Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Alison Morton: To Split or Not to Split

Alison Morton tells us why she decided to have two blogs - one for her books and one for writing.

The scientists who split the atom had an easier job. I spent weeks testing and preparing, and on S (for Split)-Day, I worked for hours to ensure the smooth transition to two separate and fully functioning blogs. I’m not sure everything is in place yet!

When I started my blog in 2010 on World Book Day, I called it ‘Write a Novel? – I Must Be Mad! I had just signed my indentures as a mad newbie writer so it seemed an appropriate title.  But three years later on 1 January 2013, a few weeks before my first book, INCEPTIO, was published, I took on all the wisdom of the Internet(!) and changed the title to include my name and the series name, hence ‘Alison Morton’s Roma Nova.’ I had survived the initial apprentice phase and was passing into the journeyman one where I hoped to produce novels on a reasonably regular basis.

In those first three years, I had combined my blog and former website to produce a blogsite. As well as maintain the static pages  (About, Contact, etc.), I posted about my writing, people I’d met, writing craft, courses, conferences, literary social events (the posh name for RNA parties!), decisions, disappointments, things I’d learned, guests and Roman-related posts. I carried on with these topics, when I changed to ‘Alison Morton’s Roma Nova’ but added in posts relating to my books – excerpts, launches, background, reviews and events.

Then it reached That Point.

In January 2015, a vague unease that had been grumbling away for a few months was confirmed by an outside assessment of my blogsite.  As I read the report – similar to reading the dreaded NWS report – I wiped away a mental tear and realised the awful truth. I was trying to please two distinct groups of readers at the same time. People looking for my books had to wade through a raft of writing topics; others looking for writing and publishing post fought their way through Roman and Roma Nova stuff. My site resembled two chariots trying to race in opposite directions, but tied to each other at the back. Neither could win. The stark conclusion: sharpen up my message and ditch the writing part if I wanted to focus on selling books.  Sob. All those posts about writing, publishing, parties and people into the bin?

Being an author today means developing entrepreneurial skills, especially marketing ones - setting out your wares, and creating an environment that supports that. But being a writer also means sharing accumulated knowledge, experience and techniques. While in no way setting myself up as a guru, I wanted to pass them on as well as exploring new topics.

Now with the fourth book, AURELIA, on the way, it was decision time. I put my site-splitting gloves on and decided to develop in both directions. I purchased another domain name, alisonmortonauthor.com, to become my new writing blog and installed WordPress on it. Next, with my IT expert husband’s help, I exported a copy of the original blogsite to that new domain. Although it was live, I didn’t tell a soul about it as I needed to redesign the site, write a new front page, upload new photos, check and change all the links, the graphics and reformat pages as well as make sure the content was appropriate for a writing blog. I didn’t zap any old posts in case they were linked elsewhere in the digiverse.  

As a relief from all that, I drafted and formatted new pages for the re-vamped Roma Nova book site. I used an old spare domain with WordPress installed to practice and fiddle with the new pages. Originating graphics and new content, checking every single link, learning the arcane lore behind tables and buttons took time. My HTML skills increased exponentially…

On S (for Split)-Day day, armed with a large cup of coffee, I glued myself to the keyboard (almost literally) and performed the split. The writing site was relatively easy, the new book site was more fiddly, but I had all the coding ready on my practice domain to transfer over. The worst bit was agonizing about what to zap on the books only site but the newsletter managed to keep its place!

Now I have two separate sites, serving two distinct sets of readers and sending out two different messages.

On Writing Blog you’ll be able to find my posts about writing, independent publishing, marketing, fabulous guests, research, author-entrepreneur skills, writing life and what I’ve been up to!

The darker Roma Nova Thrillers features my books, plus this is where I’ll concentrate my photos and posts about Rome, alternative history and background about Roma Nova. And I have a very serious photo and tough new bio there…

SUCCESSIO – Roma Nova (Book 3) Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Roma Nova – the last remnant of the Roman Empire that has survived into the 21st century – is at peace. Carina Mitela, the heir of a leading family, but choosing the life of an officer in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces, is not so sure. 

She senses danger crawling towards her when she encounters a strangely self-possessed member of the unit hosting their exchange exercise in Britain. When a blackmailing letter arrives from a woman claiming to be her husband Conrad’s lost daughter and Conrad tries to shut Carina out, she knows the threat is real.

Trying to resolve a young man’s indiscretion twenty-five years before turns into a nightmare that not only threatens to destroy all the Mitelae but also attacks the core of the imperial family itself. With her enemy holding a gun to the head of the heir to the imperial throne, Carina has to make the hardest decision of her life…

Thank you, Alison

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Unknown said...

I'm at that same painful point myself, Alison! My small press website, where I have my own work, my non-fiction work under another name, and some other people's books that I help manage, is proving to be a poor platform for snarky author-me to connect to readers.

Yes ... I was just contemplating whether to 'split' my existing wordpress website using Multisite (something which requires a significant amount of wordpress knowledge) or to use a blogger account that I use once in a while, but which the site-stats are really primitive compared to wordpress' jetpack.

Your blog is timely in that it has reinforced my decision to make the split. Now ... it's only a question of HOW? Thanks!

Alison Morton said...

Well, using that 'spare' domain to experiment in and draft pages ready to just copy and paste on Split-Day was very useful.

I think it's very important to have a separate domain name to differentiate your 'identities' in the same way that writers have different names for different lines or genres. If you are self-hosted, you just purchase a new domain name and download the free version of WordPress and off you go.

I wouldn't bother with Blogger now after you've been with WordPress. ;-)

Good luck!

Anita Chapman said...

Your new website and blogs look fantastic Alison, a great move!

Alison Morton said...

Thanks, Anita. It was like most things in life - research, prepare, execute, review.

Gosh! That sounds like project management which I suppose it was...