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.

Branding

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.

Publishers

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.