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Why & How to Make a Personal Website (for Free)

Advice for authors

Published onApr 15, 2022
Why & How to Make a Personal Website (for Free)

When authors make their papers open access (OA), they increase their impact and contribute to social justice.1 An impediment are publisher embargoes, which limit when and where authors can legally share their postprints. Some publishers, like Wiley, prohibit sharing anywhere for a year or more. Most publishers, though, make an immediate exception for authors’ personal websites.2 An implication of these “partial embargoes” is that for authors to maximize OA, they need their own site.3 Not all sites are created equal. We think the best option is PubPub, the platform of CrimRxiv.4 It is free to use (unless you opt to support them), easy to use (no coding experience needed), and made for publishing. This guide helps you get started.5 With the following instructions, you can set up your site and publish an OA paper in the next 10 minutes.

1. Make a PubPub profile

Go to to create your PubPub profile. Note this will be the account for all of PubPub, not just your site (e.g., you could also use it for CrimRxiv). The information you add will show up on a page like this.

2. Create your PubPub Community

Go to to start your site. Note that “Community” here is the term for a PubPub-based website.6

  1. For “URL,” put your name.

  2. For “Title,” put your name.

  3. Leave the rest blank for now, or not; your call.

  4. Click “Create Community.”

3. Make a Pub: Example 1

You’re now at your site. Later, you may want to read the welcome message, so let’s move it into a “Pub.”7 A Pub is a special webpage designed for publishing. Note that they automatically save, so long as you’re connected to the internet.

  1. Copy (ctrl+C) the welcome text.

  2. In the upper-right corner, click “Create Pub.”

  3. Paste (ctrl+V) the welcome text where it says “Begin writing here…”.

  4. Copy and delete “🎉 Welcome to your new Community! 🎉”, then paste it where you see “Untitled Pub on ‘DATE’.”

  5. Click the pencil icon next to your name, then click the ‘X’ above the “Affiliation” box, and put “PubPub Team” as the author.

  6. Return to the homepage by clicking “HOME” or on your name in the upper-left corner.

    • The Pub is visible on your homepage—by only you. To make it public (which you shouldn’t), you’d click “Publish” within the Pub.

4. Edit your homepage: Part A

Now let’s remove the welcome text from your homepage.

  1. In the upper-right corner, click “Dashboard,” then click “Home.”

  2. Delete everything in the “Text Block” (i.e., the box with the welcome text).

  3. Click refresh (🔂) near the URL and notice the above change wasn't saved.

  4.  So again, delete everything in the “Text Block.”

  5. In the URC, click “Save Changes,” then click “Visit page” to see the result.

5. Make a Pub: Example 2

Now let’s add a paper to your site and make it OA. The following assumes you already have a paper that you want to share.

  1. In the upper-right corner, click “Create Pub.”

  2. Click “Import Files,” upload your paper, and click “Import.”8 Note that you cannot import PDFs.

  3. Pubs are HTML, which is best for publishing. But if you want to see what the paper looks like in another format, click “DOWNLOAD.”

  4. When you’re ready, click “Publish” and this Pub will become publicly visible.

  5. In addition to the text editor, you can alter a Pub by clicking “Pub Settings.” You can change these before and after publishing. For the sake of OA, two settings are most important:

    • Select a Creative Commons (CC) license. The PubPub default is CC BY. You can instead select Copyright (all rights reserved).9 To figure out which license is best for you, visit here. Note that for postprints, publishers usually ask authors to use the CC BY-NC-ND license.

    • Assign a DOI. You should probably only choose “Preprint”10 (or none) and then Click “Submit Deposit.” The other options, “Advance manuscript” and “Version of record,” are for the (eventual) publisher. To better understand why you want a DOI, go here.

6. Edit your homepage: Part B

Finally, let’s change the appearance of the Pub previews on your homepage.

  1. In the upper-right corner, click “Dashboard,” then click “Home.”

  2. In the “Pubs Block,” you can alter the look of the Pub previews. Leave it as is or change it to your liking.

  3. In the upper-right corner, click “Save Changes,” then click “Visit page” to see the result.

Extra. Expand Your Pub’s Network

As outlined elsewhere, you can/should add your site’s papers to other websites too (e.g., your institutional repository, CrimRxiv). You can do this by linking back to your site.11 This way, you’re legally able to use more platforms, more quickly, to increase your impact and contribute to social justice.

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