**UPDATED JUNE 2018**
Does the thought of having to set up your own blog or author website make you weak in the knees?
Butterflies in your stomach?
And not in the steamy romance novel good way?
It may seem like a daunting, technology ridden task for a newbie, but just like you figured out how to send and receive an email (you have figured that out, right?) setting up your own WordPress blog is just as simple.
But before rushing in to the set up of your author site, it is important to first get a clear understanding of some of the options available to you. By investing a little time up front you can save yourself loads of hassle down the road.
Free vs. self-hosted Author Blogs
Confusion reigns with beginner bloggers about the difference between these two options, so lets first define what hosting is and then discuss the pros and cons of free vs. self-hosted sites.
Web hosting is a service that allows you to make your website accessible on the internet. Web hosts are companies that provide space on a server to house your files and data.
The hosting company also provides an interface or control panel for managing the Web server and installing WordPress, as well as other modules and service applications like e-mail.
Blogger, Typepad, WordPress.com (not self-hosted WordPress.org. For the differences, check out this helpful infographic) are some typical free-hosted blogs. All that is necessary to have a site up and a post published in minutes is that you sign up for a free account.
These free blogs work well if you are brand new to blogging and just want to dip your toe in the water and get a feel for operating your own site.
Plus two added bonuses for the technologically challenged? They are easy to use and you can’t really break anything.
Unfortunately, that’s where the advantages end. Despite the ease to get set up, these free sites can be too restrictive for growing a professional author blog or website.
One of the biggest disadvantages of free-hosted sites is that you don’t really own your site; the provider does. You could spend years building up your site, creating a great resource and substantial platform, but never fully own or control it. With that much investment at the whim of the provider, “free” no longer seems like good value.
Another issue with a free hosted site is the degree to which you can customize or make design changes. Of course, as a newbie blogger, you might see the inability to tweak code as a plus, right?
But as you grow your platform, you may want to add new graphics or change the layout, customize the design to truly reflect your brand and message – or at least have the option to pay a web designer to do it. When trying to differentiate yourself, the last thing you want is to look like other sites online.
As well, purchasing your own domain name is also very important for branding (for example, YourWriterPlatform.com is a domain name). In doing so, you are not only broadcasting to your audience your professionalism, but reinforcing your commitment and enthusiasm to your author brand.
While some free-hosted providers will allow you to use your own domain name (usually at additional cost), nothing screams lack of investment like having a .blogspot, .typepad or .wordpress. in your domain name. Especially when you realize how inexpensive it is to purchase a domain name and self-hosting for your site, which we will discuss in a moment.
One final thing to consider: Google doesn’t rate free-hosted sites as being as authoritative as self-hosted sites. They aren’t given as much weight as self-hosted blogs in search results.
So not only are your readers or clients second guessing your expertise and authority; so is Google.
By hosting your own blog with your own domain name you are indicating to Google–and your fans–that you are serious.
A self-hosted site, by contrast, is owned by you and is fully customizable.
You have complete control over the design and use of your site, which allows you to make the best choices for your brand and your platform. The main drawback is that for the technologically terrified, there is a bit more involved in the set up and maintenance of your WordPress author site than just a quick 2 minute sign up.
For self-hosting, costs will vary somewhat depending on the provider you choose. I recommend Bluehost because of the great support, the reliability, and the affordability.
Pricing starts at just $3.95 per month, but to get the best deal, you will need to pay the annual rate in advance. That’s how Bluehost is able to offer such super low prices.
Plus, Bluehost offers a 30 day money back guarantee, so there is really no risk.
So, for the reasons mentioned above – and a relatively small up front business cost – a self-hosted site or blog is well worth the time and minimal financial investment.
Please note: I will earn a small commission if you buy a hosting package from one of my links, at no extra cost to you. This helps Your Writer Platform continue to provide loads of free, quality content. I appreciate your support!
How to Set Up Your WordPress Author Blog
Step 1: Get your free domain name and purchase a hosting package
Go to Bluehost and purchase a hosting package. Currently, it’s only $3.95 per month including 1-click WordPress installation – and you’ll get your domain for free!
Once there, click the green Get Started Now button.
Select your plan by clicking on the green “Select” button. If you’re just starting out, the Basic plan will do just fine; you can always upgrade if you need to at a later date. If you know you’ll have more than one website (for example a website for your book as well as your main author site, or a site for your fiction work and a site for your nonfiction work), the Plus plan is the way to go.
You will then be taken to a page where you have to enter in the domain name that you’d like to use. (Remember, your domain name refers to the name you type into the URL bar at the top of you screen–Your Writer Platform.com is my domain name).
If the domain name you have chosen is unavailable for registration, that means that someone else has already registered that domain and you must choose something else.
Typically, Bluehost will will show you if the domain name is available with an alternate ending (.net, .org, .biz for example), or you will be given some other suggestions of variations to your original choice. You can choose something suggested, or try something entirely different. (Just keep in mind that .com and .net suffixes are usually the best from blog promotion and blog recognition.)
If you already have a domain name, enter it in the “I have a domain name” box, and click next.
For the next step, just fill out all your contact details and payment information.
Under “package information”, I recommend choosing the 36 month plan. This allows you to get the cheapest plan per month, and you can cancel at anytime (you will get a refund on the remaining months left in your plan).
You can decide if you would like to pay the additional charges for site backup or additional security, and uncheck anything you do not want. (You can also get these options added later if you wish.)
Enter your credit card information, ensure the box is checked to show that you agree to the Terms of Services and then click the green “Submit” button at the bottom of the page.
You will then be brought to an offers page – decide if you would like any of these upgrades (probably not), and hit “No thanks”.
Next, you will be taken to a “Welcome to Bluehost” page to create a password.
On the next page, create your password. Then click the checkbox next to “I have read and agree to…,” then click “Next.”
Once this is complete, you’ll be taken to a log in page. Click the blue “Log In” button and enter your email and password on the next screen.
Step 2: Install your theme and start blogging!
The final (and most exciting) step is to install a beautiful new theme design. Once your theme is in place, you will be able to start writing your first post on your freshly minted site!
After you pick your theme, you’ll be taken to the page below. Click “Start Building.”
Bluehost now directs you to your site builder. It’s time to start building and customizing your home base for your author business! Go ahead and click the “Business” button.
Now you are ready to start blogging on your new author website!
The whole process from sign up to installing a theme can literally only take five minutes to do – fifteen if you re-read the steps twice before taking the action advised… : )
Just follow this guide and if you run into any problems you can ask one of Bluehost’s fantastic live support team for help. They are available 24 hours a day.
Here are a few additional resources to ensure your author website looks and functions the way you want:
- 11 Author Website Must Have Elements
- Email List Building Series (Part 1): The Power of an Email List (And Why It’s a Must)
- Blog Post Ideas for Writers: Solving the “What Do I Blog About?” Conundrum
- How to Get Traffic to Your Author Website: 30+ Tips for Discouraged Writers
What questions do you have about the process of setting up your author blog?
Any tips for beginners from those of you who have already successfully set up your site? Please leave a comment below.