10 author blog makeover case study – coming soon! (Want a free site?)

I’m excited to be building up a team that can install beautiful WordPress author sites quickly.

There’s a lot of crap out there, and a lot of people who will take your money and make you something too complicated and not very nice looking, that doesn’t function well and won’t sell your book.

It may seem like what we do is easy: take a nice theme, add your content, custom make some images, add a logo that fits your brand. Our sites are built to attract the right readers and focus their attention towards taking action. They’re purposeful sites. They’re effective at helping you reach your goals.

That’s all that really matters in site design: whether or not you’re boosting conversion, building up traffic, getting email optins, and selling books.

But since this site is new, we need to do some creative partnering to build up some testimonials, and also start getting links. So we’re looking for ten authors who have older, unattractive sites that need a facelift.

We’re not making brand new sites right now, just revamping some established ones. So if you have a site that’s a few years old but is in really bad shape, post it in the comments so we can take a look – if you’re selected, you’ll get a new site for free!

PS) I’m using the tool here and also MOZ to analyze how much ‘influence’ your site has, on a scale of zero to 100. The two sites use really different metrics… so I’m combining the scores of each. Most people have zero. This site (marketingforwriters.com) has a score of 5 and 38. So I’m looking for sites with at least as high a score – otherwise a link from me to you is more valuable than from you to me. And I need those powerful links to start ranking well on Google when people search for “author websites” or “book marketing.” The people who have high scores are almost always people who interact, post comments, and chat in online forums and boards – those are things you should be doing if you want to build up your site’s traffic.

PPS) I’m also considering how much content you have and whether your site gets any traffic. A new website design, like a new book cover, doesn’t matter at all if nobody is seeing it. A site that gets a lot of traffic will see a big difference in book sales, email optins, and conversion with a better website design. But zero x zero = zero – if you don’t have traffic, the thing you need to do first is write more content, write more guest posts on bigger blogs, and build a community by interacting with others. Those things will help you more than a new website.

PPPS) Finally – I should point out that this won’t include a total, custom design: I won’t make it exactly what you want. I’ll make it much better and I’ll fix the problems and set it up to sell more books. I’ll do it quickly but won’t let you keep tweaking it or asking for lots of little changes… once you start it can be a can of worms, and most of the little things won’t make any difference to viewers or conversion.

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86 Responses

  1. Hi!
    So I am 14 years old and I have a website I made for BBC’s rendition of Sherlock Holmes. We post great content, and we also have some of the best Riddles on the web. I am trying to learn content marketing, blogging and building websites, but I do not have the right people to help me 🙁
    I would love to help Marketing For Writers is any way I can, and hopefully, learn somethings along the way.
    My website is made using Weebly (Not the best, I know. But when you got pocket money is not enough for hosting, you gotta make do), do you think you guys would be able to help me?

    1. Your site looks good, good idea, just keep posting content to get the traffic. Research and write and post a ton of content; you can do that for any site and crush everyone else. You don’t need help… you need more content (and better) than anybody else, and it’s free – you just have to write a lot.

  2. Hey Derek! This is is for one of my pen names and it’s a few years old. I do blog on it every once in a while when I have updates, but it’s a basic Woo theme (free) that could use some “authoring up”. I’d love to participate in the contest, and if you think my site is worthy, maybe upgrade it to something better!

    1. Yeah it could use work; it’s a PR1, how much traffic are you getting on it? You’ve got to make sure it’s worth it, it could be easier to start something new around a tighter theme.

  3. Derek, this sounds like an awesome opportunity to give my website a facelift. I would love to use WordPress on my site (www.anystarpub.com), but have not made the leap yet! What do you think? Shall we do it? 🙂

  4. I resonate with the things that Derek Murphy USED to do! My website was built around 2010, but I have not made any changes whatsoever to it for two years. I had to get the service provider to make changes for me, as I do not know enough about IT to do that myself. I keep meaning to find out how to construct my own website to promote my books and art, but always felt that would get in the way of writing more books and doing more painting. I’d be delighted if you could help.

  5. I have a site that’s NOT on WordPress, but I’d like it to be. I built it on Weebly’s free platform (though I did pay out for a domain name). I’ve thought about changing it to WordPress but thought that technically that would be a pain. I’ve never been that happy with it and I recently reworked it to be all fun and quirky, which I’m now thinking may have been a mistake. It has zero custom design. It’s just a standard template etc and I feel like I want to throw it out and start again. Any chance you could help? Here it is: http://www.karenbanes.com/

  6. Hi Derek! Imagine my excitement this morning to find your email in my inbox. offering a make-over to an author who is old, unattractive and in need of a facelift! That’s Me!! Oh wait, I just reread your post – you want AUTHOR WEBSITES with those qualities – well, Cheers! I have a website that absolutely qualifies for those adjectives too.

    Mine has been established for a few years, and is quite dull and business-like in appearance, but lacking any skills in that area, and finding making WordPress changes to be beyond my level of comprehension, I have just put up with it, waiting and hoping for an exciting offer like yours to come along from a (WordPress) wizard who might even live in a magical castle.

    Actually, I was just at the point of desperation of making a list of possible web page designers to approach for a quote, and then possibly selling a kidney in payment. Please consider my website as a possible contender. (And give us an update on your search for an appropriate castle! Are you there yet?)

  7. My website, built in 1999, is a real eye sore! I would love, love, love to have it transferred to WordPress, and I would be thrilled with anything your designers did with it. (I need to update the content, but the current program is too complex for me to do without hiring someone, which is ridiculous.)

    When done, I can post a raving testimony and link for you on my blog at http://www.askcarolynwarren.com, which had 17,000 views in 2014 as well as on the new site and on my public Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn.

    1. It does need work, the flashing house lights are funny. I’m really looking more for sites with matching content, books, writing, etc – rather than finance – so it will depend how many submissions we get and what we end up choosing (and how much work each site will be to redo).

  8. Recently I’ve realized I need a static first page, instead of a blog page, and since I’m branching out from my series, I even need to change the name of the site to my author name, not my series name. That’s the beginning of my woes.
    I started this blog over two years ago, not sure what it should look like, and in the past weeks I’ve been researching what it should be. I’m also hiring my neighbor who’s a graphic designer to redo my book covers to something more exciting, and I was hoping to get the covers and website made over in the next two months.
    Since I’m in my mid-forties, all of this takes three times as long as it would others, because I am NOT tech-savvy. If you guys want to tackle this, I’d weep for joy.

    1. I think we could throw on a new theme and a better header and it would look a ton nicer. I’m not sure if you want to start over with a different name (you can just buy a new url and point it to this one, or have a separate author blog)… but then you’re starting from zero in terms of traffic.

  9. This timing is so amazing. I have been agonizing over my old tired websites for some time now., wanting to streamline into 1 crisp new site for the release of my new novel and marketing campaign – I’ve hired a marketing company for consult and their first comment was on how I need to rebrand and redo my websites, I just don’t have the time or knowledge needed to tackle such a project. Letters From The Ledge is a word press site and the other was built in iWeb which doesn’t even exist anymore! Derek you redid my cover for Letters From The Ledge last year and I’ve gotten nothing but races over it. I would be so grateful if you would consider helping me really make a fresh start all the way around so that book – and the ones coming soon – have a great shot at some real exposure! Thanks for considering me 🙂
    Lynda Meyers

  10. Please, puh-lease help me! I feel like my site is a helpless toddler whose mom dresses her in dingy, cast-off clothes. I look around at other authors’ babies and they’re dressed so much cuter than mine, but I don’t know where to start. Could you PLEASE give this worn-out author site a new outfit? http://www.willowfeller.com . Thanks!

    1. I have to check how easy it will be to migrate a Wix site to WordPress… I think there are tools I can use to try it out but it would be an experiment, I’ll have my guys check it out.

  11. Hi Derek,
    Would love a make-over for my website Play Piano For Kids. I have 2 Apple iPad multi-touch books that this site is supporting – hopefully a third soon.

    I discovered you through Joanna Penn – great stuff and thanks for your generosity.

    Andrew Ingkavet

  12. Derek, I’m an 87-year-old book author with more than 25 books out. The books have proven to be great sellers at trade shows and craft shows. Costco has carried several of my titles over the years. My problem is that while I’ve poured more money into a website than I care to remember, I’m just not getting any book sales from it. I think that I’m not doing something quite right. Yes, at 87, I’m still writing and authoring books. I have one that has sold more than 250,000. I wish you would tell me where all the money went as I can’t seem to find it.

    Alton Pryor
    Stagecoach Publishing.

    1. Most of your site looks good; I could make a new header which will help, but it won’t really sell more books (that depends on how much traffic you’re getting, not what your site looks like).

  13. Derek
    I LOVE your covers, that you make them DIY and are so open about offering help to us, non-graphically creative folks. I’ve done all I can with my website but it’s looking too much like a blog.

    I’ve used my own, old uniform to create the header, which I like, but it sure would be nice if the rest of the blog was … well, something much dynamic.

    I hope you’ll pick mine to work on! THANKS for all you do.

    1. Your site isn’t bad, hemingway is a good theme. Simple is usually better than dynamic, you don’t want to impress, you want to get out of the way so people can read your content. I could probably make a few cool graphics to display your books better, and I would probably choose a different background image (something that makes people feel the right emotion for your genre) but I wouldn’t change too much.

  14. Derek, At the very least, could you fun a “health check” on these sites, looking for where I can fix weak points? I’m not sure how I can better exploit meta data, tags, etc.

    Take a look and let me know. I can pay for such diagnostics and optimizations.

    Also, my book is being published by BookTrope. We’re coming down to the final page count and I’ll need the spine done. I’ve also done a back cover.

    It will be good to touch base with you.

    1. I think http://www.armageddonontoast.com is fun. Busy, but exciting, probably appeals to the right readers.
      Same with http://missionveritas.com except I’m not a fan of the 3D art on top, I think you’d do better with a stockphoto space theme, maybe a hot girl in a space suit. Both of them though, have almost zero backlinks, which means they won’t rank well and probably don’t get a lot of traffic, unless you’re sending it from somewhere. So: guest post or comment on blogs in your genre, run events or contests, give people a reason to link back to you. (Can you make a bunch of free screensavers or desktop backgrounds or something?)

  15. Miriam

    I wish I hadn’t deleted my old WordPress. I just redid mine to connect with the right audience. Wish you guys where around a couple months ago before I decided to delete my old blog. But good luck to you guys! I’ll post this on my New blog for all my author friends to see 🙂

    1. Hi Douglas, most of your site I like – it’s clean, your images are good. Love your book covers. What do you want to do with it? It could be wider, I could remake the header/logo for branding, you probably need a ‘books’ page with all your books and better purchase links (note to others – use ‘buy buttons’ that tell people where they will go when they click, ‘buy on amazon’ etc. People don’t click if they don’t know where you’re taking them). You probably should also have your books/links in the sidebar. And the theme could be a little edgier for your genre… We can do some work on this together. By the way your page authority is 30+38, pretty good.

    1. Yeah it needs work. Main problems: flash and music have to go. Book covers are too small and don’t all have purchase links – your covers are nice. The blog link doesn’t work at all, which means you don’t have very much content, which is why your score is really low: at least you can start over without risking anything. I would forget about design, install WordPress and a free theme, and start building up content and traffic – that matters more than anything else. Sorry I can’t be more helpful, but this one needs to be redone. I would just get a free wordpress blog or something and start building up content, or just install wordpress here. Content matters more than anything.

  16. Hi Derek,

    I hope you are well. I have a website that I want to have revamped before July. However, it is a Weebly site. If you’d like to take a look at it, please feel free and let me know if you would like to do this.

    There are a couple of things I will be eliminating though. First, I will only be directing traffic to Amazon for my book. I have a couple of books coming out mid-year and end-of-year. I don’t want to be bothered with shipping. Therefore, I will be eliminating the storefront, as well as all digital books for download. The other thing I will be eliminating are the Amazon links on my blogs. I don’t have many blogs up, and it would be fine if you don’t want to add these for the re-do if my site is selected. I will rebuild the blog portion myself later.

    As far as paying you back, I can write a nice article on HubPages where I’m one of the leading authors. Here is the link: http://abbycampbell.hubpages.com/. My Page Authority is 42, and my Domain Authority is 88 there. I would be happy to link you. I have done this for another client with some psychology articles. If you want to look at them, they are at:

    (1) http://abbycampbell.hubpages.com/hub/Child-Psychology-of-Gifted-Children

    (2) http://abbycampbell.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Discover-Your-Best-Possible-Self

    (3) http://abbycampbell.hubpages.com/hub/What-Makes-Someone-Appear-Attractive

    This may help you see how I add the links in naturally. Plus, I would have a ton of great things to say about you. 🙂

    I look forward to hearing from you!

    1. Do you know what you want to do with it? Mostly it looks good, some elements are a little crowded. I’m not sure we’d want to redo the whole thing, or change from Weebly to WordPress (I am curious about that process though, it may be a grand experiment… but I don’t think I have time to try it right now). Also your web authority is mostly health and diet, which would be great for someone else but not so great for me… however I would love to be using hubpages better or get a few posts up. You’ve been using it very well. I should actually sign up for my own hub… I think I can help make you a new header or some display graphics to highlight your book and cover better, but I’m not sure I can commit to the whole site.

    1. Nothing wrong with the hemingway theme, though you should have a more exciting image on top. Your other site, http://marcus1776richards.wix.com/home, is pretty cool.
      The main problem I see is most of your posts are talking about your books or publishing – and that news isn’t going to matter to many people. You’ve got to start talking about things that would appeal to reader, broader stuff that people have opinions about, to get shared (you have very very few backlinks, so you’re not saying anything worth linking to…)

  17. Just wondering if you would consider my site for one of your free new websites. It is in Squarespace and I started it last summer. I would just love to get it on WordPress and have it redesigned. I write on my blog and have written for a couple other larger blogs. (links on my site)

    Thank you for your consideration.


    1. Your site isn’t that bad, and I’m not sure what the conversion process from Squarespace is like. I think you should cut down some menu items. If you are serious about doing coaching, it should look cleaner and more professional (and I’d add the price you’d like to get paid – usually higher than you’re comfortable with at first). Do you have books on Amazon? I couldn’t find any links to your books. I would make the Facebook box bigger, you have a lot of fans. You’re doing things right; you can guest post on webwisewriter.com if you want to build up some more links. And start using WordSwag to make nice inspirational quote images to share. And do about 20 more guest posts… I’d focus on creating content and building traffic some more before worrying about your site.

    1. I think you win the prize for the worst site. 🙂


      I’m not even sure where this is hosted, Google? I would start over or WordPress or Wix or Weebly, you can’t do worse – the menu doesn’t have any links or pages, the book covers aren’t helping – and there aren’t any buy links to Amazon or Smashwords. But since you don’t have any content I doubt anybody ever sees that page anyway… maybe just link to your Smashwords profile – my covers look amazing by the way… https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SusanFirtik

  18. Hi Derek (and minions)

    I am interested to see if my site would fit the bill for your ‘revamp’ project. It was set up a couple of years ago and there are some structural issues I would like to address. It gets okay traffic (I think) but I don’t update it very regularly.

    Greg (G.P.) Field

    1. It looks like all your titles are being cut in half. I’d like to throw a new theme on and see if that fixes things, maybe add a header. Nothing fancy, just so it works. Your score isn’t great though… you have some good links back from thecreativepenn – you must comment there a lot? And one from publishingpers​pectives.com (you should do more of those).

    1. I think I used that theme like 10 years ago. 🙂
      It needs a new theme and header… maybe possible – probably later when I have more time, though I can’t get a good reading on your site’s score. I’d rather get some links from http://penofthedamned.com/ which is a little better (great example of a community author blog by the way).

    1. It’s true you need a better theme – though I think you could change the image behind the header and that would help. But the big, glaring problem with your page is I can’t find your books, at all; you have some excerpts, but no book covers and no links to Amazon (I tried, I even searched for you). Maybe you don’t have any books published yet? If you do, it’s way too hard to find them…

  19. My WordPress site is boring and does not attract anyone. I have some friends that posted some short stories to add to some of mine. But I really don’t know where to go with the whole thing.
    I certainly would appreciate the help you are offering. A link to your site and a recommendation of your work would be a small price to pay.

    I look forward to hearing from you sometime.

    1. Starting a community was a good idea, but you need more of a theme (creative writer’s is too broad, narrow it down to a genre). And you need much, much more content. It takes around 100 posts or articles – plus a couple years – before Google says “Ok, that’s a real site, not just somebody playing around.”

  20. My site needs some help. I’ve tinkered over the last year or so, but it’s not my forte. My hosting company told me that I broke something I shouldn’t have been able to break. I’m that talented. Any help would be appreciated.

  21. One of my editors suggested I read this post and offer – I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not! 🙂
    Would be interested in your opinions on my site, and what potential ‘free web designs’ might offer that I don’t have. (I’ll admit to finding web site management rather trying).

    Ps. I think what you are offering authors is very much needed, especially for emerging authors! Thanks.

  22. Pingback : How to set up a website funnel with WordPress to build loyal readers and sell more books. | Creativindie

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