Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Ideas for Using WordPress

 


Build your brand. Establish your presence. Speak your truth.

Every author needs a webpage. Being without one is like cutting off your foot. Using social media is wonderful, but any of those apps can disappear in a heartbeat. Owning and maintaining your own website ensures your connection to your readers. You control the content. You control traffic. You control your footprint. I can’t stress enough how a webpage guarantees you will still be there for your fans even if Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. crash down.

Google is a powerful tool that most of your audience uses. They’ll Google you. Let your webpage be the first thing that comes up. That means paying for a domain name. This ensures that new and old readers can find you and your message.

Be sure your webpage has good content. Links to your books are essential, and make sure the covers are prominently displayed. Also, add a newsletter sign up, photos of your life beyond writing, classes you teach, and a blog or two. Give your readers/fans something to look at when they visit you.

And keep it simple. People will visit your site for many reasons—interest in you, curiosity about your books, and blog. Straightforward menus in plain language help users navigate websites. Don’t hide content down eight menu clicks or bury blog messages in thousands of pictures. Clean, uncomplicated content allows users to find what they are looking for with ease. Especially those who are visiting to buy books. Make it a one-click with e-commerce plugins or links to various booksellers.

If you can, try to brand your website in line with your books and blog. Come up with a color scheme that works with your logo, business cards, who you are as a writer. If your site is all pink and yellow, but you write erotica, users will think they hit the wrong site. For authors who write in multiple genres, pick something neutral or create separate websites. This goes for authors with multiple pen names too. Separate the content into the names and genres. Too much on one plate will confuse readers.

Pop-ups. Yes, we all want users to sign up for newsletters, see our latest covers, etc.. But we don’t want to scare them off with obnoxious Pop-ups that drive them away from the site. That goes for widgets too. If you have an audio clip, that plays a tune over and over, visitors may leave rather than listen to it again.

Simple is good, with a little flair. Meaning keep your site up to date with the latest trends in web design. I’m not saying to change it up every week. Absolutely not. (Seriously familiarity with your set up with help visitors in the long run.) But if a pictures carousel appears on some bestsellers’ sites, maybe you should add one. Speaking of other authors, check out bestselling authors in your niche. See what kind of content they have and how their site displays.

In summary, have an easy to navigate website with great content that promotes your brand.

 

 

 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Plugins and Widgets for WordPress

 


Once your site is up and running, you’ll want a few other pieces added in to enhance the page. Plugins are small additions to the website that enhances WordPress. Widgets are tools that allow you access to certain services on the actual webpage. Confused? Don’t worry. Keep reading and hopefully, it’ll become clearer.

Plugins

How to Install a Plugin.

On your dashboard of your WordPress site, click on Plugins on the left-side menu, then on Add New. WordPress will display a few popular plugins.

Use the Search button on the top right with a keyword of a plugin you might want or need. Or click on the menus at the top Popular, Recommended, Favorites.

But what to choose? Basic security is a great place to start. Here are a few I recommend.

  • Antispam—This type of plugin will keep spammy posts off your blog. Right now I’m running both Akismet Antispam and CleanTalk. It’s probably redundant for me to use both, but I get NO spam posts posted to my blog. Both are highly rated and work fine together if you are paranoid like me.
  • Login protection—This type of plugin stops users from too many attempted logins on your site. Yes, hackers will try to get into your site with multiple login guesses at your password. You’ll need something to stop them in their tracks. (And psst, do NOT use a guessable password. Random is best for a login password for WordPress.) I’m running Login Lockdown on my site.
  • Firewall and Malware—Both protective plugins stop malicious users from hacking your site and/or installing bad software. I’m using Wordfence and think it’s fantastic. Not only does it keep my site safe from hackers, the plugin creators also send out a weekly newsletter with info about programs to watch for.

I also use Jetpack installed on my site. Another plugin for security, it also manages your site and can make automatic updates for your plugins and back up the entire site.

I have a ton of security plugins and am probably over doing it. Just call me Lady Redundant Woman.

As a writer, I’ve also grabbed a few plugins to help with enhancing my site.

MailchimpMailchimp is a website/program that allows users to create a database of email addresses. It can create marketing items and then email them to the database list. I would call it a newsletter creator, but Mailchimp has expanded so much. It’s now a marketing tool. I linked their plugin to my site to gather email addresses of fans. I used the data to send them newsletters through the Mailchimp website.

This is not the only program of that type. Constant Contact and Mailer Lite also provide this service (See future posts for information about these sites.) Both have their own plugins that can be used with WordPress. Pick one, test it out, add it to your site.

Widgets

Widgets are features to add to your site like little programs. Just like the weather or clock widget on your phone. They will add functionality to your pages.

Many widgets come from plugins.

To access the Widget menu, click on Appearance from the left-hand menu of your dashboard.

  1. Click Widgets. A list of available options will appear listed by the feature.
  2. Click on the small down arrow next to each category and see what it offers. There are audio players, calendars (handy for events and blog posts), video, image gallery, etc.. (Other plugins will offer more widgets.)
  3. Be sure to preview all changes before going live.

I use the MailChimp widget to have my newsletter sign-up appear on the side bar of my website pages.

As you continue to build your website, you may need more sophisticated plugins and widgets. Start simple. Even the most basic add-ins for your site will give it a professional, clean look and get eyes on the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Starting a Website with WordPress


How to Create a Web Page Using WordPress

You are going to laugh when you see how simple it is to create a basic blog on WordPress.

I recommend starting with the free option—less to worry about at the start. Once you get rolling, decide on a real plan with hosting.

So

Go to the WordPress page at www.wordpress.com.

  1. Click Get Started at the top right.
  2. Create a username and password. You can link the whole thing to a Gmail account to use another email to create your page.
  3. Choose a domain name. This will be the name of the site. Choose carefully. With the free plan, it will have WordPress in the URL. (Not a biggie until you are worried about Google analytics.)
  4. Choose the extension for your website name. Most choose .com for company. Note: .org is usually a nonprofit extension. If you chose .blog, make sure the site stays a blog.
  5. WordPress will show you how it looks and if it’s free. It’s a good idea to check.
    For one of my pen names, the URL looked wonky. The first two boxes show your URL and an alternative. These are for the paid plan. Scroll down a bit to find FREE in big green letters. Choose that one to start.
  6. Again, WordPress will show options for purchasing a plan. At the top of the page, select Start with a Free Site. You can always add it later.

That’s it! You now have a website. Let’s set it up!

WordPress has a walk through to set up the site, but I find it throws too many screens at you. Some of it might be tough to understand for someone new. But it will get us started. Use the walk through to do the name and tagline.

  1. Create a name for the page. This is beyond the URL. For example, your URL might be www.ginnyfrost.com, but your site name is Ginny Frost, awesome author. Or something like that.
  2. Next, give your site a tag line. It could be your own tag (mine is Steamy Stories of True Love), or just describe the site (A Blog about Apps).
  3. Now, from the new dashboard, click on the Design menu, and hit Customize. From here, we can set up your new site on one screen.

 Menu Items on Customization screen (Click on the name on the menu to move forward and the < to move back.)

  • Site Identity—Here you can change your name, tagline, even add a logo that will appear on the tab at the top of the screen
  • Menus—Add and remove buttons to navigate through your pages. You can always add more pages as you build. For now, you have Home, About, Contact, and Blog (a page for posts).
    • Click on Primary under the Menu tab on the left. It will show the default menus. Add another if needed. And click Save at the top of the entire menu.
    • Click on Social to add social media contacts for you. Add URLs from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. to link your page to these accounts. Click Save.
    • Again, click the < to go back after saving

 This will give a basic design for the site. Now for decoration!

 Themes

There are possibly 6 trillion themes out there to choose from. Each one is unique. It’s like choosing wallpaper (in the olden days, when actual paper that went on walls came in books…I digress.) My advice is to start simple. You can always change a theme. Scan some of the WordPress pre-made themes and pick one. Stick with it for a few days (weeks) and get a feel for WordPress before going over the top and actually paying for a theme.

  1. Under the Design menu, click Themes. This will open up a full screen of themes. For now, choose one and move forward. You can come back to Themes any time and edit, customize, tweak the theme.
  2. Click on a Theme to view the details of it. At the top-middle left, there is a button that says Activate this Design—free. (Again, stay with free for beginners.) 
  3. Hitting the verify button will apply the theme to the site immediately. Since we haven’t added any content yet, it’s fine to experiment with various themes. Once you have content, it will juggle your posts, pics, etc. (They won’t be lost, just moved around.) My brain works best to set up first before putting in content. 
  4. You might want to add content first. If so, skip down a few paragraphs.

Editing your Home page.

Time for Content! (Just the basics for now)

  1. Click on the Customize Home page button (you might see it after you pick your theme or on the dashboard walkthrough. 
  2. If not, click Pages from the left menu on the dashboard, then Home in the middle of the screen.)The new page looks much like the old page for customizing, but there are different options now. (Keeping track of screens can be tough. It’s good to set up ONCE, then just add more content until you get better acquainted with the program.)
  3. In this view, all text and pictures are changeable. Click on the top text to edit it. The preview posts on most themes need to be changed on the Blog page.
  4. Click on the Gear (Settings Menu) on the RIGHT side of the screen. (We’ve been on the left so much…) This opens a long menu of ways to customize your home page more than just typing.
  5. Click Change Layout to alter the setup of text and picture blocks. This will erase any customization you’ve already done. Do this first before tweaking.

Since we are keeping this super simple, let’s move down to the pictures!

  1. Double Click on the images already on the screen. A small pop-up menu will appear, click replace to add your own pics. 
  2. Click Upload (as you probably don’t have images up yet). Select an image from your computer. It will appear on screen, tweak as needed.
  3. Featured Image will add a new pic under your Home Title (change that Home title to something cool, okay?) Featured images will show up in the preview of a post.
  4. After you’ve edited the text and pictures, click Preview to see the page. (Actually, you can hit Preview any time to see how your changes are working.) This new window, let’s you see how the site will look on desktop, tablet, and mobile.
  5. When you are happy, click Update and then Visit Site.
  6. When you are ready to launch the site, go back to your dashboard and click the Setup Option again. Click Launch Site
  7. WordPress will ask again for money. Keep clicking the free option.

Your content is now live. Congrats. You can go back and play and tweak all the data on the site.

Next week, I’ll talk about Plug-ins, Widgets, and more customization for beginners.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Word Press

 

  Word Press is a platform for creating web pages. I’ll be honest from the start. I’m not an expert on the program. The few classes I’ve taken and books I’ve read have helped me understand the basics. The posts for this app will be for beginners just starting out with web pages. (Psst, if you are a Word Press pro and want a spot on my blog to give us more great info, hit me up.)

 

Word Press allows you to build a website in a few easy steps. Anyone can do it. And because Word Press will host your site (keep your data on their servers and allow people to access it), you can be on the Internet in minutes. How complex or simple the site is depends on your abilities and needs. Many simply use Word Press to create a single page blog. The program is very powerful, and sites can grow and become layered and complex using widgets, plug-ins, and old-fashioned HTML coding.

But we’ll stick with the simple

As mentioned, Word Press can host your site. There are a few pricing options to upgrade the site. Or if you chose another host, you can use the program just to make your site. Be aware if you use the free option, the words word press will be in your URL address.

Free is option one. Next, the Personal option is $4 a month for email and a custom domain name. With the Premium plan, $8 a month will add more advanced design tools and Google Analytics. For $25 a month, the Business plan gives access to special plug-ins to customize your site to sell things. Lastly, there is the $45 eCommerce plan with even more business options to run a large complex business.

I’ve used the free option for about eight years now.  I host my site with another company but find Word Press a great and easy way to get my name and books out on the Internet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Ideas for Writers with Focus To-Do


      I chose this app of all the Pomodoro timers because it had both a community and a planning element. The features include some great ways to improve your writing process.

Using Your Time Wisely

      Writers are strapped for time. Most of us have another job, career, family stuff that competes with writing for our time.  This app allows you to see how much time you spend writing. It lets you accurately track long each task takes. I’m guilty to an infinite degree about not knowing how long tasks take. With the app, I’ve timed my editing process to understand how long each job takes, and then the project in general.

      Grab a project that you need a better sense of timing on—editing, drafting, social media. Use the Focus To-Do each time you do the task. Adjust your pomodoros and breaks accordingly. If you are a sprinter, use the regular twenty-five-minute timer. If you have sporadic work sessions, reset the timer to ten or five minutes. Now work through and complete the task, marking each pomodoro as you go. Don’t worry about how many it takes, just get a baseline. When finished, analyze your data. How long did it take? What size pomodoro worked for you? Were breaks long/short enough? In the end, you’ll have a true understanding of how you work at that task.

      Now use the data. Do you need more time? Less? You can share with crit partners, writing partners, or editors accurate information about how long you need to edit, draft, etc.. Knowing your process and how long tasks take is essential to making the most of your writing time. There was an older app called Writerometer that my friend loved. It measured your working time for planned projects and gave you a finish date. Focus To-Do won’t give a finishing date, but you can speculate from your average work pace how long it will take to finish.

Plan Projects

      I’ve mentioned a few project planers in my blog—Trello, Aeon Timeline (kinda), Scapple. But Focus To-Do allows planning with practicality. It combines sprinting, measuring work time, and planning. It’s Trello with a timer. I love that Focus To-Do allows the user to add as many details and sub projects as needed. Every writer I’ve ever met has multiple projects ongoing. You can plan your book release, editing book two, and drafting book three on the app and ensure you’re giving time to each one. The simplicity of the format of the app makes it easy to juggle all your projects, add and remove details, and accurately set time goals for each.

Team up

      Though the community option is a premium feature, that doesn’t mean you can use the app solo with others. Use Focus To-Do with others to create a writing community. We are all stuck at home during this pandemic. But that shouldn’t stop you from doing sprints with friends online. Use twitter, messenger, texts, or whatever communication app along with Focus To-Do to create sprint runs and work toward your goals.

      If you use the premium version of the app, you can connect with other writers, make new friends, and writing partners. There’s nothing like peer-pressure to get you motivated to complete a task.

      Consider Focus To-Do as a medium for NaNoWriMo this year. Officially, the National Write A Novel Month organization will not be holding in-person write-ins. Through this app, you can organize and complete virtual write-ins and get that 50k goal.

Hopefully, you now have a few good ideas for this useful app. Happy Writing