In my 15+ years as a web professional this is by far the most common question I get. The conversation, in person or via email, usually goes something like this:
“Hi. I need a website to promote my book. How much will it cost? Can you give me a rough idea?”
To properly frame this question I will turn the tables and ask you a similar question; “How much does a car cost?” If you’re thinking you couldn’t possibly answer that questions because you don’t know if I want a two door or a four door, a compact car or an SUV, a car loaded with options or just the basics then you’re starting to get the point.
How much does a website cost isn’t a specific enough question for you to get a response.
Here’s what to do instead. When contacting a web design professional about potentially building your dream website supply some basic information up front. How many pages do you want the site to have? Do you need a shopping cart or other payment functionality? Do you want a blog? Will you need access to the site so you can make updates yourself? Do you plan on adding more to the site later? Will you need hosting set up for you or a domain purchased? Do you need help with Facebook and twitter? Do you want a newsletter? These will be your conversation starter. The web designer will still need to know more and hopefully will arrange a time the two of you can talk in more detail about your needs. Then the web designer can give you an estimate for how much the website will cost.
If you have a small budget say so up front and share what you are willing to spend. The designer may be willing to work with you and offer a site that meets your budget (But be prepared that on a small budget you aren’t going to get a site with all the bells and whistles.)
To learn more about the specific features you can have on your website take review the Author’s Website Guide.