‘Blogging for Writers’ launch & blog tour

Blogging for Writers (UK edition) by Robin Houghton

In the last few weeks I’ve been busy with the launch of my new book, ‘Blogging for Writers’ (Ilex Press) and organising a blog tour to help promote it. Some wonderful writers are taking part, and it’s continuing through till the end of January 2015 (and possibly beyond! Some blogs have editorial schedules arranged months in advance.)

So I thought I would point you to a couple of blog posts that have already appeared.

On Emily Benet’s blog I wrote a guest post about how to create an editorial calendar. We all let the blogging slip from time to time (when book launches get in the way, for example!) but a calendar at least gives you a framework and a bank of ideas that you can call on when you’re really hit by ‘bloggers’ block’.

London-based Emily Benet is a fine writer who started off blogging, before getting her first book deal. Since then her writing career has really taken off. She also runs blogging workshops for writers. Here’s the post – A blogger’s best friend – the editorial calendar.

Yesterday I was interviewed on Tara Tyler Talks, the busy blog of fantasy author and writer of techno-futuristic thrillers, Tara Tyler. Tara asked me all kinds of interesting questions about blogging, marketing, Twitter and more, and here are my answers – Sprucing up the blog.

Tomorrow the book is getting a mention on the Facebook Page of acclaimed Scottish author Sara Sheridan, and coming up are more guest posts, interviews and reviews. I’ll keep you posted.

Now I’ve just got to consult my editorial calendar and schedule some more posts …:)

Show your face on the web with a Gravatar


You’ve probably seen them around the web, on blogs, forums and author profiles – those little images next to people’s names. They’re called avatars, and they’re applied automatically whenever you post or comment. The good news is you don’t have set up your avatar again and again on every blog and media site you encounter, because the majority of them display the results from one place – Gravatar.

Gravatar stands for ‘Globally Recognised Avatar’, and it refers both to the individual icon itself (your Gravatar) and the site where you create one (Gravatar.com). As with most web apps, there’s no guarantee Gravatar will be around forever, but for the moment it seems to be stable and it’s recognised as an industry standard. Which is why I think it’s worth your while setting up your Gravatar if you haven’t already.

If you’re anything like me, you put a low priority on things like filling out your profiles, uploading profile images and keeping things up to date. There just seems to be too much else to do. But once you’ve set up your Gravatar you can kind of forget about it.

If you don’t yet have a Gravatar, chances are when you comment on a blog, or in the top right hand corner of your screen when you’re editing your WordPress blog, what you see is a grey shape or something anonymous, like this:

Anonymous user gravatar

Nobody wants to be a grey, mystery man! As you post comments on blogs, and are joining in conversations on the web, you want people to remember you. Research has shown that showing your face creates greater levels of trust, more shares and more interaction. Anonymity is too often associated with having something to hide. There’s nothing for it but to get yourself a decent Gravatar and join the people with faces.

Getting a Gravatar is simple and best of all it’s free. Signup at Gravatar.com, upload a photo – I always recommend a good, clear headshot – fill in a short profile, and really that’s it.

Most WordPress themes already come with Gravatar integrated (which means Gravatars will be displayed with your readers’ comments). But Gravatar is used on many, many sites, not just WordPress.

There are all kinds of add-on benefits to having a Gravatar, for example Hovercards – which means when you mouseover someone’s Gravatar you see their profile – it comes with WordPress.com blogs and can be added as a plugin to a self-hosted WordPress blog. Here’s an example of how it looks:

gravatar hovercards

You can see Gravatar in action in the foot of this post – I’ve installed a plugin called ‘Author Bio Box’ which displays your Gravatar information at the end of your blog posts. This is particularly good if you have guest bloggers or if there’s more than one of you running your blog.

You can change your Gravatar if you wish, but sometimes it takes a while to see the changes across the web. Try clearing your browser’s cache too, especially if you use Chrome, as Chrome sometimes keeps loading old versions of Gravatars even after you’ve made changes.

If you’re interested in how to build trust online there’s a ton of great stuff that’s been done in this area. Take a look at this blog post on Social Media Examiner, or read Chris Brogan’s book Trust Agents.

Improve your social web presence – for writers


This coming Saturday I’m in Brighton at New Writing South running a one-day workshop on ‘Improving your social web presence’.

I know that there are readers of this blog and of my email newsletter who have already been on one of the three-evening courses I’ve run for NWS in the past. I’ve already been asked ‘will I learn anything new if I come along to this one-day course?’

The short answer to this is ‘possibly not’ – but it depends on whether you’ve put into practice what we covered on the previous course.

But I know how it often goes – you finish a course full of good intentions, but real life/ deadlines/writing gets in the way and you never quite settle into any social media routines. The blog never really gets going, the Twitter account starts to languish and you’re thinking “I really ought to be doing that social media stuff.”

If this sounds familiar then yes, you might find a one-day sessions will kick you off and get you actually DOING rather than thinking about doing. Or you might just think “OK I know this already but I need to be doing it.” If you’re someone who benefits from external kick-up-bum nudges then it may be what you need. But if in your heart of hearts you know you’re still not ready/willing/able to embrace the social media thang, then the day may not work for you.

What I do hope to cover is:
Why we’re doing it – where to start – what social media is good for (and what it’s not) – what to spend your time and creative energy on (and what to avoid) – how to make valuable connections – how to present yourself in a way that works for you – how to play (and enjoy) the long term game – how to keep social media in persepctive. Plus brilliant bluffs, scrumptious shortcuts, terrific tools and incredible insights.

This will be a general, channel-neutral day (in other words, we won’t focus exclusively on any one social tool or network, but take a broader view). If you’re looking specifically for Twitter or blogging help, sign up for my future workshops – Master Twitter in a Day (November 15th) and Set up a Blog in a Day (February 7 2015).

These’s no magic to social media, and I’m certainly not promising that a great blog or Twitter account is the key to fame and fortune, or even book sales. But these are powerful tools and channels that were never available before, and they’re here to stay – in one form or another. They have changed many aspects of our lives as writers. Understanding and adapting to that is crucial for anyone looking to further their writing career.

There are still places available for all three day courses – sign up here, or please pass on the details to anyone you know who may be interested. New Writing South members get 10% off.

Software updates for your blog – are they important?

Add Plugin Page WP 4.0 Benny

If you have a hosted blog at, say, Blogger.com or WordPress.com, then one thing you don’t have to worry about is updating the software – it’s all done for you behind the scenes.

But if you self-host, it’s your responsibility. I sometimes get asked “Should I be worried about all those little red numbers on my dashboard, and messages telling me there’s a new version of WordPress, or my Theme, or a plugin?” The short answer is yes – although you could carry on without updating, and everything would probably work fine, there are reasons why it’s a good idea to stay on top of updates:

1) WordPress updates generally include a whole range of amendments to the code, including security fixes and improvements to the functionality of the software. In plain English, an update should make your site more secure from hackers and make it easier to do stuff.

2) Similarly, Theme updates can offer improved security, more design options and better compatibility with plugins. If you’ve paid for a premium theme, why not take advantages of updates? They’re like free upgrades, after all. An out-of-date Theme can cause plugins to work differently, or not at all.

3) Plugin updates are worth installing, again because they tend to bring improvements, and like Theme updates if you don’t run with them you risk them not working at some point in the future.

Non-functioning elements of a blog are not only annoying for you and for your readers, they can open the door to security breaches. You may think “No-one’s going to be interested in hacking into my blog!” but that’s not the point. Hackers, scammers and spammers have automated systems at work 24 hours on the web, looking for easy ways to peddle their own particular brand of ill-will. Unsecured blogs, no matter what they’re about, are fair game for them.

Warning – before installing updates:

1) first do a back-up of your blog

2) be aware that if you (or a developer) have done any customisation of your blog or Theme, or have any bespoke plugins, updating any of your blog software may affect those customisations. This is why it’s important to back everything up first. If you’re worried, as added precaution you can also take screenshots, which will help if (in the worst-case scenario) you need to rebuild everything!

The longer you leave updating, the riskier it can be to do so. So better to stay on top of it.

Today when I logged on I was prompted to update to WordPress 4.0 ‘Benny’. (Updates are given names, rather like hurricanes and computer viruses.) This short video explains the improvements it offers.

Formatting text in WordPress


As writers, we’re probably fussier than most when it comes to how our words look on our blog. Typefaces, character- line- and paragraph-spacing, font size, margins and indents are all important … and that’s before we even get into poetry with all its particular forms and layouts.

Basic formatting

First of all, here’s a basic primer in getting text the way you want it to look, how to add links and tips on formatting in WordPress, using the standard Edit screen. Click on Create New Post and you’re in the Edit screen.

WordPress edit screen 1

Type something in the Title and Body boxes. When you hit the ‘Return’ key you automatically start a new paragraph.

WordPress edit screen 2

This Edit screen is a word processor, so while you’re in the ‘Visual’ tab it gives you a preview of the finished blog post, albeit without the actual styles – you need to hit ‘Preview’ button to see an ACTUAL preview. (The other tab, ‘Text’, allows you to see and type in HTML – click on it to have a look but don’t worry if none of it makes sense, you shouldn’t need to open this if you don’t want to.)

Now, with your cursor highlight some text you want to make into a hyperlink, then click the ‘link’ icon in the menu bar (looks like a chain).

WordPress edit screen 3

The ‘Insert link’ box will pop up:

WordPress insert link

Paste in the destination link, give it a Title if you wish (a short description or the name of the page the link goes to), and if you want to link to open in a new window (if it’s an external link, for example) check that box. Then hit ‘Add Link’ and your linked text will appear underlined:

WordPress edit screen 5

The formatting menu

Many of the icons on the formatting menu bar will be familiar from word processing programs – underline, bold and lists, for example. Others you should explore to see what they do.

Particularly useful is the paragraphs styles drop-down menu. Highlight the text you want to make into a subhead, for example, and then choose one of the Headings sizes. Your Theme will have styles assigned to each of these, so try one or two out and see how they look. The sub-headings in this blog post are ‘Heading 3’, for example.

Paragraph styles in WordPress

Another useful formatting option is left or right indent, which is useful if you have a quote which you want to stand out. (A further option for this is the ‘Preformatted Text’ or just ‘Pre’ option under paragraph styles.)

Just remember – you first have to highlight the text you want to format or make into a link, then click the relevant icon.

There are other things you can change with the formatting menu, such as font colour, but just be aware that this will override your Theme’s styles and can end up looking messy. I would also avoid the ‘underline’ function, as this always causes confusion as to whether or not a word is a hyperlink.

Basically have fun experimenting – you can preview any changes and you can delete or amend anything, even after publishing.

Pasting from Word

WordPress has always had a slight issue with text that’s been formatted in word processing software (such as MS Word). It can mess up the formatting if you post directly from a Word document into the Edit Screen while in the Visual tab. There’s a more detailed explanation of this here. Historically, the ways around this were either to click on the ‘Paste from Word’ icon in the Formatting Menu (which works sometimes but not always), or to paste under the Text tab (but this means you have to re-do ALL the formatting), or copy your Word document into a plain text program such as TextEdit or NotePad, THEN paste into the Edit Screen. Tedious!

However, WordPress 3.9 (April 2014) claims to have solved the issue – yet another good reason to keep your version of WordPress up to date! 

Want to make more changes?

If you want to make changes beyond what you can do in the Edit screen, then the means available to you depends on whether you have a hosted blog at WordPress.com, or a self-hosted blog.

First of all, many decisions about fonts, spacing and the like are dictated by the styles of your chosen Theme. Themes do allow a certain amount of customisation, but it’s unlikely to be more than logo and colour schemes.

WordPress.com: If you (or someone you know) understands code, and is capable of making changes to the styles, then you can buy the Custom Design upgrade for $30 per year (per blog). This gives you access to the CSS (Styles) and the world is your oyster.

Self-hosted WordPress: You (or your techie help) have full access to the code and can make changes to the CSS at any time. But a less scary option might be to install pugins for whatever it is you want to change. A plugin is a piece of ‘add-on’ software that someone has already configured, so you don’t have to get your hands dirty. For example, if you want to choose from a larger range of fonts, you could install the free ‘Easy Google Fonts’ plugin.

There are millions of plugins for just about anything you want to do on your blog – access the Plugins Library from your Dashboard side menu, click the ‘Add New’ button and search by keyword. Be sure to read about the Plugin before installing it. Anyone can create plugins and they’re not all great, so check to see how many people have downloaded it, how many ‘stars’ it has got, how recent is the latest version. The best plugins are those that are kept up to date and actually work.



How not to be a content marketer


How do you decide what to share with your social networks?

Building a social web presence starts with generosity – share what you know, what you learn, what you’ve read. The more you help others by directing them to some ‘gem’ that they might find interesting, useful or entertaining, the more likely you are to get on their radar. The more willing you are to share other people’s updates, questions, news or blog posts, the more chance there is of them reciprocating.

There’s a big caveat here though – only share what you personally enjoy or rate, and don’t expect people to share your own content (ugh – I don’t like the word, same reason as I don’t like the word ‘user’ in relation to things internet, but it’s what it gets called) unless they personally rate it.

The production and sharing of content is ubiquitous and can have the whiff of ‘cynical marketing tactic’ about it. It even has a name – content marketing. Content marketing can be outsourced, automated, strategised, formulaic. But if you keep the element of personal recommendation, you are less likely to be viewed as a content marketer and more as a person people want to connect with and be connected to.

How to come across as someone who shares what they’ve enjoyed or learned from, rather than a content marketer:

Review first before sharing.

It can be tempting to retweet, like or share something that sounds really good, without actually clicking on the link and reading or viewing the actual article. The reasons might be that you don’t have time to read the whole thing now, or you don’t want to miss the moment, or you’re on your phone and the can’t download the full article. And sharing is so quick and easy. It will fill up your timeline and show you’re present. You trust and know the source. What’s the risk?

Whatever it is you’ve shared might not be what you think it is. I often find I’ve been fooled (by a cleverly crafted subject line or tweet) to follow a link to something not very useful or well written. Even if you know and trust the source you might think it’s a safe bet. Not every guest post at Mashable or Huffington Post is great/original/valuable. And even if you’re sharing a link that’s been shared by a friend, they themselves may have shared the link without reviewing first.

If you don’t have time to read something but it looks interesting, favourite the tweet so you don’t lose it, and share it later.

Share calls for help.

Not every ‘share’ necessarily implies endorsement – forwarding news or calls for submissions or requests for help, for example. If you see a call for help, especially if it’s from a newbie or someone with a small following, do them a favour and forward something of theirs, they will be grateful. These are the small acts of kindness that content marketers are unlikely to bother with.

Attach a personal comment.

When you do share something you think your friends and followers should give their hard-earned attention to, adding your own comment or reason for sharing does make a difference. I’ve always found that plain retweets (without editing or commenting) receive fewer shares, comments or favourites than those with a comment from me attached. Easy to do when there’s no character limit, but on Twitter you may need to edit the original tweet to make space for a comment. If you do that, the etiquette is to start with MT @name : (modified tweet) rather than RT @name :

Use automation wisely.

Being able to schedule updates in advance is a real boon. Tools such as Buffer and Hootsuite make it very easy to have your updated appear at any time of day or night and can bring you to the attention of different people. You might just want to vary the wording and not repeat yourself too often – tweeting the same thing every hour (yes! we know the deadline is tonight at midnight, we don’t need a countdown!) is a turn-off. Facebook and social media expert Mari Smith is firm on this:

I would absolutely not post the same thing in a day. I’d watch how your audience is responding and you can reshare it at a later date  (the following week or 10 days later).

When sharing your own writing, make it good.

Your reputation and authority as a writer is on the line, so you might get judged on the odd typo. Don’t obsess over that, but if it bothers you, spellcheck and proof read very carefully before sharing! But the most important thing is this: you want people to read what you’ve written and not think “that’s 5/10 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.”

We all put out the odd less-than-stunning blog post in a hurry from time to time, but best not to make a habit of it, especially if it’s just to fulfil some rigid blogging schedule. When you’ve earned someone’s attention, the aim is to make them feel it was worth it, and wanting more.

Quality not quantity.

Content marketers look at numbers. Number of pieces of content produced, shared, favourited, liked, clicked on, acted on, and so forth. A change is made, the numbers go up, that means something has worked, so marketers do more of the same. If you’re a content marketer, that’s what you do – plan, implement, test, tweak, implement again.

But if you’re a writer with the goal of establishing a strong author platform, you’re looking to make connections one person at a time. That’s less to do with numbers and more to do with quality of interactions and depth of trust. It’s about listening and conversing, and seeing ‘people’ rather than ‘followers’. Isn’t it better to share one high quality piece of ‘content’ a day, that you know will interest at least some of your contacts, than ten links to run-of-the-mill pieces that others have already shared and may not even be very good?


Blog roundup: Live Write Thrive, Buffer & The Poetry Shed


One of the joys of blogging is reading other people’s blogs, and this week I thought I’d do a short blog roundup and share some things I’ve been reading lately, on blogs which you might like to add to your blog roll.

C S Lakin's blog Live Write Thrive

C S Lakin’s blog Live Write Thrive

First up is a blog post on author C. S. Lakin’s blog Live, Write Thrive. If you don’t subscribe to Susanne’s blog already I recommend it. This is actually a guest post by Dana Sitar: Crowdsourcing your self-publishing project without asking for money. My own view is that crowdsourcing is only going to grow in popularity as public funds for the arts dries up.

And incidentally, crowdsourcing may be a trendy name for it but it’s been around for centuries. Composers such as Handel and Purcell published a lot of their work by public subscription – that is, asking people to pledge they would buy a copy of their work before it had been written. In Victorian times in the UK it was common for public buildings and works to be financed by subscription – of course that was in the days of philanthropy and before all the tax-funded public services we now have. I believe the idea of philanthropy is still alive in the US though.

The Buffer blog

The Buffer blog

Over on the Buffer blog, this is interesting – How and why to write persuasive, research-backed content. A small experiment resulted in 40% more click-throughs to a blog when the headline mentioned a statistic. The piece goes on to give other examples and suggests how to make your blog posts stronger by backing up what you say with stories and statistics – as long they’re genuine stats, of course. Although I’m from the ‘statistics can be used to tell any story you want’ school of thought (it’s the marketer in me!) Again, the Buffer blog is one worth subscribing to for web marketing news and ideas. Plus they’re very nice people, which goes a long way in my book.

Abegail Morley's The Poetry Shed

Abegail Morley’s The Poetry Shed

Poet Abegail Morley blogs at the Poetry Shed (and yes, there really is a shed, I’ve seen it!) and although this post isn’t brand new, it’s a bit of a keeper – Helen Ivory talking about online poetry courses. Abegail’s blog is a mix of news, interviews and observations on the poetry world and is a good example of how to sustain interest and variety for her readers. Worth following.



Why images matter in blog posts


Should you, as a writer, be concerned about using images in your blog posts? It’s a fair question. Maybe not every post needs an image – it can be worse to shoe-horn in an image just for the sake of it, than to have no image. But there are several reasons why pictures are a good idea.

Three things to know

1) The eye is drawn to images – research has shown how we linger over pictures on the screen, and go back to them. Even split-seconds make a difference when you’re trying to keep someone’s attention. Striking images can help keep people for longer on your site.

This heatmap shows where people look longest on a Google search page - at the images

This heatmap shows where people look longest on a Google search page – at the images. From Kissmetrics.

Heatmap showing where people look on a Facebook page. From Kissmetrics.

Heatmap showing where people look on a Facebook page. From Business Insider.

2) Great images get shared on social networks, so bringing your photos (and your blog) to the attention of people outside your own social circle.

3) Tag your images and it’s more likely they’ll be found in searches –  it’s another way of people finding your blog, bringing you greater visibility.

Editing images

Size – even if you take photos on your phone they may be enormous – great for printing out but you don’t need them to be that size for the web. A lot of big images can slow down the loading rate of the page.

Blogging software gives you the option to re-size images proportionately into small, medium or large versions, but you may want more precision over this. Cropping allows you to focus in on the part of the image that matters. Think also about how the images will look in your chosen template. Full column width images have more impact that smaller images aligned left or right with the text around them. if you are posting images side-by-side, make them the same height, for neatness, or the same width if they are stacked vertically.

Brightness – you may want to lighten up your photos before posting them. A great (free) tool to use is Pixlr Editor  – it’s got all the features you’re likely to want for basic photo manipulation. If you take photos on your phone, check out all the image editing options you have there – you may be surprised!

Things to remember

Don’t just lift pictures from around the web for use on your blog – they may well be copyright. Google Images is a great search engine, but always check before copying anything. Good royalty-free images sources are Flickr (many photographers make their images free to use as long as you give them a credit and a link – but do check with the individuals first) and museum and art gallery websites (look for their ‘free image library’ or similar). Sites like iStockphoto and Dreamstime offer a large range of royalty-free images for a small fee.

Tag your images with key words, and give them an ‘alt’ text as well – which gets seen even if the images aren’t showing. Include a keyword or two (the words you want to be found for) in the alt text and any caption, if possible.

Add ‘share’ buttons to your blog, to encourage people to share your posts and your images. If you use Buffer, for example, you can add a ‘share’ button with the update text already pre-populated (this is where you would add your blog URL).

The Buffer share button

The Buffer Button – configure your share button to make it easy for people to share on their social networks.

Creating a share button on Buffer | Social media for writers by Robin Houghton

When people click on your Buffer share button they can share your content to their social networks with one click.

Take a look at Pinterest, if you haven’t already. Create boards around specific topics and pin your blog images there. Give each image a description – use keywords again – you have up to 500 characters so make the most of it, as it will help people find your images. Include your blog URL so that the images lead to your blog. You might think writers are not interested in visuals, try searching for ‘writing’ and other writing-related topics on Pinterest, and you’ll find there’s plenty going on. Even if you don’t use Pinterest yourself, add a ‘Pin It’ social button to your blog, to encourage others to share your images on Pinterest.

There are plenty of boards on writers and writing at Pinterest.

There are plenty of boards on writers and writing at Pinterest.

Writers, you should follow: Elizabeth Spann Craig


One of the most rewarding parts of writing a book like ‘Blogging for Writers’ (forthcoming late 2014/early 2015, have I mentioned this before??) is finding and making contact with the many great bloggers who feature in it.

I thought I’d share them with you in an occasional series, ‘Writers, you should follow…’ The first is Elizabeth Spann Craig, a murder mystery writer based in North Carolina. Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley (as Riley Adams), the Southern Quilting mysteries for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink and independently. 

Elizabeth Spann Craig blog

Elizabeth’s blog really is a goldmine – she writes about her writing process and the business of writing, posts useful links and tips, reviews platforms and online tools for writers. There are regular lists of Twitterific writing links, all of which then go into the Writers’ Knowledge Base, a specialist search engine for writers which Elizabeth developed with Mike Fleming.

You can easily see why Elizabeth’s blog has been in the Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers for the last five years. It’s a very rich resource. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter too, and check out her useful Follow List for Writers.



What kind of blog hosting is right for you?


What will you make?

Every blog is hosted somewhere on the web. Your options are either to have blog hosted by the platform provider, for example Blogger, Tumblr or WordPress.com ( a ‘hosted’ blog), or you can download blogging software (available from a number of providers) and have it hosted by a web host of your choice (‘self-hosted’).

The most common ‘self hosted’ blogging software is WordPress, but there are others. WordPress can be downloaded from WordPress.org (note the different web address!) WordPress is ‘open source’ which means anyone can alter it. This is both a good and a bad thing, as individual developers have the power both to enhance it and to break it.

One way to think of hosted versus self-hosted blogs is that a hosted blog is a bit like Lego building blocks – you can choose what you build but the bricks and other elements come in set sizes and shapes. This can limit your creativity but it does mean you can create a decent looking house, with the doors and windows already pre-made, quickly and easily. A self-hosted blog, on the other hand, is more like Play-Doh – you can bend, shape and style it into just about whatever you want, if you have a bit of skill and imagination. But it’s up to you to make it happen.

Benefits of a hosted blog

  • Basic version is free, although there various optional paid ‘extras’
  • Large choice of templates available
  • Very quick and easy to set up and maintain
  • No security issues to worry about
  • Reliable hosting (unlikely to ‘go down’ – but then again, you never know – see ‘benefits of self-hosting’ below)
  • Comes with a default address such as ‘yourname.wordpress.com’ or ‘yourname.blogspot.com’, but you can use your domain name if you wish
  • Easy to change templates if you get tired with the look
  • Hosted blogs are part of a large ready-made community of blogs and it’s easier to find and connect with others on your chosen platform


  • There are limits to how much you can customise templates or themes, especially within the free versions
  • With WordPress.com there are various ‘upgrade’ options, but they can add up: for example, to have your own domain name is $13 a year and if you want to customise a theme (template) the ‘custom design’ upgrade is $30 per year. (Whereas if you use Blogger you can customise the template for free, if you have the technical know-how)
  • Your content is your own, but there’s nothing to stop the blog host pulling your site or changing the terms without notice, so do regular backups of your content to your computer or cloud space.

Benefits of a self-hosted blog

  • You (or your developer, should you choose to employ one) have complete control over the design, including for example making your widgets match the overall design
  • You can choose your web host, and that means more choice of service level and pricing
  • You can have whatever functionality you require via plugins (bits of software you can install that work with the WordPress software). There are plugins for everything – from integrating your blog with a mailing list, improving security, running an ecommerce shop or serving adverts.
  • Many web hosting companies are geared up towards hosting WordPress software and offer ‘one click’ easy installation


  • You are responsible for keeping the software up to date – not just WordPress itself but any themes or plugins you install. Failure to do this can result in security breaches and your site not working as it should
  • The full version of WordPress may be more than you need, and you have to make a lot of decisions about things which come as standard in the hosted version

If you’re looking for a simple ‘out of the box’ blog and aren’t too worried about having a super-bespoke look and feel, if you’re not offended by having a blog address that includes the name of the hosting company, if you’re not really interested in running ads, or hosting video or having an online shop, then a basic hosted blog may be perfect.

If on the other hand you hanker after a blog/website with a unique look and some custom features, are happy to spend a bit of money in return for total control over what you can and can’t do, are confident about buying web space and aren’t phased by talk of ‘plugins’ and ‘configuration’, then you may want to go for a self-hosted solution.

Many, many high-profile writers opt for WordPress.com or Blogger.com and swear by them. So it’s not a question of starting with the ‘beginner’ version and working your way up.

Then again, one of the joys of a blog is that it’s not a big deal to start over on a different platform or template, as you can export/import all your content fairly easily. Sometimes you don’t know for sure what you want until you start, and sometimes your needs or tastes change over time.