Writer’s Dilemma – Money vs Art

 

I recently stumbled on a great post, Confessions from the Underground World of Kindle which brought to life an eternal internal dilemma:  money or art?

Making money by Gaming the Amazon  system

On one hand, we have entrepreneur-based writers who are gaming the Amazon kindle system, and making tons of money.  From ghosting their books, to buying reviews, to analyzing market niches, the focus isn’t necessarily to have good content.  I’ve picked up a couple of books with killer covers,  great descriptions which are written so poorly, in broken English, I couldn’t read it.

If someone buys reviews, or puts out bad content, the whole quality of the system is compromised.    They might be successful, but are they valuable?

Being a great and lonely writer

Another school of thought is to spend years on one novel, self-publish, and be happy if it sells a few copies and you get a nice review.

I remember a friend, an excellent painter, felt uncomfortable if someone wanted to buy a painting, or if she painted something because a subject/style was popular.  She didn’t feel she was being true to her art.  She died without money or recognition, a storage shed full of paintings which could have brought a lot of joy to the world, but didn’t.

Money vs Art dilemma

So this morning, I was staring at a stack of bills.  I want my writing to be my only source of income, but it’s not quite there yet.  I have a blueprint to ‘game’ the system.  Thinking of doing that makes me, personally, uncomfortable, but I could do it.

I have an ability to write.   It’s also sometimes difficult for me to show my work, and I tend to be a perfectionist.  I know the more I write, the better I get.

Sipping champagne on a yacht with no sense of pride or happiness from knowing my work is valuable?    Drinking instant coffee hoping the electricity doesn’t get turned off so I can re-tweak that last paragraph?

Bah to both.

A Better Way

Why not combine the best of both systems?  There are plenty of prolific great writers who entertain, are smart, and successful. That’s the club I want to join.

I want to sip a nice whiskey, feeling a warm glow that my books are out there, with people who enjoy reading them, with a nice bank account full of money from a passive income.    I want to be proud I am committed enough to my art to share it and be rewarded for it.  I want to be unafraid to be an entrepreneur, use those cracklingly smart methods, without needing to game the system, but working the system honestly.

So, back to writing and publishing, with a stronger focus.  Nice!

Publishing an Illustrated Poetry Book on Kindle.

I didn’t plan on it, but I ended up in a poetry writing frenzy on Tuesday.  I ended up writing eleven poems: short, longer, silly, profound, and one gross haiku for my son.

Then Wednesday, I sat down and did sketches, and then I did a print layout for the whole book.   Nice!

But I’ve never published a illustrated book of poetry before, so a lot of Wednesday afternoon was going research on the best way do it.

Here are the nutshell steps I took, I hope this is helpful.

1 – Write the poems.

2 – Decide to make a book from it.  Create a new folder on my computer with my naming convention (Writing – Genre – Title) , and pin it to quick assess so it’s easy to get to.

2 – Open up Microsoft Word and create a new blank document, name and save it to the new folder.

3 – Decide the page size, and format your document.

Now there are two different approaches here.  If you are wanting a physical print copy, you have to think of the page layout in a standard manuscript format.  Pages open, the left and right pages form a spread, where the illustrations can be on the left, the poem on the right, for example.  You want the reader to see both at the same time.

However, if you are going solely eBook, one page will be both the right and left sizes, and you do not want any gutter margins needed for the print copy, or there will be too much white space.

So your page layout for just an eBook will be whatever size a full spread will be. I liked 11′ X 6′ horizontal for my book, and used two columns so I had a left and right effect.  Formatting your images behind text lets you move it anywhere, and text boxes are useful for going outside the columns.

Here’s an example.  Print, with pages, gutters.  Remember the left page, is actually the right….so I actually need to add a blank page before the table of contents, but I just can’t edit it like that!

eBook, once page, outside margins only.  Two columns.

4 – Lay your book out however you want it.  Use whatever font, images etc.  Make sure your images are a reasonable size, and don’t be afraid of color.

note – I did the illustrations after the book was laid out, the poem order chosen, and they were laid in place with decent font, because I used the illustrations to accentuate the poetry.

5 – Export to PDF from Word.   Use this PDF if you are publishing to Smashwords etc.

6 – For Kindle, download and install the free Amazon’s KKBC, Kindle Kids’ Book Creator.  You can import your PDF into it, tweak your pages and add pop-up text, and covert it to a .mobi format.  Sweet!

7 – Review and Publish normally to Kindle.

There you go.  Use MS Work, Export to PDF, and use the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator.

WordPress Multiple Site Management Part 4

How and why you should create and use a Category Tree in a Multiple Site Management System

Part 4 – Creating Category Trees

Managing Categories in multiple word press sites is essential in getting your content to go where you want it to go.

Categories vs Tags

We are all probably familiar with Categories and Tags in WordPress, but a for a quick recap:

Categories are large containers used to group blogs by subject.  If you’re blogging about food you could have containers like Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, or Meat, Vegetables and Fruit.

Tags are ways to group items which are in more than one category, such as eggs (available in dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner) or Thai (Thai food recipes with meat, vegetables and fruit).

The Trouble with Normal Category Trees in WordPress

Normally, WordPress tries to be helpful, and move the categories which have been checked to the top of the trees. but unfortunately this breaks the hierarchy, and we need the tree preserved so we can push content from the Parent Site to the Child Site and have the categories aligned.

How to Preserve Category Tree Structure

1 – Download the Category Checklist Tree Plugin and install it.

2 – If you need more room to see your entire Category Tree, also download and install the Category Checklist Expander Plugin.

Create your Category Trees

1 – Map out what Categories and Tags you want for each site.

2 – Under Posts, create a Parent Category for each Child Site.

3 – Create sub-categories as desired

4 – The same category structure will be pushed to the Child Site.

5 – When publishing, ensure the Parent Category and appropriate sub category are checked.

Note, if you mistakenly have another site’s category checked when you’re publishing, that category will also be pushed to the site, so you might have to do some clean up by going to the Child Site and removing any categories it doesn’t need.

Go back to Part 3 – Creating a Content Hub to Push Content
Go onto Part 5 – Creating and Using Tags

The Whole Series

Part 0 – Overview
Part 1 – Setting up a Dedicated Management Site
Part 2 – Setting up a Management Dashboard
Part 3 – Creating a Content Hub to Push Content
Part 4 – Creating Category Trees
Part 5 – Creating and Using Tags
Part 6 – Adding an Editorial Calendar
Part 7 – Adding a Media Management System
Part 8 – Creating and Managing Content

WordPress Multiple Site Management Part 5

How to setup and use Tags in a Multiple Site Management System

Part 5 – Creating and Using Tags

In Part 4, we covered the difference between Categories and Tags, and how to  properly setup your category trees to push and manage the content.

Tags are almost the same thing, with each post, if you’re using tags, you create them when you’re writing your blog in the Parent Site, and they get pushed out with the content.

Make sure you are consistent with the tag verbiage.  You can view your tags under Posts on the Dashboard.

A Bonus of Using Categories and Tags in your Parent Site

A huge bonus of using the Categories and Tags in your Parent Site is you get a way to manage all you blogs across sites.

Create Menu Items for each Category and  add a Tag Cloud Widget and you’ll be able to view them easily.

You can also search your Blogs by Category

Go back to Part 3 – Creating a Content Hub to Push Content
Go onto Part 6 – Adding an Editorial Calendar

The Whole Series

Part 0 – Overview
Part 1 – Setting up a Dedicated Management Site
Part 2 – Setting up a Management Dashboard
Part 3 – Creating a Content Hub to Push Content
Part 4 – Creating Category Trees
Part 5 – Creating and Using Tags
Part 6 – Adding an Editorial Calendar
Part 7 – Adding a Media Management System
Part 8 – Creating and Managing Content

WordPress Multiple Site Management Part 3

How to set up a Content Hub for your Multiple Site Management System

Creating a Content Hub to Push Content

In Part 2, we installed a Management system, so you can update and maintain multiple sites in one swoop, including updates, security, the actual sites.

A Content Hub, on the other hand, is how you manage your posts and media items.  Here are the basic steps to set up a Content Hub so you can push your content out to one, all, or some of your sites from one central management point.

Step 1 – Make sure all your sites are set to the same Time Zone.

a)  For each site, in the Word Press Dashboard, go to Settings, General, scroll down to Time Zone and make sure each is set to the same time zone.   This is so later on, when you’re publishing content from your Hub, you know when you schedule a post to be published at 10 am, it will appear on the site at 10 am.

I found this out the hard way, when I realized Juli Pott’s Fun Facts were going out at 4 pm instead of 10 am.  I make it a practice to check every time a post goes out (to make sure I did it correctly and it looks good) and I schedule her Fun Facts every Thursday at 10.  But when I went to check, it wasn’t there. Then it would magically appear at 4 pm.  Drove me crazy for two days until I realized what was going on!

b)  While you’re setting your time zone, check all the settings – Date Format, Time Format, Week Starts On – to make sure they are all set the same.

c)  Make sure your PermaLink structure matches

2 – Set your Display Name on each site to be your Pen Name

I use the  same admin name for all my sites for ease of logging in, but I don’t want my posts to come from my real name, I want them to be authored by my Pen Name.  This is easily handled by using your Pen Name as a Nickname in your User Profile (Dashboard, Users, Your Profile), and selecting it as your ‘Display Name Publicly As’ name.

Once the content is pushed to the site, it will show that Juli has posted a new Fun Fact, not Megeath.

3 – Install the Push-Syndication Plugin

This is the WordPress Plugin which will push your content out for you or ‘Syndicate’ your content. It will create an area in your Posts Edit pages labeled ‘Syndicate’ where you can select all, one or some of your sites. See the image below.

Download Push-Syndication, and install it.

4 – Create a Site Group for each site

Once installed, go Dashboard, and you’ll see a new option ‘Sites’ listed on the main left Navigation.  This is where you create and manage Site Groups.  Create one Site Group per site, this is what shows up in the image above, under syndicate.

5 – Then add the Site, and set it to the correct site group

Add each site by entering the Title you want to see,  leave WordPress XMLRPC as the transport type, enter the URL, Admin user name and password, then select the correct site group.  Check the Enable box, and click on ‘Add Site’.

6 – When creating content, ensure the correct site group is selected in the post

Great – now all you have to do is make sure you select the correct site under ‘Syndication’ when you’re writing a post, and the content will be pushed out to it.  You will have a Master Copy on your management site, and if you want to make changes to a Post, updated it there, not in the child site.

 

Go back to Part 2 – Setting up a Management Dashboard
Go onto Part 4 – Creating Category Trees

The Whole Series

Part 0 – Overview
Part 1 – Setting up a Dedicated Management Site
Part 2 – Setting up a Management Dashboard
Part 3 – Creating a Content Hub to Push Content
Part 4 – Creating Category Trees
Part 5 – Creating and Using Tags
Part 6 – Adding an Editorial Calendar
Part 7 – Adding a Media Management System
Part 8 – Creating and Managing Content

 

Fun Facts – Bamboo

Did you know…..

Bamboo is actually a grass.  Certain varieties can grow over 100 feet tall.

Some types of  Bamboo are extremely fast growing, and can shoot up more then three feet in one day.   The plant prepares the new cells underground, then soaks up water to expand itself upwards into the new growth!

Bamboo once covered the southeastern part of the Unites States in tangled dense forests.  Now there is less then five percent left.

Bamboo is wonderful for the environment, soil conservation, replacing oxygen and is used as a ‘green’ eco-friendly hardwood since it can be harvested in 3-5 years instead of 15-20 years for softwoods.  Because of it’s circular form, it’s also amazingly strong.

WordPress Multiple Site Management Part 2

How to setup a management Dashboard for all your Author Sites

 

Part 2 – Setting up a Management Dashboard

In Part 2, we’re installing  an administrative tool which sees and controls all your sites.

I tested a couple of plugins for WordPress, and the one I liked best for my purposes was MainWP.   There is a lot more capability then you need, and a pro version if you get into it, but for now the free version is just fine.  (There is a ‘comments’ extension where you can monitor all the comments, which might be worth looking into.)

The management site will have the MainWP Dashboard (or Parent) plugin, and each of your pen name sites will have a MainWP ‘Child’ plugin.  Full documentation is located on their site HERE and there are also tutorials and videos within the plugin once it’s installed , so I’ll just give you the basics. One of the reasons why I chose this was because their documentation is really good.

In general, the Steps are:

1 – In the main site, download the MainWP Dashboard plug in.  Install and Activate.

2 – In each ‘Child’ site, download the MainWP Child plugin.  Install and Activate.

3 – Add the Child to the MainWP Dashboard.   Under MainWP, Sites, Add New.

4 – From your MainWP Dashboard, you can monitor and check all your updates.  Scroll down this page, and you can check security, posts, etc.

 

Go back to Part 1 – Setting up a Dedicated Management Site
Go onto Part 3 – Creating a Content Hub to Push Content

The Whole Series

Part 0 – Overview
Part 1 – Setting up a Dedicated Management Site
Part 2 – Setting up a Management Dashboard
Part 3 – Creating a Content Hub to Push Content
Part 4 – Creating Category Trees
Part 5 – Creating and Using Tags
Part 6 – Adding an Editorial Calendar
Part 7 – Adding a Media Management System
Part 8 – Creating and Managing Content

Building a Amazing Blog Site (for Beginners)

As I’m finding information, I’m going to re-post it here so you can see the originals.  This was the best video tutorial I’ve found for understanding how to create a WordPress blog.   Although it’s dated 2013 (and there’s a 2014 version), the principles are the same, and most of t he screens are laid out exactly the same way.

This works even if you’re not doing a blog for your author sites, but just  creating fixed pages (rather than blog posts).

It covers all of the installation and blog principle basics, and setting up spaces for advertising, which you can use to advertise your own books by linking to your Amazon account as an Associate, creating twitter feeds, easy logos.  And it’s all so easy once you know how.

One thing he doesn’t cover is using Themes to change the look of your site.  After you’ve got the structure up and functional, there are bizillions of themes available for free, as well as ‘Pro’ versions which offer all kinds of options for changing the layout and look of your sites.

A post on Themeing is coming next week.

Fun Fact – Arrowroot

Arrowroot is a commonly used in cooking as a thickening agent, especially as a replacement for rue (flour and butter) for those who eat Paleo / Low Carb diets.

And interestingly, Arrowroot is native to India, and originally was used by indigenous people to draw out the poisons from an  arrow wound tipped with a terrible toxin!

 

Photo Credit:  David Whelan Public Domain, Flickr

WordPress Multiple Site Management Part 1

How to setup a dedicate management site for easier multiple site management

First, The Caveat

There are several ways to accomplish similar things. This series details the method which I personally found works best for my needs: A Parent/Child Management system, Push Syndication, and the Editorial Calendar.

Another avenue is this:   Create a MultiSite / Network structure.  A great article on how to do that is the  Ultimate Guide to MultiSite by WPMUDev and another great article on exactly why you shouldn’t is Don’t Use WordPress MultiSite.  The Free/Pro Plugin ‘ThreeWP‘ may help if you decide to go the MultiSite route.

Since I am pushing my content from one management site to all my Child Sites, I’m not using MultiSite.  True, my way isn’t perfect, but it’s darn workable and that works for me!  The only thing I found which is clunky is I have to reset Urls for my internal links within the ‘Child Site’ and Featured Images don’t push, so I have to go into the Child Site and add those.

Onwards.

Part 1 – Setting up a Dedicated Management Site

The first thing to do is to get a single site with a clean WordPress installation – hence my squeaky duck sketch above .  Hah!  I mis-spelt squeaky.   The duck knew…why didn’t he tell me?

This site will be the behind-the-scene site where you can easily manage your posts, run updates, fix security issues, and perform backups all in one neat dashboard.

Managing your sites in the manner means you’re not jumping from site to site to perform these functions, but making it easy on yourself and keeping up-to-date so you can concentrate on your writing.

Create a new WordPress site for your management site.

This can be a sub-domain of your existing main site, or a new domain.  I used my primary domain, megeath.net, which is also a hosting site where I have all my domains parked.  Each of my domains has it’s own hosting package, size and bandwidth limits, and it’s own dedicated email.

It doesn’t  matter if you have your domains on GoDaddy, HostGator etc. You just want a clean place to put all your top level tools.   This will also store all the blogs for each site, where you can review them, and push out updates or delete posts, and you can manage all you images.  Nice, right?

If you’re just staring your first site, it’s an easy choice.  Your Management site will be the main site with your hosting package i.e. the Parent.   Each Pen Name Child can be a sub-domain under that umbrella.  Only one hosting package needed.

UPDATE – make sure each site that their own domain based email.  Example juli@julipotts.com   becka@beckaknox.com.  Some hosting packages do not include this automatically.

But if you want a top-level domain structure for each Pen Name with it’s own hosting, not a problem.  In Part 2, we’ll hook them all together.

 

Go back to Part 0 – Overview
Go onto Part 2 – Setting up a Management Dashboard

The Whole Series

Part 0 – Overview
Part 1 – Setting up a Dedicated Management Site
Part 2 – Setting up a Management Dashboard
Part 3 – Creating a Content Hub to Push Content
Part 4 – Creating Category Trees
Part 5 – Creating and Using Tags
Part 6 – Adding an Editorial Calendar
Part 7 – Adding a Media Management System
Part 8 – Creating and Managing Content