Many writers will want to build a WordPress website to market their books. A theme controls the way a WordPress site looks. A WordPress website needs a good theme that works well, doesn't take up too much space, and is updated regularly. It also needs good plugins for security and other functions. Plugins help a site do more things.
When I first looked into starting a website, I was nervous about starting a WordPress site. I wasn’t sure I was up to dealing with the technology. And I’d heard that WordPress is prone to hacking.
However, I’ve come to the conclusion that WordPress is the best long-term choice for many writers. It offers good flexibility, with options to add more pages, an ecommerce store, or a membership site. It’s also fairly easy to get started.
WordPress Alternatives Have Serious Disadvantages
Platforms You Don’t Own
Several platforms offer alternatives to WordPress that may be simpler to set up.
- Social Media Platforms
However, these platforms have major disadvantages. The free versions are limited, and the paid versions often cost more than a self-hosted WordPress site.
Worse, you run the risk of being kicked off these platforms if you say something the owners do not like or if their software mistakes your site for spam.
Social media is even worse than hosted platforms. Algorithm changes can cost you your audience at any time. Moreover, some platforms have made it unlikely your followers will see your posts unless you pay for ads.
A More Complex CMS
Other major content management systems, like Joomla and Drupal, are more complex than wordpress. They work well for large enterprises that need complex websites. As a writer, you don’t need this kind of complexity.
How WordPress Works
When you install WordPress, you get the WordPress core software, which enables you to create blog posts. It also allows you to create pages, which are part of your site, but not part of your blog.
The Block Editor
The block editor is a fairly new WordPress feature that enables you to create and edit blocks of content. With the block editor, you can insert different blocks such as headings, paragraphs, images, or lists anywhere you like in a post.
Your wordpress install will come with a theme. A theme is a set of files that controls the visual appearance of your site. Many themes give you access to the WordPress customizer, which allows you to change colors, set up menus, and more. In themes that allow full site editing, many of these elements are set by the block editor instead.
Personally, I find the customizer easier to use than the block editor. However, the block editor ultimately provides more flexibility.
Choosing a Theme
There are numerous themes available for WordPress, but many are not good choices. Numerous free themes are available in the WordPress Theme Repository. You can also buy premium themes from a number of places.
- Lightweight. You do not want a theme to have issues with bloated code. It slows your site down. Bloat is an issue with some premium themes.
- Well-maintained. A theme should be maintained and updated regularly. A theme that is not may crash or become vulnerable to hackers.
- Customizable: You do not want your site to look like every other site with the same theme.
Some people offer cracked or nulled themes, which are illicit versions of premium themes. They will most likely bring malware to your site.
Some of the best free themes are the free versions of certain freemium themes. These are well-coded free themes with good features sets, and you can upgrade to the paid version if you want more features.
You can also add plugins to your site. These plugins provide additional functions. Here are just a few of the functions you can gain through plugins.
- Contact Form
- Cookie Notice
Don’t get carried away with plugins. You’ll find many plugins that seem to do cool things. However, too many plugins can slow your site down. Moreover, some plugins can create entry points for hackers.
- Check to see if the plugin has been updated in the last six months.
- Make sure the plugin has many downloads and a pretty good rating. If a plugin has many downloads, someone will find any problem and let the developer know.
Is WordPress Secure?
There are scary stories about how prone WordPress sites are to hacking. Since WordPress Powers so many websites, hackers often target it.
However, many hacked sites did not keep up to date. WordPress releases security updates as needed. Security updates are also available for well-maintained themes and plugins.
There are also plugins that will help keep your site secure.
- All-in-one WordPress Security (free).
- Shield Security (freemium)
- Sucuri (freemium)
- Wordfence (freemium)
- Use only well-developed themes and plugins that are updated fairly often (about every six months).
- Use a good security plugin.
- Keep your WordPress core, themes, and plugins up to date.
Setting up Your Site
Many themes give you the option to use templates, which are pre-built websites that you can customize. While you will have to pay for some templates, other templates are free. Some templates are specifically designed for authors.
You can also build your site from scratch by creating pages and blog posts. This can be harder, but it also gives you more creative freedom.
I personally prefer building a site from scratch to using templates. However, some people may find it easier to use templates.
Once you have started building your site, do not add templates. I’ve tried that and discovered that it creates a major website mess. I ended up deleting the templates
Create Your Main Pages
You will need a home page, and “about me” page. You will probably want at least one page for your books when you have them published. You may also want to add a contact form, although some websites now just put contact information in the footer.
Set Up Basic Security
You’ll want to download a good security plugin and set up basic security settings.
Try Out Different Themes
Now is a good time to experiment with different themes and see which one you like best. You can also experiment with different customizer setttings for each theme.
Set Up Your Backup System
Your web host will likely have a way for you to back up your site. There are also plugins that enable you to create and download backups. Backing up your site gives you a way to restore your site if it gets hacked or if you make a major mistake.
Learn More about WordPress
There are many places where you can learn about WordPress for free.
There are also numerous videos on YouTube that demonstrate how to set up a WordPress site. Udemy also provides free courses that teach basic WordPress skills.
It may seem like a pain to learn technical skills like setting up a website. And it takes time away from writing. However, it really is good that authors today can set up our own platforms for marketing our books and reaching readers. We aren’t totally dependent on publishing companies.
Moreover, using WordPress is a marketable skill that may help you get a good day job. Having built a WordPress site is something you can put on a resume.
The technical skills involved in setting up your own website can seem difficult. However, it can also be creative and fun. And you’re building a place for people to find your stories.