Bespoke author websites
Welcome to our proposal page for bespoke author websites.
We used to send out proposals as PDFs – but we have decided that we should use the technology we know best, and we’ve put everything you need to know about creating an author website with Bookswarm on this page – including details of scope, process, timing and cost. Explore our portfolio, hear from past clients and decide if we’re the web agency for you.
Why does an author need a website?
If you’re reading this you probably have a fairly good idea of why you might need a website already – but here are the three main benefits as we see them:
- It gives you the ability to make it crystal clear to Google and other search engines precisely who you are. Your website is a central hub of information about you, to which both readers and search engines can go for authoritative information
- It gives you a flexible platform from which to engage more deeply with your readers, bloggers and the media. You can use it to gather email signups and only with a website can you reliably and systematically build and own direct relationships. Social media platforms are great but unlike a website you don’t own them and the rules by which they play can change at any time
- It gives a logical place for anybody (e.g. journalists, publishers, bloggers) writing about you to link to
Agree with us? Read on…
Bookswarm is the only digital agency in the UK dedicated to delivering projects for publishers, authors and others in the world of books. We specialise in WordPress development.
We have unrivalled experience in meeting the communications needs of publishers and authors in a way that is both excellent value for money and very easy to use.
Don’t just take our word for it – here are some happy clients to tell you about working with us!
“Bookswarm … know how an author’s site needs to work. They know about books. They know about design. They know about websites. (And a whole load of other stuff). I am a very happy customer!”
“Simon and team have been fantastic throughout the process. It has been a pleasure working with them and building a great new website.”
“Simon and his team did a phenomenal job on creating my author website. His team was flexible and accommodated the various edits and really understood the vision of the site. I would highly recommend Simon and the Bookswarm team.”
Developing author websites
Based on our experience of building and operating websites for numerous authors, we have been able to put together a standard package for authors designed to meet all your key needs while also providing a bespoke design that will impress your site visitors – all for a fixed price!
We think that every website that we build should meet some core criteria, and yours is no exception. It should be:
- Cost-effective to both create and manage
- Open and non-proprietary (no lock-in factor)
- Suitable for everyday use by you to manage and upload content
- Easy to maintain and to upgrade as future requirements emerge
It should look beautiful and reflect the qualities of your books. It should also support your approach to building your brand online, whether you want to blog every day, discuss your work with your fans or just have a definitive source of information about you and your work.
The wonders of WordPress
The author websites that we build use WordPress. WordPress is an Open Source, free blogging platform which has developed over time in to a full-blown Content Management System (CMS). It’s estimated WordPress now runs at least half of all websites that have a Content Management System (CMS).
Bookswarm uses WordPress for almost all its website needs. We have developed numerous client websites using WordPress, from simple author blogs to publisher extranets.
Here’s why we love WordPress:
- There are tens of thousands of plugins, almost all of which are free – these plugins extend the functionality of the site in almost any useful way that can be imagined. And if a plug-in doesn’t exist, it can be created. Plugins make WordPress development very cost-effective
- WordPress uses themes to apply the design to a site. While there are many good-looking off-the-shelf themes available, it’s also easy to develop bespoke themes. A WordPress site can therefore look like anything that you want, from a simple, stripped-down blog to a rich magazine or a full-featured shop. This proposal is based on creating a bespoke theme for your website, designed to your brief and exclusive to you
- There is an extensive community of WordPress designers and developers all around the world – so you don’t need to feel that you’re locked in to working with Bookswarm for ever
- WordPress is easy to use and is deployed by everyone from small bloggers to major new organisations and other high traffic websites
Once you’ve used WordPress, we think you’ll love it too.
“It was a pleasure to work with Simon and the team at Bookswarm. They were professional, creative and efficient, always happy – and swift – to answer my stupid questions. The fact that they specialise in writers and publishers made the whole process so much easier.”
“I commissioned Bookswarm after seeing the other fabulous author websites they had designed and I also had a personal recommendation from another Macmillan author. Bookswarm made the whole process so easy, their prices are very competitive and the ongoing support is second to none. I recommend their services unreservedly.”
“Working with Bookswarm made creating my poetry website such an easy and enjoyable process. Simon graciously blended my ideas with his own artistic vision to produce a site that is perfect for sharing my work. Their reliable accessibility contributed to my ease throughout the project.”
Managing content with WordPress – the basics
Thanks to WordPress, almost every aspect of the site’s content will be controllable by you – from creating blog posts to approving comments, editing pages and adding new sections of content. Managing the content also includes uploading images, uploading files (such as PDFs), and creating links.
By adding support for different types of content we can make the management of that content as efficient as possible for you. For example, we can set up specific sections for managing books, overseas editions, and reviews. Each of these special content types can have its own set of custom fields (for example a book could have publication date, ISBN, sub-title and so on), and its own templates to display them exactly according to your needs.
WordPress has a feature called ‘widgets’ that allows you to manage additional site elements yourself – for example Twitter feeds, Facebook plugins, links to other websites, events listings or almost anything else you can imagine. WordPress is very search-engine friendly too.
All our sites also come with these essential features:
- Google Analytics so you can track site usage
- Automated nightly backups
- A form builder plugin to allow easy creation of contact forms and competitions
- Enhanced hacking protection with WordFence Firewall
“I can’t recommend Bookswarm highly enough for writers looking to create a website. They were understanding, patient, incredibly creative and best of all knew exactly what I needed.”
“Designing a new site and keeping continuity with my old one was a seamless process with Bookswarm from start to finish. Simon and his team were incredibly clear, responsive and inventive as they kept pace with my many questions and challenges. They immediately understood my brief and fulfilled it to the letter, and the result is I now have a website completely fit for purpose, with a lovely welcoming design, that is also very simple for me to manage and update. The support has been great too. I would recommend without reservation.”
“Simon Appleby and the Bookswarm team immediately understood what I was looking for in an author website, and came up with a design and functionality that fully meets my needs.”
Our Project Process
Projects start with a ‘discovery’ phase in which we discuss:
- Your stated brief and requirements
- What content you want for the site
- The main audiences you want to communicate with
- Anything you do or don’t want the website to do
- What you want it to look like and how you want it to feel to the user
- Other sites you like that may provide design and functionality references for us
- Your social media presence and how you present yourself online
We will then produce a creative brief, which will define a starting site structure and the design parameters for the website.
We then progress to creation of wireframes – these are a set of images which display the functional elements of a website or page, without showing the graphic design of the page. These are an excellent way to define and arrange the elements required, before progressing to the design stage. We have included some examples of wireframes from previous projects on this page so you can see what we’re talking about.
When wireframes have been signed off, we then progress to creative design, based on the agreed creative brief and branding. This is of course an iterative process, respecting and showcasing your brand identity while delivering a clear user experience that’s appropriate for the site’s intended audiences and objectives.
When visuals have been approved, we will proceed to site implementation: creating a WordPress theme and applying that theme to a WordPress site on which all the relevant functionality will be installed and implemented.
We will make the site responsive. Responsive web design is a web design approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience – easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling – across a wide range of mobile and tablet devices.
This site is where you will be able to upload content, books and reviews, experience the user journeys for yourself and provide additional input to the completion of the website. A training session and subsequent support are provided as part of the project cost.
All of our author websites include the following features as standard.
If anything we talk about during our preliminary discussions or at our kick-off meeting is not covered by this list, we promise we will tell you and determine the most cost-effective way to achieve it.
A bespoke, mobile-friendly WordPress theme that’s unique to you (not based on a template)
Buy buttons for each book, with links to your choice of retailers
Integration of up to three social networks of your choice (e.g. Facebook widget, Instagram widget, Twitter feed)
The ability to manage the site’s navigation – this means you can change how your users access pages, and add access to new pages
The ability to add additional information to pages, posts and books for the benefit of search engines, using Yoast’s SEO plugin
A site search facility covering all the different types of content available.
Support within the theme for all the formatting options offered by WordPress, including headings, blockquotes, lists, links, images with captions, and media embedding
A Blog or News section, with the option to enable user comments on posts
Integration of a mailing list signup mechanism e.g. for MailChimp, Campaign Monitor
The ability to manage and display ‘widgets’ in a sidebar area, footer area or both. Widgets can be blocks or text, imagery, or many other types of functionality
The ability to submit questions and support requests to Bookswarm through our Bookswarm Support plugin
A Books section listing your books, configured according to your needs
An events section, through which you can add details of forthcoming author events and appearances
A contact form through which visitors can send you a message
The ability to manage links to all your social media presences and other key networks e.g. Goodreads, Amazon
The ability to view your site’s traffic, through the integration of Google Analytics tracking
Free SSL certificates (ensuring all data between the site and visitors is encrypted)
A Reviews / Press section through which you can add reviews. These can be generic or associated with specific books
The ability to manage and display one additional type of custom content (if required) – for example, Frequently Asked Questions, Resources, Activity Sheets
The ability to create additional forms – for example, for competitions, questions or content submissions
The ability to exclude unauthorised login attempts and malicious attempts to access the site, through the WordFence Firewall plugin
Automatic nightly backups
Need something extra?
If you think you need something which is not on the list, contact us and we will tell you if we can include it in scope – possibly we could swap it for one of the standard features (or possibly it will just be easier than you think!).
Need something smaller?
We also have a proposal for campaign microsites.
These are small websites used for promoting individual books, campaigns, competitions or events. They often take the form of a single long, multi-section page consisting of different elements.
Frequently Asked Questions
What will the website cost?
We have a fixed price for author websites, based on our experience of what’s involved – the cost is £1,800 ex VAT. That’s £2,160 including VAT, which we do have to add on top for authors in the UK.
That cost includes everything you should need – we will even provide the first year of hosting the website, plus a domain name registered on your behalf (.com or .co.uk) if you don’t already have one that you want to use.
Who uploads the content to the website?
We assume that you, once you have had suitable training, will be creating and uploading the content to the website. We will provide you with lots of support during this process, of course. Most people get the hang of WordPress quickly, and it means you’re in proper control of your website from the start.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to upload the content, we can do it for you. Content uploading is charged at £30 per hour (ex VAT). The amount of work varies from website to website, based on what content is needed and how it is supplied, so it’s not possible to predict how long it would take to upload the content to your website.
What should I do to prepare my content for the website?
Having your content ready to go before you brief us can really speed up the project.
Typically, you will need:
- Some welcome text
- A biography
- Information about your books, including covers for uploading
- Any reviews you want to feature
- Some blog posts or news stories
- Details of any forthcoming events
- Contact information
- Social media information
- Content for any other pages you are thinking of including (for example, you might have a ‘School Visits’ page or a ‘Reading Guides’ page)
The final list of content will of course vary depending on the wireframes that we agree.
Assembling this on your computer, as Word documents or text files, can be a real time-saver and can also help you think about what content you would like the site to include.
Do you provide support?
Absolutely! As well as an initial training session, the Bookswarm Support plugin means that you will be able to ask questions and report problems from within your new website.
You will see a ‘Bookswarm Support’ tab at the bottom of every page, and submitting a ticket automatically gathers information to send to Bookswarm, including:
- The page that you were on when you noticed the issue
- The browser, operating system and screen resolution of your system
- On supported browsers, the option to automatically add a screenshot
You can also attach files, so you can send your own screenshots or supply new assets that might be needed to make a change or fix a bug. Bookswarm will be notified immediately about each new ticket, and we will follow up via e-mail.
Do you provide hosting?
We certainly do! WordPress websites require PHP hosting with a MySQL database. Bookswarm can provide this facility on its cloud-based hosting facility, and will do so for the first year as part of the project cost. This includes nightly backups, as well as support and maintenance (keeping everything up to date).
In subsequent years, this will cost up to £300 per year (ex VAT), which covers hosting, maintenance and support. You can pay that annually, quarterly or monthly.
If you prefer to organise hosting independently, that’s fine too.
How long will it take?
Typically, author websites take around eight weeks (possibly less, but it partly depends on the speed at which you can review what we deliver, and partly on the number of times we must refine things before we’re all happy). We can discuss any specific deadlines at our kick-off meeting.
Are there any additional costs?
We don’t charge for travel time, but that’s on the assumption that any meetings and training sessions we attend will be in London. If that’s not practical for face-to-face meetings, we can use Skype or Google Hangouts instead.
We are always happy to host meetings at the wonderful Union Club in Soho.
If we must purchase any design assets (for example, stock photography or fonts), this expense would be passed on to you – but we won’t spend any additional budget without talking to you first.
When do I have to pay for my website?
You have several options for paying for your new website:
Option 1: 50/50
Bookswarm invoice 50% of the total cost when you give the go-ahead for the project, and 50% when the website is live and you’ve signed it off. These invoices are issued on 30 day terms. The project commences when the first invoice is issued.
Option 2: Interest-free instalment plan
You pay for the website over six months with a regular payment set up using GoCardless. Each payment is £300 (£360 including the VAT). This is the same cost as paying for the website 50/50. The project only commences when the first payment is made.
Option 3: Extended instalment plan
You pay for the website over one year with a regular payment set up using GoCardless. To reflect the extended credit terms, we charge you slightly more: twelve payments of £180 (£216 including VAT). That means the total you will pay over the year is £2,160 (£2,592 including the VAT). The project only commences when the first invoices is paid.
What payment methods do you accept?
You can pay our invoices by bank transfer, PayPal or cheque. If you want to use a credit card but do not wish to use PayPal, you can pay with GoCardless.
If you choose an instalment plan, this needs to be set up with GoCardless. That’s because it’s fully automated and avoids the need for us to manually create regular invoices.
Do I have to pay UK Value Added Tax (VAT)?
We will add UK VAT to our invoices if you’re a UK business or a UK individual resident in the UK for tax purposes. VAT registered businesses can reclaim the VAT paid.
If you’re outside the UK, we will not charge VAT on our invoices.
Can I get a discount?
The following clients are entitled to a discount on our standard pricing:
- Members of Byte The Book
- Members of The Empowered Author
- Members of Clean Prose
- Authors represented by our literary agency clients
Just identify yourself when you get in touch!
“Authors should look no further: Bookswarm completely understand our needs.”
“I’m an electrical engineer and also a popular author with a good eye for design, so I’ve maintained my own website for many years. I finally took the plunge and had Bookswarm remake my site. What an incredible difference! The site is SO beautifully designed and easy-to-use! Bookswarm took my ideas and shape shifted them to bring out exactly what I wanted, but in ways far better than I’d originally envisioned. Really, website design and implementation doesn’t get any better or easier than with Bookswarm – I cannot recommend them more highly!”
“I couldn’t be happier with the website Bookswarm created for me. The fact that Bookswarm are experts in creating author websites means they really know how to ensure that your site does exactly what you need it to. Simon was incredibly helpful and patient, and created a website that exceeded all my expectations. It’s clear and easy to navigate and it looks fantastic.”
Direct digital sales with Erudition Digital
Bookswarm have partnered with Erudition Digital to offer a direct digital sales add-on for our clients. This allows clients to make specific titles available for customers to purchase directly through their site, including the option to sell single copy eBooks or audio downloads, or multiple title bundles.
It also allows clients to generate vouchers for free eBook / audiobook copies (e.g. for reviewers, as competition prizes or tied in to social media and e-mail marketing campaigns) and print eBook tokens that can be given out at events.
Titles that are distributed in this way can have the price set by you, are compatible with all major e-readers including Amazon Kindle and are protected by Erudition’s Custos DRM system. Based on a patented technology used to protect screener copies of movies, it uses Bitcoin and the blockchain to provide a more robust means of protection than watermarking, in a reader-friendly manner.
Social media and advertising services from Kelly Weekes
Kelly Weekes is a social media expert and Facebook ads strategist specialising in the book industry.
Social Media offers so many opportunities to authors, publishers and businesses to engage and build relationships with their readers and other relevant audiences. Kelly offers a range of services to help you succeed on social media whether you are just starting out or have an established presence already but want to build on it to make it even more effective for you.
For publishers, authors and book businesses wanting to use the power of Facebook and Instagram advertising to reach their audiences in an impactful and targeted way, Kelly offers Facebook advertising strategy and campaign management. For those wanting to be more hands on she also offers Facebook ad power hours and ad surgeries.
Free access to London's co-working space that's just for writers
Clean Prose is co-working space designed specifically for writers, which offers "a quiet and inspiring workspace for authors and creatives". It's situated on Charlotte Road in London's Shoreditch, a short walk from Liverpool Street and Old Street tubes. We've been there for a look around, and it's really a splendid, purpose-built space.
Bookswarm clients are entitled to a FREE 5x Writer’s Pass, worth £100. This is a package of 5 Day Passes, which can be used over a period of two months. So if you would like to see if Clean Prose is for you, you can – and it won’t cost you a penny.
Whether you need somewhere to 'hole up' for a distraction-free day of writing, a quiet nook for a few hours when you're in London for the day for meetings, or fancy taking advantage of the programme of events and workshops, there are lots of different ways writers can take advantage of Clean Prose.
“It was a pleasure working with Bookswarm to build my website. The team were courteous, efficient and excellent at understanding the needs of authors. We were able to work closely together to design a site that was elegant in design and easy to update, all delivered to a tight deadline.”
“Bookswarm made everything straightforward. My author site is great to look at, well-designed and easy to find your way around. Excellent WordPress training and support guaranteed to give even the most reluctant operator like me the confidence to add content and manage the site by themselves.”
“Working with Bookswarm on [Penny Vincenzi’s website] was a completely positive and painless experience – you made everything as easy and straightforward as possible and everyone is thrilled with the result.”