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Tag: wordpress

A Month of Learning Opportunities

March has been another busy writing month for me but this time, it has mostly been because of so many new learning opportunities that have presented themselves to me.

Prime Reading

One of those has been being invited by Amazon to have The Vineyard in Alsace included in a Prime Reading promotion for three months. Since I signed up, my book has risen up the charts to a high point of no. 7 so far, which as you can imagine, has been fantastic to see. I am learning new things about how it works all the time and delighting in the recognition my book has been getting. I have Amazon Prime myself but I had no idea that it included books! How mad is that? So if you do too and you want to read my book for free, get yourself along to my book page here and download it! And if you could please write a review when you’ve finished, that would be even better!

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New Courses

So what else have I been up to? Well, first of all, I decided to sign up to the Self-Publishing Formula Podcast’s Cover Design course. I do some design work in my day job, and I used to do design when I worked in marketing before I became a teacher many years ago. I enjoy doing it but have never taken any courses, and as I enjoy the cover design process so much, I thought it would be useful. I don’t really have any plans to make my own covers, although there might be some circumstances when I could in the future, but I thought it would help me to understand the process a bit more. And it really has. The course is delivered on behalf of the SPF team by Stuart Bache, who designs all of Mark Dawson’s covers. Stuart’s own company is called Books Covered and you will see many familiar covers there from the romance genre. You do need Photoshop to get the most out of the course but you will then get such a lot of practice in from trying to create your own covers and seeing what goes into the process. The course is still open but is a bit more expensive now. I’m still working my way through but enjoying it immensely.

Then after I heard about the Cover Design course on the podcast, they re-opened their Self-Publishing 101 course. Hopefully, you’re thinking ‘Why would you need that course, Julie?’ when you read that! Well, that’s a good point and one I had worried over myself since I first heard about the course opening late last year. It’s quite expensive and I didn’t want to make an investment like that if I wasn’t going to learn anything new. However, even after indie publishing three books now, with a couple more to come this year, there are still things I’m not doing to best effect. I haven’t really built a proper mailing list and for that you need a reader magnet (which I haven’t written yet!) and to promote that in various ways to encourage people to sign up. One of those ways is via a landing page on your website, which is when you realise that a free WordPress website doesn’t have the scope for you to do that kind of advanced stuff. It has been on my mind for a while to migrate my website again but I just haven’t done it. So really, doing this course is about helping me to work out what I still need to do to move myself to the next level, writing a checklist and then doing it! Fortunately, you can pay monthly for the course and it is still open for a few days. If you should want to take a look, the link is here. If you can’t stretch to that kind of investment, you should listen to the podcast because there are so many useful hints and tips in each episode – it really is great!

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Writing Retreat

Finally, this month, I went on my first ever writing retreat, just in time for the second wave of snow. It sounds terribly self-indulgent but I was given it as a birthday present from my family! Last weekend, I drove up to Warwickshire to a lovely hotel and joined about a dozen other writers at various stages in their careers for a weekend of writing and learning. The course was run by two RNA members, Alison May and Janet Gover. You can find out more about their courses here. They’re both traditionally published and have lots of experience between them.

Before I got the schedule, I was expecting to spend most of the weekend holed up in my room, bashing away at my laptop in isolation. However, that wasn’t the case. There was writing time, of course but there were also tutorials and workshops, which were really helpful. The most helpful ones for me were the ones on plotting and editing. I also had a one-to-one with Janet about there first three chapters of my next novel which I’m calling The Bistro for now. One of the things I struggle with is knowing where to start with the editing process when I get my first manuscript appraisal back from the RNA. It all seems insurmountable! But as a result of this course, I now have a proper plan to work to and I made a start on the plan while I was there so when I come back to it, I feel that I will be better prepared to make a start and not be as daunted as I normally feel.

I learnt a lot from my fellow writers too, and the weekend was a very sociable experience that I would really recommend to you. I switched everything else off and just spent time on my writing, and that felt wonderful!

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My Latest Publication!

I can’t finish without mentioning that I also published a new book this month! Over You (Sam’s Story) was published on 12 March, 2018, and already has a few good reviews. It means that I now have a series – the From Here to You series – and this is book 2 following on from the end of From Here to NashvilleThe third and final sequel will be out around May, I hope. If you haven’t downloaded Sam’s Story yet, it’s only 99p on Amazon and tells a story of heartbreak, love and healing. You can get your copy on Amazon now.

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If you want to know when my next release is out, why not sign up to my mailing list here?

Until next time, thanks for reading!

Why I’ve Gone Back to my Free WordPress Site

bald-eagle-489080_640The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that although my website looks quite similar now to the self-hosted one I created just a few weeks ago, it is in fact my good old WordPress.com site with a few tweaks. If you read my previous post (now deleted) about my migration to a self-hosted WordPress site, you’ll know that it was relatively painless in terms of moving the content from one place to another. I spent a lot of time faffing around with the design, choosing a new theme, installing a header and then loading the widgets but that too, was quite straight-forward.

However, I soon found that in order to change even the slightest thing about the design, I was often having to get to grips with coding. I am lucky in that I am quite good at the technical aspects of most things and I’m also lucky enough to have a husband who knows a lot about all that stuff too but although I was enthusiastic at the beginning, it really did start to wear me down. For example, I wanted to centre my Twitter feed box and my Facebook likes box. For this, I had to submit a support ticket to WordPress.org and wait for them to come back to me with the CSS (Cascading Style Spreadsheet) code. They did come back with it and once I had it and knew where to put it, it was easy but when I found myself having to do this for every little tweak, it soon became dull.

The main issue I encountered though was with transferring over my social share counts, by which I mean, the figures underneath each blog post showing how often they’d been shared on social media. After a lot of querying, I found out that it just isn’t possible to transfer them from one URL to another because Twitter and Facebook will only associate the shares with the original URL, even though my site was redirected from the old URL to the new one. I did come across a coding fix but it was so complicated that even my husband couldn’t get his head around it. I therefore decided to go back to my old site before I write too many more posts and lose the counts on them! When you are a small blogger/author, your social proof is so important and I’ve spent so long building it up that I don’t want to lose it. I have kept the domain name but I can’t see any way that I can realistically use it now sadly.

One of the other things that tipped the balance for me, was that last Monday, my web host company was ‘attacked’ by some technical force or other (clueless!) and this meant that my site was down for a large part of the day. Of course, this never happens with WordPress.com and all at once, I started to see all the things they are doing for me behind the scenes. You don’t normally see all that because they’re dealing with it. Spam? Don’t even notice it but if you’re self-hosted, you have to set yourself up with Akismet or someone else and for that you need an API key and when you’ve worked out what that is, another day has gone by. I cannot complain at all about Tsohost’s customer service, they were great but I don’t want to have to deal with my site going down and all the associated messages that go with that.

So I reversed all the steps: I exported my content and then imported it again to WordPress.com. Then I cancelled my site redirect with no charge as it had been less than a month since I put it in place. I used the Jetpack plugin to migrate all my subscribers back again successfully. I had no idea that the Jetpack plugin was one of the WordPress ones until I was ‘speaking’ to a WordPress ‘Happiness Engineer’ (that really is what they’re called). I was speaking to them because I had left a message about my disappointment in finding that I couldn’t transfer over all my social shares. I wrote that I thought I had read somewhere that this was possible so they got back to me to ask me where I’d read it. We discussed it a bit further and then, quite out of the blue, they sent me some upgrades free of charge because of my useful feedback. I told you they were called Happiness Engineers and by the way, there are about 50 of them tending to the needs of over 80 million subscribers 🙂

So, it’s back to normal for me and I have got my life and my writing time back. The moral of the story is that you should either self-host from the beginning with a domain name or you really shouldn’t bother, not if you care about your social shares anyway. If they were to sort that issue out, I would try again but otherwise, I’m going to concentrate on what I set out to do two years ago – my writing life 🙂 Thanks so much for bearing with me. Oh and if you need any coding done…