Blogging Help

SYWTBABB? Part 1 – Names & Platforms

Being a book blogger is fun, exciting, and gives you a sense of community among other readers. However, it is a lot of work and can be frustrating at times. Today I’m going to start a new series called So You Want to Be a Book Blogger, which will detail various aspects of being a book blogger. In this first installment, I’ll go over the various options you have for setting up your blog.

Choosing a Name

The first thing you want to do is choose your blog’s name. This can be as simple as “Your Name’s Blog” or “Your Name’s Corner” or something with more pizzazz or flair like “Keep on Booking” or “The Spooky Bookshelf”. Take a bit of time and decide what you want to name your blog. Do some checking around to see if anyone else has named their blog the same as yours – if they have, or if you find a company uses that name, you’ll want to change your blog’s name to something that won’t get confused with someone else.

Another thing you might want to do is check to see if the blog name you’ve chosen can be registered as a domain name. Unfortunately, it seems someone with no interest in actually developing a website with it has registered keeponbooking.com, so I ended up with keeponbooking.net. There are plenty of domain extensions, but I’d steer clear of any domains that have the .com, .net, or .org taken and actually have a website set up – it’s likely someone will get confused about who you are. Think of a different name – the last thing you want to happen is someone starting a trademark war over your blog name.

Also of note: you may find yourself wanting to choose a platform based on your blog name being available as the URL or choose a name based on what’s available on the platform. You can do this if you want, but it isn’t necessary, especially if you plan to attach a domain to the blog sooner rather than later.

Choosing a Platform

So you have a name for the blog, but now you need somewhere to write it. Well, you have a few options, some good, some not-so-good. We’ll start with hosted options first, then talk about self-hosted options.

Blogger

Blogger is a fairly popular, easy to use blogging service provided by Google. It’s pretty straightforward, but lacks some of the finesse of other blogging platforms. You can create multiple blogs on one account, so if you decide you want to have a second blog for another passion, you can do it. You can style your posts pretty much any way you want to using the HTML editor portion of the post editor, but you will need to know HTML and CSS to do so. You can also use a domain name for free on Blogger, so if you choose to purchase a domain, you can use it there without paying. You also have the option of creating a Google AdSense account and once your blog qualifies, monetizing your blog with Google AdSense.

Blogger is great for beginners, but it’s pretty limited. The selection of premade themes that comes with Blogger are very limited and although they can be customized, it isn’t always the easiest thing to do. You can Google for free Blogger Templates and there are a few Etsy sellers who sell Blogger Templates, so you might be able to find something you like better that way.

Many people start off on Blogger but then decide they are too limited and move to one of the self-hosted options you’ll learn about later on. A big drawback to Blogger is that Google can decide at any time to shut down Blogger or just delete your blog for no reason.

WordPress.com

Yes, I put a .com behind WordPress because there are two version. Hosted which is WordPress.com and self-hosted which is WordPress.org.

WordPress.com is a great way to dip your toes into the world of working and blogging with WordPress without having to shell out money for hosting. Unfortunately, you are very limited as to what you can do on a free WordPress.com account, but you can create multiple blogs on the same account as with Blogger.

WordPress.com comes with certain features built in for helping your blog get traffic that Blogger just doesn’t have. On WordPress.com, you can set your blog to automatically share your posts to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and LinkedIn as well as adding share buttons to each post, where Blogger only lets you add share buttons to each post and you’d have to manually share your posts to your chosen social networks.

WordPress.com also has a bigger theme selection and it’s a bit easier to customize your themes, although you can’t add your own code to the theme unless you choose to pay for an upgrade to your account.

The biggest drawbacks for WordPress.com for most people are the block editor and the limitations put on you unless you spring for the business (highest upgrade level) package. The block editor is shared with WordPress.org blogs and trust me, it’s a matter of you love it or you hate it. If you haven’t used it, it’s hard to describe why it’s so bad to those who hate it and if you use it and love it, you’ll never understand why others hate it so much.

As for the limitations, you can remove them in varying degrees by upgrading to personal, professional, or business plans that will allow you more control over your blog. However, since you are hosted on WordPress.com’s servers, your blog will always be subject to WordPress.com deciding it should be deleted. Another thing to note – unless you upgrade to one of the paid plans, your blog will show ads that make WordPress.com money, but don’t make you any money.

LiveJournal

Yes, LiveJournal is still around, and although I’m not entirely sure it’s a good fit for book bloggers, I have seen a few there before. It’s been a very long time since I’ve used LiveJournal and the last time I was there, the blogs were riddled with ads unless you paid for your blog, but that may have changed. Honestly, unless you just really like LiveJournal, I wouldn’t use them.

WordPress.org

So here we are in the self-hosted section, starting off with WordPress.org. To use WordPress.org, you will need a hosting account. You can get one through many different places including Namecheap, GoDaddy, SiteGround, DreamHost, BlueHost, HostGator, and more. WordPress.org recommends SiteGround, BlueHost, and DreamHost, but I use Namecheap myself and I love it.

Anyway, WordPress.org requires hosting but not a domain name – although your hosting company will likely require you to register a domain to use with your hosting. You can use your host’s software installer to install WordPress.org in the “blogs” section. The process is fairly painless and in a few moments, you’ll have your very own self-hosted WordPress blog!

WordPress.org gives you so much more control over your blog because you have the option to add any theme you want out of the theme repository, third party sites that sell themes, or even create your own theme if you’re a developer. You also have the option to integrate various things into your blog using plugins. Both custom themes and plugins are options only available to business plan users on WordPress.com, but honestly, you’ll likely pay far less per year on a hosting plan and have way more control.

WordPress.org does use the block editor, but if it’s the only thing you’ve ever used, it’s not too terrible because it works the same way.

One great thing is there is an importer plugin that you can use to move your blog from WordPress.com, Blogger, and a few other sites, to WordPress.org.

Just know that you’ll have a monthly or yearly hosting fee to pay plus a fee for the domain name.

I use the Stellar Plus package from Namecheap and it costs me $4.88/month plus the fee for my domain each year, which is about $13 – so I pay roughly $73/year to run my blog as far as Namecheap goes.

On WordPress.org, if you want some of the functions of WordPress.com like the social media sharing, you’ll need to install Jetpack – which is a pretty easy thing to do. Jetpack offers free and paid plans1I use the $9/month paid plan and get to use WordAds from WordPress.com, the sharing features, backups, and more. which you can utilize to help your blog be the best it can be… and you only need to pay for Jetpack, not both Jetpack and Akismet spam protection!

ClassicPress

The final platform I’m going to detail is ClassicPress. ClassicPress, like WordPress.org, requires a hosting account. The beauty of ClassicPress is that it is WordPress.org but a bit simpler.

ClassicPress removes the block editor and gives you the old-time WordPress feel, great for people who moved from WordPress.com because of the block editor or who are used to the visua/HTML editor interface type of Blogger.

Most plugins and themes for WordPress.org will work great on ClassicPress, but there are some exceptions – Jetpack doesn’t really work with ClassicPress unless you can get a much older version. The new versions don’t work with ClassicPress.

You can install ClassicPress through many software installers like Softaculous by looking under CMS for ClassicPress.

Conclusion

So there you have the first two steps in creating your book blog – figuring out a name and picking a platform. We’ll detail the next steps next week, which are finding a theme and recommended plugins.