Many writers must pay for their website out of their own pocket. So it’s important to know what you might be getting yourself into. In this post I go through the most typical costs to help you know what to expect.
“How much will a website cost me?” “Will there be ongoing costs?
Writers ask me questions like these with trepidation. Often they’ve never seriously considered having a website (they were busy writing a book!) Then they realize that they’ll need a website to help market their book – or to help get published in the first place.
This article looks at the costs involved in starting and maintaining a website. In addition to the Questions to consider before you launch your writer’s platform these are useful details to think about before you get started.
Note: This article assumes the typical set up of a self-hosted WordPress website. However, you may also find it a useful reference when considering deals, book-marketing platforms, or all-in-one website platforms.
So how much will it cost to have an author website?
Well of course, it depends…
Isn’t that always the answer!? But I’ll do my best to give you the information you need to create an estimate for yourself.
There are two types of website expenses. One-time fees and ongoing costs. In the beginning you will have expenses associated with your initial website set-up and design. Later you may have costs associated with marketing and traffic building.
Website set-up costs
There are necessary and unavoidable expenses involved with simply having a website. These are true of any website, not just author websites.
Every website uses a domain so you need to have one too. Your domain typically becomes your web address. Your domain can also be used to create custom email addresses.
A domain is unique and always has an extension (such as .com, .org and .net) and it must be registered. Registering your domain is probably the first step you will take towards establishing your writer’s platform.
The cost to register a domain is usually not very expensive. Typically between $12 and $25 per year.
An optional charge that is often associated with domain registration is domain privacy. Buying additional domain privacy will reduce the amount of spam and scams that you receive. It’s worth it.
I recommend budgeting around $15 a year for domain registration and another $12 for domain privacy. Some registrars will include domain privacy in their pricing. Many hosting services will register your domain for free when you choose them as your hosting service. At least for the first year or billing cycle.
All websites are made up of files and those files have to be somewhere, on some computer in the world that is always on and connected to the Internet, serving files to browsers. (That is probably why they are called “servers.”)
Unless you want to host your website yourself (and you probably do not want to do that) you will need to pay a website hosting service to host your website on their servers.
Most hosting services will provide customer support and regular website backups.
There is a range of hosting options. These include:
- Shared hosting services like Bluehost, Hostigator, Dreamhost or iPage. Many of these larger companies have very inexpensive starting hosting rates, that then go up a little bit after the first year. Many also offer dedicated hosting which is an upgrade to shared hosting in terms of both service and price.
- WordPress-Managed hosting is typically more expensive than the cheaper shared hosting plans, but do not have hidden costs for security features. Managed-Wordpress hosts servers exclusively host websites that use WordPress. Examples include Flywheel, Siteground and WPengine. More and more of the larger shared hosting companies are starting to also offer a managed-Wordpress hosting option.
- VPS stands for Virtual Private Servers and these are generally the most expensive option with the largest bandwidth.
- All-in-one platforms like Squarespace and Wix are a host and platform in one. You cannot use them to host a WordPress website. But you may decide you like their platform and the all-in-one approach. WordPress.com offers an affordable option too, but with some limitations compared to the self-hosted WordPress sites.
Hosting fees are usually quoted as a monthly fee, yet charged on an annual basis, in advance.
Many larger hosting companies will allow you to sign up for multiple years of hosting in advance, and offer you a discount for doing so. However, note that you are usually required to pay for the entire period in advance.
I find that most clients would prefer to pay slightly more per month for the convenience of budgeting an annual cost of hosting service, rather than make a much bigger payment every 3 years.
When using self-hosted WordPress, I estimate between $150 and $550 for website hosting per year.
Many website hosting services are also domain registrars and will offer you free domain registration for your first year if you sign up for a hosting account with them.
Website Set-up and Design
Design and development
Domain and website hosting are renewing services, but the cost of setting up your website in the first place is usually a one-time fee.
Design and development can cost anywhere from free (if you decide to do it yourself) to thousands of dollars if you decide to have a website custom designed for you by a designer or agency.
My Author Quickstart packages are designed to be somewhere in between and give you a streamlined service to get you up and running quickly with a website you can then take over and grow and change over time.
Often once the site goes live you will have the option to pay your designer or agency for ongoing site maintenance or training.
WordPress websites use themes. Themes are a set of templates that work together and provide you with a uniform look or style and features for your website.
Some themes are more flexible than others. Some have all or most of the design elements decided and in place. Others provide a minimal approach giving you the freedom (or burden, depending on how you feel about designing) to create the look yourself.
My personal favorite is the Divi theme by Elegant Themes. It is quite flexible and robust, and allows for a great variety of design approaches. However, it might not be ideal if you are WordPress newbie and want to do-it-yourself.
The WordPress platform comes with a few themes built-in and they are a great place to start. They are free and well- built. In addition the newer WordPress block editor (called Gutenburg) gives you a great deal more flexibility in the layout of your pages than was previously available.
There are also many “freemium” WordPress themes. These are themes that have a free level, but then have the option to upgrade to a paid version for theme support or advanced features.
Most typically, a paid WordPress theme costs between $50 and $120. ($60 and $80 are the price points I see most often.) This is usually a one-time fee, although some theme companies will charge an annual fee for theme support.
Optional but recommended
The following are expenses you can avoid at the very beginning, but I recommend you add them as soon as you can and plan include them in your budget.
Email service: Free to around $30 a year. Many of the larger shared-hosting services will also offer you free email with their hosting plan. More typically you can expect to pay between $15 and $40 per mailbox per year.
Spam filter: If you are going to allow visitors to leave comments on your posts or pages, you will definitely want to invest in a website spam filter. Akismet is the leader for WordPress websites. It is included if you host your on the wordpress.com site. Otherwise Akismet costs $60 per year and is well worth it to prevent you being inundated with spam comment notifications. Another good option that is less expensive but just takes a little more set up is Cleantalk.
Images: You should never just copy an image off the internet to use in your website. Never! There are many affordable options for royalty free stock photography. These range from free (see Upsplash) to quite reasonable (Deposit Photos, iStock Photos) to higher end options.
Photographer: In addition you will want to have a quality headshot or self-portrait for your bio page. You may find the investment to hire a professional photographer will be well worth it in the long run, giving you quality and professional options to use on your website, book covers and promotion.
Less common but worth considering
Pro plugins: Plugins are website add-ons that provide some ability to a website theme that it didn’t already have by default, such as an event calendar or an interactive map. There are many useful plugins that are free, but many also have a “Pro” or paid version. A typical paid plugin is often around $19 – $39 (although very advanced ones can go into the hundreds). Usually purchasing a plugin is a one-time fee.
If there is a certain functionality that you know you want to be able to include on your website, I recommend exploring the WordPress plugins repository first to get an idea if it is free or paid.
Website education and support: WordPress is easy to use and easy to learn. And there are many online tutorials to teach you about various aspects of maintaining your website. Nevertheless, unless you are already an experienced user, or very comfortable with computers you should consider a budget for education or for someone you can reach out to for advanced website help when you need it.
Maintenance services: Websites are not meant to be a set-it and forget-it medium. If you aren’t interested in keeping up with plugin updates, or adding new content yourself, consider a maintenance plan. Many hosting services and designers (including me) have subscription plans available for ongoing website support.
Domain registration, website hosting and email services are ongoing costs that automatically renew each year.
Plugins and website images and websites support are an optional cost – but it’s smart to expect to pay for them now and again.
This idea behind this post was to give you a ball park idea of website costs for both in the short term and long term. My aim to to make you a more informed consumer as you start on your path. Hopefully you feel closer to being able to set a budget and plan accordingly.
PS: Visit my recommended services page for links to a variety of services that I have used and recommend.