Ten Author Websites That Really do the Business

Simon Appleby

Posted filed under Opinion.

Simon Appleby, director of digital agency Bookswarm, highlights ten websites that do their authors justice on the web.

Hopefully there’s not a writer alive who doesn’t believe they need a website – there are so many good reasons for having one that even if you don’t agree with all of them, you ought to agree with one or two. Whether you’re raising your profile, interacting directly with readers or providing a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process, you really do need a decent home on the web.
Of course, some author websites are better than others. Here are ten that we think really do their authors proud.

John le Carré

Why we like it:
The design is really appropriate for the subject matter of the books: espionage, subterfuge and murky dealings. The way that Twitter is presented (tweets from le Carré’s feed are ‘transmitted’ and tweets from others are ‘intercepted’) is very clever and in keeping with the genre too. Beyond the home page there’s loads of content, and the site recognises both the global nature of the publishing, and the interest in films based on the author’s books.

Black marks:
The author photo in the bottom corner of the home page is squashed and distorted – a basic error that needlessly lets down a lovely looking site.


E.L. James

Why we like it:
The woman who made BDSM a socially-acceptable topic of conversation has a slick website that nicely defines her work as ‘provocative romance’. The Gallery section contains wine lists and play lists that collate all the gastronomic and cultural references of the books, which is a neat touch for fans who really want to immerse themselves in the author’s world, and the Fan Sites section offers a lovely acknowledgement of fan sites from around the world. Few big name authors would be so generous.

Black marks:
Dare we say it, we were expecting more handcuffs!


Joe Abercombie

Why we like it:
Joe is a writer with lots to say – not just about his books – and he uses his website to say it (he blogged seven times in January 2013). Judging by the level of interaction in the comments, his many fans appreciate this kind of access and the opportunity to interact that it presents. Not all writers will feel that they can sustain this level of interaction and still focus on their writing, but if you are someone who can, this is a good example of how to do it well.

Black marks:
The design is perhaps a little dated, but with content this good that’s a minor point indeed. Remember, content is king!


J.K. Rowling

Why we like it:
Admittedly few authors will ever have the resources to create and run a site that are available to the author of Harry Potter. It’s one thing to have those resources, though, and another to use them well – which this site does. The central timeline idea is a clever one – news stories are laid out horizontally and the user can scroll sideways to go back in time. News segues in to brief biographical posts about key events in the author’s life before she was published, going all the way back to 1965. There’s even a special mobile version.

Black marks:
The design is perhaps a little sterile for our taste – though you can see why they would steer clear of an overtly Potteresque look and feel.


Anthony Horowitz

Why we like it:
Horowitz writes for young adults and grown-ups too – and striking a balance of tone and look for different audiences is often tricky. In this case, his YA series Alex Rider and The Power of Five have their own branded sections with a strong call to action, with plenty of downloadable goodies. The Messageboard shows that discussion forums can still be a valid idea, if you have enough engaged fans and the time to manage them.

Black marks:
At the screen size we were using, much of the text is too small, a definite accessibility black mark. We know that the youth have better eyesight, but still…


Bernard Cornwell

Why we like it:
When you’ve written as many books as Bernard Cornwell, you need to give your fans a hand to keep everything straight – and this organises all the titles by series, as well as giving a brief word from the author on each (many sites just repeat the book blurb that can be found on every book retailer’s site). The ‘Your Questions’ page is well-used and current, and the alternating masthead images lend an appropriate historical atmosphere to everything.

Black marks:
This is a very difficult site to fault – we wish we’d done it.


Anthony Beevor

Why we like it:
Non-fiction authors need websites too, and this is a good one. The site has a ‘skin’ that reflects the design of the author’s latest tome, but that will surely change when there is a new book to promote. The events feed is prominent (and nice and full) and the blog a good insight in to the writer’s activities. The bibliography from The Second World War will be appreciated by students and researchers.

Black marks:
A very minor quibble, but the line length of the body text is uncomfortably long – it pays to understand ways to make reading on the web as comfortable as possible.


Will Self

Why we like it:
Because it proves, if any proof were needed, that if you have good content you don’t necessarily need fancy design. This site uses a very simple WordPress theme – but within seconds of arriving, you can be reading Self’s cutting restaurant reviews for the New Statesman or finding out more about his books.

Black marks:
The way information about the books is presented could confuse some users – the links on the left of the page and the links on the Books menu do two different things.


Gillian Flynn
Why we like it:
The site for the author of Gone Girl is just a lovely piece of design – it creates an atmosphere and a tone that’s in keeping with both the look and the subject matter of the books, through well-judged use of colour, texture, imagery and typography.

Black marks:
Hard to fault – a good example of uncluttered thinking and uncluttered design that works well for both the UK and US markets.


Marcel Theroux
Why we like it:
Well, partly because we made it! And because it proves that for a writer who does not want to flaunt themselves on the Internet, there are still ways you can put something of yourself in to your website. In this case, the hand-drawn illustrations that adorn the pages show views of Marcel’s study and objects in it that have meaning to him. They prevent a simple, direct site becoming sterile and impersonal.

Black marks:
We think this is small but perfectly formed (but we admit we’re biased!).


As the web continues to evolve, no doubt our ideas of ‘what good looks like’ will too – but remember, making a good author website is less about how it looks than it is about what you have to say, who you have to say it to and how often you expect to say it. Give that some serious thought, and the rest should fall in to place. Good luck!

Bookswarm is a nimble digital design agency that works exclusively for book publishers, authors, agents and others in the trade. They combine publishing experience and technical and creative expertise with an understanding of what writers, readers and publishers need in the digital era. They are trusted by Faber, Orion, Octopus, Gallic Books, the Book Marketing Society and authors Chris Cleave, Lesley Lokko and Raymond Khoury, among many others. Technical note: all sites were reviewed in Firefox 18.0.1 on a Windows 7 PC at a screen resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 

32 Responses to “Ten Author Websites That Really do the Business”

  1. Carrie Etter

    Are any of these sites done by the authors themselves? I noticed the simplest one, Will Self’s, isn’t. What about sites by authors who can’t afford to hire someone to design and run them?

    • Sheena Bandy

      There’s no shame in hiring a professional to build your website, but Authors who can work with WordPress or some other CMS are certainly going to have more frequent and personal updates on their sites.

      But if you’re looking for authors who built their own, you should look at the self-published crowd. Anyone who doesn’t have the publisher’s resources at their disposal. Most will have a tumblr with a domain name attached to it.

    • Ian McKay

      Back in April, 2013, Carrie Etter wrote the following post: “Are any of these sites done by the authors themselves? I noticed the simplest one, Will Self’s, isn’t. What about sites by authors who can’t afford to hire someone to design and run them?”

      Well, as I’ve only just joined this group in August 2014, my suggestion is a tad late: apologies for that Carrie! However, for what it’s worth, I would suggest that you could do a lot worse that to take a look at the following web site URL: http://www.fiverr.com

      I found lots of very talented, artistic and highly motivated graphic designers, formatters, programmers, web designers etc’ on this site, who actually offer their services for $5.00 a ‘gig’. My own, albeit modest, author web site, the URL of which you see below: http://Ian-McKay.com cost me the princely sum of $5.00, yes, I kid you not, $5.00! For those of us who are on a budget, a gift from heaven. I’m UK based and my site was built for me for the unbelievably cheap sum of £3.07: at the, then, prevailing echange rate. I now also have my ebook covers beautifully crafted, by a lady from Chicago, for the same amount. So I would think that there are a lot of people who will find this post very useful.

    • Nathalie

      I am a new author with my first novel on the horizon, and I have some web design skill because I have designed websites for some 20 years now, and my website is going to be done by me. 🙂

      • Gita Arian Baack, PhD

        Hi Nathalie – I have a website for my coaching practice that I built with Weebly but never get any visitors/clients.
        I also am a new author and need an author website. What would you charge and can I see your site. Would love to chat.

    • Derek the Cat

      Will Self’s site is about as homemade as you can get! WordPress with twentyeleven theme. You can’t get any cheaper!

    • Mark A. Gable

      I ran into the same problem. I use wix.com. Yes you have to live with the wix logo on your page promoting the free wix website, but in is reasonably unobtrusive and the website is fairly easy to build yourself. Most of all it is 100% free.
      I have a second website I built thehousefixer.com, I built in about 2 hours. It is still under construction but it is a very large project. The author site I have is being remade to reflect not only my children’s books but my science fiction as well.
      I did mask the wix domain name which allows me to use the simpler markgableauthor.com versus http://markgableauthor.wix.com/markgableauthor.
      Hope this was helpful.
      P.S. if you want to pay a little you can upgrade to premium and they take the wix logo off your site.


  2. Stephen M. Miller

    One of the things marketing folks recommend to authors is that their websites have a “call to action” all over the joint. I didn’t see much of that going on in these sites.

    Marketing folks I’ve talked with (I’m in the process of planning a new website) say that what writers obsess over is that their sites look pretty. Marketers don’t seem to care as much about that as they care about the site generating action. Cha-ching.

    What do you make of that?

  3. Darren Turpin

    Speaking as someone who builds and manages authors’ and publishers’ websites for a living (as it happens, I’m just finishing off a pretty major content overhaul of Joe Abercrombie’s site at the moment) I’d say the important thing is to have a website that achieves the following:

    1) Creates a good first impression – Read Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Blink’ for more about just how important a split-second impression of something can be, and then think about how your website is going to look to a first-time visitor, which could mean the difference between a hasty back-click and converting a new reader.

    2a) Acts as an authoritative repository of relevant information – which will help to keep it at the top of core search engine results (your author name, your book titles, your series titles etc.) as well as making sure your site visitors actually find the info they’re looking for.

    2b) Acts as a hub for content creation and audience development – which is a fancy way of saying it gives you somewhere to put out blog posts and bonus material and allows you to engage with your readers and fans.

    3) Optimises usability – or: Works well and is easy and intuitive to use, both for front end visitors and to update as well.

    4) Provides a central point of reference for social activity elsewhere – in the sense that the website should be the core of your marketing operation, with various social media tendrils leading off it, rather than the other way around.

    Get those first four core principles right and I reckon you’re starting off on the right foot. After that it’s up to you to use the site regularly, make it work for you. Don’t ever assume that if you build it, they will come. Most likely if you don’t use it, they won’t even know it’s there…

    • Guylaen O'Connor

      I built my website on blogger using a bunch of custom HTML and CSS tricks. Basically, I’m able to have a web presence while only paying for the cost of owning a domain.

      Anyone have any tips? Marcel’s website is my FAVORITE!!!


    These are excellent examples. If you don’t have the money, then start learning wordpress and how to install themes. In my opinion, the best option is to hire a professional. It will save you headaches!

  5. Marcy Sheiner

    My favorite website here and possibly of all I have ever seen is Marcel Theroux’s. I totally adore it! (except I wish I could either comment or write to him, but when you have a site like that you’re obviously not into “reader interaction” a topic that many independent authors talk about a lot. I love the starkness of it, the efficiency; it’s just so classy, and it goes along with your description of the writer as disliking “flaunting” himself on the Internet.

    Of course, he must be a lot more successful than some of us if he can be so modest in his PR.

  6. Rae Redmond

    Thanks for your blog post. I love how you included multiple styles because most websites I came across during my research for my own author website looked cookie cutter. Marcel Theroux’s website is my favorite on your list because of its simplicity. I despise J.K. Rowling’s website because you have to go through an entire maze to finally see some type of content. Choose a language, watch a long autograph while it loads, and just when you think you made it, the site hits you with instructions on how to use it! I closed it as soon as it finished loading.

  7. Laura

    Thanks for putting this list together! There’s some great material, here. I’m about to release my second novel, and I’ve decided I need a website. Surprisingly, I’m a big fan of E. L. James site, though not so much her books. I agree with Rae. J.K. Rowling’s site is way too complicated and twisty, though I do love the signature intro.

  8. Janet

    Great article. I liked a number of these sites. Thanks for sharing. I found an incredible new site called booklaunch.io. I had to request a beta invite but finally got one. I have been using wordpress for the last 2 years but Booklaunch is by far the easiest way I have found to build a really slick looking author site. These sites are single pages that offer everything an author needs. Super affordable too.

  9. Derek Murphy

    These are decent examples, but I agree with some of the comments: big authors can have nicely designed websites that don’t hard sell because readers are already searching for them and they just need a professional face.
    Indie and self-publishing authors, however, need to use their website to attract new readers by writing the right kind of articles, and a pretty design is not as important as having the right content and a strong call to action.
    It has to be clean and professional, but it doesn’t have to be totally custom or personalized.

  10. Kay Rennie

    I agree with Derek. The game is totally different for Indie authors. When I want to find a favourite author I simply search for his or her name, but who is going to find me unless I already have a string of books out there? I’m about to develop a new website and the examples shown here have been most inspiring, but mostly for the content rather than the overall design.

  11. David Young

    I built my own website with Joomla. It’s at davidyoungauthor.com Joomla is a very powerful, but very complex tool which I don’t recommend unless you are in the IT business and want to learn a good job skill. I do NOT recommend Joomla for a do it yourselfer who is not an IT person.

    If you want to do your own, I would look at something based on WordPress, or weebly.com

  12. Mario Rivers

    I am surprised that hostbaby.com is not on here. I produce music, and I’ve been using it for years. Its only $20 a month to maintain and I control all the content on it. I have been thoroughly satisfied with my experience there. I’ve just written my first book and I plan on using them to make my author website as well. You get the first month free. Its very easy to use. You don’t have to know html or coding, just basically copy, paste, post pics, and pick fonts. You can be done in literally an hour. and you can change it very easily every 10minutes if you wanted. The longer you use the site you come up with more ideas to incorporate and adding other things start to get easier. They even have a blog specifically for their site and tips on how to do things there. Plus you can sell stuff straight from there, or their sister company, bookbaby if you’re selling books, or cdbaby if you’re selling music. I do both. I’m going through bookbaby to self-publish

  13. Richard Gentle

    I realise the importance for authors to have websites and in fact, Reid Tracy from Hay House often says it is one of the first things they check when someone contacts them to publish. It’s useful to see other websites and I am continually fine-tuning my own. I’m not saying whether mine is good or not, but I do make websites for myself and other people. Some of my personal sites are made from the ground up, but these days I use WordPress, since it has many advantages for clients, such as ease of building, low cost, ability to offer client logins, and plenty of ‘plugins’ to help security and customisation.

  14. Justine Carter

    Not a bad round-up. The Anthony Horowitz and Gillian Flynn sites probably stand out as the best in terms of ease of use and navigation. The J.K Rowling one is also pretty interesting. Sadly most of these feel a bit dated to me and aren’t even mobile responsive. Google penalizes non mobile responsive websites now. WordPress is a great option for author websites as it’s inherently a blog, which is of course an excellent way to showcase what you do best along with promoting your work and ultimately increasing books sales and website traffic (this also increases your Google ranking) by plugging your blog posts on social media, web forums etc. My company specialises in designing Author websites built on WordPress. The prices are reasonable and we work with all budgets, from micro to large. It is often easier said than done setting up a WordPress website on your own, and the time it takes you to get a semi professional result would take a qualified designer a fraction of the time to do something that not only looks professionally designed, but functions seamlessly. There is also the added consideration of best practices around search engine optimisation, which should not be underestimated.

  15. Alice Ralph

    Some nice examples here!

    We built a website for author Richard Cockett: http://richardcockett.co.uk

    As we were designing and building it we wanted to create a platform that felt like a “hub” of Richard’s writing, and a place for all of his articles, blogs and books to be pulled together in one place. A lot of his books are now out of print but are of specialist interest (historical and political) and he wanted to provide extra information for interested readers – such as image galleries, additional content/commentary, and links to other relevant sources. So we built very clear pages for each of his books which pull all of this together as well as clear ways to buy the books (even if they’re out of print then they are on Amazon), publisher/technical information and collating the reviews. We also optimised it for search engines (SEO) so that it helps people find his work more easily. The site was built on WordPress.

    I hope you guys like it! 🙂

  16. Sandra Johnson

    I find those simple sites, such as Marcel Theroux’s, are boring. A little aesthetics is appreciated. Thus, my favorite author’s website is CJpinard.com. Fun, easy to maneuver and has personality.

  17. Pamela J. Fernsler

    I’d like to get a website, for self-publishing. I’ve been told about wordpress, fiverr and some others. Who can I ask to build one for me? I am retired and don’t have a lot of money to spare, but I love to write, and have been paid for an article already, so I’m rarin’ to go. Not that savvy, so I’m a bit nervous about doing this myself.

  18. Evelyn

    I’ve been using webs.com. It has easy drag-and-drop modules and many different kinds of content, pages, and – I’m unable to login at the moment.

  19. Leonie Biddle

    Pamela, try WIX – it is a free website builder that is really easy to use, with some fantastic free templates. You can upgrade from the free site so that you get rid of the Wix advertising if you want to, for not much cost. All it will cost is your domain name and your site hosting all up around $100 a year. I build small websites for local people who don’t need really fancy sites, they just need a web presence that is easy to read, navigate around, mobile friendly, and a major is that they can update it easily themselves.


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