The pros and cons of a self-publishing blogging platform
In the first article in our series on blogging for self-publishers, we made a case for why it’s worth it to put time and effort into creating a blog to promote your book publishing project, and gave some general guidelines for what your content should look like. In this article, we’ll offer a brief guide for choosing a self-publishing blogging platform. There’s no shortage of options, and this is the first decision you’ll need to make once you’ve decided to promote your book with a blog.
WordPress.org is a clear frontrunner in terms of popularity, supporting almost a third of all websites on the internet. There’s good reason for the popularity. WordPress is a versatile tool that lets you quickly build a site and enjoy complete control over it. You can code your own site, or more ideal for most authors, use a template. With such a powerful tool, it’s inevitable that there will be some learning curve, and this is definitely the case.
The WordPress software is free, but it’s self-hosted, which means you’ll need to pay for a domain name and hosting, which together can cost around $25 a month. However, you’ll often be able to find a deal. WordPress beginner users can pay only $2.75 a month, and get a free domain name, through Bluehost.
WordPress also offers a wide range of thousands of themes and plugins to help add features and stand out visually. Be careful though, since some themes and plugins will make your site run rather slowly.
While powerful, WordPress might present some roadblocks for beginners, who will have to manage their own backups and security. Depending on what deals are available at the time, you may also want to look for cheaper options. Overall, WordPress is great for authors with some time and money to invest in their self-publishing blogging platform.
Somewhat better suited for beginners, Squarespace allows bloggers to quickly create a professional looking site using a simple, drag-and-drop system and a template. It’s a favorite choice for small business owners and those who want distinctive and professional-looking results with minimal learning curve. It’s easy to use for brand new beginners and offers a two-week free-trial to see how you do with platform.
The main drawback to choosing Squarespace is the pricing. A personal website plan costs $16 a month, or if you pay one year at a time, $12 a month. Business plans and websites with online stores cost even more – plans vary, but you could expect to pay around $26 a month. Squarespace is a worthy option for authors that have some money for their blogging project, but don’t want to spend as much time learning how to use a platform.
On top of the expense, however, Squarespace is more limited than WordPress in terms of features and tools. It’s a simpler, if pricier, option.
Not ready to spend money on your blog? Blogger is a free, basic blogging platform from Google. It’s also incredibly simple to use. It’s been around since the 90s, and now benefits from Google’s secure and reliable platform. All you’ll need is a Google account.
As you might imagine, Blogger does have its downsides. While you can customize your site with a variety of themes, your options are definitely more limited, both in terms of design and features.
Finally, not only does Google not perform updates or add features, but bloggers warn that the company has a habit of canceling widely-loved services without warning. So overall, Blogger is an option for authors that may be experimenting with the idea of a blog, but that might not sure yet how much they want to put in to the project. It’s certainly a great way to try blogging without putting in much time or money.
Medium is one-part blogging platform and one-part social network. You’ll have an address on Medium’s site rather than your own domain name. Once again, minimal technical skills are required – but this is in part because Medium is a pretty much a package deal when it comes to design. In the same way that you have limited options to design your Facebook page, blogging on Medium is about writing rather than designing a distinctive website. For some authors this will be an upside, but it could be an issue for others. With minimal customization, you’ll be focused almost exclusively on the writing itself. Medium is also free to use.
One benefit with Medium is that it allows you to plug directly into existing online communities that might be interested in reading what you have to say. You can apply to be included in “publications,” which are like online magazines that come with an audience of subscribers. You’ll need to be accepted by each one, but this can help to connect with an audience right away.
Even these choices are just the tip of the iceberg to give you an idea of what kind of options are available. If you have limited experience, and want to experiment with blogging as a promotional tool, a self-publishing blogging platform like Blogger or Medium could be perfect for you. If you’re fairly serious about blogging, though, WordPress is a powerful tool and something of a gold standard. Selecting a self-publishing blogging platform will depend on how much time, money, and technical know-how you have to invest in your project.