Create your very own blog at the best venues: Wordpress and Blogger. Geared for authors and newbies, learn how to engage readers interested in your subjects, your business, and you. Save time and money with a blog that accomplishes the main objective: getting more people finding out about you and what you have to offer.
Blogs can be your online headquarters for everything about you.
Perfect for beginners who haven't created one, also designed for intermediates who want to do it better. As a bonus, students who use the course can have their blog featured on mine.
You'll quickly learn everything from choosing a domain name to posting and sharing with social media. Blog to your own schedule as a stress-free way to assist your career.
And the best part is that blogs can be made for free. You can also spend on a custom domain name, premium template or hosting, but it's not a requirement. Any author on any budget can follow this program right away, and we’ll use free examples with Wordpress (dot) com and Blogger. The lessons will also apply to Wordpress (dot) org templates or blogs hosted elsewhere.
At the end of this course you’ll have a great blog on Wordpress, Blogger or another site. You’ll have a powerful means for online success at your fingertips.
Get started today.
Hello and welcome to Blogging for Authors, where we're going to put the power of blogs to work for you.
I'm Jason Matthews, and I'll be sharing my tips for making a blog that assists any author with online platform. Get ready for a major boost to your internet visibility and help with your main objective: getting more people reading your words.
For authors who don't yet have a blog, we're going to help you create a great one. For authors who already have one but could use some help, we're going to improve it and make it work for you even better.
First of all, good for you for taking an in interest in blogging. You can be proud of the effort you're making to improve your author platform. Also let me assure you that I know blogs can be intimidating for newbies. They sound technical and they sound time-consuming. While that can be the case for some people, it doesn't have to be for you, and we're going to create awesome blogs that are easy for anyone to maintain in a manner that fits into your schedule.
We'll be working with the two main blogging platforms: Wordpress and Blogger. Both are free blogging venues with no monthly hosting costs, although Wordpress has two versions: Wordpress.com that is self-hosted and entirely free, and Wordpress.org which has free templates but requires hosting elsewhere which is likely to cost you money. Wordpress.org does have more features though most users will need to pay monthly hosting fees wherever they decide to host the blog. That's a fine choice for authors with deeper pockets, but we'll use our free options for most of the examples in this video: Blogger and Wordpress.com. For people who use Wordpress.org templates or blog through another venue, they can still use all of the lessons from this course for their blogs. I personally have had two free blogs for several years, one with Wordpress.com and the other with Blogger, and I love them both and the fact that they're free.
Allow myself to introduce… myself. - Austin Powers
I’m Jason Matthews, an author, speaker and publishing coach working with writers around the world. My specialties include building author platform, selling at retailers, social media, blogging and SEO. I’ve helped thousands of writers with their goals, and I can help you too.
Like you, I’m a writer first, and I got started in this business because I wanted more people reading my books. I first wrote two novels and decided to self-publish because I found the traditional route difficult to navigate, but I also liked the freedoms, higher royalties and immediate gratification of self-publishing. Plus I loved the revolution that was happening within the publishing industry and wanted to be a part of it.
The Little Universe and Jim’s Life were my first books, full length novels that I was proud of. Since I knew marketing the books was my responsibility, I began doing a bit of everything I could find to accomplish the task. That meant participating in social media, press releases, advertising, even creating a website and a blog. Back then I had no idea how important the blog would become to my marketing efforts, it was just something I heard was a smart thing to do. In time I learned it was the most powerful resource I had, and the surprising thing about it was that it was free of monthly costs, although I did pay a nominal annual fee for a custom domain name. That blog has been a fantastic way for me to stay active with writing while marketing my books and networking with people all over the world. It helped me step out of the shadows and into a brighter role as a new author, being discovered by a growing number of readers.
My experiences with self-publishing led me to mentor other writers and eventually produce more books, these on things related to what authors could do to accomplish their goals. I wrote How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks All for Free, How to Make Your Own Free Website and Your Free Blog Too, and Get On Google Front Page: SEO Tips for Online Marketing. I also created a blog dedicated to those things and decided to do it absolutely for free as an example of some of the things I teach. The blog URL is ebooksuccess4free.wordpress.com and has grown to have over 350 posts with thousands of subscribers.
I’m excited to share what I've learned along the way. It’s going to help you whether you’re just getting started or hoping to get more out of an existing blog. We’ll do things the right way, and with methods that fit into your schedule.
So I hope you’re as eager to begin as I am. Blogging is not only a powerful means for promoting yourself online, it’s also fun. Are you ready to have a more powerful internet presence? I hope you said yes, because I have a lot to share. Let’s get to it!
You’ve probably heard how important it is for an author to have a blog. There’s good reason behind those claims including a growing list of agents and publishers who prefer their authors to keep a blog. The benefits of a good blog are numerous. First and foremost, they keep you writing. Authors need that as athletes need exercise and musicians need to make music.
Blogs are also a great way to direct traffic to your books at retailers like Amazon. Think about the potentials from an interesting article related to a topic within your book. Readers who enjoyed that post will also see a link for your book nearby. In many instances, visitors will click on that link where they can be directed to a retailer and buy your book.
We all know how important networking through social media is, and this is especially true for authors. Your blog can have easy-to-click icons for all of your social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube and more. People who enjoy your posts can easily connect with you, which is a great way to build author platform.
Because everything can exist on your blog that is about you and your books, along with regular updates, think of your blog like a headquarters for any and all information you want people to know. No other single website will have that kind of power--not Facebook, not Twitter, not even a static website. Blogs are the ultimate one-stop for everything about you and can easily be linked to all those other online locations.
Another great feature about blog posts is the fact that they act like perpetual billboards over time. You may write hundreds of posts in just a few years or less, and those posts will still get found by visitors from all over the world who will visit your blog and check out what you have to offer. The potentials are unlimited.
For all of these reasons, your blog can have excellent SEO factors (search engine optimization), and it will become a top result for a myriad of search terms that have to do with you, your books, and most importantly the subject matter of what you write about. In time, thousands of varied search terms will bring visitors from all over the world to your blog. If you like the concept of more bang for your buck, then blogging will reward your cyber investment better than anything else over time.
It's extremely helpful to watch this course in the best settings: full screen and HD (high definition). At most retailers the default setting may be a smaller screen with video quality that is less than optimal, so you can change that by clicking the full screen button as well as the HD (high definition) button. They are usually in the lower right area but you may find them elsewhere depending on your retailer.
It's also helpful to download the free PDF guide that goes with this course. It contains key text concepts as well as the useful hyperlinks for the websites mentioned (so you won't have to retype them). Download it and save it to your computer.
Wordpress.com, Wordpress.org and Blogger are the most common choices for blogging platforms. There are plenty of other fine options though, including the ability of many existing websites to also contain a blog within them. Some of the decisions will be made easier as you determine how much freedom, technological abilities and maintenance responsibility you'd like to have in your blog. Wordpress.org is the most advanced option but requires you to host and maintain it, while Wordpress.com and Blogger are self-hosted, a bit easier to get started with but are a bit less advanced with some functions.
Ultimately, all of these blogs can be extremely professional and make great choices.
Pick the right blogging platform to each of these questions.
The more you look around at blogs hosted by other people, the clearer it will be what you like or don't like and how that might affect the design and layout of your own blog. Of course, everyone has different tastes and you have the right to design a blog any way you see fit, but one thing to keep in mind is the ease of use and visual friendliness of the navigation, social media links and other things that you'll want your visitors to find and click on.
Picking a domain name is one of the first things you'll be asked, but it's wise to do some basic research ahead of time. Do not rush into this. It's really smart to take your time. There are many places where you can register a domain name or check its availability, like GoDaddy, and you can often register a name through the platform where you're blogging, like with Wordpress. Sometimes a slight alteration of the name, or the use of dashes between words or the use of a difference suffix, like .info, makes the difference between a domain name being available or not.
Also recognize that a custom domain name will help with SEO factors, though it's not mandatory. Custom domain names can be used with any blog, even free ones, and they typically cost between $10 and $18 per year depending on where you get them.
Before choosing a domain name consider if you're branding your name or a subject. Take time researching at registrars for the domain name you want, as in mycoolblog.com. Also do some research at Google Keyword Planner for this, which will be a good habit later when you're making blog posts and coming up with titles, categories and tags.
https://www.name.com/domains (for info on suffixes, like .net, .biz, .info, .co)
https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner (for checking popularity of search terms)
When picking a domain name
After doing research for a great domain name, you can begin the process of starting a blog. If you haven’t created one, Wordpress and Blogger are excellent choices. It’s surprisingly simple to start a blog at both venues, basically just a matter of going to the websites and following the prompts.
If you decide on a Wordpress (.org) blog, you’ll need to download the software and find a host. They recommend 3 common choices as great hosts at varied prices, like Bluehost, but there are plenty of other options including absolutely free venues. However, you’ll be required to handle your own maintenance if you ever have issues. There are fortunately forums and support pages for just about any possible question or issue you might experience.
http://www.bluehost.com/ (recommended by Wordpress.org, paid monthly hosting)
http://www.dreamhost.com/ (recommended by Wordpress.org, paid monthly hosting)
http://laughingsquid.com/ (recommended by Wordpress.org, paid monthly hosting)
http://www.awardspace.com/ (free monthly hosting, less support)
http://www.leadhoster.com/ (free monthly hosting, less support)
After starting a blog you’ll be ready to pick a template, which is the layout and design or how the blog looks. There are hundreds of options from how things are placed on the web page to color schemes, text fonts, backgrounds and more with custom features. It’s okay to pick a template even if you haven’t settled in on an favorite design because this is something that can easily be changed later as often as you like without losing any work you've done.
Notice that there are both free and premium templates. Premium ones cost money, but you might not know exactly what your blog will need for the first few weeks. For this reason, I strongly recommend choosing a free template when you first begin. That way you can play around with ideas, looks, backgrounds and more, and you change the template as frequently as you want. Eventually when you have an idea of what you really like and want, and if there’s a premium template that fits those needs better, then that will be a fine time to go premium or to stick with a free one. Just so you know, my blogs (I now have 4) all have free templates and I've always been able to find suitable ones.
Go ahead and choose a template, make some changes and check the look again. Don’t worry about visitors at this point because almost nobody will be visiting before you market it. Have fun and play around!
http://ourvideoexample.wordpress.com/ (Wordpress example for this course)
http://ourvideoexample.blogspot.com/ (Blogger example for this course)
Most blogs have additional pages and yours probably will too. This is another time to think about what common features you may want, like an About and Contact page, in addition to pages that are uniquely yours. It’s also a smart time to revisit some other blogs to get a sense of what’s working for others.
Adding Pages will be done through your dashboard, by clicking Dashboard in Wordpress or Design in Blogger. Click on New Page and give it a title. Don’t worry too much about filling it with content for now, but you can type anything in there if you want. Clicking the Publish button will make it live. Do that for a few pages with titles that you think you’ll want on your site. Again, these can always be changed later and it doesn’t matter if they’re mostly empty webpages. The point is for you to see them as part of the navigation options in the menu.
With Blogger you might need to go through the Layout section and Add a Gadget by choosing the one called Pages. After opening the Pages Gadget, you should see the option to put check marks in boxes next to the pages you just created, and then Save those to add them to the navigation items. You can go back to that Pages Gadget to drag and drop for a change of order and will also need to revisit that to add more pages in the future.
At Wordpress you may find an About page automatically inserted if you have a Gravatar account. Regardless of that, create new pages just by clicking Add New in the Pages tab of the dashboard. Title a new page and Publish it. Most Wordpress templates will automatically show your new page in the navigation.
Keywords help readers find your blog by subject matter. A bit of research ahead of time will work wonders with search engines. These are single words or short phrases that are associated with your post. Hopefully you’ll add keywords to your blog post titles, the actual text, categories and tags or labels. The whole concept here is to connect people using search terms and search engines with the results in your blog posts.
A great habit before any blog post is to make a list of closely related words that are themes or subjects within your post. Then go to a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner to do some simple testing on that list of words. Look for words and terms that are actively being searched and preferably have low competition from other advertisers. Beware of using terms that never have any searches, but also beware of search terms that are enormously popular and generic.
https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner (for checking popularity of search terms)
Even though they aren’t mandatory (e.g. I have a blog without a custom domain), custom domain names do help with SEO. They cost between $10 and $18/year depending on where you get them. The good news is that you can always add a custom domain name later if you decide to get one.
Both Wordpress and Blogger have built in support as well as support forums of other users for this topic and every other topic you may run into. Both Wordpress and Blogger make it easy to follow prompts through the dashboard. Recognize that if you’re not in the USA, you may want a local domain, like http://example.fr if you live in France for example.
While it’s true that your blog is to help market yourself as a writer, just posting articles about you and your books is not a recipe for blogging success. Don’t try too hard to sell your books. Instead try to post primarily about other things, like subjects related to the content in your book or things you find fascinating or things that are newsworthy. Humor and controversy are fine too, and they’ll be that much more effective if the subjects of your posts are related to the subjects within your books. The goal should always be to engage reader interest, comments and sharing. This is the social aspect of blogging, and it can be a huge part of an author’s social media platform when it gets other people involved.
And fortunately all of that can be accomplished with short posts; between 300 to 1,500 words is a fine range. I don’t recommend getting long-winded or worrying about the length not being enough. People like quick reads. The timing is up to you too. You can post frequently or infrequently. It’s okay to leave the blog sitting for weeks on end, but it’s also wise to post when you can or especially after some breaking news.
It’s as simple as clicking New Post and either typing on the page or copying and pasting text from elsewhere. Drag your cursor over items in the menu bar to get a feel for what they do. It’s fairly self-explanatory and you can learn a lot with a little experimentation. Don’t worry, you won’t break anything.
You also have the option of typing in normal mode, either labeled Visual or Compose, or in HTML Text mode which is more along the lines of computer programming. Visual or Compose mode is where most people will operate the majority of the time, but it’s good to be open to HTML Text mode for little additions now and then.
You may want to click the Preview button along the way to get a sense of how it’s shaping up. Try not to press the Publish button until you’re ready for it to go live. We still have a lot of topics to discuss before that.
High quality images make any blog post better. There are many ways to acquire them from taking photos yourself, to using public domain or Creative Commons images, to buying royalty free images inexpensively. Whatever you do, do not randomly grab images from the internet. They may have a copyright attached and that would be bad.
My images primarily come from Creative Commons image sources like Flickr Creative Commons and Wikimedia Commons. There are millions of images to choose from and typically they only require attribution or credit to the photographer or artist. If you have any concern about copyright issues with a Creative Commons image, it’s wise to double-check with the photographer or owner that it’s okay to use their image with attribution in your blog post.
If you don’t mind spending a dollar or a few for images, there are excellent images you can use for blog posts, book covers and other things at many royalty free image sources like bigstockphoto.
Another smart thing is to use programs for quick fixes like cropping or lighting adjustments. There are many free sites and software to help in this regard including Picasa, Flickr, Canva, Inkscape, Gimp and more.
http://www.public-domain-photos.com/ (free public domain images)
http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/ (free public domain images)
http://search.creativecommons.org/ (free images with proper crediting/attribution)
http://www.bigstockphoto.com/ (royalty free inexpensive images)
http://www.istockphoto.com/ (royalty free inexpensive images)
http://picasa.google.com/ (free photo sharing, organizing and basic adjustments)
https://www.flickr.com/ (free photo sharing, organizing and basic adjustments)
https://www.canva.com/ (free advanced photo design software)
https://inkscape.org/ (free powerful image graphic editor)
http://gimp.com/ (free powerful image graphic editor)
You can add images almost as easily as you can add text. It’s done by uploading them from the menu bar as Images or Media and then making simple selections like whether you want them left/right/center justified and the size. You can also change their title or alternative text if they need something to better define them, which is a smart idea to help with SEO properties.
http://search.creativecommons.org/ (free images with proper crediting/attribution)
http://www.bigstockphoto.com/ (royalty free inexpensive images)
When uploading video from your own files, it’s very similar to what you just learned for uploading images. When uploading from a video site like YouTube, it’s a matter of either copying and pasting the URL of the video or embedded its HTML code through the HTML Text mode of adding text. Either way, it’s fairly simple as the video shows and you can easily adjust the width and height through HTML Text mode.
You decide how many sidebars you want, which side they go on, what exact layout gets displayed and which items go into the sidebar. Of course there are common items including ways to connect with readers like subscribe and follow buttons. Also social media icons, links to important sites or your books are extremely common. Top posts and recent posts are wise to include so readers may notice a headline that catches their attention. You may also want to monetize the sidebar, in which case Blogger or Wordpress.org or any other venue will be better than Wordpress.com for monetizing.
Regular updates in any form will help your blog whether it’s a new post, a comment, a design change or a widget/gadget that regularly updates itself. Updates are good for visitors and also search engines because they love finding new information when they regularly index sites. One of the reasons I like certain widgets that update regularly (we’ll discuss soon) is for SEO purposes.
I think it’s also wise to go through your blog every few months and consider making changes, even to things like the names of your pages.
The simplest way to leave a social media icon is with a badge, but that will be just one icon inserted to a post or the sidebar as an image with a link to the appropriate site. This is a fine choice if you only have 1, 2 or 3 social media sites you’d like people to visit. The next lesson will discuss a more custom creation for more social media sites.
Let’s make a simple social media icon or any type of badge that is really just an image that goes to a URL when click. We’ll use Blogger for this example. First we’ll find an image, like a common Facebook icon, from an internet image search. Then we’ll save that to our computer. Then in the dashboard Layout section of Blogger we’ll choose Add a Gadget to the Sidebar. Then we’ll choose Image as our gadget and fill in the blanks. The URL that clicking this will link to is your Facebook Profile URL and should be copied and pasted into that box. Then upload the image from your computer and Save. It should now be in your sidebar. You can make alterations to the size if needed and upload again.
If you have several icons or want to also include an email icon or subscription icon, you may want to get a more technical widget/gadget that neatly places all your social media icons into one package while linking each icon to its proper destination. This is the most difficult instruction in this video course, but you can do it. The method will be uploading the icons either into a Wordpress media library, or creating a post (on Blogger) that contains the images. In both cases, each social media icon image needs to be represented with its own URL, and then inserted into the code below, which will then be inserted into your sidebar as a HTML or Text widget/gadget.
Here is a general HTML Text code to work for creating social media icon widgets (or gadgets). In some cases, it’s easier to upload images that are a certain size, like 35 pixels, beforehand.
<a href="[full link to your Twitter]"><img title="Twitter" src="[image URL for Twitter icon]" alt="Twitter" width="35" height="35" /></a><a href="[full link to your Google Plus]"><img title="Google Plus" src="[image URL for Google Plus icon]" alt="Google Plus" width="35" height="35" /></a> <a href="[full link to your Facebook page]"><img title="Facebook" src="[image URL for Facebook icon]" alt="Facebook" width="35" height="35" /></a> </a><a href="[full link to your RSS feed]"><img title="RSS" src="[image URL for RSS icon]" alt="RSS" width="35" height="35" /></a>
Next we have an example just for Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter (without the width and height labeled). This will work fine if your images are already uploaded to your blog in small images, like 35 pixels.
<a href="Your Profile URL at Google Plus" target="_blank"><img src="Your Blog’s Google Plus Image URL" alt="Google Plus" title="add me to Google Plus" /></a>
<a href="Your Profile URL at Facebook" target="_blank"><img src="Your Blog’s Facebook Image URL" alt="Facebook" title="Facebook" /></a>
<a href="Your Profile URL at Twitter" target="_blank"><img src="Your Blog’s Twitter Image URL" alt="Twitter" title="@Jason_Matthews" /></a>
Next we have the same example with my information inserted. You can tailor this for your needs for any social media site, icon and URL that you want, although you do need to create an image URL either by adding it to your blog’s media library or by adding it to a page, like a social media page.
<a href="https://plus.google.com/+JasonMatthews/posts" target="_blank"><img src="Your Blog’s Google Plus Image URL" alt="Google Plus" title="add me to Google Plus" /></a>
<a href="https://www.facebook.com/jason.m.matthews" target="_blank"><img src="Your Blog’s Facebook Image URL" alt="Facebook" title="Facebook" /></a>
<a href="https://twitter.com/Jason_Matthews" target="_blank"><img src="Your Blog’s Image URL" alt="Twitter" title="@Jason_Matthews" /></a>
Please note that in the above example you will also want to change the “title” attributes to your own wording, as in the Twitter examples that says title=”@Jason_Matthews.”
This is important to do before posting because it will allow your post to display on all the social media sites you’ve connected to your blog before hitting the “publish” button. It will also enable readers who enjoyed your post to share it with others in the manner they prefer.
Both Wordpress and Blogger may have already added some by default, but you’ll want to add to those. In Wordpress it’s done through the dashboard Settings and Sharing, and you’ll want to connect the accounts that you’d like publicizing your blog post when it’s published. You can also select options in the Publicize feature for which sites and the timing. Then there are sharing buttons for people who want to share your blog post with their social media circles, and so it’s smart to include all of those just by dragging them into the Enabled Services area. Click Save Changes.
On Blogger, only Google Plus is easy to add with one click through the dashboard. For now a third party is needed. Twitter Feed is just one example of a third party that will link your blog posts to your social media sites.
I also recommend select Comment Settings that allow anyone to comment but having comments need moderation before going live.
http://twitterfeed.com/ (one example of a site for connecting Blogger posts to social media sites)
https://hootsuite.com/ (another connecting service and more)
Drum-roll please; once everything’s in place, it’s time to publish. Make sure to check for typos and also add Categories, Tags and/or Labels depending on where your blog is hosted. (Those are smart items to also check with Google’s Keyword Planner.) It’s also wise after posting to see how your social media sharing options have resulted, like on Facebook.
Remember that everything doesn’t have to be perfect before publishing. You will probably notice things and decide on alterations after seeing how your post looks. But not to worry, the fewest visitors will see your initial post. As you post more and get better in time, your blog will be fuller and your posts will be better and more people will come.
Jason Matthews is the author of multiple titles, both fiction and nonfiction. His books have been translated into 8 languages and his self-publishing lessons have been viewed by students in 123 countries.
Jason works with writers around the world and teaches many courses on self-publishing topics (listed below).
He lives in San Luis Obispo, California. He's a skier, soccer player, beach lounger and loves a game of chess or scrabble. He can be contacted through his websites and social media links.