Helping authors publish

Tag: SSL

Why do you need an author website?

Every author should have a website. Some think that a Facebook page or an Amazon page is a viable alternative. Both are certainly useful and worth having, but they should complement an author website, not replace it.

The reason can be expressed in a single word: Control. You have no control over your Facebook page or Amazon page. Facebook and Amazon control how they look and can advertise competing books on your page. They can even remove your access or take the page down at any time, with no right to appeal.

A website, by contrast, is owned and controlled by you. If you decide that you don’t like the hosting company, you can move it elsewhere. No-one else can advertise their books on your site. You can choose the domain that you want to use. You can choose how it looks. If you use WordPress (which we use and recommend) you can easily change how it looks whenever you wish. Most WordPress themes are responsive, which means that they adapt well to different screen sizes. A lot of web browsing is done on mobile devices these days, so this is an important consideration.

Domain name

Get a domain that is tied to your name if you can. Your name with a .com at the end is ideal if you can get it. If you can’t get your name, try adding something like “author” or “books” to the end. For authors based in the UK, a .co.uk or .uk is a good alternative. Robin’s pen name is Russell Phillips, and his website is at RussellPhillips.uk.

A web address like that is professional and gives a good first impression. You can set up an email address for the domain. This keeps your book-related emails separate and gives a better impression than a GMail or Yahoo address. If you prefer, have emails forwarded to your webmail. Always set your mailing list’s “From” address to be your domain address, not GMail, Yahoo, or whatever. Doing this will help your emails to avoid the spam folder.

Flexibility and selling direct

Having your own website gives you a great deal of flexibility. It should always have all the details of your books, with buy links. Beyond that though, you can include whatever features you wish. Some people blog, some have a podcast. We strongly recommend including a mailing list sign-up form, and some people use pop-ups too.

Websites can also host content that will be of interest to your readers. Including information for book clubs might help it get chosen by a club. If you are willing to do author talks, make sure that is clear on your site, along with information about how to book you.

You can sell books and/or ebooks directly, giving you another revenue stream. Many readers prefer to buy all their books from a single store such as Amazon or Kobo, but some will value the opportunity to buy direct from the author. You can set everything up yourself using a WordPress plugin like WooCommerce, or use a company like Payhip which simplifies matters. Either way, the money from any sales will be paid to you immediately, not sixty or ninety days later as is typical with other vendors. You can create discount vouchers to help promote direct sales, or sell a new release from your website before releasing it on the other vendors.

Setting up HTTPS and SSL on WordPress

There are several good reasons to set up HTTPS and SSL on your website. It gives your site a small SEO boost. You may need it for GDPR compliance, because the GDPR introduces a requirement to handle personal data securely. If you have an email sign-up form, this should use HTTPS, as GDPR considers emails to be personal data, and HTTP is not secure.

From July this year, the Chrome web browser will start labelling all web pages that do not have HTTPS as “Not secure“. This could cause some confusion, potentially giving your users the impression that your website has been hacked, or that it has some other security issue. Whatever else it does, it certainly won’t give a good impression.

SSL Certificate

HTTPS requires an SSL certificate, which will need to be installed on your web server by your hosting company, and they may have already done so. Website Planet have a simple form that you can use to check if you have a certificate (https://www.websiteplanet.com/webtools/ssl-checker/).

Screenshot of the Website Planet SSL Checker
SSL Checker results for authorhelp.uk

Simply enter your website address and click the button. The results include a lot of detail, but if the shield is green with a tick, then you have a certificate correctly installed. If you don’t have an SSL certificate, check your web hosting company’s documentation to find out how to add one. Some offer them for free, others charge extra. You can then use the SSL checker again to check that it is installed and set up.

WordPress Setup

Now that you have the certificate, you need to make sure that browsers actually view your pages over HTTPS instead of HTTP. If you’re using WordPress, I recommend the One Click SSL plugin.

Screenshot of One Click SSL settings
One Click SSL settings

Once it is installed and activated, go to the settings. It has a button to check that SSL is enabled. Assuming that check passes, you can then enable SSL. Make sure that SSL is enabled and that SSL Areas is set to “Everywhere” (see the screenshot above). Once that is done, every visitor to your website will use HTTPS instead of HTTP.

My WordPress hosting includes an SSL certificate and will serve all pages over HTTPS by default.

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