Polling the audience

I have a couple of things I've been stewing about lately, and maybe you can help me out. I know some of you have dealt with these issues, and I'm wondering how your decisions worked out.

First lets talk about themes. I've used the wonderful Pilcrow theme since the day I started blogging. It does a couple of things I really like. I change my background monthly. I get a lot of comments about the wallpaper, and want to keep doing this. I like the continuity of my mother's antique inkwell too. Finally, this theme allows for a decent sidebar.

My sidebar data is important, but also causing the problem. I like the top posts and pages, along with the categories. Readers can sample what was popular here, or play in a category that filters the content down to what they enjoy. I like the link to free readers, and the RSS data. This brings me to the linked book covers.

The covers and links are the reason this blog exists in the first place. I get daily action out of them. Today it all works, but I want to put two new titles out by the end of the year. Some of you have another page to promote your wares. I'd like to know how this works for you. I will always have some covers in my sidebar, but I can't have all of them. Should I move some of them over to a different page? Is this like a death sentence for the older works?

I scouted out a new theme that has a slider. It also had all the other options I wanted like changing backgrounds. The slider is like a bar that includes links. My covers could be links to the purchase sites. Just about the time I decided to make the plunge, WordPress stopped using this theme. I don't find themes to be really intuitive to set up. Other themes have a slider, but the instructions to set them up are limited and confusing. This is a WordPress.com site, so I need one of the free themes. Any suggestions? I'm not changing my theme if I wind up using a separate book page. I'm also terrified to lose all the work I've put into my site and would have to rebuild it from scratch if the new one disappointed me.

My next question isn't related to the first ones, but is on my mind. I'm really excited about my upcoming book of short stories and micro fiction. I have a hunch I'd like to do it again, and have a couple really fun ideas.

Last year, I ran a little event that I called Macabre Macaroni during October. I posted a micro fiction every Thursday in October that had a Halloween basis. It was a popular event, and this popularity is what led me to consider a book of shorts. So… Do I waste a few stories to do it again in 2015? This would force me to pick and choose what I hold back and what I post on the blog.

Should I just put myself out there and run Macabre Macaroni again? The risk is I would only feel comfortable adding one of these to the next book of shorts. It would probably be the first one in the book, so it could be served up as the free sample on Amazon.

Maybe I could invite others to send a Macabre Macaroni and run your stories. I could participate, but in a lesser fashion. It's not impossible to collaborate on some stories with other writers too. There is still time. What would you do? I can always continue business as usual, and hopefully I'll be pushing the book of shorts then. It was a fun event, but maybe it has to disappear during these growing pains.

This post is kind of revealing. I plan this stuff out. (Who knew?) October is months away, but it takes time to write these stories. I try hard to present an intriguing site that people enjoy. I still want people to sample my wares, and don't really want them buried on a second page. I'm at the point where I may have to put the newer works on top, and let enthusiastic folks find the older stories.

Growing pains were inevitable at some point. I'm at that point, and I'll bet some of you know an answer or two. I appreciate you guys, and really would like some input.


Filed under Blogging, Writing

40 responses to “Polling the audience

  1. I personally loved Macabre Macaroni and would love for it to be a yearly feature.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 1. I have a sale page and I don’t think it’s doing much. I’ve been trying to figure out how to use the side bar better, but I have too many works to put all of them. Was thinking of doing the newest one, but that would only work for a series. What about doing a weekly or monthly sidebar showcase with your books? It’s more work, but it can give everything a chance for a bit.

    2. The October event sounds like a lot of fun. I’d do it again, but you’re right that it would be wise to hold the really good stuff back.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Firstly, you can have a paid theme on wordpress.com – https://en.support.wordpress.com/premium-themes/

    I’m not sure sliders are a good way to go, research shows that most people don’t wait for it to slide onto the next thing, so they only ever see the first thing (so if you have one, it’s obviously best to make it be random about which one shows up first so at least they might see a different one each time), plus I’m not sure sliders work well on all devices do they?

    My theme is pretty similar to yours, but it has two columns of sidebar, so that would potentially allow you to fit more books? I’m pretty sure you can do a wallpaper on it too, it’s just that I choose not to and leave it as white. And you could keep your header image as the inkwell. The other option, which has already been suggested, is to change the ones you feature on the main page each month, rotating them with ones you have on a separate book page.

    With regard to your other question, this is purely personal (I know many others feel differently), but I don’t really like reading fiction on blogs. I mostly avoid posts that have fiction in them (not always, but mostly), I almost feel it’s a waste of my limited blogging time – my time for reading fiction is separate time! Having said that, if you were to do it, it might be more fun to get others to contribute like you suggested, you could even give a title and invite people to submit stories using that title, maybe keeping a flash fiction length word limit. Something like that I would probably both take part in, and read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I should add if you’re looking at my theme and considering it, the film strip heading is something I created myself, the standard is just a picture at the top like you have.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting data. I think my theme allows for a bar on each side. That might make the reading pane uncomfortably small. I hadn’t thought of a writing prompt type event. I’ll consider it. Your banner is very cool, but I would need something clickable. Still collecting data for a while.


  4. I have my book covers in my sidebar but I’ve also created separate pages where readers can find them. You’re right that eventually, I’ll have too many books to list in the sidebar, but for now it works.

    I did make a separate home/landing page that has a small splash for each of my novels and I created individual book pages that link to a tab in the navigation bar (I’m using WordPress as more of a website than just a blog). Personally, when I hit the site of an author I’m not familiar with, the first place I look for their books is in the navigation bar, not the sidebar. The nice thing about having separate pages for each book is that you can include a lot of information.

    My book covers in my sidebar only link to Amazon, but the individual pages feature links to various sale sites, the full blurb of the book, and even snippets from reviews. So my set up is….side bar for “eye candy” and link to Amazon; home/landing page with book teasers; full book pages for detailed information and reviews (I need to add some for Myth and Magic) with links in my navigation bar

    Regarding your Macabre Marconi…I missed that last year, but it sounds like a lot of fun. I know several bloggers who do October events and they invite other bloggers and authors to participate. The idea being that those author/bloggers will promote the event on their blog and steer traffic to yours. I think they pick up a lot of new followers that way.

    As for whether or not you should post your fic….if it were me, I’d save the best for your book, but I think giving visitors a taste of what they can expect would be a good way to drum up interest.


    • Your setup sounds appealing. I’m collecting data for now. I may keep some recent tales in the sidebar, and create a page for all of them including the newest ones. I’m not above recycling one story into a 99ยข book full of other stories. I did it this time, based upon its popularity during last October. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I deleted my (very) detailed comment by accident. Aack! In a nutshell, when you switch themes you can lose data. I’ve switched twice, didn’t lose much, but enough to make it aggravating. I’m dealing with the same questions, and was thinking about adding one of the plugins, Shopify or Gumroad. I understand you want your covers on the sidebar. After all, that’s the point of having a site. But if you pique someone’s interest enough that they want to find out about your books, they will click “my books” in the menu. That’s my personal opinion, anyway. I think it’s more important to make it easier for readers to get to the purchase page with the fewest amounts of clicks. That’s what I’ve discovered in my research, anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I enjoyed Macabre Macaroni, and would love to read more small works like those again this year. I’ve been wracking my brain for what to do for Thirteen Stories Til Halloween this year, I could stand to build an idea mill ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I think it’s smart to have your books on the sidebar. That’s where I clicked them. It lets everyone know that you have books, immediately. You could always add a page for your published works as well, but I’d keep the sidebar.
    I’m way too afraid to switch themes. I understand your concern.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Touch decision to make. I’ve had to make the side bar choice myself. I put my most recent published work on the side and have a books page for the older ones.
    I’m just starting to follow you, so I don’t have a vested comment on the October shorts, but a tip I try to follow is not to over extend myself, so I can provide the quality to my readers that I want to provide.
    Best of luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. If the sidebar really is working for you, then by all means look for an updated theme that allows it to continue. Depending how often you blog, perhaps you could switch them around from time to time so different books are at the top.

    Based on response, I think you should plan some version of Macabre Macaroni again. Inviting other writers could work well. Similar to swapping blogs, I think it will draw you some traffic and get your signal boosted because whoever else you choose will brag about it. But if you only have room for 5 stories, and one of them is going to be your own, I do think you should invite who you’d like to work with rather than issuing an open call and getting many more submissions than you can reasonably use.

    Using your own Maccaroni story for promotional material sounds like a very good idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve been designing numerous websites for my job, and all of them are on paid WordPress themes… just so you know, some of them were fairly easy, and some were quite difficult to figure out. My vote is to stick with what you know. Does the sidebar not allow more than 5 linked books? I do think a separate page should be there with all work described, whether or not you change themes.

    Also, I personally loved your Macabre Macaroni. I’d love to see you repeat it, but maybe if those are stories you intend to use in a short story collection, you can give a shortened version on the blog and elaborate more in the book?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I believe I can have as many as I want in the sidebar. It starts looking a little bit cluttered though. I need to experiment with a couple of options on the theme I have. There is a slideshow that I may be able to get one link on. (My Amazon author page perhaps) I can also put a bar on each side, but I need to see how it looks.

      I think I’m all in with Macabre Macaroni this year. In fact I wrote one last night. People who enjoy them might be interested in reading Notebook, so my point of view changed about it.

      Is there no end to the talents you possess? I never knew you did websites too.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s