Alone and Old in an Online World

A much better week. Have been really on top of my freelance work, so that I only had about an hour’s work come Friday. Really thought I might finish my scripted outline later that day, but hit an unexpected bit of burn-out in the afternoon. A little surprised, as I didn’t really feel all that tired, but my brain just stopped cooperating for a bit.

Writing really is all about focus and concentration. There’s a sports saying about ‘having your head in the game’, and I often feel this aptly describes writing. If my head isn’t in the game, things will go very slowly.

Not dwelling on that, though, as I’m close and the week had another big achievement. The thought of book marketing thrills and terrifies me in equal parts. Although far from being computer illiterate, I am of an age where, unless you had the sort of interest in computing that would, a decade later, lead to a job making sites for that new inter-web-net-thingy – the thing that nobody but businesses with something to sell could yet see point of – you didn’t learn much about them in your most formative years. My IT teacher owned a farm and wore tweed, and the lessons mostly involved playing some skiing game based around dots and lines on the school’s BBC Micros. Oh yeah, 32KB of computing power!

With this in mind, I just need my online experience to be as straightforward as possible. Many of the concepts around marketing and SEO can be hard enough to grasp because of the unnecessarily complex language often used to describe them, so I don’t need to be struggling with the websites and software side of things.

Although the proverbial bow of my research into marketing has a few strings, by far the most useful tool has been a website and book by Joanna Penn. She, like others, stresses the do-or-die importance of the email list. So, I decided to see if I could add one to my WordPress.com site.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I know. Get a .org self-hosted site, it’s so much better, with so much more control. I must confess, tech-fear is what initially stopped me, but right now it’s fear of the other publishing costs that will need to be met. – More immediate things, like a book cover and some sort of paid editing. It’s not that expensive to get the hosting and all that, but right now it will be a cost too much.

That said, if I couldn’t effectively collect emails through the .com site, it would be a big issue. No problem, though, I found something that tells me about embedding code into a text widget (a silly word if ever I have heard one), or if not another widget with a pop-up box. Not ideal, pop-ups are annoying, but better than nowt.  Neither worked, consistently changing my code, or just displaying it all as text on the site. Some research revealed that this is a ‘safety feature’, which can be got around if you pay the $200, or whatever, for a business subscription. Not happening.

I battled with this for a while. Quite a while. Too long, one might say, but the answer did ultimately come through a live chat with a WordPress.com advisor who was very helpful. It was, however, somewhat convoluted.

First, I had to start a MailChimp account. Fair enough, I knew they were one of the bigger email marketing companies and was planning to start using them at some point. It’s free for my current purpose, at least, and their site seems fairly convinced they can help my future marketing efforts in ways I don’t yet (and maybe never will) understand.

Then I had to make a Wufoo account, so I could make the form for my site. My form only included three fields – I did toy with including just one field on my mailing list sign up…. any guesses which? Still… Wufoo account. Then I had to link the Wufoo form to an email list I had made in MailChimp. Then export it for WordPress.com, which creates some html it actually won’t go changing. Then, finally, I can drop it into that text widget.

I mean, w-o-w; for something a lot of people with a website are likely going to want to do… what a fuss! Yes, I could have just used a WordPress contact form to collect email addresses, but it wouldn’t have been a great way of doing it. Plus, yes, automatically sending it to a MailChimp list will, I’m sure, pay dividends and make things easier later on.

It’s just… I dunno… is everything going to make me feel this out of my depth and confused? Of course, there is that non-techie, old bloke sense of achievement for getting there and sorting it out, but I’d still rather things just, you know, happened without me having to be sat there until 4 in the morning. Really… 4 in the morning.

In other news, I got hold of a copy of my old novel, Promenade, which I wrote about 15 years ago. I thought all digital copies of it lost, except for the possibility of a floppy disk somewhere in the tip that is my garage. Yes, I had many, many redundancies, but take your eye off the ball for enough years, you’d be surprised how they can all get unexpectedly stripped away.

So, I’m thinking ‘publishing dry run’. Make my mistakes on something that I’m not currently spending a lot of time writing. Could be good.

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