Wednesday, 20 January 2016

New Year, New Look – Blogging resources for Indie authors and why I'm sticking with Blogger

It's been a while since my last post – the festive season has come and gone, and I've had enough Christmas cake to last a decade, let alone a year. Some of my clothes are a little tight and I seem to have become accustomed to sleeping in. Suffice it to say it's good that things are now getting back to normal – a bit of routine is exactly what I, and the writing, need. But, I have been reading over the holiday season, and as you can see, I've also been busy updating this blog.

Happy New Year!

My old blog's style was nothing to be ashamed of, but after three years I've learnt a few things, and I knew an update was overdue. This new blog-look is prettier, has its own domain, and it has more of a professional edge than the last one (so says she). But, I'm still tweaking it, so please have a look around and give me any tips, feedback or advice in the comments below. I'm not sure that my clever drop-downs in the menu bar are all that necessary. And, while I'm being honest, is my butt too fat? I mean the footer. Have a look down there – is it too busy?

My first step (done with a glass of Christmas champagne in hand) was to doodle a plan on scrap paper. 

My scrappy notes, replete with coffee stain.

I then did a bit of searching the interwebs, reading blogs by people who know a lot more about this stuff than I do. All of them stated, usually in some kind of ardent fervour, the importance of getting your own domain name. So, I did. I plugged in '' and bought my own domain for the price of a paperback novel. Most of the experts also recommended Wordpress, and I can see why. Wordpress is a very sophisticated blogging engine that is easy to use (well, that's what they all say).

So, I went down the Wordpress path, looking at pages of different templates and suffering mild hypertension as I tried to decide which one (of the millions) would suit my needs. This process, paired with attempting to fathom encyclopedic instructions on how to develop your own Wordpress blog, seemed to increase the heart-rate further. Then I realised something. I've been blogging with the very unpopular Blogspot for years. Okay, let's face it, Blogger is about as cool as Grandpa's slippers, but boy, it's just as comfortable (to me anyway). I've learnt a lot of workarounds for when the easy-peasy, but also restrictive, Blogger won't let you do something you want to do. So, in short, I couldn't be bothered starting again with something new, and even though everyone was saying 'Wordpress is so easy', I could see I would have to commit a proportion of my time to learning it. And I don't have time. What Indie author has time, I ask you? Then I found this post, and my mind was put at ease, as I knew I had a (quasi) valid reason for sticking with Grandpa's slippers Blogger.

Once this decision was made, the rest was easy –  kinda. I read posts, like this one on what writers should include on their websites. I stalked researched other fantasy writers, like this one and this one,  to see what other fantasy author websites looked like and to steal ideas gain inspiration from them. I asked my cover designer, the talented Taire Morrigan, to create a header and a few other visuals to add to the look of the blog. 

The header, just in case you missed it.

I asked some fellow writers at Scribophile and Kboards to give me some feedback. I used (the free) Hello Bar to add a (hopefully not-too-annoying) bar at the top of my page for gaining all important newsletter subscribers. I was feeling rather please with myself, but then came a whack on the head. 

D.D. Syrdal, a fellow Indie author who I'm acquainted with on Twitter, kindly advised me that she finds blogger frustrating when she wants to make a comment, as she is unable to log in with her Wordpress account. Of course, I wanted to shake my fist at the Wordpress God, but I soon realised this problem lays squarely at the feet of the lesser Blogger God. So, I went looking for a workaround and found Disqus. I've since had feedback from another author that she finds it impossible to use on her phone – I'm interested in your thoughts, if you have any. Anyone else find Disqus laborious or frustrating? I'm hoping it is at least better than blogger's native comment system.

One other little thing I did along the way was to subscribe to Dana Fox's free 7 Day Blog Boot Camp. It gave me some great ideas and tips for the blog, and I highly recommend it to other newbie or not-the-sharpest-bloggers like me.

Okay, this first post of 2016 has been a bit of a tome. If you've made it this far, and you have a blog of your own, I'd love you to share it. Leave a comment below, on the shiny new Disqus form, with a link to your blog, or any other comment (fingers crossed it will work!).
Are you with Instagram? Add me and I'll follow you back.

Final word – this post has already been long enough, I promise it's coming to an end. Before you go, if you have an Instagram account I'd love to follow you. I've only recently joined (I'll explain why in a future post) and (at the time I pen this post) I have not followed anyone. So, I've decided to follow back my first 100 followers. That might take me till next Christmas, but that's okay.

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