Help me make City of Sand a reality!

City of Sand CoverWow, that was quite a hiatus. Between health problems, money problems, and various other personal problems, I haven’t had the time, energy, or inclination to post much lately. The past few weeks have been very productive for me, though, so I’m cautiously optimistic that the worst is behind me. I’ve been working on several different writing projects, and a few days ago I took a look at an unfinished manuscript that I’d started a while back for a mystery novel called City of Sand. I read it over and thought, “Damn, this is pretty good. Why didn’t I finish this?” Just to make sure I wasn’t deluding myself about the quality of the writing, I sent the partial manuscript to a friend who had enjoyed several of my previous books. Her response, upon getting to the end of what I’d written, was: “Are you SERIOUS?! Why would you stop there? Sadist.” I think that means she liked it. Here’s the marketing summary I wrote up:

It’s the year 2000 and the Silicon Valley city of Sunnyview is abuzz with the possibilities of vast fortunes to be made in the Dot Com boom. But to retired cop Benjamin Stone, who has come to Sunnyview to find his estranged daughter, Jessica, the promise of Sunnyview rings hollow. Benjamin grew up in Sunnyview in the 1950s, when it was a sleepy farming town, and he finds its modern day counterpart strange and weirdly insubstantial. After Jessica turns up dead in a creek bed, apparently murdered, Benjamin follows clues that suggest a conspiracy involving a startup company and a Silicon Valley pioneer with a disturbing past. As the mystery unravels, Benjamin must confront the reality of terrible crimes that occurred in the idealized town of his youth, which helped to make Silicon Valley what it is today. But as Benjamin attempts to unravel the conspiracy, all the clues begin to point toward a horrifying possibility: Sunnyview isn’t what it seems.

City of Sand is a little difficult to classify, which makes it a hard sell for publishers. It’s basically a mystery novel with a strong psychological component, but it also has some sci-fi elements, like my novel Schrödinger’s Gat. It’s not quite as unconventional as that book, but it’s weird enough that it doesn’t fit nicely into a predefined genre. I ended up doing a Kickstarter to self-publish Schrödinger’s Gat, raising over $5,000 to get it published, so I’ve decided to do the same thing for City of Sand. If you’d like to help me make City of Sand a reality (and get an advance copy, as well as some other cool stuff!), I’d greatly appreciate your support. Here’s the link for the Kickstarter. If you have any questions about the book, ask them in the comments here or on Kickstarter, and I will do my best to answer them. Thanks!

Amazon, Hachette, and the progressive obsession with the Big Mean Corporation

Amazon makes my son happy.

Amazon makes my son happy.

As a conservative-leaning libertarian, I find myself at odds with most other novelists on a lot of political issues. Whether it’s minimum wage laws or Obamacare, most creative writers tend to favor progressive ideals over the rights of individuals to enter into voluntary business arrangements without government intervention.

So it’s a little unsettling to find myself in agreement with someone like bestselling thriller-writer Barry Eisler in the Amazon-versus-Hachette squabble. Eisler, who is about as progressive as one can be, reacts to the latest over-the-top melodrama of the anti-Amazonians as follows:

From the beginning, the Amazon/Hachette dispute has functioned as a kind of inkblot test. The parties’ negotiations are subject to a confidentiality agreement, so no one outside Amazon and Hachette knows for certain the details.  But vagueness and ambiguity hasn’t much impeded the reflexively anti-Amazon crowd from being certain that Amazon’s tactics are “bullying,” “monopolistic,” “malignant,” “evil,” etc.  Most of all, in the face of confidential negotiations about which the outside world can only speculate, how many people have been certain that it was Amazon’s position and tactics that were hurting authors, while never even considering the possibility that the other party to the negotiation might bear at least some degree of responsibility, as well?

More on Eisler’s blog.

I know dozens of authors who are self-published or published by one of Amazon’s imprints, and I can tell you that the overwhelming majority of them are supportive of Amazon. Many have signed a petition championed by Eisler and indie wunderkind Hugh Howey to urge Hachette to “stop fighting low prices and fair wages.” (And it’s not just Amazon authors who are supportive; as near as I can tell, the pro-Amazon petition currently has somewhere around ten times as many signatures as the anti-Amazon petition being pushed by bestselling author Douglas Preston.)

The Amazon-Hachette war didn’t suddenly transform my (mostly progressive-leaning) author friends into right-wing apologists for razed-earth capitalism. In fact, many of them seem to feel a little conflicted about throwing their support behind a massive corporation like Amazon. In a recent private Facebook discussion, several of these authors expressed misgivings about various Amazon’s policies and its heavy-handed behavior in the marketplace–but none of them went so far as to take Hachette’s side against Amazon. The overall consensus was that the Amazon-Hachette battle was a dirty business that hurt authors and readers, and that neither side’s hands were completely clean. But there was also a realization that the current fight occurs within a larger context, and that context is characterized by four undeniable facts:

  1. Publishers like Hachette got themselves into this mess. They were happy to feed the Amazon monster as long as they were the ones in control of pricing, and they only have themselves to blame for their short-sighted thinking.
  2. Amazon has historically worked to lower prices and make it easier for readers to get books. Hachette has historically worked to keep prices high and make it harder for readers to get books (creating scarcity by parceling out hardcovers, then paperbacks, and finally overpriced, DRM-infused ebooks).
  3. Amazon has made it possible for thousands of authors (including me) who could not interest a publisher to find success through self-publishing. In terms of royalty percentages, Amazon also treats its authors (both those who self-publishing using KDP/Createspace and those published by one of the Amazon Publishing imprints) better than Hachette treats its authors.
  4. Business is business. That is, anyone who waxes romantically, casting a massive publishing conglomerate like Hachette as the savior of books or the defender of authors, is completely full of shit. Publishing is a ruthless, cutthroat business, and anyone painting it as something else is selling you a bill of goods.

In short: a familiarity with the broader context of the conflict casts doubt on the standard, simplistic, progressive narrative of Big Corporation is Being Mean to People.

Granted, it’s easier to be on the side of a Big Corporation when the opposition is another Big Corporation. But it’s still odd to see my Wal-Mart-hating, Starbucks-despising, McDonald’s-reviling progressive friends rally behind (or even remaining neutral regarding) Amazon, which is arguably the Biggest, Meanest, Evillest corporation at all, by the standard progressive definition. (They exploit their warehouse workers! They put bookstores out of business! They collect your personal data! They fight against paying their fair share of taxes! And sin of sins, they’re destroying literature!)

Those who think I’m making a caricature of knee-jerk progressive anti-corporatism need look no further than that paragon of progressive self-delusion and manufactured outrage, Salon.com. In an article entitled “Jeff Bezos offers authors a bribe,” Andrew Leonard offers the following analysis of Amazon’s offer to pay Hachette authors the full price of their e-books while their negotiations with Hachette are ongoing:

On the surface, it looks great for writers. Typically, a $10 purchase price for an e-book would get split three ways. Amazon would take a 30 percent commission, or $3, Hachette would take $5.25 of the remainder and  give the author $1.75 — the standard contractually agreed to “25 percent of publisher’s revenues.” So under Amazon’s proposal, the author makes out like a bandit — 10 bucks instead of $1.75.

Hachette dismissed the proposal out of hand, and it’s not hard to see why. Hachette is giving up more revenue than Amazon. But it’s even worse when you delve a little deeper, as pointed out by publishing analyst Mike Shatzkin. In the vast majority of cases, Hachette authors would not be entitled to even that $1.75, because those royalties would be applied to paying back their initial book advances. If Hachette agreed to Amazon’s terms it would be pissing away a revenue stream necessary to make good the advances it has already paid authors.

Yes, it looks like a great deal on the surface. But then you dig farther down and it turns out that… well, it’s still a pretty great deal. In fact, I had to read those paragraphs five times before I even understood what Leonard was complaining about. For one thing, he’s (deliberately?) misstating the argument made by the publishing analyst he references, Mike Shatzkin, confusing the $1.75 that the author would ordinarily be getting with the $10 the author would get under the Amazon deal. He makes it sound like Amazon is offering $1.75, and that the author might never even see that much. The fact is, though, that Amazon really is offering the author the full $10 on a book priced at $10, and the author really will get that money.

As near as I can figure, Leonard’s complaint here is that the author’s revenue from Amazon’s offer would be treated exactly like revenue from Hachette, which is to say that the author doesn’t see a dime until the advance is paid out. Well, no kidding. That’s how advances work. That’s why it’s called an advance, you knucklehead.

The fact is, Amazon’s offer is a great deal for Hachette authors. I’m published by an Amazon imprint, and I can’t get anywhere near 100% of the sales price for my e-book sales. That’s a fantastic, phenomenal, amazing deal. So what in the world is Leonard complaining about? The answer is in that last sentence:

 If Hachette agreed to Amazon’s terms it would be pissing away a revenue stream necessary to make good the advances it has already paid authors.

Now we see the crux of the problem: it isn’t that authors are getting a raw deal from Amazon. It’s that poor Hachette won’t get its fair share! Having pointed out how advances work (in case we needed a refresher), Leonard moves on to his real concern: Amazon’s “unfair” treatment of an international publishing conglomerate. A more thorough analysis can be found on the post Leonard cites:

So we have a $10 ebook. Normally, Amazon would pay $7 to Hachette and keep $3. Hachette would notionally divide the $7 as $5.25 to Hachette and $1.75 to the author. What Amazon proposed was that the author would get the whole ten dollars, Amazon would give up its $3 and Hachette would give up its $5.25. 

Shatzkin concludes that this is “not quite fair,” which makes me wonder what his definition of “fair” is. Seriously, try to comprehend this logic: Amazon takes $3 on a $10 sale. Hachette takes $5.25 on that same sale. An objective observer might conclude that Hachette is the one being unfair, as they are taking a much bigger percentage of revenue that would otherwise be going to the author. But no, see, it’s Amazon that’s being unfair, because Amazon is proposing that for a limited time both companies take the exact same amount from the sale: zero.

Would this deal hurt Hachette more than it hurts Amazon? Absolutely. But the reason that it would hurt Hachette more is that Hachette has grown accustomed to taking over half of the proceeds from every sale, whereas Amazon has deliberately cut into its own potential profits to avoid taking too much. Amazon is essentially saying to Hachette, “Hey, we don’t mind giving up our sales revenue on these books temporarily, because frankly we don’t make that much anyway. Say, how much do you guys make on every sale?”

Instead of focusing on the “unfairness” of Amazon’s offer, an objective journalist might focus on why Hachette normally pockets almost twice as much as Amazon on every sale–and possibly even ask some questions about the short-sighted decision-making that cause Hachette to be in such a terrible bargaining position with its biggest retailer.

Fortunately for Hachette, media outlets like Salon are well-versed in the Big Corporation is Being Mean to People narrative, and Hachette isn’t quite as big, well-known, or hated as Amazon. So greedy, short-sighted Hachette gets to play David to Amazon’s Goliath, irrespective of any facts that might contradict that narrative.

The Salon piece starts to border on self-parody toward the end, when Leonard claims:

So Amazon isn’t just trying to split authors from Hachette — it’s also trying to split authors from themselves — sparking a class war battle as it seeks better margins from Hachette. 

In Salon’s version of reality, authors were united in their love of traditional publishers like Hachette before big, mean Amazon came along and started to divide us by, well, offering us money. The reality of the situation is that before Amazon came along, a very few authors were content with traditional publishers, a lot more were discontent, and many, many more were shut out of the industry completely. But narrow-minded analysts like Leonard can’t see that big picture, so they spend their time grousing about Amazon’s unfairness. The truly hilarious thing about this sentence is that if Leonard is right–that Amazon is starting a “class war” between authors, then Leonard is deliberately siding with the “one-percenters” of the publishing world–the Turows, Prestons, and Kings, rather than the ninety-nine percent of authors who can only dream of the volume of sales enjoyed by those big-name authors.

This is the sort of reasoning that informs all progressive protectionism: a focus on narrow, disruptive effects within the industry as opposed to broader, subtler, societal benefits. Sure, Amazon has pushed prices down, made books more accessible, and made it possible for thousands of authors to bypass traditional publishing, but look at how unfair they are being! Unfairness is, of course, the trump card of progressive politics. Forget the hundreds of millions of people who have been helped in some small way by Amazon’s success; somewhere there must be victims we can focus on! If the “victim” in this case happens to be another huge corporation, well, that’s unfortunate, but we can find a way to pretend that Amazon is somehow hurting a more sympathetic demographic, like authors. People love authors. WHY DO YOU HATE AUTHORS, AMAZON?!! It’s such a transparent ploy that it boggles my mind that a lot of seemingly intelligent people seem to fall for it.

It’s heartening to me that many of my progressive author friends have seen through the bullshit narrative about Amazon that’s being promulgated by outlets like Salon. But I can’t help wishing they would see that Amazon isn’t the only company that gets this treatment. The Big Corporation is Being Mean to People is a useful narrative, and it isn’t always mistaken. But when you take some time to familiarize yourself with the facts and context of a situation, you often find that the narrative has more to do with ideology than reality.

A way for authors to get reviews and reviewers to get free books

thumbnail_fbOne thing I found frustrating when I self-published my first novel, Mercury Falls, in 2009 was the difficulty in finding people willing to review the book. I knew I had written a good book and I was convinced that if I could get it in the hands of a few dozen influential people, Mercury Falls would be a success (at the time, I defined “success” as 1,000 copies sold; since then Mercury Falls has sold over 60,000). After the success of Mercury Falls, I worried a little less about the difficulty in finding reviewers, but it continued to be a problem, particularly with my self-published books. I found myself spending hours scouring the web for the email addresses of book bloggers and Amazon reviewers–and when I got finally got around to actually emailing reviewers, most of them either wouldn’t respond or would decline my offer of a free review copy of my book. Some of them even got offended by the offer, and took the time to berate me for emailing them. The unmitigated gall of offering a free book, with no strings attached!

I kept thinking, “There have to be thousands of people out there who would love to get free books for review. Why is it so hard to find them?” It seemed to me that there should be an online clearinghouse for connecting authors and book reviewer–a sort of OKCupid for the book reading community. I couldn’t find any such site, though, so I decided to use my skills as a web developer to create one. The result was a site called BookBloggers. The site was an immediate hit among both reviewers and authors.

Around the time BookBloggers began to take off, so did the sales of my books. I was doing so well writing books that I decided to write full-time, which meant putting a lot of other projects–including BookBloggers–on hold. In retrospect, I wish I had kept it going, but I just had too much stuff going on. Lately, though, I’ve decided to re-launch BookBloggers, for a variety of reasons. Customer reviews, particularly on Amazon.com, are more important than ever. And with all the turmoil going on in the publishing industry, I think it’s vital for independent authors to maintain direct communications with readers, outside of Amazon or any other publishing/bookselling behemoth.

So if you are an author or someone who likes to read and write about books, please consider signing up for BookBloggers. You can post books (either paperbacks or ebooks) for review, or request books to review. (Note that being a “book reviewer” is not as big a deal as it sounds: basically you just have to read the book and post a few sentences on Amazon.com, Goodreads, or some other site. Simple.) The site is still in beta, so if you run into any problems or have suggestions for improvements, please contact me by using the form on the site or by emailing me at rob(at)robertkroese(dot)com. I’ll be working to improve the site over the next few weeks, as well as expanding the number of books available for review.

Head over to BookBloggers now!

How to think like a libertarian

Problems on the premises

Several years ago, I built a house on a piece of vacant land. There was some work to be done before the electrical service could be wired up, so I sent a contractor over to my neighbor’s house to ask her if we could plug an extension cord into an exterior outlet on her house so we could run some power tools. The contractor later showed up with a gas-powered generator, explaining that the neighbor refused to let us use her electricity. I had talked to this woman previously and she seemed nice enough, so I was puzzled why she would mind us powering a circular saw from her house. The next time I talked to her, I asked her if someone had come over asking if we could plug an extension cord into her house for a few hours. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “I thought we was asking if he could wire your house off of mine!”

Well, no wonder she said no! She had thought I was planning on powering my entire house from hers, indefinitely. Like I was going to plug an extension cord into her house, bury it underground, and just let her pay for my electricity for the next 30 years. I can hardly imagine how a miscommunication on such a scale could occur, but once you understood what she thought the contractor was asking, her refusal seemed perfectly reasonable.

Yelling against the wall

When I get into political arguments, I often feel the way that contractor must have felt. My opinions are often greeted with befuddlement, if not outright horror, because in the absence of the proper context my opinions seem counterintuitive, unfair or even cruel. If you don’t understand why I believe what I do, you’re not going to understand the beliefs themselves. It’s as if a strange man had asked to plug an extension cord into your outlet: if you don’t understand his motivations, you might well dismiss him as a no-good freeloader.

If, for example, I say I don’t believe in gun control, or that I don’t think a business should be forced to pay for contraceptive drugs for its employees, or that I don’t think the minimum wage is a good idea, the tendency for some people is to assume that I’m asshole–that I want to children to shot, women to be treated badly and employees to be exploited. After all, what other explanation could there be?

The problem with this sort of thinking is that these people are assuming that they and I hold the same basic premises about the relationship between government, laws and individuals. There seems to be a basic human tendency to assume that one’s own deeply held beliefs are universal–that it’s impossible for any rational person to believe something fundamentally different. So if I come to a different conclusion regarding policy, then it must be because I’m somehow morally deficient.

If you assume, for example, that gun control works, that it doesn’t violate the Constitution, and that it won’t cause more problems than it solves, then of course you’d be in favor of it–unless you actually want people to get shot. Similarly, if you assume that an increase in the minimum wage actually helps the people it’s supposed to help, and doesn’t just raise prices, punish businesses, and make it harder to find entry-level jobs, then of course you’d be in favor of increasing it–unless you just don’t want people to be able to make a living. The same goes for dozens of other issues: assuming everybody holds the same premises I do, then x policy is the only sane solution. If you disagree, then clearly you’re an asshole (or racist, sexist, homophobe, etc.).

For whatever reason, when it comes to political issues, the prevailing human tendency seems to be to cast one’s opponents as morally deficient, rather than considering the possibility that other people might be starting from a different set of premises, even though charity and a basic level of familiarity with other human beings would lead one to do the opposite. People think, “What this guy is saying sounds horrible, so he must be an asshole,” rather than “What this guy is saying sounds horrible, so there must be more to it than I’m seeing right now.”

When I run into someone who is actually interested in hearing the underlying reasons for my positions, I’m usually so flabbergasted that I don’t even know where to begin. In one such discussion, I ended up outlining a few ways that one can practice “thinking like a libertarian.” Mostly these guidelines are ways to be more precise in your thinking, to avoid falling into what I call “the statist trap” — thinking that the government is the solution to every problem. If you’re not afraid that being exposed to a different way of thinking will irrevocably corrupt your soul, read on.

Six Ways to Think Like a Libertarian

1. Don’t use the word “we” or “society” when you mean “the government.” If, when you say “we need to do something about x,” you mean that the government must take some action, then you are eliminating any serious discussion of people as individuals ever doing anything about a problem without government intervention. Yes, some problems require government intervention, but some can be solved by “us” outside of government. By conflating “us” with the government, you are essentially skipping an important step in the argument, wherein you would demonstrate that the only way for “us” to do solve the problem at hand is through state action.

2. Don’t use passive voice to explain what the government should do. For example, don’t say, “That should be illegal.” Or “That shouldn’t be allowed.” Say “The government should put a stop to that.” Statists like to use the passive voice because it ignores the presence of the state as a coercive agent, as if a law against smoking marijuana somehow magically makes marijuana disappear, when what it actually does is empower men with guns to imprison people smoking it.

3. Better still, rather than say that the government should “stop” something, be specific about what you want the government to do. Don’t use weasel words like “reasonable gun control”, “common sense reforms, or “livable wage.” And for the love of all that’s good and true, don’t ask the government to “do something” or “take action.” Government “did something” about terrorism, and we ended up spending $2 trillion invading the wrong country. It “took action” against drug abuse and we ended up with the highest incarceration rate in the world. “Doing something” is not necessarily better than doing nothing. If you simply urge the government to “do something,” you’re ratcheting up the volume level of the discussion without adding any value.

4. Understand that all laws are ultimately enforced at the point of a gun. Want to enact a $1 fine for walking on the grass? Swell. What happens if I don’t pay? Additional penalties get levied against me, right? What if I don’t pay those? I get thrown in prison. What happens if I try to escape prison and go on with my life? I get shot. The fact that I’m not consciously aware of this entire process when I walk around the grass is irrelevant. Ultimately, I’m acting out of fear of starting a chain of events that, taken to their logical conclusion, gets me shot. Behind every law is a man with a gun. So every time you vote for another law, you give more power to people with guns.

5. Be clear about what you mean when you say something is a “right”. The Founders envisioned rights very narrowly; basically, they believed that people had the right to be left alone, as long as they weren’t bothering anyone else. In their view, rights predate government, so it’s impossible to have a “right” to a job or free health care, because in the absence of a government to provide free stuff, there could be no guaranteed jobs or “free” stuff paid for by taxpayers. You have the right (ha!) to your own definition of the word “right,” but if your definition differs from the definition used by the Founders, the onus is on you to explain what your definition is. And whatever definition you use, realize that “rights” imply corresponding obligations. If you have a right to free stuff, then someone else has an obligation to provide you with free stuff. If you use the word “right” without having any idea what a “right” actually is, or who possesses the corresponding obligation, then you aren’t making a coherent argument.

6. Understand that people are not magically transformed into virtuous agents when they act on behalf of the government. People are people, wherever they are. So if you’re trying to fix a societal problem like greed, violence, or sexual immorality by using the power of government, realize that the people inside the government are likely to be just as greedy, violent and immoral as those outside. By giving government power over these things, all you’re doing is transferring the problem from the scope of individuals to that of government. People who argue for “income redistribution,” for example, tend to forget that the people in charge of the redistribution process are likely to be just as greedy as the people whose money is being taken. The result is that money ends up in the hands of bureaucrats and their political allies, rather than the people who need it.

I don’t think any of these guidelines are particularly controversial. In fact, you could easily follow all of these rules and still not be a libertarian. But by being clear in one’s language, and not making unwarranted assumptions, it becomes a lot easier to understand the positions of those who tend to be skeptical of government-centric solutions to complex problems. Try it sometime. It’s fun!

 

How to add links to your books to your author website

This is the third in a series. In part one I showed you how to set up a basic WordPress site. In part two, I explained how to connect your blog with social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. In this post, I’m going to cover a few different ways to use widgets to display your books on your WordPress site.

Probably the easiest way to display your books on your site is to use one of the custom widgets offered by one of the major book retailing websites, ie Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Since I sell almost entirely Kindle books, I don’t bother with B&N, but the process is similar.

Amazon Widgets

To use an Amazon widget, you first need to create an Amazon Associates account by going to https://affiliate-program.amazon.com. Once you do that, you can create a variety of widgets to display one or more of your books. Once you have what you want, first copy the Amazon code to your clipboard.

amazoncode

 

Then go to Appearance => Widgets in WordPress.

widgets

Scroll down to the “Text” widget.

text

 

Drag it to where you want it to display on your template.

widgetdrag

 

Click on the widget header to expand it. Then paste the Amazon widget code.

textwidget

 

Save your changes. Your widget will display on your website. Easy!

The advantages of linking to your books this way are that it’s easy to set up and relatively easy to maintain (once you have it set up, you can add books to the widget on the Amazon site without having to mess around with the widget). It also allows you to make a little extra money on each sale, because you’re using your Amazon affiliate ID in the widget. The disadvantages are that it only allows you to sell books through Amazon, and it doesn’t allow you to create separate pages on your site for each of your books.

Using MyBookTable to create custom book lists and pages

If you want a more robust (but also more maintenance-heavy) option, you can use a WordPress widget called MyBookTable. This is what I’ve done with sfauthor.net.

installplugin

 

Install and activate the MyBookTable plugin.

mybooktable

Once you activate the plugin, you’ll see a new menu option in WordPress for MyBookTable. The interface is pretty straightforward. You’ll have to manually add any books that you want to display, along with any purchase links.

mybooktablemenu

 

You can also enter your Goodreads developer key if you want to be able to display Goodreads reviews for your books. You can get a developer key by logging into Goodreads and going to https://www.goodreads.com/api/keys.

mybooktablesettings

 

You can specify a specific page on your site to use to display books. Note that MyBookTable won’t let you use your affiliate IDs unless you pay to upgrade the app. Unless you plan on selling a lot of books from your website, it probably isn’t worth it.

If you want to display a widget with your books on your website home page, you can do that with the Featured Books widget. Drag the widget where you want it, configure it to display the books you want, and save the changes.

featuredbooks1

 

Whether you want to go with a simple Amazon (or B&N) widget or something like MyBookTable depends on how much control you want over the display of your books and how much effort you want to put into maintaining your links. For most people, the Amazon widget is probably the best bet.

How to Set Up an Author Blog (part 2): Integrating with Twitter and Facebook

In part one, I explained the basics of setting up a WordPress website. Now I’m going to show you how to integrate your blog with Twitter and Facebook.

Adding prominent “follow” buttons to your site

At the top of my site, I’ve got several buttons that allow visitors to connect with me on various social media sites:

stayconnected

To do this, I used a widget called, appropriately, Social Media Widget, from Blink Web Effects. In WordPress, go to Plugins => Add New.

installplugin

 

 

Search for “social media widget” and install it. (There are lots of similar widgets you can use; this is just the one I use. I’m sure others work fine as well.)

socialmediawidget

 

Activate the plugin. Then go to Appearance => Widgets.

widgets

 

Drag the Social Media Widget into your template, where you want it to appear.

template

Click on the Social Media Widget heading to expand the settings and enter your social media profile urls (you’ll have to scroll down a ways).

socialmediasettings

 

Scroll down and save the settings. If you bring up your site in another browser tab, you should now see your social media icons.

 

Auto-posting to Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites

Next, we’ll see how you can set up your WordPress blog to automatically post to various social media sites. The easiest way to do this is with another plugin. I use something called Jetpack.

installplugin

jetpack

Activate the plugin, then click Settings => Sharing.

sharingsettings

 

Enter your social media account information to tell Jetpack where to send your posts.

 

publicize

 

Click Save Changes. Now, when you create a new post, you will see some additional “Publicize” options.

publish

 

Note that for Google+, I noticed that my posts were being marked as private. There is a setting in Google+ that you can edit to make your posts public by default.

Making it easy to share posts on social media sites

Jetpack also makes it easy for readers to share your posts on their own social media accounts. To set this up, go to Settings => Sharing.

sharingsettings

Scroll down to the Sharing Buttons section. Then simply drag the button you want to the Enabled Services section.

sharepost

Save the changes. Now when you view your blog, you’ll see your selected sharing buttons on each post (and on other pages, depending on the boxes you checked).

That’s all there is to it! You’ll all linked up. In part 3, I’ll show you some ways to use widgets to make it easy for readers to buy your books from your website.