How Much Does an Author Website Cost?
By John Burke
Many authors and publishers struggle with choosing the best website option for themselves and their companies. Few people have a technical background, so setting up a DIY author website seems like a daunting task, and many authors and publishers don’t feel confident talking or negotiating with a potential website developer. Some authors have told me that sometimes “it can feel like negotiating with a used car dealer.” It doesn’t have to be so difficult.
How much does an author website cost? It really depends on how you build it. There is such a wide range, from doing it yourself on platforms like Wix, Pub Site, or WordPress, to spending many thousands of dollars hiring a website designer/developer to do the entire project for you.
DIY Website Platforms
The free, do-it-yourself, options are appealing if you are so inclined and willing to try. Wix is probably the most popular right now, along with WordPress and SquareSpace. Pub Site is relatively new, but its advantage is that it was developed specifically for books, authors, and small publishers, and is very easy to use. These platforms are not just free to set up your site, but you can do the updating yourself, which can be a significant cost saver over time.
You can also hire someone to develop one of the DIY options for you, which may save you some money. There are many levels of development in this scenario — from using a basic template with no modification to using a template and extensively customizing it. Obviously, the more customization, the higher the cost. These sites can range from maybe $1,000 to $10,000, depending on the customization, the level of graphic design, and the features you want included, such as a blog, mailing list signup, social media integration, video and audio, interactivity, special effects, etc. Maybe you can do the updating after the site is done.
The High End
You can hire an individual or web design firm who will design and develop from scratch to your particular needs. I’ve heard of sites being done for as much as $20,000. This would be a prominent web design firm who has professional graphic designers and programmers on staff, in very expensive offices in larger cities. If you have the money, and want that level of service, you can go that route, but it’s not necessary. And for a firm like that, you may not be one of their more important clients because they may have clients who are large corporations paying many times that amount for their websites. So you may not get the level of service the cost implies and, depending on the site, you may have to rely on them for updating, which can be very expensive.
Author Websites as Marketing Tools
Regardless of which path you take, be mindful that a lot of developers do not know a lot about marketing in general, and book marketing in particular, and that’s what your author website is — a book marketing tool.
I always recommend going with a developer who has experience with book and author websites. Book websites are different — they are text and content heavy, which is very different from, say, photography or restaurant websites, which are very graphic intensive. That is one thing authors have discovered about Wix and SquareSpace — they are not particularly oriented toward authors and books.
So check out a developer’s portfolio before you hire them. If it’s heavily oriented toward restaurants, local plumbing businesses, or real estate sites, you might want to look elsewhere. They probably don’t understand authors or book marketing.
How to Hire a Website Developer
When you contacted a potential developer, were they responsive? Did they speak to you in terms you could understand and not in condescending tones? Did they understand books and publishing at all or how to market and sell them?
What are their terms? What are their limits on how many design changes you can make? Is there a limit on how many pages your site can have? What’s the cost for additional pages? What are the per hour charges for changes and updates?
Very importantly, are they available to do updates after launching your website? I’ve had many authors come to me bemoaning the fact that after their website is up, their developer is unresponsive, takes much too long to make simple updates, and is very expensive. Ask about this before committing to a developer — what’s their turnaround time for updates and how much do they charge?