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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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…
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.
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.
I’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.
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.
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.
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.
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: