Finding the perfect web host lays the platform on which you build an author brand. As a grassroots writer shifting into a business-minded author, your website is your online identity until your debut content reaches your future audience. Your website, no matter what stage of publishing you’re in, is the most critical part of your online presence.
The budget and the myths for author website web hosts.
You shouldn’t be shocked to hear that no matter your budget, you will be able to put together a great author website on any budget. All you need to know is what’s available. Unfortunately, many worthy (often times better) web hosts drown underneath the big guys in this online market. This makes finding the right host moderately difficult.
Going into this, I recommend you have a few bits of information written down. I firmly believe treating every aspect of your author brand as a business decision. This might be a personal preference thing, but you’re starting up something that should be lucrative at some point in your future. Every business decision should be made with intent and with firm, but flexible, plans.
What you should know before you buy.
I’ll give you a quick bullet list of action items I recommend you flesh out prior to purchasing anything.
- Pen names (if any), your main genre, and a few author website designs you like
- Your budget
- Needs & web host feature priorities (security, privacy, bandwidth, etc.)
- Your content goals & general design concept
- Personal talents, capabilities, and shortcomings (design/technology skills)
Start here. Know your options before you buy.
I’ve recently switched hosts due to my own shifting needs. If you do anything I suggest in this post, you absolutely must visit HostAdvice.com. This website not only lays out the price of over 3,900 web hosts, it hosts countless reviews for most existing entries.
Based on my personal experience, I searched hundreds of reviews across dozens of feasible web hosts to determine the best option for the things I listed above. I’m still lifting off, and I’m not interested in throwing money too far into the wind quite yet.
HostAdvice.com is the online work horse for surveying the market and weeding out the bad apples right off the bat. They have pre-compiled lists (including a very great list of cheap web hosts built right into their menu. If you’re in the market for your first or a new web host, you simply must use this site – if not for their great collection of coupon codes!
Key features you should expect from your web host.
- Fixed prices (start-up & renewal) – a very common web host business model is to offer a dirt cheap first-term (defined by how much time you sign on all at once; not always just one year) and force you into a dramatically higher monthly/yearly payment. Fixed prices keep the payments affordable without the hassle of switching from host to host after each term expires. It’s super convenient, but not too many hosts offer this type of structure. My recommendations include FastComet.com (my web host) and InterServer.net.
- Free (or discounted) domain name – I’ll keep this simple. FastComet.com offers one free domain for the life of your account per account. Not too many others do this. I prefer keeping my business all in-house. It’s convenient, but none too practical. My business needs change at the drop of a hat. This host keeps it streamlined for those truly starting fresh.
- Great customer support – this is a given and completely necessary. Don’t skip out on great support in favor of cost. The big names (Godaddy, HostGator, etc.) hardly have consistent rave reviews. Do a bit of research and save yourself the headaches. SiteGround.com had superior support, but at too high of a renewal cost for my taste. So, I switched to FastComet.
- Daily/weekly backups – this is grasping at straws with most (if not all) of the big hosting companies, but for ease, you should want this because it cuts out loads of stress you’ll only have when you realize you’ve lost your entire website without a backup. I’ve been there, and I’ll never again go without this.
- Speed & security (and uptime) – you’ll want this to be in your top three priorities when considering webhosts. I mention this last because my web host offers both as standard. I’m really not trying to make this about any one host, but it’s hard when I moved to such a great host. Please don’t take my word for it. Do a bit of research and read your reviews! Speed is quite important in SEO, thus this is quite a huge deal.
What about the domain name?
For those who choose hosts who have high domain name charges, consider purchasing your domain name from NameCheap.com. I registered this blog to experiment firsthand the quality and ease. After a bit of finagling, the site was up and running in under 20 minutes with the fantastic FastComet support.
For your domain name, I’d only consider your first name followed directly by last name with the .com extension (e.g. EvieDriver.com). If that’s not available, consider utilizing keywords like books, author, or writer in the domain name (KristenMartinBooks.com). This will actually boost your site by a smidge in Google’s rank. Not by much – almost nothing, really – but still. It’s a great alternative!
Uhh…what about Wix.com or SquareSpace.com?
TLDR: waste of time and money (imo).
SquareSpace is the overlord of your account for complicated reasons you’d likely find doing just a bit of research. I’m not saying much intentionally. This post isn’t necessarily geared toward swaying you either way. If you visit SquareSpace, you’ll see the high price tags and lack of customizability for yourself. This may or may not be all you need.
Most people need control and customizability. These two things most people can still accomplish a great website even if you may not be that skilled at web designing. SquareSpace & Wix are more expensive than the self-hosted WordPress (I’ll eventually get to this, I swear) option. As a green author, I’m sure we all love saving the green. WordPress blogs have the best variety and options for easy-to-use themes and plugins. These blogs will do anything you ask it to do – for the most part.
What do you mean?
You can’t transfer anything from Wix. So let’s say you end up going with them, spend a few years over there, and suddenly take a class on WordPress because you’re bored. You’d see how simple it can be if you put a small bit of time in and might decide you’d like to migrate over to the Light side of the Force.
You can’t. You’d need to basically transfer everything over manually. What. A. Pain.
Visit the sites and decide yourself if either of these options could work. They have easier interfaces for total noobs, have streamlined drag-and-drop system, and have good support. What they offer, though, is replicated with options exclusive to WordPress blogs, though – often for much cheaper.
All-in-all, Wix.com appears to be a popular choice among the popular indie authors (see KristenMartinBooks.com as the prime example). My point is that you should be aware of all it’s pros and cons and how those fit into your plan and your talents.
What if I want Wix, but just in WordPress form?
You’re in luck. Without going into too much detail, I’ll casually drop ElegantThemes.com into the hat. You’re welcome.
On EvieDriver.com, I use the Divi theme. In a very short summary, it provides us WordPress users with a very similar interface as Wix. I’ll discuss this in a future post. Scout’s honor.