Go, Read: Kevan Lee’s 101 Guide to Social Media Marketing

Over at the Buffer Blog, Kevan Lee (@kevanlee) presents How to Create a Social Media Marketing Plan From Scratch.

Flummoxed by Facebook? Gobsmacked by Google+? Tantalised by Twitter, but unsure where to start? If you’re confused by the multitude of social media channels and aren’t sure how to make it all work for you (rather than becoming a nightmarish, productivity-destroying, mind-mushing time-sink…) then this would be a good place to start:

Kevan Lee's Social Media Marketing Plan, via blog.bufferapp.co,

More details and practical, step-by-step, ‘how-to’ advice over at blog.bufferapp.com.

Go, Read: Michael R. Underwood Reveals 25 Secrets of Publishing

New author? Budding author? Wannabe author? In a rather excellent piece – 25 Secrets of Publishing, Revealed! (Or: Inside the Bookish Shatterdome) – on Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog, Michael R. Underwood explains twenty-five of the finer (read: trickier) points of the publishing process.

Mike’s advice is well worth reading because he’s uniquely placed with a foot in two camps: as a published author (of the Ree Reyes series and his latest release, Shield and Crocus) and as the North American Sales and Marketing Manager for Angry Robot.

Do yourself a favour and read through the whole article. Twice.

New Client: Paul Cornell

I recently finished work on the largest and most comprehensive author website build I’ve undertaken so far, for novelist, short fiction writer, comics writer, screenwriter and anthologist Paul Cornell.

In a writing career that began in the early 1990s, Paul has amassed a terrific body of work that includes novel and script writing for Doctor Who, Bernice Summerfield and many other TV series; comics writing for some of the world’s greatest superheroes and indie comics characters – Batman, Black Widow, Captain Britain, Demon Knights, Fantastic Four, Saucer Country, Stormwatch, Superman, Wisdom, Wolverine, X-Men, XTNCT, and Young Avengers – and of course, his current Shadow Police series of urban fantasy crime novels, which includes: London Falling and The Severed Streets.

All of which meant there was an enormous amount of data and content to collate, organise and then present via the books and comics section of his brand new WordPress website. On top of that, Paul has been blogging for a number of years at WordPress.com. His existing content was imported to form the archive of the news and blog section of his new site. Add in a range of social media interaction enhancements and an events management plugin to run the appearances section, then give the whole thing a smart new livery and we have a result:

PaulCornell.com screenshot

I’m quietly chuffed with the way this particular site turned out; my skill-set is weighted much more heavily towards content management and general strategy than graphic design, but I think the site meets the ‘modern, professional’ design brief rather well. And Paul declared that he’s very happy indeed with the job – “I’m really pleased with it. It’s the work of Darren Turpin. Do check him out for all your website design needs.” – and that, of course, is the most important result.

New Client: Joe Abercrombie

I’m delighted to report that I’ve (all-but) finished a thorough overhaul of www.joeabercombie.com, online home of fantasy novelist Joe Abercrombie.

This is actually another case of ‘Welcome Back, former client!’, as I worked with Joe on the initial setup of his website up a few years back, when his career was just starting to take off and he was wondering what this blogging lark was all about and whether he should give it a go.

Six hugely popular fantasy novels (with a seventh, Half a King due to be published in July) later, and Joe (a.k.a. @LordGrimdark to 12,000+ Twitter followers) is an established star in the fantasy firmament. But his faithful old website just wasn’t delivering enough oomph in the content and display departments.

This time around, whilst Joe wanted to keep the overall aesthetic of the site, which ties in rather nicely to the cover designs of his First Law series, I worked on adapting the homepage for a more wide-screen era, as well as boosting both the calls to action on the homepage and the utility of the sidebars. This is the general view from the new homepage:

JoeAbercrombie.com, March 2014

The bulk of the work was carried out on the bibliography section of the site. The main Books page has been enhanced with stronger use of the book covers, and the individual book pages now contain much more in the way of useful information and search engine friendly keyword-hooks. I’ve also introduced a full set of retailer links for each title, and a downloadable sample chapters, for new readers and fans alike to share around (and around 470 were downloaded over the weekend alone, in case anyone else is wondering whether sample chapters are worthwhile…)

Mind you, I say ‘all-but finished’ because there’s still one last job to tackle: my original flat-HTML design was ported to a WordPress theme by someone else a while ago and said theme isn’t particularly responsive or mobile-device friendly. So I’ll be looking to address that at the earliest opportunity.

All in all though, I think the finished product is a good example of a site that covers the core aims of any author website: information provision, social media connectivity and search engine friendliness. Joe certainly seems pleased with the end result, saying: “Regular visitors may have noticed an extensive redesign of the site over the past few weeks, courtesy of the marvellous Darren Turpin, who actually built this site in the first place way back in the mists of time shortly after the fall of King Arthur.”

Yeah, I’ll definitely take “marvellous” from @LordGrimdark. In fact, I think I’ll see if I can get that printed on a t-shirt in time for Fantasycon 2014.

New Client: Liesel Schwarz

I’m delighted to welcome genre fiction author Liesel Schwarz to the DTL client roster. Liesel’s two published novels to-date are the parts one and two of the Chronicles of Light and Shadow steampunk adventure fantasy series, and the conclusion to the trilogy will be published by Random House in the UK and US in the summer.

Liesel previously had a WordPress.com hosted blog but wanted to expand on the potential of her website as a more general promotional platform. So we set about re-building the site from the ground up, moving it to a full self-hosted version of WordPress to take advantage of additional plugin functionality and design options.

I used the Hybrid base theme to provide the essential framework and layout. I worked up a colour scheme based on Liesel’s preferred – and Alphonse Mucha inspired – palettes, then applied some simple but effective CSS effects to give the site a more rounded, less boxy feel.

LieselSchwarz.com re-launch screenshot

Once the re-worked theme was finalised we then went to town on the site content. The amount of useful information in the Books section has been hugely expanded, we’ve provided a full selection of downloadable sample chapters and have adding social media functionality to the blog section and to the site in general, via the sidebar.

I’m very glad to say that Liesel is very pleased with the results. I look forward to working with her to develop and expand on the site further as she marks the launch of Sky Pirates and moves on to her future writing projects.

New Client: Rachel Neumeier

I’m hugely pleased to announce another addition to my growing client roster: fantasy author Rachel Neumeier. Rachel writes character-driven, intensely plotted fantasy novels for both adult and young adult audiences. Her work to-date includes the Griffin Mage trilogy and House of Shadows for Orbit Books, and her new YA fantasy novel, Black Dog, will be published by Angry Robot’s YA imprint, Strange Chemistry in February 2014.

I actually set up Rachel’s website three years ago whilst I was working for the Little,Brown Book Group. I worked with a hugely talented freelance graphic designer by the name of Richard Marsden, who has since returned to full-time employment and so isn’t as available for commissions as he used to be, alas. He delivered the wonderfully Griffin-esque atmosphere and I looked after the nuts and bolts WordPress setup, site build and content management elements of the project.

RachelNeumeier.com, December 2013

For this update Rachel was keen to keep the fantastic graphics, so I focused on providing a full content overhaul and delivered it in the form of a complete re-working of the Books section of the site, along with a full set of on-screen and downloadable extracts from her books, plus the addition of various functionality enhancements and social media integration tools.

I’m delighted that Rachel was very pleased indeed and was kind enough to say so in a blog post:

“I’ve been very, very happy with freelance website content manager Darren Turpin. I went to Darren because he’s worked for both Orbit and Strange Chemistry and specializes in work for publishers and authors … As far as I’m concerned, doing website design or re-design is like doing taxes: complicated, uninteresting, intimidating, and with a steep learning curve. If you have or want a website but, like me, your eyes glaze over when you think about having to deal with the ins and outs of website design yourself, you might want to check out Darren’s site.”

(Ah, if only I could fit it all on a business card…)

Have a browse around www.rachelneumeier.com and then if you’d like any input to a similarly functionality-driven website project, please feel free to drop me a line.

WordPress 3.8 Out Now – Time to Upgrade Again

Wordpress!WordPress 3.8 was released on Friday and I’ll be rolling it out across my clients’ sites and my own project sites later today.

Most of the changes in WordPress 3.8 take place behind-the-scenes. The main admin theme has been streamlined – with various .png icon images replaced by scalable vector icons – and ‘modernised’: the previously-experimental MP6 plugin is now integrated into the main package. There are also another seven admin colour-schemes to choose from. Personally I quite like ‘coffee’ and ‘midnight’, but I don’t think ‘ectoplasm’ or ‘sunrise’ will be putting in an appearance any time soon…

WP 3.8 Admin Colours

Various other bits and pieces of admin functionality have been tweaked as well, and there are new theme variables to make designers’ and developers’ tasks a little easier. On the front end, there’s a new, magazine-style default theme: Twenty Fourteen. I’ll be checking that out at a later date.

All in all, a simple, mainly cosmetic version release, nothing too radical or world-shaking, which I understand was always going to be the plan. Full details can be found in the WordPress Codex as usual. And if you’re interested in what’s next for WordPress, check out the Make WordPress sub-site.

Dodgy ‘Desk-Jockey’ Posture? Bad Back? Try This.

I’d imagine the vast majority of people who work at a desk or type away on a computer keyboard all day have pretty terrible posture. Probably a bad back, neck ache and shoulder stiffness, too. It’s something I’m prone to and even though I’m aware of the need to avoid slumping forwards, get up, move around, there are still too many sessions when I’m focusing in on a task and the time just disappears. Next thing I know I’m a hunched-over ball of imminent lancing agony as I try to de-contort my torso and regain some semblance of human form.

Anyhow, last week James Clear shared a very short exercise video by a chap called (or who calls himself?) Max Shank. I watched it, attempted the ‘thoracic bridge’ exercise that was recommended and… it worked. A minute or so of twisting and stretching on the floor (it’s a bit more technical than I’m making it sound – watch the vid below to get the proper picture) and my shoulders felt looser, my back stretchier. Even my neck stiffness wasn’t as pronounced as it tends to be. Good stuff. I’ve been clambering and stretching in the same configuration twice a day since.

Here’s the demo video. If you’re a fellow back-neck-shoulder pain casualty, give the thoracic bridge a go, let me know if it works for you.

New Client: Dragonwell Publishing

Dragonwell PublishingI’ve just completed a project for Dragonwell Publishing, an independent genre fiction publisher based in the U.S. and selling both print and ebooks to a global audience via the Dragonwell webstore and Amazon.

Dragonwell’s Publisher Dawei Dong contacted me via a referral from one of Angry Robot’s authors. Following our initial discussions, I prepared a full overview report on Dragonwell’s online assets and social media channels. I was able to make a number of recommendations for potential enhancements, which Dawei was very pleased with.

By way of a first-stage project I’ve now re-vamped Dragonwell’s email templates – which involved an encounter with Mailchimp’s admin interface for the first time and a fair bit of HTML and CSS work – to boost the social media interactivity and cross-selling potential of their customer and reviewer ebulletins, whilst keeping everything clean, minimal and responsive on the design front. Hopefully the results are suitably simple-but-effective, as per Dawei’s brief. I hope to be given the opportunity to work with Dawei on other elements of Dragonwell’s online marketing mix in future.

If you’re a publisher – whether you’re an small press / independent, an author-publisher, or you work for a larger company or imprint – and would be interested in finding out what I could do to help you boost your online marketing results, please feel free to get in touch to discuss your requirements.

WordPress 3.7 Now Available – Time to Upgrade

Wordpress!The latest version of WordPress, WordPress 3.7, is now available and is being rolled out via the usual dashboard reminder.

WordPress 3.7 is a system functionality and security release. Rather than adding any particularly impressive new user features or styling, it’s a quiet, understated upgrade that improves some of the core functionality.

WordPress users can now benefit from automatic sub-version (security and bug-fix) updates – so no need to trigger an update if WordPress clicks from 3.7 to 3.7.1 in a couple of weeks – along with options for developers to control the process. There’s also an improved password strength checker, to make sure you’re not using a password that hackers are likely to guess right out of the gate.

We’re also promised better search results via an improved algorhithm and non-English language sites will surely appreciate automatic language file updates.

In short: not much new to see or play with, but a few useful enhancements nonetheless. More info at the WordPress blog (along with a heads-up that the next version is due in December).

Upgrade now, folks.

New Client: The British Fantasy Society, FantasyCon 2014

I’m very pleased indeed to announce that the British Fantasy Society has engaged my services for the build and content management of a website for their annual convention, FantasyCon 2014.

Fantasycon2014.org screenshot

At this stage, with the event just under a year away, the role of the site is to provide key info to potential convention attendees. I’ve deliberately kept the site quite minimalist in design, with a focus on usability, clarity and ease of navigation. The site will be developed further over the next few months as additional information requirements arise, event programmes are finalised and additional guests are announced.

If you’re running an event or convention and would be interested in a website to help promote the event and provide information to attendees, do get in touch and I’d be happy to discuss your requirements.

A Few WordPress Security Tips from WebDev Studios

Wordpress!If you’re running your own WordPress installation – and even more so if, like me, you’re running sites on behalf of your clients – then the security of your WordPress site(s) and content is something you really should be taking Very Seriously Indeed. Don’t assume that WordPress is a ‘safe’ product – it’s only every going to be as good as the security measures that you apply to the server you’re hosting it on and the computer(s) or device(s) that you use to access the site.

This handy presentation, by Brad Williams and Brian Messenlehner from WebDevStudios was shared by hosting provider Siteground, following a webinar on website security that they ran recently (video of the full webinar is also available at that link).

I’m already using a fair few of the security methods tips in the slides, but there are a couple more that I’ll be implementing shortly. Much better to be safe than sorry.

Hat-tip to Brian Krogsgard’s Post Status for the link.

For more on WordPress security, try the following articles: