It is commonly accepted that authors should have their own websites. For some authors, that’s all they know. There is also a push toward higher priced hosting for authors.
But do you need expensive website hosting? You’ll find answers from yes to no and everywhere in between. We’ll take a look at that question and give you our honest opinion.
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Indie authors often wear more hats than just that of a writer. They are responsible for seeing that their books are well-written, properly edited, and formatted correctly.
Indie authors are also responsible for marketing their work, whether they do it themselves or pay someone else to do that work for them. Either way, the marketing and promotion of their created works are their responsibility.
Should indie authors use social media platforms as their home base?
One of the first things that authors should do to promote themselves and their work is to build a website that can act as a home base – a piece of online real estate that they own and control. Any author who builds his entire online world around a social media platform is building on shaky ground.
It is easy to fall into the trap of trusting social media platforms to always be there and to be relevant. The truth is that Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or any other platform could change their algorithms or simply pull the plug, turn off the lights, and end their relationship with you. When that happens, if you have no other online presence or way to maintain a connection with your readers, the result can be catastrophic.
No one wishes such a thing to happen and most users of such platforms don’t appear to believe that it could happen. But if something that drastic were to take place, where would that leave an author who had staked his online presence on “rented real estate,” as social media pages are, rather than on a property that he owns and controls?
Having your own website on your own hosting account is a smart idea
The best insurance against such an event is to have your own website using a domain name that you own, and hosted on servers that you can access and control what is posted on them.
Staking your own claim in the online world by building your own website and hosting it on servers that you have some control over can cost very little. It can also become a costly endeavor if you don’t watch what you’re doing, but expensive website hosting is not usually necessary.
Website hosting choices for indie authors
There are a number of choices available, including some who advertise heavily on television and on video platforms such as YouTube. Some advertise that anyone can put up a website free of charge. The reality is that some of those platforms’ costs can climb significantly when features are added such the ability to take credit cards, add mailing list capabilities, using your own domain name, etc.. There are very few companies that specialize in website hosting for authors.
My suggestion would be to put up your own website using WordPress. Be sure to use the self-hosted version found at wordpress.org. The wordpress.com version is not self-hosted. You have much less control and much less freedom to expand the features on your site there than on the self-hosted version.
The self-hosted version of WordPress at wordpress.org is free to download and install and free to use. It’s features can be greatly expanded through the use of more than 50,000 plugins, many of which are free. Many other plugins are available for a one-time cost or on a monthly or annual subscription basis.
How to install WordPress is a subject for another article. It is easy to install and not frightening at all with just a little bit of coaching.
Free website hosting always has a cost
If you did any research on this subject before you came here you most likely know that you’ll need to set up an account at a web host if you wish to install WordPress yourself. Do NOT fall for the offer of free hosting. You may find yourself dealing with unwanted advertising placed on your website. You could find yourself unable to remove the web host’s branding or to use your own domain name.
You can find hosting at prices that range from a dollar or two per month to hundreds of dollars per month. The choices can be overwhelming.
If you are on your first website and are just beginning to build a following, you most likely do not need a high-priced host with very high traffic limits, etc.. You should be able to get by comfortably with a shared hosting account with reputable web host.
What is shared web hosting?
A shared hosting account is nothing to be afraid of as long as it is with a reputable company. In simple terms, it just means that your website will be stored on the same server (computer) and shares the physical resources such as memory, storage capacity, etc.. The websites are maintained separately, but share the physical resources of the machines they are hosted on.
Today, many of the best web hosts have updated their systems in such a way that one website with higher than average resource usage on a server does not negatively impact others hosted on the same server. But some of those at the very lowest end of the pricing scale still don’t isolate sites in such as way that resource hogging does not affect others on the same server.
Servers are computers and like the computer you write your books on, they have physical limitations when it comes to how much workload they can handle at one time.
What about managed WordPress hosting?
In your search for website hosting for WordPress, you will certainly come across something called managed website hosting. WordPress is not a set it and forget it piece of software. To keep your WordPress website running smoothly and securely, you must keep WordPress itself updated as well as the plugins that your site uses. Expensive website hosting sometimes offers WordPress management services; sometimes not.
In most cases the monthly or annual cost for managed WordPress hosting is more than the average author would want to pay. An alternative would be to secure a basic hosting account package, install WordPress and learn to handle your own updates, website management, etc.. We have used MediaServe for more than fifteen years across several of their hosting plans and highly recommend them for people who can install and manage the basics of their own sites. They have great prices and highly knowledgeable tech support. Note that their tech support is ticket based and is not 24 hour/day except in emergencies.
Another alternative would be to use a service like Quiet Place Media. There you’ll find fairly priced website services as well as WordPress hosting for the indie author or other creative who wants a nice website on her own online turf, but would rather not be bothered with the technicalities. Their specialty is small economically priced sites for creatives. You won’t find any pricing surprises there like you might at some other companies.
Read the fine print or you could find yourself with expensive website hosting.
If you decide to go the self-hosted path and handle your own website completely, be sure to read the fine print in the pricing section of the web host where you are shopping. You will often find that the super low monthly price goes up dramatically after the initial subscription period is up. That initial period may be after a month, a quarter, or a year, depending on the hosting package you choose.
The question driving this article is, do authors need expensive web hosting? The answer summed up is, unless you are an extremely well-known author who draws thousands of visitors per week, you probably don’t need expensive web hosting. But you normally shouldn’t fall for the other extreme, either.
If you want the ability to sell you own products on your website, to take credit cards, or possibly have a discussion board, etc., you could very quickly find yourself holding the short end of the stick with the extreme budget priced providers. Step up a bit.
You should be able to find good solid hosting in which you are responsible for keeping WordPress and the themes and plugins that work with it updated for less than ten dollars per month. For less than forty dollars per month you can have your hosting provided with all updates and backups done for you.
An option between the lower cost options and high-end managed hosting is a service like WPX Hosting. For several reasons, we use them to host this website. Their service is exceptional. If you are one who feels safer having tech support available 24 hours a day, even for the less urgent matters, WPX would probably be a good choice for you. They offer fast dependable hosting with fast tech support, starting at about $25 US per month.