Most author websites suck. Including the websites of multi-million dollar superstars. But whereas Stephen King could get away with having a crappy website for decades, most authors depend on their online brand to convey their value, their quality, and their professionalism in a shrinking industry to a readership that can always choose to read a classic over an unknown entrant.

However, most authors are strapped for time, strapped for money, extremely non-technical, and lack good design sense. After all, their medium is just black letters on a white page—just as it was in Gutenberg’s day.

This gap means that most authors go without websites, press kits, or any semblance of brand whatsoever. This largely ensures a sub-par reception by readers, book reviewers, new media, and old media. And as a result, lacking an existing audience, it largely ensures they won’t be given as many opportunities by publishers, who now expect authors to be influencers out-of-the-box.

Enter SiteArcade.

How it Works

SiteArcade is a platform-in-a-box for authors. It takes away all of the complexity and know-how of deploying and managing a website, at an incredibly low cost.

Unlike Wordpress or Squarespace, SiteArcade websites build themselves, and they stay up-to-date automatically.

When an author signs up, they simply paste in a link to Amazon. Within a minute, we’ve scraped their data, generated a color palette based on their book covers, selected fonts based on their genre, and dynamically created favicons, open graph images, and all of the assets required to align their brand across every major platform.

Authors can then interact with our AI, regenerating assets and configuring their brand aesthetic—within a controlled environment where there are no wrong choices!

If they like what they see, they sign up and register a custom domain (included in the cost) with branded email addresses (included in the cost).

Then, SiteArcade monitors Amazon for changes, updating the website accordingly. If we see a new pre-order, a new release, or a new sale, we will automatically promote the book for the exactly-right duration, otherwise falling back on mailing list signups.

Finally, we also generate HTML and PDF press kits on the authors behalf, beautifully branded and completely interactive. Authors can add additional context, but otherwise, these links remain always-ready for outreach to the media and industry pros.

How much does all this cost? $150/year!

SiteArcade Signup


Both my husband and I are published authors. I’m a damn good engineer, and he’s a damn good graphic designer, and neither of us had the time or will to maintain our own websites!

In our network of literally hundreds of authors, the story was always the same. Authors knew websites and brand were important, but they lacked the skill to do anything about it. And even those who did found that their websites went quickly out-of-date, because authors have hundreds of tasks on their plate—and an incredibly deep craft to master as well.

In 2019, three years after shopping this budding idea to authors, I started doing formal user research. The “yes” signal was very strong. Authors wanted a website that built itself.

And so, on February 1, 2020, my husband and I got to work.


Our goal was simple: Help authors spend more time writing, and less time marketing.

As the foundation of an online brand, we started with author websites. We aimed to include everything authors need and nothing they don’t.

Once we’d built this foundation, we wanted to expand our reach into other areas, reducing the time authors spent on social media, outreach, and newsletters to the bare minimum.

I estimate we made it 70% of the way into building the perfect author website experience. As described above, we covered the vast majority of what a website needs to do: look professional and sell books.


SiteArcade was a big project with some interesting technical challenges. These are the ones we accomplished:

  • A reliable Amazon scraper with a priority queue.
  • Managing domain registration and transfer, as well as managing email authentication.
  • Generating beautiful, interactive press kits and brand assets.
  • AI color palette generator.
  • Building a live website editor and a structured text editor.
  • Intuitive GUI for building and editing a website, as well as steering authors into wise choices for domain name selection and press kit form inputs.
  • Leading freelancers across the globe.
  • Becoming a top-10 blog in the industry within 1 year.

And there were many more exciting technical challenges ahead:

  • Organic integrations with other platforms.
  • Scraping from—and syncing to—other book retailers.
  • Developing wise automations for newsletters, outreach, and social media.
  • Support for direct sales that manages the delivery to e-readers and other devices.

However, the greatest challenges were those that ultimately sunk the business…

SiteArcade design editor


From launch, we consistently added $1k in MRR per month. At the 1-year mark, we were at $15k ARR. However, just squeezing out $1k/month required:

  • Monthly podcast appearances and online workshops.
  • Multiple conference appearances.
  • $500/month in website content.
  • Two high-value professionals working full-time, over-time.

And of course, it also took us nearly 2 years to launch. So after three years, we’d lost about a million dollars in unearned salary.

Lessons Learned

Gradually, we realized quite a few things about the industry that we didn’t properly understand going in:

  • We thought we were B2B, but really we were B2C. Authors talk a big game about building a business, but subconsciously they consider their work a hobby.
  • We thought we were selling a “pain killer,” but really we were selling a “vitamin.” To authors, only the writing is essential. They think they’ll just be discovered.
  • Around the time we began the project, the self-publishing industry, which had been booming, began to shrink—fast.
  • Our only competition, a Wordpress farm catering to authors, launched at $600/year and were widely recommended. Then they dropped their prices to $300. Then $150. Then $50. And then they closed their doors.

But the signal during user research was so strong. What happened?

About a year into the project, Rob Fitzpatrick released The Mom Test. This book explains our failure perfectly. We approached user research with a particular solution in mind, rather than focusing on what authors—today—need most.

We asked leading questions, so we always heard: “Yes, it would be cool if my website did that.” And we failed to hear that every author of the 200 we interviewed, told us their website needed to have a different constellation of features to be considered complete.

We interpreted authors to mean that the overlapping set of features were essential, but that the ones only they wanted were optional. Rather, it turns out, authors really wanted whatever they wanted, even if what they wanted wasn’t valuable to their business. And even if it would actively hurt their business.

After 3 months, we had an MVP. A beautiful, single-page site that stayed up-to-date. Nobody wanted it.

So we thought—one more feature. Then another. And another. But 18 months later, authors still considered our offering incomplete.

It turns out that want authors really wanted was Wordpress plus our cool features. And if we could only give them that, they’d pay us whatever we wanted—as long as it was free.

Tech Stack

This project was conceived as using AI, scraping, and rendering services from the get-go. So I went heavy on infrastructure, which turned out to offer a lot of great learning experiences.

I went all in on AWS + CDK and went hard on CI/CD and testing. The one thing I couldn’t allow for was an error in my system that wrongly “updated” all our author websites with gobbledygook.


Shared Resources:

  • Payments: Billing and subscriptions via Stripe.
  • Authentication: User management via Auth0.
  • Domain Registrar: Upstream domain registration, DNS, and email hosting provided by Gandi.
  • Database: DynamoDB. Single-table design for user info, with separate tables for caching and ephemeral background job data.
  • File Storage: I host user-generated content in AWS S3, and website assets in Cloudinary.
  • Monitoring: Error handling with Logs on AWS. Uptime monitoring with UptimeRobot.
Sample SiteArcade Sites