Setting up an Author Blog on WordPress.com (VIDEO + CODES)

WordPress has recently updated their entire site, so I decided to pull out my old tutorial on how to make an a free author blog on WordPress and clean it up a bit. This time, I’ve tried to simplify and clarify things even further by making it a video tutorial. So, watch the video below for the whole tutorial, or read this post for specific details. I tried to explain as much as possible, under the assumption that some authors may not have the first clue about internet lingo or basic coding.

Part I:

Part II:

Social Button Codes:

This is just a bunch of codes and images using the TEXT widget.

This is just a bunch of codes and images using the TEXT widget.

Creating the “Social” widget can be a bit time-consuming, but rather rewarding. Depending on how many social networks you keep up with, this can be the quickest way to make sure people can find you everywhere.

It really does take a bit of coding, however.

I’ll try to make it as clear as possible for you. I’m going to paste a very simplified code (2 columns), and show you how to get the images and links active.

First, you’ll need to find the images that you want to use. A simply Google Image search is usually all you need to do. Go ahead and click that link, and download the set that 1) includes all of the social media outlets you want to display, and 2) fits the design style you’re going for.

Once you’ve done that, delete any of the images that you won’t need, and upload the images to your media library (Dashboard > Media > Add New). Afterward, return to the Widgets area, and add the TEXT widget. Paste the code below into the box.

You’ll have to insert a few things for each line. I’ll explain those now.

  • SOCIALWEBLINK is your social media URL. For instance, on Facebook, my personal URL is: https://www.facebook.com/AlexHurstAuthor. This is what you will paste there.
  • WEBSITE NAME is fairly obvious. This is the alternate text, in case the images don’t load. Just put “Facebook” or whatever site it is.
  • ICON FILE URL is the actual URL of the image you just uploaded. You can access this by going to Media > Library >Edit. You should be able to find the URL pretty easily.

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Finally, you may need to add or remove some of those <br> lines, because the widget expands too far or not enough. Just play with those until it looks right.

That’s all you have to do for that widget!

In the video, I promised a full text explanation of the DASHBOARD, so I’ll do that now.

This is the dashboard:

Image

It is really important to know what this page is. So I’ll go through it quickly. The main frame shows you, under ‘Right Now’, any comments you need to approve. The default setting for comments is that a user needs to be approved at least once before they can comment freely on your blog. This keeps spam to a minimum. So approve anything there. To the far right, you can quickly crank out a post. Posting is pretty straightforward. Just make sure you tag your posts with whatever relevant things are mentioned (upwards of 15 tags; more than that and WordPress will exclude the post from search results). What I want you to pay attention to now is the far left. We’ll be going through the parts that are important- starting with ‘Pages’. [Go ahead and skip Store, Posts, Media and Links. You don’t need to worry about them.]

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On the Pages screen, you’ll see that there is a pre-made ‘About’ page waiting for you, and an ‘Add New’ button in blue. Click that and create the following pages: Works and Contact Info. Title them whatever you like. Don’t worry about custom stuff right now. Just get the info there, add your head shot, and so on. When you are building your contact page, next to Add Media, if you hover your mouse over the two icons next to it, you will see ‘Add Poll’ on the circle, and ‘Add Form’ on the square. Click the square. You will use this to make a professional looking contact form. You can see an example on my own page: http://alex-hurst.com/contact/

Now, go back and edit your About page and add anything you want to add. This is usually the place to put your bio.

Okay, so now all of your ‘static,’ or unchanging pages, are made. Let’s start working on the blog’s appearance! (This is the fun part).

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We’ll start with the theme. WP has a huge catalog of themes available to use for free. Go with a free one, unless you really think the extra $30, $50 or $60 for design will increase your traffic (I doubt it.) Go ahead and spend however much time you need to look through the themes. Hint: the themes have all been tagged with their styles. I found mine by typing ‘author’ into the search box. You can also type things like ‘modern,’ ‘horror,’ ‘clean,’ ‘simple’ and so on.

Once you’ve decided on your theme, it’s time to customize it. Hit customize (either on the left hand bar or in the main frame, as shown below.)

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The customize window is a live preview of the site. Since you’ve already made your pages, you can get a good feel for how the menu bar will look, and just the overall presence of the site. Now, look at the far right bar:

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There’s not a whole lot you can do here, and it’s pretty self-explanatory. Choose a background color (not always applicable, if your theme has no solid colors), a background image (to make the theme more personal) and decide if you want your home page (http://wordpress.com/YOURSITEADDRESS) to show a static page (maybe your bio or works) or if you want it to show your most recent bog posts.

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Custom design is a $60/year package and is not necessary, unless you really do absolutely despise the font and font color of your theme. (I use the custom design feature on this website.)

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Finally, under ‘Site Title’ you can decide if you want a sub-header for your site (they automatically generate one for you) or if you want to leave it blank.

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That’s it for basic customization. Make sure you SAVE YOUR CHANGES every step of the way from here on out. WordPress does not automatically save adjustments on the following menus.

Go back to your dashboard. Click ‘Appearances’ one more time and this time choose ‘Widgets.’

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There are a bunch of widgets to choose from, basically extra content you want on your sidebar or footer, and you drag and drop them to the right side. However, I would suggest only putting four or five widgets, as too many can make your site look cluttered and it will slow the load time of your blog. I personally only include subscription widgets, my Goodreads library, a link to my author page on Facebook, a list of links to blogs I follow and my Flickr feed (because I like photography too). You can decide which ones you like. SAVE when you are done and then go back to your dashboard.

Next, click ‘Theme Options’

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You want to make sure the sidebar is enabled if you are using widgets. Some themes also have different color schemes to choose from (nifty!) Click SAVE and the go back to the Dashboard. I am going to skip the ‘Users’ tab, though if you plan on having guest authors, it is a useful section. Check out the Fairy Blog Mother’s post on how to add other authors/editors/contributors to your blog, especially if you plan on having a group blog (not a bad idea if you don’t have much time to blog; then you can work with other authors with the same problem to make sure it is updated regularly and you build exposure jointly).

So, moving right along (and we’re almost done!), go to ‘Tools.’

The only thing that is useful for you here is the ‘Press This’ button. Drag and drop it to your browser bar (like below) so you can blog about anything you find on the web, regardless of platform.

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Finally, let’s take a look at ‘Settings.’

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These are the general settings. Change your time zone, time, whatever…. now, in the left sidebar, look at all of the extra settings you can tweak. Let’s start at ‘Writing’:

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If you feel like it, you can turn text emoticons into graphics, or vice versa (I don’t like the WP emoticons, so I leave them as text.) If you change anything, save and then click ‘Reading.’

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The most important thing on this setting page is Site Visibility. Make SURE you are indexing your site! Save and click ‘Discussion.’

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Here you can choose what WP will email you for. If you are just starting out, it might be better to get notifications as much as possible, so you can answer replies and thank people for following/liking your blog/posts in a timely manner. Later you can lessen the notices. SAVE and click ‘Sharing.’

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Link as many accounts as you like, by following their instructions. When you link your Facebook, make sure you are linking your author page and NOT your personal one:

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At the bottom of sharing, you can also decide which buttons for social networking will be displayed on your posts (I usually highlight them all). Just drag and drop the ones you want:

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Check out the small Live Preview under the gray box to find the style and order you like. (Just icons, just text, both, etc)

SAVE and…… You’re done!

Happy blogging, and if you enjoyed this post, be sure to share, like, or follow me. I’d love to see what you’ve all come up with on your own blogs. πŸ™‚

11 thoughts on “Setting up an Author Blog on WordPress.com (VIDEO + CODES)

  1. Blue says:

    Its like you learn my mind! You seem to know so much approximately this, such as you wrote the ebook in it
    or something. I believe that you just could do with some percent to drive the message home a bit, however
    other than that, that is excellent blog. A fantastic read.

    I’ll definitely be back.

    Like

  2. Miranda Stone says:

    It’s awesome that you shared this here, Alex. Your guide to setting up a WordPress blog was a lifesaver for me in creating mine. (As was the generous amount of time you spent answering all of my questions!) πŸ™‚

    Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      It was no trouble at all. You’re doing really well on your blog, from what I can see. I’ll have to ask you for pointers soon! You get so many comments and likes!

      Like

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