When I was researching the services I could use to create my site, I felt like I was back at the Oshkosh Farmers Market in Wisconsin. There was so much to choose from. I didn't know where to look first, or even what I was really looking at.


When I decided to create an author site, I knew two things: I had absolutely no idea how, and I didn’t have the money to pay someone else to do it for me. So, I did what I usually do—I taught myself what I needed to know. I researched for months about different options for creating a website—especially free options after I learned how much paid options cost ($24-$200+ per year depending on the service and what they offer). Then I got disheartened and felt I wasn’t ready for a site yet, and I shelved the idea for about a year, after which I did even more months-long research. I did too much research to share in just one blog post, but since I’ve received a couple questions about what it was like to set up an author site, I’m going to address what I can here.

I started out by going from review site to review site, trying to figure out how best to build my site. I wound up deciding to just try out the different options myself because what worked best for someone else might not work best for me. Because I didn’t want to take more time than was necessary, I only tried out the most promising options I read about. I created free accounts with Wix, Wordpress.com, Weebly, and, of course, Blogger. I also paid for a year of hosting with Hostinger, but soon got a refund. Each one I tried had its pros and cons, but I chose Blogger because it fits with my budget, is easy to use, has decent storage, allowed me to connect a custom domain (www.kaylacookauthor.com), and has unlimited bandwidth. Also, it didn’t cause my computer to crash like Hostinger did (but Hostinger has excellent customer support). One day, I may upgrade to a different service, but Blogger keeps me within my budget.

A big drawback to Blogger, however, was the limited selection of templates. They didn’t feel professional enough to me, and none of them displayed my cover photo the way I wanted them to. Then I learned that I could use custom themes with Blogger and that there were very nice ones I could download and use for free. After I learned that Blogger was more customizable than I thought, I opened up a new Blogger account for my author site and started setting it up. I set up the whole site before I transferred the domain I'd already bought through Porkbun to make sure I could get it the way I wanted to before really committing.

Blogger still wound up being a huge chore to use. After I found a custom theme, I had to learn how to import it. This was made more difficult because Blogger had just changed their user interface, so all of the help videos I found at that time were worthless. I finally found an article in the Google help section about uploading a theme. I downloaded four themes in an attempt to find one that Blogger would let me upload. Keep this in mind: If you’re using Blogger, the themes you download must contain an XML file, otherwise you’re not going anywhere with them. You have to unzip the whole file, then select the XML file to upload to Blogger.

After I finally managed to upload the theme, it wouldn’t allow me to use Blogger’s “Customize” section to, you know, customize it to my liking. I then discovered I had to use Blogger’s “Layout” section to do anything more than change the color of the fonts. Uploading a custom theme apparently changes certain features you can use in Blogger, but I overcame the obstacle. After I started creating pages and using that “Layout” section more, I tried to connect those pages to my menu only to find that I had to manually put the link of each page into the menu editor. This was a problem because I wasn’t able to find a link to the pages. So, I went to my review blog and checked out the URL that popped up for each page. I copied the URL format of those pages and replaced the names of the review site pages with the names of my author site pages. That worked for me.

Then I realized that I couldn’t add gadgets to my theme, which allow you to add other features to your blog. I wanted to add a subscribe section to my blog, but I couldn’t without changing the theme. So, I looked up third party newsletter and email marketing services. I found several free ones with decent offerings that suited my needs. I went with Send in Blue, and, honestly, I’m probably happier with Send in Blue than I would have been with the “Follow by Email” gadget Blogger usually has. I did run into problems when people forgot to check their emails for confirmation messages. So, I’m going to mention here that if you would like to receive my newsletters, you won’t be able to if you don’t confirm your subscription through the option in your email.

You can also customize your site’s favicon in Blogger. The favicon is the icon in the corner of the tab the site is opened in. It usually displays a site’s logo. If you don’t customize your favicon, your site may look less professional. If you have a Blogger site and want to customize your favicon, just go to “Settings” and at the end of the very first section, you should see “Favicon.” Click the link. There are many free sites where you can generate and then download your custom favicon this way. Just remember to unzip the file first. The link to the one I used is below. There are also links to other services I chose and to videos that were super helpful in educating me and helping me make my decisions.

So, that’s a quick summary of my author site journey, and that isn’t going into the work I did to add content to or keep up with my site. In the end, all I had to pay for is my domain name, and that will cost me only $9 per year (after tax) through Porkbun, unless they raise their rates. In summary, I chose Blogger because it gave me the flexibility to create a more professional site by allowing me to use a custom theme, domain, and favicon without charging me extra like other services do. So far, I am happy with my site. Hopefully, if you’re wanting to set up your own author site, I’ve given you some ideas on how to do so. If you have any further questions, please mention them in the comments and I’ll see if I can help. Links that might help you further are below. They were safe on my end, but as always, proceed at your own risk, especially if you decide to click on any links provided on these other sites.


How to upload a custom theme in Blogger (by the way, this wasn't available when I was trying to find out how to do it; would have been nice): Template Toaster

Helpful videos I learned a lot from:

Craylor Made: Where should you buy a domain name?

Craylor Made: The Best Wordpress Hosting

Bandwidth and disk space: What are they and how much does your site need?

Newsletter Research: Top 14 Best Free Email Marketing Services

Blogging Platform Research: How to Choose the Best Blogging Platform

Site Builder Research: Best website builder for 2020

Favicon Research: 15 Best Free Favicon Generators

Free Custom Themes (I don't recall using the site this link takes you to, but I can't find the other site I downloaded from): 53 Best Free Blogger Templates

My Domain: Porkbun

My Newsletter: Send in Blue

My Favicon: RealFaviconGenerator

Images: All the photos on my site are my own and I create all the art and other content myself. However, if you don't want to or can't provide your own images, Unsplash is a great place to get beautiful pictures for free.

UPDATE 10/17/20: I am putting a hold on my newsletters for personal reasons. I will still be posting regular updates on my Twitter page, so if you'd like to be alerted to new posts and other updates, please feel free to follow me there. Thank you.