WordCamp St. Louis: WordPress for Writers and More

Shawn­telle Madi­son gave a talk at Word­Camp St. Louis titled “Word­Press for Writ­ers, Pub­lish­ers, and other Con­tent Providers.” Shawn­telle is an urban fan­tasy writer with a new book com­ing out. She also works with design firms in St. Louis and has been work­ing with Word­Press for over 5 years.

With her book com­ing out Shawn­telle has seen both sides of the coin with what pub­lish­ers require from author websites.

WP in the pub­lish­ing community

It’s a lot more preva­lent than you first think. Shawn­telle polled 47 authors from var­i­ous gen­res and 85% were using Word­Press. The user-friendly Dash­board, ease of theme changes, and flex­i­bil­ity with wid­gets and plu­g­ins were favorites.

They also like it because it’s far eas­ier than cod­ing a site from scratch. When your job is writ­ing con­tent you don’t want to be spend­ing all the time cod­ing and design­ing your site.


Shawn­telle said that “brand­ing is very impor­tant for authors.” The design is what read­ers first see and it should really fit with the genre of your writing.

A great exam­ple is Scott West­er­feld who has a site which fits his steam­punk style writ­ing quite well.

What’s com­mon

Authors expect a few key fea­tures for almost every site. They like hav­ing things like:

  • Newslet­ter integration
  • The abil­ity to add a back­list of books
  • Inte­gra­tion with social media
  • Other basics like ad man­age­ment, con­tact forms, and a well-designed blog

Most authors Shawn­telle works with already have had some expe­ri­ence with Word­Press. They don’t want a com­plex front-end lay­out and pre­fer to keep things simple.

Deter­min­ing who is respon­si­ble for site main­te­nance is key to any project you work with an author on. Many won’t keep the site updated so fig­ur­ing out who will be respon­si­ble for that going for­ward is crucial.

Shawn­telle also men­tioned some of her favorite and most use­ful plu­g­ins from projects with authors.


Out of the 6 big pub­lish­ers 2 are run­ning Word­Press in their work.1 Ran­dom House and Hachette use Word­Press to power parts of their imprint on the web.

For exam­ple, Ran­dom House uses Word­Press to power their At Ran­dom site. There’s tons of reader guides, audio and video, as well as links to the books in the Ran­dom House catalog.

Data from the exist­ing Ran­dom House cat­a­log was used to power things like the New Releases slider and more on the site. They also link up to ser­vices like Goodreads, Shel­fari, and LibraryThing.

  1. The big 6 are Macmil­lan, Ran­dom House, Pen­guin, Simon and Schus­ter, Hachette Books, and HarperCollins.