress is good for their business.
This is a model called Open Source. WordPress isn’t the only software built on this model: if you want to find out more about it, check out this wikipedia article.
Now, in the real world, if you want a professional website you’re going to have to pay something. If your site is built on self-hosted WordPress, you’ll have to buy hosting. If you’re on WordPress.com and want advanced features, you’ll need to pay for a premium plan.
But neither of these will cost you a lot of money. Just a few dollars a month can get you a professional website with the flexibility to build on and grow as your writing career progresses.
2. It’s Popular
So what? you ask. I don’t want to follow the crowd.
But using software that’s popular gives you two advantages:
- It’s less likely to disappear.
- If you need help, there’s plenty available.
The WordPress support forums are packed with helpful people who are happy to answer your questions. There are thousands if not millions of articles on the internet which will answer your WordPress questions. And if you do need to hire a developer in the future, you’ll have no problem finding one.
Using the wold’s biggest content management system (CMS) gives you a degree of security that many other platforms can’t give you.
3. It’s On Your Turf
This third benefit only applies to self-hosted WordPress sites.
You may have heard it said that your author newsletter is important because it’s yours. Unlike your Facebook fans, or your twitter followers, it’s your list. You have access to the data, can use it to keep in touch with people, and can keep it even if your mailing list provider goes under.
A self-hosted WordPress site is similar. Unlike a site on a website builder like Wix or a blogging platform like Blogger, it’s yours. You own the code and all of the content. Sure, you’ll need to buy hosting space to host that code and content on, but your hosting provider has no rights to your website.
If your hosting provider should go out of business (or if you decide they aren’t good enough anymore), you can take all of your code and your content and move it to anther hosting provider (a good hosting provider will do all this for you when you move to them). If Wix disappeared and you decided to move to SquareSpace (i.e. from one website builder to another), you’d have to start again from scratch.
4. It’s Flexible
WordPress is by far the most flexible website platform. By installing plugins, you can add just about whatever you like to it.
Want a video streaming site? WordPress can do it.
Want to sell books in your own online store? No problem, and for free.
Want to add extra sections, for books, or events, or worlds, or anything?
Want to add maps, or quizzes, or slideshows?
Want to give up writing and turn your site into a hub for your favorite cat memes? WordPress has your back, you lucky thing.
WordPress can run anything from a one page site designed to just get mailing list signups, to a vast multimedia site with everything you could ever want to tell readers about your world building and characters. And you can add whatever you want as you go along, without deciding on all of it at the beginning.
Start small, and grow – if you need to.
And even better, you can do it all without spending any extra money.
5. It’s Robust
Some years ago, WordPress had a reputation for being insecure. This was mainly around one specific plugin that introduced vulnerabilities to the system, and that was by no means included with every WordPress site.
Since then, things have changed. WordPress is secure, it’s fast, it’s well coded, it’s accessible, it’s mobile-friendly (with the right theme), and it’s easy to back up.
If this weren’t the case, then news sites and government bodies wouldn’t use it. And they do.
WordPress is based on clean, well-written code that means your site will run faster, something Google loves. A fast site will boost your search engine rankings.
With the addition of some free plugins, you can make a self-hosted WordPress site more robust still, enhancing security, boosting speed, and making it easy to back up and restore your site with one click. With WordPress.com, this all comes out of the box.
As long as you keep your site up to date (which can be automated), you can have peace of mind.
6. It’s User-Friendly
Why have I left this till last?
Because it’s one of those myths about WordPress. It has a reputation for being unwieldy and hard to work with.
It’s a myth that’s sometimes spread by people who’ve worked with WordPress in a corporate environment; people whose employers probably have a highly customized site that may be less than intuitive. A site like this is worlds away from the kind of WordPress site an author needs.
With the right theme, you can get yourself set up with a gorgeous site using a drag-and-drop interface that’s just as easy as any website builder.
The new interface for writing posts is designed to be user-friendly and intuitive, with a full-screen mode that lets you focus on your writing, and blocks to help you add media and other types of content.
Installing and activating plugins is all done via the admin screens (no code required).
Now, I’m not going to say that WordPress is as intuitive as a website builder. But I believe that the trade-offs for that aren’t worth it. Website builders give you less flexibility, can run slower, aren’t as accessible for people with disabilities, and can be much, much more expensive.
WordPress For Writers will help you learn how WordPress works and get to grips with the admin screens. So you won’t have to struggle. With the book on your desk, and a few hours to explore, you’ll be like the millions of others who are comfortable using WordPress.
What’s the Competition?
Before we leave this subject, let’s take a quick look at the other options available to you, and how they compare.
Website builders include systems such as Wix and SquareSpace. They pride themselves on being intuitive and user-friendly.
I’m not denying that they can be. But they lack the flexibility of WordPress (most of them won’t connect to your mailing list provider, for example) and can be expensive.
If you want to expand your WordPress site over time, you can, For free. If you want to add a store, or extra domain names, or multiple sites for multiple pen names, it won’t cost you any more. But with a website builder, it most probably will.
For a more detailed look at website builders and what they offer, you might want to read my free book Author Website Blueprint, which you can download from my website.
Blogging platforms include Blogger and Tumblr. In fact, WordPress started out as a blogging platform but quickly grew.
Blogging platforms are ok if you just want to blog in your spare time. They’re great for hobbyists, and people who just want to communicate with fellow enthusiasts on their subject.
But most of them haven’t updated their design options for many years, or at least if they have, you wouldn’t know it. They’ll often have banners advertising the blogging platform. They aren’t easy to extend. They don’t link to your mailing list provider.
In short, blogging platforms are not suitable for any kind of professional website. That’s why WordPress evolved from a blogging platform to a CMS. It can still be used for blogs, but it can also be used professionally.
I’m assuming that you want a website to support your author career. That means you need a professional website. I don’t believe a blogging platform will give you that.
Learn How to Create Your WordPress Author Website
Here it comes: the plug!
This post is an (edited) excerpt from my book WordPress For Writers.
WordPress For Writers walks you through the process of creating a professional author website, for free or for very little money. There’s no coding and the book is designed for beginners.
You can order it from your favorite book retailer by clicking this link. I hope you find it useful!