Yeah, I know, I created an official website last February, before I launched my book, but honestly, that was never the website I wanted.
Here’s the story: I love my blog. I really do. I wouldn’t renounce to it for anything in the publishing world, but I feel that as an author, I should have a website for more promotional purposes. A place that gathers all the information about my story, more than about myself.
I like reading about marketing (who would have ever imagined this only a few years ago!) and I often read about landing pages. Apparently, if you have any kind of business, you need a landing page, just for the purpose to give all the info you need to give and try and entice customers to your product.
Yes, I know, this doesn’t sound like being a writer, but I think if we want to be professional, we need to be evil with our creations. I promise, tomorrow I’ll go back being a writer, but today I’m a marketer here! Ehm… sort of…
Anyway, I understand why we need a landing page, so I set about getting mine.
It didn’t turn out to be a simple task.
Option n.1: turn this blog into my website
I mean, it comes as a no brainer, right? This is my place on the internet. This is were my tribe is, where I put out my best content, where I’ve talked about my stories time and again. What better place to transform into my website?
And to be honest, I’ve been meaning to change the theme of my blog for a long time… I just can’t find a theme that I like more than this one. I really like the atmosphere on my blog, I don’t care if marketers say that white space is the way to go today.
But because I wanted to get a website, I decided to be rootless: find a theme and use it!
I learned about one-page sites recently and discovered that WordPress actually has a lot of beautiful such themes.
One-page sites are basically landing pages with a blog attached. They have everything you need on a landing page, it was perfect. I even found a theme that I really really liked, even the blog (though with lots of white space): ZBlackBeard.
The only thing I didn’t like is that the url for my blog was going to change. Theoldshelter.com was going to become the landing page, theoldshelter.com/blog was going to become my blog. I didn’t like that. Call me naïf, but I worked hard to build this community and I didn’t want to chance losing it. I remember when my friend Celine shifted her blog to a new location (in order to get her website, just like I was trying to do), it was an hassle, for her as the owner of the place, and for me as a follower. If I hand’t care for Celine and her work the way I do, I’d have probably stopped following her, for the sheer fact that her updates didn’t reach my feedly feed anymore.After careful consideration, I ruled that option out.
Option n.2: get a free WordPress site
So I needed a new url, and I kind of liked the idea, because I was going to put my own name in it. But I wanted it to be on my space, I mean my self-hosted place on the internet, only I didn’t know whether that was possible.
A friend of mine who works with websites told me it should be possible but he didn’t actually know how to go about it. So in the end I contacted my hosting service BlueHost and asked them.
They told me that in order to host two websites in my space, I needed to upgrade to a more expansive plan.
Now, last year, I might have done it. This year, I just can’t afford it. I contacted BlueHost a couple of times, just to be sure (sometimes you get different answers from different people, you know) but I just had to cope with the fact I had to upgrade. They didn’t tell me how much that was going to cost me, and because when I subscribed to their basic plane they charged me three years (I nearly had a stroke when I saw that, it wasn’t specified anywhere on their site) I worried it would cost me more than I could afford at the moment.
So I decided a free WordPress site was a better course of action.
I created my space, I went to the theme function to choose the ZBlackBeard theme… and it wasn’t there.
I realised only afterward that the free WordPress platform, in addition to a few other limitations, also offers only a few free themes and none is a one-page site (at least at the time being).
Anyway, the publication date for my book was approaching and I didn’t have much choice. I built a site on the free platform (this one). I even kind of like, and it is handy for certain things, but (for me) it has a few issues:
- I really don’t need another blog: the theme I chose is clearly built around the blog, that’s what you’re supposed to use. I structured the site as Tim Garth suggests the ultimate author website should be, but because the theme doesn’t really have a front page, it’s kind of weird.
So fine, I have the blog in the front page. I tried to use the blog as a replica of this blog (the Old Shelter) but I found it doesn’t really make any sense. I tried to come up with different ideas for the blog, but honestly, because I have The Old Shelter, I prefer to concentrate all my efforts in here. I finally realised, the blog over at Sarah Zama was useless.
- No plug-in: Seriously, one of the best things about WordPress is the innumerable available plug-ins that allows you to build just the site you envision. I love this possibility. It was kind of scary at the beginning, because the basic self-hosted WordPress site has nothing in it, but you can populate it with whatever functionality you want. I love this.
The free platform only offers the basic. Sure, it’s usable, but you have to make do with the little you have.
- No landing page: The theme doesn’t really support a landing page and it’s very difficult to build one because you can’t use plug-ins. So basically the entire main reason why I wanted a website was void. Dah!
Option n.3: create a landing page on my blog
So I went back to my idea of doing something with The Old shelter.
Here I can use plug-ins so I thought I should find a plug-in to build a landing page and see what I could do with it.
Another friend, Sara C. Snider, has a beautiful landing page. I asked her how she built it, and she told me she used a plug-in. She also built her newsletter opt-in page with that plug-in.
Sounded good, I liked the result. I went checking the plug-in, the Thrive Content Builder, and it charges you some € 60,00 to buy.
Now that’s not too bad. I actually considered getting it. But I got back to the problem in option 1: how to keep my blog on the same url?
The landing page needs to be the homepage, of course, where people are more likely to land on my site, but I didn’t want to change my blog url.
I tried coming up with a solution for this when option 4 happened and I loved it!
Option n.4: Get a subdomain
In my daily reading about marketing, I stumbled upon a fantastic article by Abria Mattina which unfortunally appears to be not available at the moment. She listed a few WordPress themes specifically built for writers and one of those was for a one-novel writer. She said if when she started out she had known what she knows now about marketing a book, and she had had only one book out, she would have chosen this theme: Novela.
I do only have one book, at the moment, so I checked it out. And Oh, my goodness, I fell in love!
I wanted that theme!!!!
The theme cost some € 55,00 more or less like the Thrive Content Builder, I was willing to pay them, but I had two problems:
- I needed a self-hosted space: the theme wouldn’t upload on a free WordPress so I was back to the initial problem.
- No side bar in the blog: and I’m sorry, but I need a sidebar. I just need it. I use the blog a lot and to me, it is incomplete without a side bar.
Now I know what you’re thinking: Sarah, you’re a pain in the back. Yes, I know. You’ll have to put up with me.
I contacted the creator of the theme to ask whether it was possible to add a sidebar. He told me no, the blog doesn’t include a sidebar, that’s just the way it is, but I could redirect the blog to another site, if I so wanted. That’s what Celine did too. I ended up using the WordPress Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin. I also asked the Theme creator’s advice for the hosting problem. He told me it should be possible to create a new space on my domain, but he didn’t know exactly how.
So I contacted BlueHost again. I explained to them exactly what I wanted to do, that I wanted to keep my blog, but I needed a space to install a different theme.
Once again, they told me I needed to upgrade. (This make three times they told me this, pay attention!)
But I really wanted the Novela theme, and I really wanted to keep my Old Shelter, and so I gave in and decided to upgrade. I thought to speak one more time with BlueHost and try to at least make them tell me how much I was going to pay before I paid. I logged in, asked for a chat, and while waiting for my turn, I had a look around, just to see whether I could find an answer to my question without even chatting to them.
What I found was subdomains.
Now, I don’t know why I never saw that section of their site before, don’t know whether it’s a new service (thought I don’t think so). I nearly didn’t check it, because they told me you can have two website on your space, but the second is only going to be a replica of the main site, I thought that’s what it was. My good luck that I decided to have a look anyway.
Subdomains are separate pieces of your domain, connected but independent. I nearly fainted. That sounded what I had been looking for all along. I switched the chat off, headed to you tube and watched a few tutorials about subdomains.
It was a kid’s game to create one, you do that from your cPanel.
I mean, what’s wrong with them? Why didn’t they tell me? (wait, I do know why, I’m not that naïf).
I love my new Sarah Zama Offical Website!
So, know what? I got the Novela theme, I prepared all the material for the perfect landing page (even a free downloadable excerpt from chapter 1 of Give in to the Feeling). I installed all the plug-ins I wanted (they are not many, it’s a simple website) and here it goes, my shining new website!
I hope you’ll like it. Let me know what you think about it. And I hope my experience can be of help to you. The main thing is: don’t ever trust your provider! And try not to make do with what seems the simpler solution. We should always aim for more!