5 Free WordPress Themes for Writers

Wordpress themes

If you have a WordPress-based site, then you know that one of the first choices you have to make (and then live with) is your choice of theme. A theme drives the aesthetics of your site—how it looks and feels—and thus its personality.

But a theme also affects the functionality of your site. Some themes have more page or post templates than others. Some have very specific ways of formatting the homepage. Others allow for special customizations.

I use a simple, free theme for this site—TwentyTwelve—that’s developed by WordPress itself. It offers very few bells and whistles, but it’s served me well for a couple of years now. If you’re looking for your first WordPress theme, or you’re just in the market to redecorate, then consider these themes, which can work well for writers.

1. Penscratch

Penscratch WordPress theme

This theme (also developed by the folks at WordPress) has become a favorite with my students. The typography and white space are friendly, inviting, and easy on the eyes. It’s ideal for writers because the focus is the text. Go view the demo. Even though the demo shows you the theme in full-width mode, you can also add a sidebar.

2. Hemingway Rewritten

Hemingway Rewritten WordPress theme

If you have beautiful photographs or imagery to incorporate into your site, check out Hemingway Rewritten. As the theme name indicates, it’s great for writers, but it also has a lot of opportunity for visual customization, so you can incorporate your own voice and personality. Go view the demo.

3. Editor

Editor WordPress theme

Editor is focused, minimalist, and ideal for get-to-the-point sites. If you’re intimidated by too many options and too much flexibility, this may be perfect for you. It’s intended for blog-driven sites, but looks good even if you don’t blog. Go view the demo.

4. Reddle

Reddle WordPress theme

Reddle has a lot in common with Penscratch—and is also designed and developed by the folks at WordPress. It offers a gorgeous minimalist theme for bloggers, but can also be configured into a very simple, static-page site. Go view the demo.

5. Responsive

Responsive WordPress Theme

Responsive is far more customizable and complex than the other four—and more suited toward entrepreneurial and business-like authors. It offers numerous page layout options, a homepage template that’s ideal for showcasing books and products, and a double menu at the top. Go view the demo.

What WordPress themes do you use or recommend? Please share in the comments.


Posted in Digital Media and tagged , , , .

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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I use Suffusion. It is completely customizable.

Derek Murphy

And if those aren’t enough, here are 99 more WordPress themes for writers. 🙂 http://www.creativindie.com/99-wordpress-themes-for-indie-author-websites-that-will-actually-sell-books/

Louise Findlay

I use Twenty Eleven but I’ve been looking for an upgrade to try out on my self-hosted version. Responsive and Penscratch look good. I’m glad this is a free list.

Nate Hoffelder

I’m using twentythirteen myself, but if I started a writing blog I would use Tarski. It’s simple and clean.

Anma Natsu

I’m currently using one called Retro-Fitted, however I’m using the one from the WordPress.com site rather than the one also available in the WordPress theme directory. I’d picked it while trying the hosted version of WordPress and didn’t like any of WP’s default ones. But then when I decided to do self-hosting instead, the one from the themes directory of the site was vastly differently. I mean like barely could tell they were the same theme! Fortunately, the .com one was downloadable so I was able to keep it. It works for me for now, in that it had the… Read more »

Ruth Skilbeck

This is a good topic, but only covers Wordpres.com, not WordPress.org. If writers and author/publishers wish to develop sites that they may sell from later and not have to pay the annual fees of wordpress-com which are considerable, and out of reach for many struggling authors, one does not have to pay annual fee to use wordpress.org themes, or to start your own independent site – you just need a server (and be prepared to learn the tech skills, not necessarily that difficult for a basic site, and pay much smaller annual fee). There is information on this on wordpress.com,… Read more »


[…] Note from Jane: On Monday (Nov. 24), I'm teaching a live, 2-hour online tutorial on how to get your website up and running with WordPress. You don't need have any previous tech experience—just a wi…  […]


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[…] 5 Free WordPress Themes for Writers | Jane Friedman […]

Chris Norbury
Chris Norbury

I use Oxygen. Had something else before, but don’t recall. Seems okay to me, but I’m not a heavy duty blogger, so the “right theme” isn’t at the top of my worry list. 🙂



[…] with my website and redoing the blog and finding a theme I liked better. Thanks to a commenter on this entry about free WordPress themes for writers, I found one that had the level of customization I wanted. I’m sure I’ll […]

Eva Natiello
Eva Natiello

Hi Jane, thanks for these great suggestions. Coincidentally, I use Reddle for my blog. And while I love the look of it — it’s super clean — I can’t do certain things like have a Goodreads button back to my book on Goodreads, or use badges in my sidebar. That may be because of my own shortcomings since I’m not very adept at maximizing a theme’s potential, but I can’t figure it out if it’s possible. Penscratch is really beautiful, and very tempting. It’s funny, but sometimes I don’t know if I’m responding to the theme itself or the photos… Read more »


I just started my website and went with Twenty Ten. I like the look of Penscratch though. I’ll have to demo that one. jryates.ca


Design is important, but nothing beats content.

Keep the design clean, and get rid of the extraneous clutter.

Best thing about WordPress is the ability to write in Scrivener using Markdown, before copying to WP. Makes the whole process a lot cleaner and smarter.


Came across this today just as I was struggling to find the right theme after using the same old one for the past three years so can’t thank you enough; really helpful


I quite like the look of Hemmingway and Editor, because of the clean professional looks. I feel like nowadays though, every theme should be responsive since so many people browse from their devices.


[…] find themes for writers and authors all over the Web; Jane Friedman shares five themes, for example. I’ve heard several writers give the Dazzling theme kudos […]


I like the look of Hemingway but since I want to bring over the theme/look of my Weebly site over to WP, it didn’t look as great. I’m currently thinking of using Sketch but my decision is not final. Thanks for the post as it has given me some other themes to consider for my new and upcoming WordPress site.


This drive me almost insane. I’m using WP since v 1.9 or something (2008) and theme is for me more than a pain in … yeah right there … I am again on the run testing and trying to find the theme but there is always something that won’t fits … I’m waiting for someone to create a theme without something in it … just blanco pages which would allow writers to use full HTML …


[…] In this post, I rounded up 5 free WordPress themes for writers. […]


Thank you for this informative blog, Jane. I’ve been planning to switch my site over to a WordPress platform, but the more templates I see, the more confused I am. None of them look like author websites to me. Is there a way to use WordPress and wind up with a site that looks like http://anitadiamant.com/ or http://janstites.com/ or http://carolinehanson.net/ without spending thousands on an Authorbytes design?

Champagne tastes and a tap water budget …story of my life.

Liat Behr

Hi Jane, Thanks so much for putting together this post, it’s taken me a really long time to finally choose a template and I think that I’ve found a winner – Hemingway Rewritten. Can’t wait to get started on it!


Hi Jane, what themes do you recommend for writers in 2016?

Nate Hoffelder

I would not use any theme developed by Auttomatic. They are crimes against good web design.

Nate Hoffelder

On second thought, I am going to have to take that back.

Only some of Auttomatic themes are ugly: the annual theme series (twenty ten, twenty twelve, etc). The company also developed other themes which look a lot better: