From time to time would-be serializers bring up the topic (at places like the Webfiction Guide Forums ) of how exactly to publish the serial. For the new readers of this blog, let me help you walk through some of your decision points you have to navigate first before I get to the meat of this blog post.
When beginning your process of selecting “how to publish”
1) Consider whether you want to be paid or not paid. The paying options do exist (e.g., JukePopSerial, Amazon, Plympton) but have various submission requirements (and those submissions may only be accepted on a limited basis) . The unpaid options are numerous. (See earlier post, “Where to read free serials or list free serials.”)
2) If you elect to post your serial yourself at a neutral blog-type space (i.e., not a community or a paid site), you have a handful of free options to consider — including WordPress.com, Blogger.com, and Pandamian.com. Pandamian is a unique entry in itself to this space (and is free) . Of note — blogs can be moved from WordPress.com and Blogger.com to your own domains fairly easily. (The import tools seem to work reliably from *.com to your site or from Blogger.com to WordPress.com.) Specifically, using WordPress or Blogger hosted blogs doesn’t preclude you from later moving all your content to your own host.
3) If you elect to host your serial at your own site, consider that many web host providers offer support for a self-hosted version WordPress, Blogger, and some other clients.
For those who fall in categories 1 and 3 above, the rest of this blogpost will be academic. For the remainder of this post, I’m going to just focus on looking at Blogspot.com and WordPress.com as the primary host for a serial/online novel.
These are my thoughts based on a recent move of this blog from blogspot.com to wordpress.com in April.
I moved the blog to WordPress.com in April largely because I had a HTML meltdown. Blogger’s interface looks “friendly” but it seemed to have acquired a new habit of inserting a lot of font codes whenever I happened to click through the visual editor interface. This often meant each post was getting manually reedited every time I reopened it within the editor. As I was well-familiar with WordPress as it’s my own platform for publishing my self-hosted serial, I decided to just move the blog to WP.com and save myself the hassle of multiple code edits with each new post.
These few months have largely confirmed for me that there is a distinct advantage to having done so and, as such, I feel comfortable making a personal recommendation to would-be serializers debating between these two platforms to choose WordPress.com over Blogger.com.
While features are similar to some respect, there are some interesting differences with ramifications to a writer who is looking to grow and track their readership.
The Blogger.com interface itself speaks volumes about the philosophy of Blogspot. Here’s a look at what happens when I log into Blogger.com .
It’s simple — perhaps overly simple. While I appreciate having quick access to my multiple blogs at blogspot.com – there is no method to discover other blogs from within this space. It’s peculiar to me to have an option to add tag/label to posts, but no real visible way to link to other blogs using the same topic on blogspot.com . In other words, there is no internal driver of traffic between blogspot.com sites.
So while the blog started fairly decently with the first two posts amassing several hundred page views before the switch off that site — these were driven largely by my own twitter and posting behavior at Webfiction Guide. (The two most popular posts hit several hundred page views primarily using that method.) Given the “captive audience” aspect of both of those sources, my only hope for increasing traffic comes down to keyword searches or amplification by an existing captive base. (Given that neither the size of my twitter audience or the number of visitors at WFG has gone up, the only place to go is largely down.) Over time, most subsequent posts had 20-60 hits as I stopped bothering the forums with announcing updates. Therefore I think most traffic tended to remain driven by Twitter and RSS/feed subscribers.
However I can’t really tell you anything with confidence compared to Google Analytics. Blogspot’s stats page is fairly average: Included in their stats section is the following info
- Pageviews by Post
- Traffic Sources:
- Referring URLs
- Referring Sites
- Search Keywords
- Pageviews by Countries
- Pageviews by Browser
- Pageviews by Operating System
I have no idea of unique visitors so can’t tell if one person or robot accounts for a great deal of these hits. It is vexing, considering that the most popular traffic referring URL is not from a fiction site but a bizarre marketing site.
One of the most interesting effects of moving this blog from blogspot has been the ability to connect better with other writers and, in particular, writers of serials. Since moving this blog in April, being part of the WordPress.com system has resulted in 21 new followers/readers.
Why? This has been something I’ve been really dwelling on as of late. It’s probably easiest to tell you to look at my wordpress.com dashboard to understand why this happens.
This is not as simple as the Blogger.com dashboard. What is different about WP.com is that there’s a clear tagging dynamic that works. A visit to the top level WordPress.com shows you blogs you “subscribe to” and offers a “topic tracker” which corresponds to the tags people append to their posts. Because of the tagging system, other random users of WordPress.com blogs and the social community aspect can find your post by navigating tags.
In terms of stats, here’s what WordPress.com has to offer in their standard dashboard:
- Visitors, Views (current day/week/month, alongside all-time)
- Views by Country
- Top Posts and Pages (Pageviews)
- Referrers (Separate subbreakdown for search engines and then links for referring sites)
- Clicks (Outbound traffic)
- Search Engine Terms
- Tags & Categories
- Totals, Followers & Shares (Includes a list of the 21 followers and how long they have been following)
This is really comparable to Blogspot with the exception of giving me a few interesting new features — where people leave my blog for and a metric to capture sharing/following. I have a far better idea if my posts are going a bit more social and it seems that by virtue of being on wordpress.com, there is always a better likelihood of gaining viewers/readers through wordpress.com itself.
What I like about WordPress:
The biggest advantage for me is leaving behind the Blogger.com editor. (Also I’m leaving behind a paranoia that Google will eventually drop support for Blogger as it has for its other underperforming services or those which no longer interest it like “Google Reader.”)
Aside from that,
- I’m now able to manage two self-hosted installs of WordPress and two WordPress.com blogs with one iPhone app. This saves me a lot of headaches when I’m traveling and trying to update sites, delete spam, or moderate comments. I haven’t tested Blogger’s apps except a bit on the Droid, and I suppose it might be similar, but considering I am mostly wordpress overall, this just happened to be an added bonus. (I haven’t yet tested if I’ll be able to craft posts for another WordPress based site for which I’ll be a guest contributor and not “owner/editor” — but I suspect I’ll be able to do so.)
- WordPress also allows me to automate posting to Livejournal, tumblr, Facebook, Twitter pretty much in one system. Blogger does not.
- Mobile phone/tablet compatibility is automatic. My sites are all mobile phone/tablet friendly without any effort on my part.
What WordPress still won’t do:
- It won’t make your serial the most popular thing on the web. The serial writer clique on WP.com is still very small. But by its very nature, WP.com attracts bloggers of text and so it seems like it might be appropriate than Tumblr for posting your work.
- Deep customization of look and feel. WordPress.com has a limited menu of “Themes” or looks for your site. If you can’t find something you like, you may hve to look at doing your own self-install of WordPress at your own site.
- Allow you to set up ads. This too is something you can only do on a self-host install
- Protect you from hackers. With its growing popularity, WP.com and WP.org sites are popular targets for hackers. However, there are plenty of strategies one can employ to try to at least frustrate/delay these rogue agents from taking over… none of which I need to get into since these topics are adequately covered in tech blogs as well as in the forum WordPress.com/Wordpress.org help.
For other sources of information, please see:
- Webfiction Guide: See threads “A question for people who use wordpress” and “To Blog or not to blog…”
- WordPress Features: http://en.wordpress.com/features/
- Blogger Features: http://www.blogger.com/features