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Writing and Publishing

What’s a WordPress Theme?

Part 3 in the continuing series on using WordPress for blogging: a platform-building, book-selling tool.

Each blog or website needs a theme. There are two ways to understand this.

From a content standpoint, a blog needs a theme or topic to guide writing and attract readers. The theme of this blog is book publishing, of which blogging is a related concept. However, that’s not the focus of this post.

From a technical standpoint, a theme is how a WordPress blog looks. This is the focus of this post.

Consider cell phones. We can buy a skin or cover to change how our phone looks. Just by adding a cover, we alter its appearance so it looks like an entirely different model, even though it’s the same phone underneath. Some people buy one cover and never change it, while others change their covers often.

A WordPress theme is like a cell phone cover: it alters how WordPress looks, even though the same WordPress platform exists under it. Some people pick one WordPress theme and never change it, while others try different themes and frequently change them. However, while a cover is optional for a cell phone, a theme is required for WordPress.

Some WordPress themes are free and others have a cost. There are thousands of themes to pick from. If you install WordPress today, it comes with a free theme, called Twenty Fourteen. Each year WordPress releases a new theme. For this blog, I use the Twenty Eleven theme, which I have on all twelve of my WordPress sites. Someday, I’ll look at other themes, but right now, I enjoy the consistency of maintaining sites that all use the same theme. Plus, I like the elegant simplicity of the Twenty Eleven theme.

To begin, I recommend using the free theme that comes with WordPress. Don’t worry about finding a different theme to start with. Instead, focus on the basic configuration and adding great content.

When we get a new cell phone, the first goal is to use it; adding a cover is secondary. So too, when we install WordPress, our primary objective is to use it; finding the perfect theme can happen later.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

What’s the Difference Between a WordPress Page and Post?

Part 2 in the continuing series on using WordPress for blogging: a platform-building, book-selling tool.

Many beginning WordPress bloggers are confused by the difference between a page and a post. Aside from both being one-syllable, four-letter words that start with “P,” they also look the same, both when writing them and viewing them. However, they are different and each has a purpose and place.

Page: A page is like our Twitter profile or the tabs on Facebook. Consider using a page for content you want to always be available. Use a page for topics such as “About,” “Contact,” “Services,” and your home page. Often pages are shown in tabs or menus on blogs.

Post: A post is like a tweet or Facebook status update. Use a post for ongoing content. The most recent post is shown first, with the rest following it in reverse chronological order. Also, posts may be placed in a category (analogous to a folder) and linked with similar posts using a tag.

Though I don’t recommend it, I’ve seen WordPress sites that use only posts, as well as ones with only pages. Though there may be good reasons for this, the list is short. Usually, someone who only uses pages or just posts doesn’t understand the difference. Most blogs use pages and posts—and blogs look better when they do.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Getting Started with WordPress

Blogging is an important aspect of book publishing. This series on blogging with WordPress provides a starting point.

Last week, focusing on WordPress, we talked about two options: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. In a basic way, WordPress.com is analogous to Gmail, while WordPress.org is more like Outlook (or in the extreme, it could be like an in-house email server). The differences are the amount of effort to get started, the degree of control, the number of options, and the level of technical expertise required.

WordPress.com, like Gmail, is an online tool. You log in, set up your account, and begin using it. It’s basic, powerful, and easy to use. It provides some options, but not too many.

WordPress.org, like Outlook, requires more effort to configure, while giving more options, greater control, and increased flexibility. This is what we’ll go over today. (An extreme example, like setting up an email server in-house, is setting up your own webserver and adding WordPress to it. Few users, however, go to this extent.)

WordPress.org is a self-hosted option, that is, the user needs to find a host, usually tapping a company that specializes in web hosting or WordPress hosting (as opposed to setting up their own computer to host it).

I use GoDaddy to host this WordPress site. This is mainly because I already had an account and could add WordPress at no additional charge. With my account already active, it was just a couple of clicks to add WordPress.

If I was starting from scratch, I’d likely use BlueHost and there are two helpful videos to make it easy. Michael Hyatt put together a comprehensive 20-minute tutorial, while Jeff Goins has a more concise 8-minute version. (I believe they earn a small commission when you set up your WordPress account using their tutorial, but it won’t cost you anything more.)

Aside from GoDaddy and BlueHost, there are many other hosting options.

While WordPress.com can be completely free, there are two costs associated with WordPress.org. The first is an annual domain registration, usually around ten bucks and a monthly hosting fee, starting around five dollars, but which can go up to twenty or even more for high-volume, feature-rich, robust hosting.

Next week, we’ll peek inside WordPress and talk about its various components.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Using WordPress For Your Blog: Two Options to Consider

This is a blog about book publishing, yet today starts a series on blogging. Why?

  1. Authors need a platform to promote their book, and blogging is an effective platform-building tool.
  2. Blogging is a form of publishing.
  3. Blogging helps us hone our writing skills in a public setting.
  4. Some writers turn successful blogs into a book.

While there are many options to use for blogging, I’ll only address WordPress, simply because it’s the most popular option. WordPress is to blogging, as Microsoft Word is to word-processing.

With WordPress, there are two flavors to consider: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. They’re essentially the same thing and merely implemented in different ways.

The benefits of WordPress.com:

  • The beginner package is completely free. (There is an annual cost for the premium and business plans.)
  • It is quick and easy to get started with WordPress.com.
  • It has a reduced feature set, which minimizes complexity over having too many options.

The weaknesses of WordPress.com

  • An awkward address: The web address for the beginner plan (the free option) will look like blog-name.WordPress.com. (You can buy your own domain name to point to your WordPress.com blog, but then it is no longer free.)
  • A long web address: Most of the short and nicer blog names have already been taken, so your blog address will likely end up being long. (Again, buying your own domain name is a workaround.)
  • No direct support (with the beginner package). There is, however, a strong WordPress community, which is often – but not always – a good resource in resolving problems and answering questions.
  • Ads: In exchange for completely free, you agree to allow ads on your blog. (There are no ads with the premium or business plans.)
  • Limitations: To achieve simplicity, the trade-off is some of the functionality available from WordPress.org isn’t included in WordPress.com.

Here’s why you should consider WordPress.com:

  • The beginner package is completely free. If you have no money, this is the ideal solution.
  • It’s a great way to learn WordPress. That’s what I did, but I soon switched to WordPress.org because I needed additional features and flexibility.

If WordPress.com feels like the right solution for you, start using WordPress.com today.

Next week I’ll talk about getting started with WordPress.org.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.