3 Steps to Creating a Beautiful Book Site for Less than $100

Since launching my book, Wrecked, lots of people have asked me, “Who designed your website?” Well, I did.

Wrecked Site
My book site

But before you start thinking I’m some kind of web coding genius or graphic design savant, don’t be fooled.

All I did was use a couple of simple, easy-to-use, out-of-the-box solutions that are far less complicated than you  might think.

Don’t break the bank

Most writers start out on a shoestring budget. They know they need the right tools to be taken seriously (and right at the top of that list is a beautiful website), but they just don’t think they can afford it.

Look. You don’t need to drop $1000 to design a great-looking website. And you don’t need to hire a graphic design firm to do the job.

If you’re rolling bank with your writing, feel free to dish out that kind of cash. But until that’s the case, I wouldn’t recommend it.

So what did I do? And how can you do the same? Glad you asked.

Here’s what I did in four steps to create a beautiful-looking website for my book for less than $100:

Step 1: Unleash the awesome power of WordPress

Wordpress
WordPress.org

This is a given for me, as I use self-hosted WordPress sites for everything I do online: blogging, landing pages, community sites, etc. It’s fast, free, and fully customizable.

(Note: This is different from WordPress.com, which is a free social network. WordPress.org is the software, which is also free, but once you download it, you’ll need a host, which will cost you some money.)

Here’s how to set up WordPress on a website:

  1. Get a host. I recommend using Bluehost.com. This will cost you about $5 per month, and it’s where your website will “live” online.
  2. Install WordPress. Bluehost has a one-click install process for WordPress that is super-easy. If you use another service you will have to download the software atWordPress.org and then upload it via your FTP, which can get a little technical. That’s why I recommend just using Bluehost.
  3. Create your login ID and password.
  4. Login to make sure your credentials work.

In the following video, I show you how to set up all this stuff in less than eight minutes:

Now that WordPress is up and running, pick a “skin” for your website. The great thing about WordPress is it allows you to use various design templates (called “themes”) that allow your website to look professional without you having to do much work.

In fact, many themes are free, but I’m using a paid premium one for this project.

Step 2: Get a great theme

For my original book site, I used the Genesis framework, which is a basic design architecture for your site that’s built by StudioPress (a company owned by Copyblogger Media).

Genesis is what a lot of big-time bloggers, including Chris Brogan and Problogger, have used.

StudioPress
StudioPress

Once I had Genesis set up, I uploaded a “child theme,” which allows more customization options.

What, exactly, is a child theme? The best analogy for this that I can think of is the interior design of a house. Once you’ve designed the house, you still need to paint it and fill it with furniture. That’s what a theme (in this case, child theme) does.

Tribe Screenshot
The Tribe Theme

The child theme that I use is called Tribe, and is a design scheme that my friend Martyn Chamberlin custom-designed for me (it’s what I use on my blog, too).

But since then, Martyn and I have rewritten Tribe as a standalone theme, so it no longer needs Genesis to work.

To get Tribe running on your WordPress blog, here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Buy the Tribe Theme. Click this link to preview the theme and then buy it. (Note: you do not need to buy Genesis.) This should be about $99.00.
  2. Install Tribe. You can do this by logging into your WordPress dashboard, going to Appearance, then Themes, and then click Upload and select the ZIP file for the Tribe Theme. Then click “ACTIVATE” to activate the theme.

If you’d rather use Genesis and a different child theme, click this link and you’ll be taken to the StudioPress website, where you’ll be given an option to buy a bunch of different themes. Choose the Genesis Framework (should be about $59.95) and the child theme you prefer.

Note: Both of these products offer a 30-day, money-back guarantee, so if you’re not completely satisfied, you can get your money back.

Step 3: Make a rockin’ header

Wrecked Banner
Wrecked header

Part of what makes the Tribe theme look so great is the large header image, which you can easily adjust in your WordPress dashboard.

My publisher sent me the images from my book cover, so I just used that. But if you’re having someone design your book cover, you should ask them for a site header as part of the package.

However, if you don’t have access to those images, you can do any of the following:

  • Hire someone. Some affordable options are 99 Designs or Crowdspring. If you have a larger budget, you could ask the guys at Perfection Coding (which is my friend Martyn’s company).
  • Ask a friend. I did this with another site, and they did it for free in exchange for some business referrals.
  • Do it yourself. If you have Photoshop or a similar program, open it up and figure it out. There’s lots of free tutorials on YouTube for this sort of thing.

The default width and height of the header image is 965×231, but you can change that to whatever you want when you click the Genesis menu and then choose “Conversion.”

Once you’ve got the image, next you’ll need to upload it, which can be done by clicking Tribe, then Theme Settings. Under Appearance and Settings, go to “Header is…”, choose Image Logo, and then upload your image file.

Custom Header
Uploading your header

Start publishing

That’s it! You’re done. At this point, your book site should be live, and you can start creating pages. Content is essential (even with a snazzy website design) if you want people to find your site.

I recommend publishing at least 10 pages on your site. Use these to talk about your book (these can include book excerpts, reviews, endorsements, or even a blog with short articles).

To see my book site, click here. And if you want to find out more about the design of my latest book, check out this page: Can You Create a Beautiful Book Site without Breaking the Bank?

Note: If you add up the expenses, you get more than $100. I spent less than that because I bought some tools beforehand and have used them for other sites. If you don’t have the cash-flow, many hosting services offer monthly plans to help spread the cost out.

What tips or questions do you have about creating beautiful book sites? Share in the comments.

Disclosure: Some of the above links are affiliate links, which means if you click them and buy something, I get a portion of the profits. However, this is at no cost to you.

48 thoughts on “3 Steps to Creating a Beautiful Book Site for Less than $100

  1. Dang it…now I don’t have an excuse for not having an awesome website. Thanks a lot Jeff!

    I just need to start scraping my pennies together, and I’ll be all set. This post will be a reference page for whenever that happens. 

  2. So I have a little question.

    Since the themes cost enough that swapping them is expensive, is there a refund policy attached to the themes, or does a blogger have to really consider which one to go with before spending the $50-80.

    Now, the only problem is how to save up $100…and a little more for the long-term.

    1. Yes, both services offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you want to pay $20 for custom design, setup, and hosting, Outstanding Setup is a GREAT deal. I use them for my membership site. If you’d rather make a larger investment now and save money down the line (and know what you want your site to look like), Bluehost is a good option.

      1. outstandingSETUP is 60 days. 

        This is true of all products that use ClickBank as the payment processor.

  3. Don’t spend money on a web designer, but buy these themes for $130 using my affiliate links :-). How about hire a web designer that can customize free themes so your site doesn’t look like lots of other ones? Nice work, Jeff…..but as a web designer I did have to punch back a little :-). At least you’re directing them toward WordPress! Keep up the great work with the writing.

    1. The advantage of using the themes is that you know what you are getting. If you spent a similar amount on a designer you could end up with something a lot worse.

    2. Spoken like a true designer, Gabe. 😉

      If you read above, I do recommend working with a designer (if you can afford it). However, it’s hard to find good work for the same price it costs to get a great theme that you can customize with a unique header and a few CSS tweaks.

      If you can set up custom websites for around $100, I’ll glad send people your way.

  4. Tip: From experience as a writer, focus on doing what you’re good at (writing) and make a little investment for someone else (like Outstanding Setup) to get you up and running. Great work, Jeff. I followed your advice on this months ago and it’s definitely working for me.

    1. @cafced30c100f76e711e2ee72f8d9421:disqus Thanks for all the advice and information you provide. >..Red.Qlnk.net

  5. 99Designs is great – I’ve used them before and very much enjoyed the process and outcome.
    I might also add that there are tons of graphic design students at almost any university who would probably love to create a header for you. They may be willing to work for trade. I imagine many of them would love the chance to have a book website on their resume.

  6. Thanks, this is incredibly helpful. I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money on a blog setup for nothing, but I won’t make the same mistake again WHEN I have my book site up:) 

  7. Jeff, just a little clarification. I thought studio-press themes come with genesis framework, by default? I’d need to buy a theme?

    Or this was just your preference.

    (or maybe i have no clue what genesis framework is all about ..lol. believed it was a theme..with those nice added nicknacks)

    1. Ngina,

      Studiopress is the company. Genesis is the product. It’s a basic theme, but it’s just nuts-and-bolts. Chances are you’ll want a Child Theme. Studiopress offers a TON of these, but the Tribe theme is sold separately (it’s a custom theme I had designed).

  8. Thank you for sharing these tips, Jeff! I appreciate that you shared the specifics of your design and let us know how we can create our own sites for professional presentations as well.

  9. Jeff-
    Pardon my ignorance, but this is different from your blog site, is that right?  This is to intentionally promote a specific project?
    As the least techie man on earth, I’m just trying to understand.  Fortunately, my son will be here for the weekend to help me!
    Thanks for all the advice and information you provide.

  10. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for all the good content and congratulations on your new book! I appreciate our mutual love for art & writing. (I blog at Art, Life & Faith & run a ministry called The Grove Center for the Arts & Media in So Cal). I’ve been following MH & you for some time.

    We recently published a Vook (video ebook) called Create: Transforming Stories of Art, Life & Faith. It offers artist essays, video and digital artwork from 21 points of view. We created our landing page (using Standard Theme) and here’s where I’d like to ask for your help…

    For the life of me, I cannot find a plugin or decent sidebar tool to list Amazon, iBookstore, or B&N to link our book. I saw your source code with the href and image links, but can I ask how you created the hotspot? (a plugin?) Here’s the link so you can see the design limitation.

    https://www.joeyo.org/create-transforming-stories-of-art-life-faith/

    Thanks for your help…have an awesome day!

  11. I’m afraid I have no useful advice to add at this time, as I am a freelance writer with hardly any time to do writing as it is.  I am, however, a new fan of yours, your writing advice, and your approach to all things for writers. Just wanted to express a note of thanks.  As per your article, looks like I’ll need $150 plus monthly fees for hosting. Something I can aspire to. Thank you!

  12. Hi Jeff,
    I have been following your site for a couple of months and find your personality, story and writing style enjoyable and your content valuable. Great combination! I have been struggling with which theme to install and you just took the mystery out of decision with this post. Thank you!

  13. Thanks Jeff. This looks great.  We’re launching our second Kindle book in a few weeks and I’
    ll definitely be referring back to this. Your book site looks great BTW. 

  14. Jeff,
    Thanks for explaining the whole process! I’ve not seen much explanation from anyone on the theme or skin install or the order of sequences. Even the Genesis site I believe turns many customers away by not providing uch information upfront. It always helps to remove the fear and explain a process simply. Thank you, I have the missing piece now!  Jim Carver 

  15. Jeff, this article came at the right time.  I’ve been toying with transferring my blog from WordPress.com to self-hosting, but was unhappy with the hosting provider that I chose.  I switched to BlueHost today and am already happy I did so.

    One note, however, for your readers:  The $5/mo. price tag only works if you pay 36 months up front – be sure to budget accordingly.

  16. Nice, Jeff! I’ve wanted to start a second blog and I think everyone knows how complex it can be to choose a theme. I’m trying Tribe out on a test site, but I am having an issue right out of the box with the nav menu and can’t find any support forum or FAQ / info for the Tribe theme. I wrote the designer, so hopefully he has a solution.

    Great tutorial! Maybe you might consider creating a tutorial (if you don’t have one already) on creating the mailchimp subscription box etc.

    Thanks!

    Bryan

    1. Just an update, I got ahold of Martyn and he explained how to fix the issue. Very easy to fix and he responded quickly. Can’t beat that!

  17. You are something, really. You seem to be based on generosity, not just symbolically , but genuinely.
    I’ve tried all my life to be a good Christian, but the longer I watch you in motion, the more I feel I need to evaluate my deepest motives.
    In the world we live in today…you are a rare commodity.

  18. Thanks for the 1-2-3 Jeff! I’m getting ready to go pro with my site. I can’t read enough about the how-to! By the way, I like the clean, fresh look of your site. Keep it up!

  19. HI Jeff, I’ve clicked on the link to buy Tribe but I can’t figure out how to buy it or download it. It takes me to the Two Hour Blogger website and it’s not clear how to get it. Any ideas?

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